Friday, October 29, 2010

Small means more in the wealth of nations

This week has seen the publication of the Legatum Prosperity Index which seeks to measure the wealth of nations based on a number of factors and not just GDP. Not surprisingly, wee countries do well with our old friend on the North Atlantic rim Norway coming out on top. Backward Britain doesn't make the top ten, though its position at number 13 does give it some kind of 'respectability'. However, given that Iceland - a country with a population roughly the same as Aberdeen and which Brit Nats tell us is 'bankrupt' - is a slot above.

The small nations of Norway, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Ireland and Iceland all make it above the 'UK'. We are often told that Scotland 'could not survive' as an independent nation or that we are 'better off' being tied to war-sodden London. Exactly what the benefits are of being 'united' with a corrupt, fat, xenophobic, class-ridden and perpetually warmongering larger neighbour, I do not know. What is obvious is that many small nations - even those without our oil reserves and geography thats perfect for renewable-energy -  are not only 'surviving' but thriving.

Legatum Prosperity Index
The proof of this pudding is that the inhabitants of these countries not only live longer than us but are actually happier. Oil money may not necessarily buy health and happiness but neither does the UK's war budget, public service cuts and largesse enjoyed by corrupt or incompetent bankers.

Without regurgitating all the info, some points about Norway do stand out.
  • Despite a surplus of health, wealth and happiness not to mention a healthier respect for the environment than most nations, only 13% of Norwegians consider themselves religious. Marriage is also less common than in most other countries. More proof perhaps that religion and progress do not often share the same bed.
  • Despite having harsher winters than Scotland, Norway is 4th in terms of health.
  • Not surprisingly given the relatively egalitarian use and distribution of Norway's wealth, crime is a very low and people actually feel safe. Maybe the absence of  a scaremongering Daily Mail and pack of rabid tabloid wolves is also a factor.
  • The egalitarian vision of Norwegian society extends to 'remote' rural areas. Those who live in small villages beside the western fjords are equally entitled to good public transport, excellent schools, good provision for the elderly and so on. While I don't have proof of this, I'd imagine that right-wing tabloid whinging about tax payers' money being spent on 'teuchters' or other 'minorities' is rarely heard in Norway. This report seems to state that Norwegians are happy to see their high levels of taxes transformed into excellent public services for all.
  • Most importantly is 'social capital'. To quote:
An unparalleled 74%* of Norwegians report that other people can be trusted, the highest such rate in the world. In a 2008 survey, a high 43%* of people had donated money within the previous month, and a very high 38%* of people had volunteered. The 46%* of people who had helped a stranger in the same time period is also above the global average. Nearly 94%* of Norwegians say that they have someone they can rely on in times of need. This strong social support is present despite potentially low access to familial and religious support networks: marriage rates are below the global average, at 52%*, and reported religious attendance is just 13%*, the second lowest rate in the world.

No-one is claiming that Norway is some kind of communistic/ anarchist utopia - slaughtering whales aint cool and I'm in two minds about Black Metal. But for anyone interested in the everyday well-being of fellow humans and therefore who seeks to eradicate poverty, - are you listening Unionist Labour? - create meaningful jobs for people not based on war or weapons as well as seeking to protect the environment by ploughing oil wealth into renewables then Scotland should follow Norway's independent lead a.s.a.p.

The index can be accessed here. Happy reading.

1 comment:

Thrissel said...

Thanks for the link, interesting reading.

Btw: [Norway's] reported religious attendance is just 13%*, the second lowest rate in the world.

Guess wha's first? Try overall No 24... :-)