A German foundation, Bertelsmann Stitfung, has released a report, Social Justice in the OECD – How Do the Member States Compare? Sustainable Governance Indicators 2011. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development membership is compose of the worlds' major democracies with strong market economies. It's basically the rich nations' club. It has 34 members, three of whom joined after mid-2010 and were not surveyed here.
Six factors were included in the scoring:
Access to Education
Labor market inclusion
Social cohesion and non-discrimination
The report scores each OECD member on each of those factors; the first three were weighted more heavily in the weighted total.
So let's cut to the chase. The US came out in 27th place, far below average, just above Greece and ahead of Chile, Mexico and last-place Turkey. And behind everybody else.
This is the boundary area between developed states and emerging ones. Only it's pretty clear that we're the one going in the wrong direction.
Who were the winners, the ones that the foundation found had the best social justice?
The north European states comprise a league of their own. Leading by far on the Justice Index, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland achieve particularly good results in the dimensions of “access to education,” “social cohesion” and “intergenerational justice.”
Those were the top five; tiny Iceland led. (Maybe that's why Kog Rei likes it so much.) Iceland's score of 8.73 compared to the average of 6.67. The US scored 5.70. Here's the whole list:
11. Czech Republic
12. New Zealand
15. United Kingdom
25. South Korea
27. United States
Our neighbor Canada, at 9, is the only western hemisphere country in the top half. The eastern European states, while not as rich as the west, also rank far above the US, especially the Czech Republic. So what led the US to such a low score?
In Poverty Prevention, the US scored only 3.85, ahead of only Chile and Mexico. That was the real killer:
The United States (27), with its alarming poverty levels, lands near the bottom of the weighted index, ranking only slightly better than its neighbor Mexico (30) and new OECD member Chile (29).
Child poverty is huge problem for the US ranking.
The data show considerable differences in child poverty rates among individual OECD states. Whereas in Denmark, only one in 27 children (3.7 percent) lives in poverty, one in four children (23.9 percent) in Chile grows up in a household that must make do with less than one-half of the median income. Turkey (23.5 percent), Mexico (25.8 percent) and the United States (21.6 percent) face a problem of similar magnitude in this regard. The south European Countries Portugal, Spain and Italy perform only slightly better with still alarming rates between 15 percent (Italy) and nearly 19 percent (Portugal). In sum, the Nordic countries with their universal welfare states are most successful in preventing child poverty, whereas the Anglo-Saxon welfare states are positioned again
only in the second half of the ranking.
In Access to Education, the US with 5.88 was 20th, and at 7.34, the Labor Market Inclusion score was relatively high (16th). Social Cohesion scored 7.01 (16th), Health 6.23 (23rd) , and Intergenerational Justice (which includes a range of things from child care to pensions to the environment to national indebtedness) a 5.95 (20th).
Our poor health score should come as no surprise, given our broken health care system. But we're also far from the leader in education that we once were.
Do we claim to have equal opportunity, or are we vesting the "sins" (which is how certain people seem to view poverty) of the parent upon the child? What choice does a child have if brought up in poverty? Look at the company we're in. This used to be seen as the world's richest nation. Now we only seem to have many of the world's richest rich.
This survey, from a European perspective, shows you how laughable American Exceptionalism is. All of that shouting of "USA number one" sounds just silly. We're seen as a great power in decline. The country as a whole no longer takes care of its people, and it shows. Republicans complain about Europe, as if it were the enemy, but Europe, for all of its flaws, is quite proud of its accomplishments.
Social justice is really a test of how the 99% are faring, not just the 1%ers who account for an increasing share of the GDP. On this well-documented, objective scale, the US fares poorly. We're already an occupied nation; the Occupy movement is just trying to win it back for the other 99+ percent.