GDP Per Capita and Democracy Explain 87% of the Social Progress Index

Model 1: Effect of GDP Per Capita on the Social Progress Index

Figure 1. Effect of GDP Per Capita on the Social Progress Index (Model 1)

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 1, April 2013.

By Anders Corr, Ph.D.

Social Progress Imperative, a global group that produces well-being data for 50 countries, released their Social Progress Index (SPI) today. The index compares countries not on GDP, but rather on a single quality of life metric as a function of housing, health, education, and environmental sustainability. The index is backed by Harvard Business School professors and the Skoll Foundation (WSJ).

Sweden, Britain, and Switzerland have the best Social Progress Index scores, because these countries have some of the highest GDPs per capita of the fifty countries in the index. It is no coincidence that the three lowest SPI scores – Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Uganda, have very low GDPs per capita. The best way to understand SPI is therefore to control for GDP per capita. Corr Analytics did simple regression analysis on SPI. Approximately 84% of the index is explained by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita (see technical details below). Countries with large economies relative to their populations will have more wealth that can be channeled to the basic necessities measured by SPI. Therefore the simpler standard used by economists for decades — GDP per capita — works quite acceptably for well-being. Continue reading

Increased risk of religious violence in, and refugees from, Egypt, as well as consolidation of President Morsi’s power

Egyptian riot police in Cairo, January 28, 2013. Photo credit: Jackq, Dreamstime.

Egyptian riot police in Cairo, January 28, 2013. Photo credit: Jackq, Dreamstime.com.

By Anders Corr, Ph.D.

A muslim mob attacked the seat of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church on Sunday, resulting in Christian-Muslim riots and an anti-government outburst by the Coptic Pope yesterday (WSJ).

This religious strife significantly increases the probability of additional attacks on Christians, greater cohesion between Muslim factions, and domestic consolidation of President Morsi’s Islamist administration and Muslim Brotherhood power-base. Continue reading

New US peace initiative for Israel and the Palestinian Territories unlikely to yield quick gains, if any

By Anders Corr, Ph.D.

A new Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative promoted by Secretary of State John Kerry today in Israel is unlikely to bear fruit, especially in the short-term. Secretary Kerry unveiled the plan, which is purposefully non-specific. It includes meager US-funded economic incentives, and a call for supporting the Arab League’s 2002 proposal for Israel to accept the pre-1967 border in exchange for recognition (WSJ).

Israel will not accept the 1967 borders, and any proposal for the same is an attempt to solicit Arab nations on other issues. Likewise, Palestinians will not be influenced by scarce development funding available from the Department of State. Such development funding is the price of admission for a new peace initiative, another in a string of de rigueur Israeli-Palestinian peace processes led by successive US Secretaries of State. Continue reading

Risk of NATO overstretch in Syria

By Anders Corr, Ph.D.

The Obama administration is currently under pressure by certain US lawmakers, as well as Britain, France, and Israel, to take limited military action in Syria. These actions could include securing a humanitarian corridor into the country, providing military equipment to the non-Al Qaeda affiliated Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC), and destroying the Syrian Air Force (WSJ).

Such measures might remove a bit of pressure from rebels and provide a public opinion boost to current participating governments in the US, France, and Britain, in that voting publics in those countries would feel that their governments were doing something positive to end the Syrian crisis. However, due to the limited nature of the proposed military measures, they would not alter the balance of forces on any side of the complex conflict and could lead to notable negative consequences. Continue reading

Deterrence pro tem: increase South Korean control of US nuclear assets targeted against North Korea

By Anders Corr, Ph.D.

Recent negotiations initiated by South Korea with the United States to obtain acquiescence for South Korean production of nuclear fuel show that South Korea is serious about improving its energy and security independence from the United States. Such moves are a response to growing public opinion pressure in South Korea, which perceives the need for a stronger and more independent counterweight to North Korean threats. Such steps in the fuel production cycle could eventually lead to an independent South Korean nuclear weapons capability (WSJ).

The United States seeks to assure its ally verbally, and with military training exercises, overflights, advanced fighter presence, and naval destroyer movements. But relying on an outside deterrent has become increasingly unnerving to the South Korean public. While the United States and its allies won the Cold War against the Soviets, the United States appears to be overstretched on the global stage from a South Korean perspective. Eleven years of war against terror have not yielded a clear victory. China is ascending. Nuclear proliferation edges forward, with recent proliferators being India, Pakistan, Israel, and as recently as 2006, South Korea’s belligerent neighbor North Korea. Deterrence pro tem would increase deterrence of North Korean belligerence. Continue reading

Movement of missile defense ship to North Korean box signals increased probability of conflict

While the probability of conflict on the Korean peninsula is still quite low, the latest military and diplomatic movements signal a greater likelihood of an outbreak.

The US moved missile defense ships to a zone near Korea that is optimal for defending against North Korean missile strikes, and South Korean President Park Geun-hye called for a swift military response without concern for politics. Both events demonstrate that the mood of the South Korean public is more bellicose than prior to the 2010 North Korean attacks. The South Korean response, according to public opinion polls, was weak. The South Korean Defense Minister of the time was forced to resign as a result (WSJ).

However, the probability of conflict is still low. The North Korean government and China know that given this history, any new attacks by North Korea would almost certainly result in a strong and potentially fatal US counter-attack. China will have already counselled its client state in North Korea to lay low for the time being.