The latest edition of the UN's Human Development Index is out. I could quibble with its methodology but I think it gets it just about right. Iceland ranks first of the 177 countries ranked in the report, followed by Norway, Australia, Canada, Ireland and Sweden. The United States has slipped to 12th, around the same position as Spain. And that's the US as a whole. But because the US is highly unequal, socially economically and regionally, some areas in the US are likely to be quite a bit lower than this, while others are higher.
The UN ranking seems similar to my own Global Creativity Index rankings in Flight of the Creative Class. It sheds light on the real competitors in terms of quality of life, development and potential talent attraction, which as I argued in Flight, are and will be mainly smaller countries.
The much talked about up and coming growth machines of China and India are much lower. China is 81st, behind Colombia, the Ukraine, Bosnia, Brazil and Kazakhstan. India is 128th behind all of them and Botswana and Namibia. Are these really the nations, experts, journalists and the leadership of advanced countries should be worried about and comparing themselves to? At least during the "competitiveness debate" of the 1980s and 1990s, people were talking about the US, Japan, Germany and the Scandinavian countries.
It's prosperity we're after, rather than just income and growth, the UN rankings tell a pretty reasonable story. The ranking table is here.