We’ve seen multiple studies published by the CIA World Factbook, the World Health Organization, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and others concluding the United States is lagging far behind other industrialized democracies in K-12 education, health care delivery, working conditions, environmental sustainability and income equality among other areas.
Now comes Michael Porter, whom Fortune magazine calls “the most famous and influential business professor who has ever lived,” delivering his methodical and comprehensive Social Progress Index of 2014 of 132 countries in which the U.S. ranks only 16. Porter is a hardcore capitalist and lifelong Republican, so his findings can’t be attributed to some bleeding heart liberal.
The Social Progress Index comprises three subcategories — Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing and Opportunity.
Basic Human Needs includes nutrition and basic medical care, water and sanitation, shelter and personal safety. The U.S. places 23 behind Slovakia and just ahead of South Korea.
Foundations of Wellbeing includes access to basic knowledge, information and communications, health and wellness and ecosystem sustainability. The U.S. places 36 behind Malaysia and Ecuador.
Only in Opportunity, composed of personal rights, freedom and choice, tolerance and inclusion and access to advanced education, does the U.S. place among the top 10 nations, ranking fifth, thereby salvaging its overall score of 16.
In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Porter stated: “I think we, as Americans, don’t necessarily see ourselves the way we really are. You know, we have this sort of idealized view that we pioneered all this stuff ... And we did. But to keep up ... to access more and more people takes a very determined effort. And I think in this country we haven’t delivered in many respects.
“Everybody else caught up ... and even passed us. I think hopefully we Americans can start to look at ourselves honestly here. We can look at ourselves objectively. We can understand that there’s a tremendous both social and economic interest in moving America back closer to a leadership position on many of these areas. And frankly, I think the reason we are such a leader economically is because many, many years ago we made commitments to be leaders in all these areas. But now that’s kind of fraying.”
Fraying? More like unraveling. For the vast majority of Americans, “loving their country” equates to no more than rooting for the hometown team on Friday nights; a lot of fervor and hoopla and not a whole lot of the dispassion, objectivity and honesty Porter calls for. That’s why they’re still pulling for Team USA to kick the crap out of every opponent — as in obstacle — not comprehending that a whole lot of the players are ill-equipped; the cheerleaders are failing; the coaches are defrauding the school; and the stadium is falling down around them.
But as Winston Churchill said: “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else.”
Now that Michael Porter has told us the right thing to do, let’s get to it.
Marty Moore is a freelance writer living in Port Richey.