Five simple rules for running a great country

Happy Canada Day!

Every year, thousands of people from around the world flock to Canada in search of the good life. It’s easy to see why:

  • Transparency International ranked Canada as the world’s 9th most corruption-free nation in 2008, in a tie with Australia. (Denmark, Sweden and New Zealand were tied as the least corrupt.)
  • Canada was ranked as the 8th most peaceful country to live in this year by the Global Peace Index. (New Zealand was the most peaceful.)

What makes the difference between a great place to live, like Canada, and the countries that many people flee from in order to live here?

A bit of number-crunching — a little regression analysis looking at the percentage of the population in 22 countries who ranked their overall life satisfaction at “8 out of 10” or higher, and what other known variables seemed to push that number up — came up with what I’m calling the Five Simple Rules for Running a Great Country.

1. Give people a real voice in how their country is run between elections: I’m not suggesting plebiscites and referendums here, which are weak forms of consultation at best and manipulation of the public by politicians at worst, but actually giving people the opportunity to speak, explain and be heard.  Holding public hearings on legislation is one way. Keeping politicians accessible and accountable through freedom of the press, Freedom of Information laws and through the activities of non-governmental organizations are other ways.

2. Make job satisfaction a priority: A full-time worker spends 30 percent or more of one’s waking hours every week on the job, so how can job satisfaction not have an effect on overall life satisfaction? Give people the tools they need to get a good job, such as lifelong education. Get rid of things that stand in the way of helping people improve their working lives, whether these things be payroll taxes, overly restrictive non-compete agreements, rigid labour laws or reliance on employer-subsidized health insurance. (Yes, I’m looking across the southern border on that last point.)

3. Fight corruption: Corruption hurts economic growth, causes governments to get their priorities screwed up and generally makes people resentful about how their country is run. Give citizens the means by which to blow the whistle if they witness corruption — even if it makes the politicians’ jobs tougher in the short term. Bring in campaign finance reform, whistle-blower protection and fair election legislation.

4. Give people a sense of choice and control over their lives: The more control people feel over their own fate, the more likely they are to be satisfied with their lives. This can be in the form of giving people options to get out of an abusive relationship and encouraging people to upgrade their education. People can also be given greater control over their lives by being given the opportunity to speak directly to legislators and regulators on issues that concern them.

5. Aim for a highly educated population: Think about the parts of your city where you would feel safest walking after dark. Quite often, these will be the parts of your city with the highest concentrations of healthy, well-educated people. Education has been demonstrated to make a huge difference in peoples’ lives by steering them away from poor health and poverty, and toward productive jobs and comfortable living standards. If education isn’t a government’s most important portfolio, it should be.

Any country that can do those five things is well on its way to being a great place to live.


About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

3 Responses to Five simple rules for running a great country

  1. Fat Arse says:

    V from 7,

    Happy Canuck-a-Fest, good post. While we may often lament the state of our polity and indulge in spurious navel gazing, your observations serve to remind us all that: “we got’s-it-pretty good!”

  2. theviewfromseven says:

    Thanks, Fat Arse. A very happy Canada Day to you and all other readers as well!

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