Winning The Birth Lottery

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The Economist magazine came out with their trademark Year in Review issue this week (stay tuned over the next few weeks for our “year end” articles and what we think 2013 might look like) and it had some interesting stuff in it.  The article that caught my attention was the analysis they did on where the best places to be born are today.  In other words, The Economist used a variety of metrics (such as education, healthcare, income, etc) that looked at which countries are in the best circumstances to provide a good life for their citizens going forward.

Here is the shortlist:

 

  1. Switzerland
  2. Australia
  3. Norway
  4. Sweden
  5. Denmark
  6. Singapore
  7. New Zealand
  8. Netherlands
  9. Canada
  10. Hong Kong
  11. Finland
  12. Ireland
  13. Austria
  14. Taiwan
  15. Belgium
  16. Germany & USA
  17. UAE
  18. South Korea
  19. Israel

Oh Canada

best country to live inSo the True North Strong and Free came in at #9, a very Canadian thing to do when you think about it.  I rarely see fellow Canucks running around shouting, “We’re Number One!”  Number nine is pretty decent when you look at the rest of the list.  None of the countries ranked in the top eight really surprise me that much and it seems that we are often compared to these places whenever country rankings come out.  What is more polite than effectively saying, “We’re pretty good, and we’re sort of happy about that, but not overly proud”?  Yay, Canada.

#16?!

The more interesting finding to me was the USA and Germany tied for 16th place respectively.  This basically confirms the feeling in those two countries that they have seen better days, and that they are going in the wrong direction.  It seems a little crazy to consider that Ireland who is just coming out of a major financial crisis, and Taiwan who isn’t even a recognized country by most of the world would come out ahead of the Stars and Stripes.  Income inequality was cited as one of the key reasons for this relatively low ranking, and one can only that the political gridlock that has taken the USA hostage sees a list like this and wakes up (I'm not betting it on it though). It's a little telling when a country like Israel that lives in perpetual fear is only a few spots behind the former unquestioned sole hegemonic power.

No word yet on if Psy and the K-pop movement are solely responsible for moving South Korea up the ranks.

For Germany, this will no doubt fuel the Euro-doubters who believe that their strong nation would be better off without having to prop up the also-rans of the continent.  I’m not sure I agree with that assessment, but regardless of what facts and studies say, this will prove to be a feather in the cap of those that point to the Scandinavian dominance of the list and state that independence from the Euro is much more attractive.  In any case, it appears that once those crazy northerners or Vikings quit trying to plunder other peoples’ stuff, they actually know how to run nation-states pretty well!

I Already Cashed In a Winning Ticket

The other tangent of thought that this list set off for me was that I had already won the lottery in life.  When you look at the relatively small populations of most of the nations at the top end of the list, and the large populations of countries that don’t have great outlooks going forward (not to mention birthrates that will only increase this discrepancy going forward) it becomes readily apparent the odds were not in my favour as a random person being tossed into this world looking for a great place to live.  When you consider how much I benefit from where I live in the world it is staggering.  I live on a continent that only sees war on TV and video games.  I get to reap the benefits of the generations before me who built various types of infrastructure, and had the sense to invest in education, healthcare and business.  I get to elect my political representation and have some pretty good say over where my tax dollars go.  I have laws and relatively great police branches to enforce those laws.  I not only have the freedom to pursue my dreams, but innumerable supports to give me a boost if I need it, and a social safety net to catch me if I fall.

All of that is one heck of a windfall that I did nothing to deserve (certainly no more than a child born in the Sudan “deserved” to be born there).  Praying or hoping to win another lottery actually feels a little selfish after that revelation …

5 Comments

  1. Megan on January 3, 2013 at 7:31 am

    What a fascinating list – and it really does remind one to be grateful. We have it very, very good here in Canada, even thought it’s easy (and correct, IMO) to be mad at our current government. At least we can all expect that the necessities of life will be available to us should we need them.

    Thanks for the reminder, and the commentary!



  2. Liquid on January 3, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    If South Korea is even remotely like the depiction in Psy’s music video then I am moving there to raise my future kids, lol. Switzerland makes a lot sense to be first, their healthcare and income levels are excellent and they teach 3 different languages in grade school. But yeah, Canada’s not bad either :0) I’m certainly happy about winning the lottery as well.



  3. Jon @ MoneySmartGuides on January 6, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Interesting to see so many Nordic countries on the list. Maybe we all could learn something from them!



  4. Debby on March 24, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    Canada is going down fast. Why? Expensive housing, low paying part-time jobs (f you are lucky to find one; all the best jobs are bleeding off the government teat), excessive
    taxation, and ever increasing heat and food costs. I doubt it is 9th place anymore.



  5. Teacher Man on March 25, 2013 at 9:45 am

    I suppose that’s one way to look at it Debby – on the other hand name one non-Scandinavian country that doesn’t fit the description you just provided?



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