According to Michael Porter (a Harvard business professor, capitalist and registered republican) it’s time to ditch the GDP per capita as the sole measure of well being for a country and pay more attention to the Social Progress Index that measures the livability of all its citizen and is a more comprehensive indicator of well being than the average income per person.
Before analyzing our disappointing ranking of 16th among 132 countries that were included in the study I want to point out why social progress is important: “Social well-being is the foundation of a peaceful, democratic, capitalist society. It is the philosophical foundation on which our nation was built: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all not a few.”
The Social Progress Index a quantitative based study compares data that are organized into three different categories:
- Basic human needs (including nutrition, medical care, water and sanitation, shelter and personal safety)
- Foundations of well being (including access to basic knowledge, access to information and communication, health, wellness and ecosystem sustainability)
- Opportunity (including personal rights, personal freedom and choice, tolerance and inclusion, access to advanced education)
While the US boosts the second highest GDP per capita behind Norway and ranks high for access to higher education it might come as a surprise that we rank 70th in health, 69th in eco sustainability, 39th in basic education, 34th in access to water and sanitation, 31st in personal safety and 23rd in access to cell phone and Internet (because 1/5th of Americans lack access to the Internet).
Another way to say it is that our military and economic strength does not necessarily translate into the well being for the average citizen.
The growing gap between the haves and have nots and the lack of progress when it comes to social acceptance and integration does not speak well for our nation’s ability to give all citizens access to the American dream. Ultimately that means that if not the vast majority of people living within our borders have the opportunity for social and economic advancement it comes at a price that translates into higher than necessary crime rates and more people than is desirable being dependent on welfare and ultimately undermines our global competitiveness.
It is our responsibility to even the playing field if we want to continue to be a model for a modern and free society that is based on everybody making a contribution to the nations well being.
A good starting point is to reform our basic education programs and make our health care system more cost effective.
We don’t have to look far to gain an understanding within the borders of our own State. Compare the coastal areas and larger cities like Columbia and Greenville to one of the poorest counties in the nation Allendale that is in central rural South Carolina where the living conditions are a lot more comparable to third world countries and sharply contrast against the general image of the land of opportunity.
It is little consolidation that Russia ranks 80th and China 90th if our neighbors to the North Canada makes it into the top 10 and in a reversal of history Irish people are better of staying home than immigrating to the US.
For a more in depth look at the statistics and the impressive team of experts that took 2 years to compile it go to www.socialprgoressimperative.org.
In closing I urge you not to confuse social progress with socialism, socialism is a way to redistribute wealth more equally, social progress is how we take care of our earth, our rights, of how we give all kids access to top notch basic education, how we make it feasible for rural area to have internet access and how we make our health care system more cost effective to name a few. Ultimately it means giving everybody a chance to become a contributing member of our society so that the tide can lift all boats.
Please send your comments to my email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would like to get your feedback on this important idea.