The Economist magazine recently issued a study purporting to compare countries on the basis of how democratic they are. The U.S. ended up ranked as a “flawed democracy.”
In one sense this is absolutely true. As great as America is, it will always be flawed, as will any other country in which human beings run things. Our countries are only as good as we are.
But the study, which calls itself the “The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index,” gives the United States the same democracy ranking as countries such as Portugal, India, Chile, South Africa, Bulgaria, and Botswana. And the study ranks the U. S. only slightly ahead of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Namibia, Paraguay, Mexico, and Mongolia.
In this study, America comes in behind Uruguay.
But what is even more indicative of the bias of the study is who it ranks as “full democracies.” It’s not hard to guess.
In this category we find (surprise, surprise) all the Scandinavian countries—Norway, Sweden, Finland, along with Iceland, the Netherlands, and Denmark, and, last but not least, Canada, a country which is not Scandinavian only by geographical accident.
Now mind you these are all wonderful countries. But did anyone notice that four of these countries—Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Denmark—are constitutional monarchies? With established state churches?
How did the United States, a stable constitutional Republic with a Constitution that prohibits an established state church, earn a democracy ranking lower than a bunch of Vikings-turned-socialists?
The answer may lie in the criteria used for the ranking. Or maybe not. If you look at the fine print it’s difficult to pin down exactly how countries were ranked. The criteria are politics (50 percent), and gender, economy, knowledge, health, and environment (10 percent each).
“Gender” means gender equity. Does that mean that a woman doing the same job as a man is paid the same ignoring seniority, education background, qualifications, and time out of work due to pregnancy as so many people who talk about gender equity do? It’s hard to tell.
Why does a country that has a higher budget deficit score higher under “Economics”? Why under “Knowledge” does a country that merely has more computers and smart phones rank higher when there is credible evidence that these things can make people more stupid? And are we really to believe that the more money a country spends means, ipso facto, that people are healthier?
And what, under the category of “Environment,” does “Global Stewardship” have to do with whether a country is more or less democratic?
Americans are constantly having Scandinavia thrown in our faces as an example of what everyone else should be like. The highest aspiration for an American, apparently, is to be a good Swede.
Michael Booth recently wrote an irreverent and informative book titled, The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia. He remarks (ironically, in response to remarks in The Economist),
“[W]here were the discussions about Nordic totalitarianism and how uptight the Swedes are; about how the Norwegians have been corrupted by their oil wealth to the point where they can’t even be bother to peel their own bananas; ... how the Finns are self-medicating themselves into oblivion; how the Danes are in denial about their debt, their vanishing work ethic and their place in the world; and how the Icelanders are, essentially, feral?”
The book is a stupendous take down of all the Scandinavian tropes. Maybe the editors at The Economist need to read it.
Martin Cothran is the editor of Classical Teacher magazine, published by Memoria Press, and the director of the Classical Latin School Association.