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Winners and Losers

Which Countries are Successful and Why?

Matt Qvortrup

The aim of this short book is to understand which countries do well on key indicators and why. After a short philosophical and historical survey of the literature to put the book into context, the Better-Place Index is developed. This is subsequently tested against a number of policy variables, such as levels of taxation, immigration, and democratic institutions, and other measures. The book provides statistical evidence that these factors are correlated with higher scores on the Better Place Index.

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Statisticians, now over to you, count, measure and compare!

Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1

The aim of this book is to answer two simple questions: which countries do well and why?

Of course, it is much easier to ask than to answer. First of all, what do we mean by ‘well’, and how do we answer the ‘why’? To deal with the last first, we need a working definition of ‘doing well’ and we need a benchmark or a yardstick to measure it. We will develop one in this book. We call it the ‘Better Place Index’ – or BPI for short. It provides a single figure for when countries have low levels of crime and pollution and high levels of health, education and economic prosperity.

However, such a measure only makes constructive sense if it is used to make the world a better place. For this to happen, we need to know when and why some countries do well, and when and why others perform miserably. This is the stuff of many dinner conversations, bar-room chats and learned discourses. Geezers and geniuses have theories about what makes a world a better place. Some blame foreigners for their misery; others give immigrants the credit for having created better societies. Some think it is the welfare state that made their lives better – others think that the ‘nanny state’ is the root of all evil. The aim here is to be completely open to the ‘facts’, and...

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