“The Greatest Nation in the History of the Earth”
That’s what Mitt Romney calls the United States. Is he right? A historical investigation.
Mitt Romney is into America. His bus is emblazoned with the slogan “Believe in America” and he likes to contrast himself to an incumbent who (allegedly) “fundamentally believes the next century is the post-American century.” But Romney doesn’t just believe America is the best country in the world, he believes it is “the greatest nation in the history of the earth.”
So is it? Does America really deserve Romney’s lustful ardor?
In the summer of 2010, Newsweek concluded that Finland, followed by Switzerland, is the best country on earth, citing a composite score based on education, health, quality of life, economic dynamism, and political environment. One could also argue quality of life per se determines the best country, in which case the winner by Newsweek’s metric is Norway. America ranked No. 11 overall and No. 9 on quality of life. The United Nations’ Human Development Index has us at No. 4, behind Australia, the Netherlands, and—again—Norway. The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom likes Singapore and Hong Kong the best, but we’ll nix them as candidates for overall bestness for their lack of political freedom. Then come Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada, Ireland, Denmark, and finally the United States.
You can slice these numbers different ways, but they deliver the same message: America is awesome, but not really No. 1. Depending on how you squint at it, one or more Nordic countries (sometimes joined by Switzerland or the Netherlands) always beat us, as does at least one of the “America-lite” Anglophone countries. To our credit, we’re really big and Norway and Australia are tiny. If you adjust awesomeness for population size, it’s clear that we lead the world in aggregate living standards, much as we lead it in GDP, military might, and other indicators. Our combination of size and prosperity leaves others in the dust.
Romney’s claim, however, is historical. We’re not just the greatest nation around today, but the greatest nation ever. For real?
Read the full story here: Slate Magazine
- Jerome Karabel: ‘American Exceptionalism’ and the Battle for the Presidency (huffingtonpost.com)