Friday, July 10, 2020

Rating Countries

I had a conversation with a young person. She informed me that saying "The United States of America is the best country in the world" without data made her want to argue.

It was a statement of "show me the data".

She has no issues accepting that the United States is in the top quartile, but to say it is the best....

I asked her what countries she thought were superior to the US, and she named three. I will talk about those countries in a later post.

Persuasive argument
Rule #1: Use metrics that matter to the target. Presenting metrics that matter to you will be seen as boorish and will NOT help you sell your proposition or product.
Rule #2: Don't tilt the table too much. If your product is inferior for that customer, don't poison future sales by forcing the issue
Rule #3: Front-load the vivid and graphic images/metrics that favor your product.

Too many metrics
Too many essays that rate countries become super-tankers full of bombast. They try to impress by incorporating hundreds of metrics in sorting through the countries.

It isn't necessary or even desirable to include every metric you can think of in these exercises. Metrics "cluster". Rather than have twenty-five metrics that speak to economic conditions, pick three that span the universe of how people interact with the economy. Rather than a hundred metrics that speak to human-rights, pick five that capture 95% of the issues,

The risk in choosing a hundred human-rights issues is that you might inadvertently over-weight human rights issues over, say, your ability to make a living. Unless you are a trans-gendered, married "man" and are looking for a doctor to perform a vasectomy, then do you really care about the fringe of transgender "equality" issues?

The purpose of this essay is to take a first swing at a rational package of metrics that will be compelling to a twenty-something, college graduate woman.

The fixed cost of moving
An important consideration is the fixed cost of moving and how "bad" your current country actually is.

Some countries are less desirable places to live than others. The areas circled in red are countries that most people agree fall on the left side of the normal distribution circled in red.

The material impact on lives is huge if you currently live in a -3 Standard Deviation country and you move up 10% points to a -1.4 Standard Deviation country. That would be like moving from Haiti-to-Chile or Myanmar-to-Sri Lanka. HUGE difference.

The effect of moving up 10%ile points if you are in the crowded middle is far less marked. In fact, you might have a hard time getting agreement, is "Ireland "better" than Portugal?" Some people adore the sun and will insist Portugal is superior. Others like cozy pubs and will insist Ireland is better.

The costs of moving between Portugal and Ireland is likely to not be recouped in improved quality of life. Why bother moving if your education is not respected, you need to learn another language and you lose family and professional connections if the gains are very incremental?

Unfortunately, the left-side of the curve argument also applies to the right side of the curve. If you live in a 88th percentile country then you will gain significant advantage if you move to a 98th percentile country.

What metrics for twenty-somethings?
Racial/Gender equality
-Pay differences between People-of-Color and non-POC, women and men
-Life expectancy difference between People-of-Color and non-POC
-Substance abuse rates of POC

-Ease of legal immigration
-Acceptance of out-of-country credentials
-General attitude toward "foreigners"

-Unemployment in 20-to-35 age cohort
-Upward mobility for non-natives
-Ease of starting a business
-Social safety-net
-Cost of living
-Tax rate (suggested in Comments by Gromit)

-Infant and maternal death-rate
-Access to healthcare
-General sanitation, sewage, insects, venomous creatures

-Typical weeks of vacation per year
-Maternity leave policies

What do you guys think? You are my source of "the wisdom of the cloud". What am I missing? What should I leave out?


  1. My philosophy can be boiled down to a bumper sticker...

    P.S.- I love it !

    And I love my new books. I have been reading Calexit and am on page 124. Is there a boo-boo on pg 191 ?...Boll shook HER head...???

    1. page 101...I made a boo-boo...

    2. Important topic, Joe, particularly right now when some countries are waxing and others are waning at faster rates than ever before.

      I paid the price of moving twenty years years ago: out of the USA to Thailand. I am in Bangkok right now. I was born and raised in Middle West, in the middle 1950's, in the middle class. Oh, how I wish I could return there today!

      The “fixed cost” of moving is not fixed. Constantly fluctuating over time. Example #1: Decide to learn the language. Budget for three months of language school. After three months realize it's not enough. Go back for three more months. And after that maybe more. Extra cost.

      Example #2: Newcomer doesn't know the local area (or the language), so he selects housing from the Internet. Always highest price that way. But after a few years, can find similar accomodation at lower price. A few more years, even lower price. Now I pay half of when I first arrived, for a larger and more attractive apartment in a better area. Declining cost.

      Example #3: Foreign exchange rates. Always fluctuating and in the future even more.

      But there is another factor that most emmigrants never consider. Most just ask is Country-A better than Country-B because of, say, climate, or food, or safety? The decision is very difficult. Instead I took a completely different perspective. I asked, “What factors in the USA, what social and economic trends, do I want to ESCAPE and still have a comfortable life?” That strategy made all the difference.

      After much thought I determined there were four factors. I looked for a country with a good quality of life, that avoided these strategic problems:

      #1 – The pandemic of Cultural Marxism spreading in every Western country.
      #2 – The rise of the Praetorian Guard / police state in the USA.
      #3 – (unmentionable in polite company in this, the year of Our Lord, 2020)
      #4 – (also unmentionable or I will get “cancelled”)

      Joe, if you, or anyone else wants to discuss, my email is

  2. Good comebacks. And as soon as you come up with facts, they'll move the goalposts (again)...

    1. The difference is that I am respecting their ability to question and think while the Woke-splainers demand unthinking, unswerving obedience.

  3. Tax rates are not included in your data set. How much people pay for what they get.

  4. There's only one metric needed; for all its faults, the United States is the country that people from all over the world are trying to MOVE TO, often illegally, and at great risk.

    To those who say the U.S. isn't the greatest country on Earth, I say "Show me the PROOF. Move to the country YOU think is the best... and STAY THERE!"

  5. Maybe add something about guaranteed freedoms and legal rights? Might not mean much to that demographic though.


  6. ratios across incomes. IN other words, is it 99% poor and 1% wealthy? 50/40/20 poor/middle/rich?

  7. Actually, just the kind of article I'm looking for. First, my son is highly interested in living for a couple of years ( not a lifetime) in a foreign country. ( Particularly Asian). Secondly , I admit, if things head very far south it might be good to have a foreign option for "Plan B, or at least C". I think you are very much on the right track . I DO think many people do not consider all the costs in moving. For me...I HATE trying to learn new languages so that COULD be a very big metric. Perhaps add....does the country already have very many x-pats ? English speakers....common or rare ? ? Also I totally agree that the point B makes about rations across incomes may be important.

  8. You can try with metrics Joe but it won't give anything like a realistic picture. And besides, your subject should be doing the research themselves (the CIA factbook is online and an excellent resource that I used to use a lot). I've lived in over 20 different countries, and none of them come even close to comparing the rule of law, levels of corruption, standard of living. Tell the young'un to join the Peace Corp or something similar and see how others live for a year or so. Total immersion is really the only way to find out how good you have it.

  9. Replies
    1. CIA World Factbook uses PPP, Purchasing Power Parity when reporting things like per-captia GDP. It is a way of smoothing out price variation and taxes.


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