America is the greatest, or is it?

Many “deep thinkers” on internet forums have stated that “America is the greatest country in the world” and equally many have stated the opposite. Now, disregarding the fact that America isn’t really a country (it’s a continent, look it up) – why don’t we take a cool and dispassionate look at the realities?

Greatness is in the eye of the beholder

According to Facebook, Justin Bieber is about twentyfive times as popular as the United States of America. Image courtesy of Adam Sundana.

To answer the question, we first need to ask what the heck we mean by the greatest. If it is the subjective feeling of greatness, then our work is done. America is the greatest, at least for those who think so. Of course, if those who don’t think that outnumber those who do, then America can’t be the greatest, not really. Right?

In other words, it’s a question of reputation – put bluntly: whichever country has the most fans on facebook wins. Unfortunately, that’s not the US. Of the countries we bothered checking, Australia won. In fact, considering that Justin Bieber is about 25 times as popular as the United States, we might have to concede that this isn’t the best way to measure it anyway.

If facebook likes isn’t the best way, maybe we should just ask a bunch of people what they think? We didn’t really have the budget, but thankfully someone else did. This time, the victory was thwarted by another of those pesky commonwealth nations: Canada. This time, the meatball loving Swedes came in second, while Flipper-hugging Australia were in the third place. To make things worse, the US came in on 23rd place out of 50 – slightly better than Argentina, but worse than Brazil.

Popularity of selected countries, according to Facebook.


It’s the size that matters

OK. So the US doesn’t have the best reputation, but who cares what everyone thinks? As with everything else, it must be the size that matters, right? Clearly, the US must be the greatest!

Don't make the mistake that Napoleon and Hitler did: never start a land war in Russia. It's that big. Painting "Napoleons retreat from Moscow" was painted by Adolf Northern.

Well, in terms of landmass, the United States is pretty big – but there can only be one winner. This competition is won by the Russkies. In fact, once again the maple tree hugging Canadians beat their smaller brother to the south: Canada is in fact the world’s second largest country, with “America” landing on a meagre third place.

In terms of population, the US does even worse. It’s 309 million inhabitants is once again enough to land the US the third prize. Unfortunately, both India and China have over a billion people – each. China currently has a population of 1.35 billion; which is more than a billion more than in the US.

We should note that the US actually does have the biggest economy, despite Wall Street and/or politicians’ best efforts to blow it to smithereens. With a gross domestic product of $14.6 trillion, the US certainly beat runner up China with $5.3 trillion. While Chinese growth is alarming, victory is sure for the US, at least for now. Or is it? The EU members can’t agree on anything, but they do have a single market, with a combined GDP of $16.7 trillion – just enough to beat the Amerikanos…

Of course, we should not forget that the US does have the greatest military force: they can bomb any country back to the stone age, twice. China, India, North Korea, South Korea and Pakistan may all have more men in green, but the US has the coolest toys and – as every child knows – the one with the most toys wins.

The US spends about $503 billion per year on their armed forces, five times as much as runner up China. Considering that the US pays 40 % of Earth’s combined military expenditures, you might wonder exactly who made them so paranoid. Since the US has demonstrated repeatedly that they can’t occupy and control even a small country, we can only assume they won’t try to invade Canada. That leaves us with either space aliens or some sort of underground mutant race of were-moles. The alternative, of course, is that politicans, military leaders and industry giants conspires to get as rich as possible by inflating the budget; but I think we can dismiss that as a conspiracy theory worth no mention.

So, the US may not have the most land, the most people or even the biggest economy, but at least they are the biggest bullies in the playground. That’s gotta count for something, right? We certainly think so! (Now please, point that gun at someone else)

At least it’s the best place to live!

OK, so we’ve established that the US is pretty great, even if it doesn’t outclass the competition (except in the biggest gun department). But none of that matters, because the US is the best place to live, right?

According to the Human Development Index, or HDI, the best place to live, is in fact Norway, followed closely by Australia and New Zealand. The US follows on 4th place.

America may not be the greatest place for the Average Joe, but once you're so filthy rich you can swim in money, you won't find a country anywhere that takes better care of you.

If you believe in hard currency instead of mushy human development, the US actually does even worse. Measured in GDP per capita, Monaco is the winner. Of course, you could state that Monaco, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Bermuda and Qatar are fairy tale countries, and not real countries like the US, but you’d still have real problems explaining Viking-Norway and watch making Switzerland on the following spaces.

OK, so maybe even these are closer to fairy tales than the real deal (unless you live there, of course), but can’t explain that the US is on the 20th place, once again slightly behind Canada in the 19th spot.

Macau is kinda like China, just better (and much smaller).

If it were the best place to live, you’d also expect it’d be the place where people lived the longest. In the real world, that honour goes to Macau. With an average life expectancy of 84.4 years, the average Macaan can expect to live for another six years and four months when the average American dies. If you don’t think Macau should rate as a real country, there are 48 other countries above the US on the 50th place, some of which must surely be very, very real countries.

The Conclusion

Well, it’s safe to say that the US isn’t the greates place in the world to live. It might be the best place for you to live, but in general some other places are better at certain things, perhaps even most things. The US is certainly a good place to live, by any measurement, but it seems that it would be hard to declare it the best place except as a figment of the patriots imagination. As a consolation, it’s much better than virtually everywhere else (except Canada), but that’s not really the issue, is it?

You may think that statistics and numbers have absolutely nothing to do with it – and you’d be just as right as anyone claiming something else. The truth is that the greatest is whatever we make of it. Just don’t expect (or demand) that anyone or everyone should agree with you.

One of the things that does make America great, is the fact that you’re entitled to disagree: that’s what free speech is all about, after all. Free speech includes the right to make a fool out of yourself, so if you want to shout your opinion from the rooftops, we certainly won’t stop you!

Oh, and if you were wondering why the US isn’t on top of any of these lists, it just might be because they spend all their hard earned ca$h on guns & ammo, instead of boring stuff like universal health care or education.

America. And why not?

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