Vote Charlie!

What would a good country do?

Posted at age 26.
Edited .

As part of my daily struggle to get to work, I watched the new TED talk by Simon Anholt, a policy adviser who “helps national, regional and city governments earn better reputations—not by launching advertising or PR campaigns, but by changing the way they behave.” I thought it was a good way of thinking, and so I can better remember, here are some of my notes, but do watch the video!

In “Which country does the most good for the world?,” he talked about his earlier project, the Nation Brands Index, that tracked what people thought about other countries and why. The project apparently started to help countries become more prosperous (rich) through understanding reputation.

But as Anholt points out:

We don’t admire countries primarily because they are rich… powerful… successful… modern… technologically advanced. We primarily admire countries that are good… that seem to contribute something to the world… make the world safer… better… richer… fairer. Those are the countries we like.

Anholt said he can now confidently advise countries, “In order to do well, you need to do good. If you want to sell products… get more investment… become more competitive, then you need to start behaving, because that’s why people will respect you and want to do business with you. And therefore the more you collaborate, the more competitive you become.”

That sparked a new study to build on the Nation Brands Index.

I swear that as I get older, my ideas become more and more childish. This one is called “The Good Country Index.”

It tries to measure how much each country contributes to the rest of humanity, which apparently hasn’t really been measured.

Good country doesn’t mean morally good. It simply means “gives more to humanity than any other.” Anholt said (joked?) there are “good, gooder and goodest,” which are not the same as “good, better and best.”

So anyway, according to his model, the “goodest” nation is Ireland, and most of the winners are western European nations.

They are also all rich. This depressed me. … Did not want to discover with this index is that it is purely the province of rich countries to help poor countries. … Indeed if you look further down the list… Kenya is in the top 30. … This is not about money. This is about attitude. … Imagination and courage to think outwards instead of only thinking selfishly.

The Good Country Index

The Good Country Index

He said countries like China and India are toward the low end, but that’s not surprising since they’ve spent the last decades building their own economies and infrastructure. It is to be hoped the next decades will be more outward looking.

Having had enough hearing about competitive and wealthy and even happy countries (That’s about “us.”), Anholt said he wants to hear more about good countries and requests we start using the word “good” in this context. Not “good” the opposite of “bad,” but as the opposite of “selfish.”

Ask yourself, “Is that what a good country would do?”