Top of the world, Kofi

The UN Human Development Index typically receives a lot of coverage in Norway, because we tend to get a favourable mention. Third year in a row, we've now been declared (or declared ourselves) the best country in the world to live in. Dagbladet is particularly flattered by the result, presenting it cucumber front page-style.

As with most reports like this, though, ranking is meaningless. Well-being isn't a competition. We get a lot more meaningful numbers if we look at the actual HDI values, (calculated by averaging a life expectancy index, an education index, and an GDP index, which sounds sensible to me.) It's hard to get any real sense of what these numbers mean, but one way of looking at it is this: In 1990, Norway got 0.900 points, and this year 0.944. The following countries all get an HDI value above 0.900, which means that based on these criteria they're better off now than we were 13 years ago: Iceland (0.942), Sweden (0.941), Australia (0.939), Netherlands (0.938), Belgium (0.937), United States (0.937), Canada (0.937), Japan (0.932), Switzerland (0.932), Denmark (0.930), Ireland (0.930), United Kingdom (0.930), Finland (0.930), Luxembourg (0.930), Austria (0.929), France (0.925), Germany (0.921), Spain (0.918), New Zealand (0.917), Italy (0.916) and Israel (0.905). None of these numbers were reported in today's Dagbladet, of course, (or in any other article I've found), only the top 10 countries in the ranking.

Everything above 0.800 is classified as high human development, so what the numbers are really saying is that Western Europe and North America are damn good places to live in. (The only ones who will be surprised by this are those of my readers who think I'm living in a socialist hellhole here, and those of my countrymen who believe everything a certain comedian tells them about a certain ally.) To go beyond that, to explain why 0.944 is better than 0.930, you have to fight your way through a houndred uncertainty factors and subjective judgments about what "human development" really is, and how it relates to, as our media puts it, "being best". I don't see anything meaningful coming out of that. But at least the ranking is really good cucumber material.


I can't believe we're 8th, ahead of Canuckistan.

That'll put their knickers in a twist!

OOPS! My bad, 7th. Just checked Fredrik's site and he also listed them.

It's interesting that Israel is on that list, and South Korea isn't.

Even with US economic support, it seems that Israelis just know how to make use of their human resources. Unlike their various neighbors, who have access to even greater wealth, yet still can't get their act together in terms of building thriving societies.

South Koreans, however, seem to be doing something really wrong - even though they are bigger recipients of America's support. Perhaps they've still to learn that the chaebols - the corporate conglomerates that really just mask an antiquated old boys' networks - are really the main cause of all their social ills. But, of course, the US gets singled out before the chaebols do, - because it's so easy to blame big bad America, instead of examining the shortcomings of one's own society.

I'd like to see how individual American states rate on that index.

Markku: South Korea is at 0.879, so I'm not sure you can conclude that from these numbers.

Take a peek at what a Canuck in Canuckistan is writing about the reaction to the HDI. (BTW, it's also a plug for his weblog at

Speaking as a Candian who is living in Sweden and has relatives in Norway, I can say that all three countries are great to live in, but that the regional differences within any country would be greater than the average difference between any of the top 8 countries.

In other words, the difference in quality of life between Oslo and Narvik, (or Luleå and Stockholm), is probably greater than the average difference in quality of life between Norway and Canada.

0.879? Well then, that's welcome news. It's good to hear US subsidies have not all gone to waste.

Now if we could only get all US troops out of there and let the ungrateful South Koreans fend for themselves, that would be even better.

But if that would happen, Moody's credit rating for the entire country would be lowered, - and the chaebols certainly don't want that.


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