A recent global index shows the U.S. on the outside looking in of the world’s most prosperous countries. The 2012 Legatum Prosperity Index shows the trio of Scandinavian countries—Norway, Denmark and Sweden—at the top of the list while the U.S. has fallen out of the top 10 for the first time.
The index evaluates global wealth and well-being, benchmarking 142 countries around the world in eight distinct categories: Economy; Education; Entrepreneurship & Opportunity; Governance; Health; Personal Freedom; Safety & Security; and Social Capital.
“GDP alone can never offer a complete view of prosperity,” said Jeffrey Gedmin, president and CEO of the London-based Legatum Institute. “We believe that by measuring the quality of education, healthcare, social capital and opportunity, our Prosperity Index gives the clearest view of how countries are prospering today and how they are likely to prosper in the future.”
The top 10 countries in the index were: Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Finland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland.
So what do our prosperity leaders share in common? They all demonstrate a value system based on culture. The quality of education, healthcare, social capital and opportunity is what flows out of a robust culture. Building social capital is the gateway to increasing a culture of prosperity because through the sharing of ideas and knowledge the intellectual potential of regions and the building of a more open and tolerant citizen in society rises. Social capital is about the value of social networks. Strong social networks bond similar people together and also provide a bridge to bring diverse populations together through a shared understanding that mutual benefit will flow throughout the network. Social capital is the precursor- the necessary glue- to a highly functioning economy.
Social capital is not built in isolation as it requires connectivity through human communication. Social capital is increased when people share and work together. By its very nature, it also easily sheds light on social pathologies.
Until recently, culture was perceived as part of social policy and was not tied to economics. While it is increasingly recognized by the likes of Americans for The Arts, Aspen Institute, Richard Florida, Dan Pink and others, large investment, like the Knight Foundation‘s 20 million investment into Detroit, are still too few and far between. The most pragmatic approach for the U.S.A. to address this issue is to invest in culture at the intersections of entrepreneurship education and the building of social capital.
About Lisa Canning
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