As soon as we begin to differentiate between nations, arguing that nations are not equally evolved or civilized, the reader might challenge the author’s objectivity, for it is certainly not politically correct to speak this way.
So in order to look at the relative evolution or degree of civilization of the countries of the world, let us use the Legatum Institute’s so-called Prosperity Index™. This London-based organization evaluates 149 of the world’s countries annually. (Excluded countries include North Korea, Cuba, South Sudan, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, and others). The Legatum Prosperity Index™ measures “national success,” the overall prosperity of a country’s people, according to 9 criteria or "pillars": Economy Quality, Business Environment, Governance, Personal Freedom, Social Capital, Safety & Security, Education, Health, and Natural Environment. The overall well-being or Prosperity within each country can then be compiled into a global ranking, covering about 96% of humanity, and providing us with an extremely valuable tool for assessing our progress as a species from year to year.
Some of Legatum's findings over the course of 2013 and 2014 included:
Norway is ranked 1st overall, New Zealand rises to 3rd, the United States is 10th, with Chad and Central African Republic in last place.
In overall Prosperity, none of the 10 highest ranked countries are in Africa, Asia or the Middle East, while 19 of the 20 lowest ranked countries are in Africa and the Middle East: Zimbabwe, Mauritania, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Liberia, Angola, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Yemen, Togo, Burundi, Afghanistan, Congo, Central African Republic, and Chad, with Haiti being the only one outside of that region.
In overall Prosperity, Russia falls the most in Europe and Venezuela falls the most globally from 2013 to 2014.
In the measure of Economy, Mexico overtakes Brazil and China rises to 6th.
In the measure of Entrepreneurship & Opportunity, 9 of the 10 highest ranked countries are in Europe, especially Scandinavia, with Hong Kong 10th (and the United States 11th).
In the measure of Personal Freedom, 16 of the 20 lowest ranked countries are in the Middle East and North Africa — the other four being Armenia, Russia, Thailand and Haiti. 14 of those 20 are Muslim countries — Afghanistan, Mauritania, Iran, Chad, Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Yemen. (One would presume that other countries, like North Korea, Libya and Cuba, would almost certainly have made this list as well, had they been part of the study.)
Some of Legatum's findings over the course of 2017 and 2018 include:
Norway remains ranked 1st overall, New Zealand rises to 2rd, the United States has fallen to 17th, with Afghanistan and Central African Republic in last place.
In the last five years, 113 countries have improved their prosperity. In many respects the world is getting better.
Mexico has increased its prosperity score since 2007 to 59th, but, it still faces significant challenges, most notably in Safety and Security, where it ranks 127th with one of the highest homicide rates in the world.
Among the countries that rose the most in prosperity, Safety & Security was their strongest pillar. In countries that fell, Safety & Security was the worst performing pillar.
Safety & Security continues to decline, with much of this decline concentrated in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Sub-Saharan Africa.
In Western Europe, there is a significant divergence between northern and southern Europe. This is particularly stark in political participation, where southern European countries have been steadily declining for the last decade.
Latin America and the Caribbean has weak Economic Quality and Business Environment, and Governance is weak. Governments in the region are low performers, rule of law is poor and corruption is common.
Indonesia has seen the second largest rise out of any Asian country over the last 10 years, rising from 80th to 49th, with the largest improvements in the Social Capital, Governance and Business Environment pillars.
While it may not be politically correct to point it out… it is self-evident that culture, art, science, technology, medical and health standards, and the political values of liberty and democracy have not developed everywhere at the same pace nor for the same length of time. They are also not embraced equally from culture to culture. Different countries are also at different levels of development. They have different degrees of infrastructure and bureaucracy. They embrace modernity and equality to varying degrees and they remain tied to ancient lore, rite, monarchy, violence, religion or tribal culture to varying degrees. In some places, these primal forces are still very much in evidence.
AIDS and Ebola both spread far more readily around Africa than in modern Western countries due to the lack of health and medical standards. Not only is there a lack of basic education about these matters, but the popular belief in traditional remedies and tribal doctors also fosters a mistrust for Western medicine and its practices in certain places.
Our modern and technological era, with its instant global connectivity, has thrust together civilizations that were, until relatively recently, at very different points in their evolution. Europe (and its offshoots, especially America and the British Commonwealth countries) saw an industrial revolution built upon a Renaissance, all in turn influenced by the Greek, Roman, and a Judeo-Christian legacies. It was a long and often painful development of a civilization, now built upon freedom and democracy, that was hard-won across centuries of persecution, bloody monarchies, revolutions and wars.
Many of the North African and Middle Eastern cultures mentioned above did not go through the centuries-long development and integration of the ideas, philosophies and technologies that form the foundation of modern Western society. They have different traditions. And while so many in those countries have embraced modernity and technology, many still cling to values and philosophies that clash with modernity. In Tanzania, for example, many women are still prevented from claiming legal inheritances because their patriarchal society has so long diminished the rights and equality of women.
As a result, we must exercise reason and caution when dealing with international affairs. Many people have the tendency to see all countries as equal, and believe that each should have an equal say in world affairs. And while it is true that each country is equal in terms of their people deserving human rights, freedom and opportunity, they are not equal in their beliefs, culture, and actions. They do not contribute equally to global advancement and security. Their citizens do not possess equal degrees of personal freedom and opportunity, material subsistence, and they do not all uphold individual liberty. Some regimes are outright tyrannical and guilty of perpetrating (or countenancing) crimes against humanity, often against their own people.
So while international equality and balance is the goal, we should not make the mistake of imagining that we are already there, simply because we have an organization known as the United Nations, for that kind of naiveté opens the door for the unscrupulous to manipulate the weak and the willing, and people always suffer as a result. This is perhaps the greatest challenge facing the United Nations Organization, and it is a front on which the U.N. receives a lot of criticism.
We can also not avoid the obvious truth that a country is made up of individuals, each at their own level of evolution. So ask the questions of yourself, your people, your leaders and your country: how civilized are you really?