homeless family in New Mexico

What makes a country great?

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What makes a country great? In an ideal world, a great country would not exploit its natural resources. It would nurture them and allow people to live in villages where they could be self sufficient. A great country would not allow poverty or homelessness and would take care of all its people. That’s an ideal world and few if any countries are great by that standard.

We live in a capitalistic world. Capitalism is a fancy word for greed and greed seems to be consuming the world. Even so-called Communist countries like China are in the throes of capitalism and the environment and many people are suffering because of it.

Of course, the country that embraces capitalism the most is the United States. It does so and doesn’t even consider the suffering of millions of its people.  The U.S. argues it is the greatest country in the world and some articles claim it to be so, but is it? I got this chart from an article in Time magazine. The title of the article was U.S. Falls in Ranking of Best Countries in the World.  Here’s the chart:

U.S. in 13th place

Notice that the United States is in 13th place. Denmark and Switzerland are in first and second place, followed by Iceland, Norway and Finland. Canada takes 6th place and Australia is in 9th place.  The U.S. is just ahead of Costa Rica.

U.S. News says the United States ranks second to China in economic power.  It does rank number one in power, but is that something to brag about? The days of U.S. hegemony seem to be drawing to a close.

And how you define an economic power? The elites in America are getting richer by the day, but it is at the expense of the poor. According to Hunger Notes:

  • 3 million households were unable to provide wholesome food for their children
  • In 2015, 43.1 million people lived in poverty
  • 19.4 million people live in extreme poverty in the United States
  • People over 65 had a “supplemental poverty rate” of 13.7 percent, which is 6.5 million over 65s living in poverty

For the “greatest nation on earth” to have those kinds of statistics makes you wonder how great the United States is, especially when you consider its wealth. Why can’t the 1 percent help those who live in poverty?

As for being the world’s greatest military power, that’s indisputable, but is it something to brag about? When much of the money spent on the military and weapons could have gone to alleviate poverty and help average Americans through school, it’s used to keep the world in a state of fear.  Yes, we all know about the War on Terror, but is that the real reason why the United States spends so much on the military? And how successful has the War on Terror been? We are still in Afghanistan and will probably be there for a long time to come. That can hardly count as a success story. We have devastated Libya and Iraq and are working hard to turn Syria into another devastated country. Our ally Saudi Arabia is destroying Yemen and it may have the worst humanitarian crisis in the world per capita.

U.S. military

Success in war should mean liberating people from a despotic power, but that’s not what’s happened during the so-called War on Terror. Countries we and our NATO allies have invaded are far worse off today than they were before we “liberated” them.

I live in Cambodia and there is no doubt it is a corrupt country. However, is it any more corrupt than the United States? Probably not. Lobbyists rule on Capital Hill and they work for large corporations that hand out money to Congressmen and Senators who fix things to make them greater profits. Lobbyist is synonymous with bribery, but since it’s legal to be a lobbyist, it has a veneer of respectability it shouldn’t have.

What makes a country great?

stilt house in cambodia

One thing I can say for Cambodia is that people have roofs over their heads. Even the poorest people can make a shack out of whatever materials they can gather. Try that in the United States and the shack would be bulldozed and the family would be homeless. People here can make a living without going through red tape. Many people sell food from their motorbikes and we save our plastic bottles for a man who sells them to recyclers. You couldn’t run a business in the United States without a large amount of seed money, but here in Cambodia you can get by and the police won’t bother you. They understand poverty here and don’t want people to go without.

People can still live off the land in Cambodia and although they don’t have much, they can survive without having to live in an urban jungle where they would suffer and possibly die. People in villages here look after one another and although they don’t have much, they will share rice and whatever they can spare with elderly Cambodians or anyone who has had bad luck.

Here’s a picture of a homeless family in New Mexico. According to the website, Liberation, New Mexico is the poorest state in the U.S., but you can see homeless people and families anywhere in America. At least here in Cambodia people can build a house and have shelter. They may not have much of a house, but it’s better than living on the streets.

homeless family in New Mexico

Oh, by the way: Cambodia is not an impoverished country. Under Hun Sen’s “autocratic rule,” the economy has been growing at a rate of 7 percent per year. According to an article in The Balance, the GDP in the United States has grown by just 2 to 3 percent and of course it also has a President who is not popular either at home or abroad. Hun Sen may not be popular, either, but he has lifted Cambodia out of poverty and the World Bank predicts Growth in Cambodia will remain strong into the future. Not bad for an “autocratic ruler.”

What makes a country great? I think the United States can learn something from Cambodia and other so-called third world countries.