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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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CHAPTER 2 The Economics of a Better Place

Extract

It was the best of times for some. It was the worst of times for others. The stock market was booming, and investors were becoming filthy rich. But there was also anxiety. There had been mass immigration, and some of the immigrants belonged to a different religion, which created suspicion, as they tended to live in ghettoes. There was occasional violence, and ‘some of the perpetrators of the heinous acts of terrorism were new immigrants … This fact allowed nativist elements within the United States to create periodic spasms of anti-immigrant hysteria’1. New technologies of instant communication meant that information was spreading quickly – and many, especially those living away from the larger metropolitan areas were feeling left behind. A new movement known as Populists were challenging the wealthy elite. One of their leaders, who was running for the presidency, summed up the grievance of many when he outlined his economic philosophy:

There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it2.

The reader could be forgiven for thinking this was an address delivered in the second decade of the twenty-first century. It wasn’t. In fact, the speaker ←25 | 26→was William Jennings Bryan, a Democrat who – unsuccessfully – ran...

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