USA Ranks 22nd on Stable, Prosperous Countries List
A ranking of the world’s countries for stability and prosperity places the United States in the 22nd spot, much to the delight of several commenters on the Left (who, naturally, blame Bush).
Christian Le MiÃ¨re, managing editor of Jane’s Country Risk, which compiled the ratings, said . . . that the US had fallen down the scale, although it still scored an average of 93 out of 100, partly because of the proliferation of small arms owned by Americans and the threat to the population posed by the flow of drugs from across the Mexican border.
Matt Corley and Angela Winter find it rather amusing. Michael Goldfarb finds the ranking insulting, huffing that, “it’s not like people are risking their lives to emigrate to the apparently crime-free Vatican (ranked #1).”
The methodology here is debatable, to be sure. As Nick Gillespie implies, “a proliferation of small arms” is a sign of freedom, not instability, in the American context.
Be that as it may, any analysis that looks at the study and sees that the U.S. is “only” 22nd and therefore, as Corley puts it, “21 countries in the world are more ‘stable’ than the U.S” suffers from an improper understanding of scales of measurement.
A ranking of countries from 1 to 235 is merely ordinal. Knowing that Country A is 1st on the scale and Country B is 22nd gives very little information. Country A could be slightly “better” or markedly so; indeed, depending on how the ranking handles ties, they could actually be identical and the ranking within the ties arbitrary. Given only the rankings, we simply don’t know.
In this case, however, we also have interval data, which allows us to measure differences, albeit probably not ratio data,* which would allow more complex comparisons:
- 1. Vatican 99
2. Sweden 99
3. Luxembourg 99
4. Monaco 98
5. Gibraltar 98
6. San Marino 98
7. Liechtenstein 97
8. United Kingdom 97
9. The Netherlands 97
10. Irish Republic 97
US: 22nd equal 93
Looking at the data this way, we see that the countries at the upper end of the scale are virtually identical. For the sake of comparison, here are the ten countries (or semi-autonomous regions) at the lower end of the scale:
Central African Republic 39
Democratic Congo 38
Ivory Coast 36
Gaza and West Bank 27
A slight rejiggering of the coding rules might well place the United States much higher on the list or somewhat lower. Regardless, however, the takeaway is not our relative position vis-a-vis other incredibly stable, prosperous states but rather than we are an incredibly stable, prosperous state. Whatever differences in “stability” or “prosperity” exist in Luxembourg, the UK, and the US are so negligible as to be meaningless. Conversely, one would never confuse Sudan or Somalia with Monaco.
UPDATE: Bruce McQuain, noting that Vatican, Luxembourg, Monaco, Gibraltar, San Marino, and Liechtenstein are ahead of the United States, exclaims, “Good grief, we have malls bigger than most of those places.” There is that.
*I’m relying on the Times online reports of the study, so I’m unable to assess the methodology to see whether zero is a meaningful number on the scale or if the numbers are arbitrary. Oddly, the Jane’s Country Risk site does not reference the report as of this writing.
Isn’t it more significant that there’s so much emotion expressed from Americans at being ranked “only” 22nd than that the rankings really show the US as a very stable nation?
Note how many of the top ten are tiny and monocultural (Vatican clerics, Monaco rich folks). Note too that all are Old Europe, with the attendant generations of tradition. 22nd is not half bad for a whippersnapper of a nation, to be honest.
But yeah, to the rest of the world, 7 in 10 of all the small arms on the planet being in American non-military hands is seen as a wee bit of a destabilizing factor. The UK has roughly a fifth the population of the US packed into a fiftieth of the space and we keep being told urban overcrowding leads to violence. You know when the last shooting at a UK school was? 1996. A mall? Never.
The reaction reflects a lack of understanding of the data. Furthering the understanding, then, is more important than the underlying ignorance.
Presumably, though, there have been stabbings? Not to mention home-grown Islamist terrorist attacks?
Indeed, Joyce L Malcolm wrote for BBC in 2003, “According to a recent UN study, England and Wales have the highest crime rate and worst record for “very serious” offences of the 18 industrial countries surveyed.”
The comparative rates are also apparently somewhat skewed by different reporting methodologies.
Wait a minute, JANE’s is describing the “open Mexican border” as a problem allowing an influx of illegal drugs into our society?
Well lets get the politicians on THAT to rectify, and raise our ranking!
The Open Borders lobby is lowering our respectability world-wide! Am I the only person who see’s that!
Note that: who cares!
By the way, I heard that Liechtenstein was a virtual hell-hole: Muggings, drugs, little people, overcrowding, class-warfare, feelings of inadequacy, no where to dump garbage etc. How do they survive without repeated stage performances of “Wizard of Oz”?
As per Wikipedia:
Gun crime not only exists in the UK, it has increased due to the “decrease” in available guns.
So how does a country with such a rampant rise in crime rate as more stable than the US?
LOL, it really IS that easy to push conservative buttons. I didn’t mean to but apparently I did.
God forbid anyone suggests ever that the US is number two or even number 22. Nationaist fervor overrides all levelheadedness. America is bigger, biggest, best! McQ’s snark says it all, unfortunately.
James, I’d say that’s more relevant to reactions over this study than ignorance or understanding of the study’s underpinnings. The arrogant “we have bigger malls than your countries” syndrome also explains European recalcitrance at NATO and in other international venues, in great part. You might want to mention that to your boss.
As Nick Gillespie implies, “a proliferation of small armsâ€ is a sign of freedom, not instability, in the American context.
LOL, James. I think your phrase “in the American context,” is precisely the point. Most other prosperous, stable countries see a country awash in guns as indicative of a highly belligerent, violent, *unstable* culture.
It usually is, as that mostly describes 3rd World countries with serious law and order problems. In the United States and Australia, though, the gun culture exists apart from criminality. No doubt, it also means that violent crimes are committed with guns rather than knives.
Jealousy is an ugly, ugly trait C.
It’s mostly a humorous observation, although comparing a continental superpower with Monaco is rather silly methodologically. Monaco, Luxembourg, and the rest are highly advanced societies and we come to diplomatic summits as equals. But we’re not comparable in terms of the complexity of border security, law enforcement, and so forth.
I leave my home unguarded,and travel unarmed and unafraid out into a public sphere offering nearly all my needs for which I can pay from a stable banking system.
Even though there are those who would choose to silence my faith and destroy my liberty, our system has thus far denied them the power to do so.
If this is number 22 then I say great! Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if what we have were 235th?
This fairly recent article regarding the problems of an English police chief with unruly hooligans in his neighborhood speaks poorly of the level of security in English life. How many police chiefs in this country would be run out of their homes by “yobs” sitting on the wall?
No doubt, it also means that violent crimes are committed with guns rather than knives.
I’m not familiar with the statistics on how many violent crimes are committed with guns as opposed to knives, but I *can* tell you this: If I were on one side of Main Street and a violent criminal was on the other side, intent on killing me, I think I would be more likely to survive if his weapon was a knife than if his weapon was a gun.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a big fan of using knives as weapons, and I’m certainly not a ballistics expert, but I just have this intuitive sense that gun violence is more likely to result in fatalities than knife violence.
James, the Jane’s Country Risk website has a press release on the survey. It includes a link to a page on their pay side where you could get more information. No better description of their methodology is included in the press release, unfortunately.
For those who feel the results are unfair to America and that we deserve a higher ranking, we are #4 among nations with a population greater than 50 mil.
For those uncomfortable with anything short of American exceptionalism, we are #1 among countries with population over 100 mil. Take that China and India!