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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 4 Politics and Better Place


As we saw at the end of the previous chapter, the author of the Divine Comedy lauded government by one man. One of the poet’s contemporary compatriots was equally unquestioning in his support for the same idea. ‘Government by one person is likely to be more successful than government by the many,’ opined Saint Thomas Aquinas1.

But that, of course, was in the middle ages, at a time when everybody believed in fairies and Hell physically located below the ground. In the modern age it has been different. Maybe things just change? Maybe we too are prejudiced and accept the prevailing view without bothering to look at the evidence? Since the Second World War it has been difficult to find anyone who would stand up for rule by one man or an unelected clique. Even a state like North Korea is officially called ‘The People’s Republic of Korea’, though the role of the ‘people’ – let alone the voters – is absent in the totalitarian state.

And, yet, the unquestioned opposition against authoritarianism has slightly changed after the Millennium. In Britain, one of the world’s longest established democracies, 54 percent want ‘a strong leader who is willing to break the rules’ – only 23 percent do not2. Further, the Australians, an egalitarian people devoted to the classless idea of ‘mateship’, are increasingly in favour of a ‘strong man’. While the hankering for a benevolent despot is not as high as in the United Kingdom, no less than 33...

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