Monday, October 26, 2009

Innovative, entrepreneurial and with strong social support networks: the real Britain revealed

The Legatum Prosperity Index is a free market think tank which ranks 104 countries according to nine different measures of prosperity. There are some predictable results - four of the top five countries are in Scandinavia, and Zimbabwe is last, just behind Sudan. But it is interesting to see what they say about the UK.

The Daily Mail writes on a daily basis about a UK where business is stifled by regulation, the economy is burdened by a bloated public sector, we are run by a corrupt politicial elite, terrorists and violent criminals menace the law abiding public, the traditional family is under assault, ancient freedoms have been taken away, our universities teach 'mickey mouse degrees' and our health service is inefficient.

The research suggests that every single one of these are right-wing myths. Here's their summaries:

Economic Fundamentals - Ranked 13th
Weak terms of trade and domestic savings hinder an otherwise fundamentally robust UK economy.

Entrepreneurship and Innovation - Ranked 2nd
The UK benefits from a highly entrepreneurial and innovative economy

Democratic Institutions - Ranked 11th
Democratic institutions are strong, and the political regime stable in the UK

Education - Ranked 21st
British workers benefit from high levels of tertiary schooling, boosting labour productivity

Health - Ranked 23rd
High life expectancy, low infant mortality, and a strong health infrastructure characterise the health care system in the UK

Safety and Security - Ranked 22nd
The UK faces relatively few threats to its national security but people have concerns regarding theft

Governance - Ranked 13th
A high proportion of British citizens have confidence in governmental institutions

Personal Freedom - Ranked 19th
British society is characterised by a high degree of personal freedom and perceived tolerance of minority groups

Social Capital - Ranked 11th
British citizens enjoy strong support networks in family and friends


The international comparisons suggest that the UK economy is fundamentally robust; democratic institutions are strong; high levels of tertiary education bolster labour productivity; high numbers of doctors and nurses per head of population help make our health infrastructure strong; there are few threats to national security and violent crime is low; that people from different backgrounds get on well; that there is a high degree of personal freedom; and that Britain is second in the world for innovation and enterpreneurship, for charitable giving and for support from friends and family in times of need.

In 2007, the UK was 17th overall in this survey, last year 14th and this year 12th. To break into the top ten, we could introduce some of the following policies:

Improve primary health: Over one in five consider themselves to have health problems, ranking the country 33rd, and just 64% of people feel well rested, ranking the country 73rd.

Cut burglaries: 15% of respondents had property stolen in the same timeframe.

Reduce class sizes: Despite the 14th highest levels of educational expenditure for primary and secondary levels, class sizes are near the global average, with one teacher for every 18 pupils.

Curbs on arbitrary power: There are some constraints in place to prevent political leaders from acting rashly or arbitrarily, but the UK ranks below the international average for this variable.

Improve domestic savings: The domestic savings rate, of 15%, places the country in the bottom third on this variable.

Raise the school leaving age: British workers have had, on average, 5.3 years of secondary and 4.5 years of tertiary schooling, ranking the country 49th and 19th, respectively on these variables.

Of course, rather than highlighting any of this, the Daily Mail reports these findings as 'unhappy UK fails to make top 10 prosperous countries'. You couldn't make it up.


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