The 12 wealthiest nations and city states according to most sources are Luxembourg, Hong Kong, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Austria, the USA, Canada, and Singapore. (Excluded are the tiny monarchies of Monaco and Liechtenstein and the Arabian nations that are wealthy from oil.)
Wealth is measured by per-capita GDP, adjusted for purchasing power parity.
What do they all have in common? All are capitalist and have property rights and the rule of law, and five have inherited English common law and Enlightenment ideas of individual rights.
Also, all but the USA, Canada and Australia are small countries in landmass. (Large swaths of Canada and Australia are sparsely populated and rich in natural resources.)
Furthermore, with the exception of the USA, all have relatively small populations.
And, most interesting and politically incorrect, 11 of the 12 are racially homogenous, with at least 90% of their population being white or Asian. The one exception is the USA, which is 65% white (non-Hispanic white). The remaining USA population is 15% Hispanic (of various races), 13% black, 4.4% Asian, .9% Native American, and 2.3% mixed race.
It would appear that with the exception of the USA, the formula for wealth from capitalism, property rights and the rule of law is as follows:
Wealth = Smallness + Racial Homogeneity
Conversely, it would appear that largeness and diversity are handicaps, except for the USA.
Wow, does that ever go against the conventional wisdom of the right and left: the right, because it goes against the belief in military might that comes from size; the left, because it goes against diversity dogma and multiculturalism.
The formula stands to reason, though. After all, history shows that large, diverse countries are difficult to keep from coming apart, even with authoritarian rule (e.g., the Soviet Union). This is especially true for empires. And many poor countries are poor because they are riven by tribal, racial and sectarian hatreds; or, in the case of much of Latin America, by the Spanish legacy of aristocracy, one-party rule, and widespread corruption.
What makes the USA an exception among wealthy countries? In addition to pluralism and constitutional rights, it has had the right balance between (a) a central government limited in power and responsibilities but strong enough to enforce rights and defend the country; and (b) a founding federal principle of decentralization in which the states retained considerable power and reflected local values and culture.
Even public education, which used to be the purview of states and local school boards, has become increasingly centralized at the federal level, so that curricula, text books, pedagogical theory, and union control are similar across the land, thus producing a conformity of thinking--and a backlash of home schooling and charter schools by those who have different values.
Moreover, until the last several decades, the USA has valued individualism over collectivism, equal opportunity over equal outcomes, true market competition over corporatism and mercantilism, savings and frugality over debt and consumption, and self-reliance over welfare and entitlements.
What has kept the country together is being upended. Where people with different values were able to find their own psychological and physical space in the past--to live and let live--they are now being forced into a one-size-fits-all culture and central government, ruled by remote plutocrats and elites who are dramatically different from them and who stir up class and racial tensions to further their own agendas.
A diverse nation the size of the USA cannot hold together and stay solvent in the face of this onslaught. The future becomes even more problematic if immigrants from Latin America hold on to their Spanish legacies of class, corruption and one-party rule. (Let’s hope that what happened in Bell, Calif., is not a bellwether for the nation. Bell is the poor and predominately Latin city of 40,000 residents where the city manager was being paid $787,000 and where eight city officials were arrested for corruption.)
Advocates of the welfare state and nationalized medical care like to use other wealthy countries, especially the Nordic ones, as models of what the USA should be like in order to improve academic results and reduce poverty, crime and medical costs. They don’t point out that these countries are racially homogenous and small in population and landmass. Citizens share common values and trust each other, knowing that most of their fellow citizens have a sense of responsibility and won’t rip off each other. (Muslim immigration and low birth rates of the native population are changing the culture in the Netherlands and Denmark.)
Will the USA continue to overcome its handicaps of racial diversity and size? Not if the nation’s intelligentsia and ruling elites are afraid to even ask the question.
Mencken’s Ghost is the nom de plume of an Arizona writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.