Which Country Does the Most Good For the Planet? Prepare to Feel Unpatriotic

America the great, America the beautiful, America the...not so good? The United States may be home to freedom of speech, the Kindle, and opportunity-a-plenty, but it earned a pitiful 21st place in the world “goodness” rankings, announced yesterday at the TEDSalon in Berlin.

“The Good Country Index,” conducted by policy advisor Simon Anholt over a two-year period, gathers data on 125 countries to determine how much each one contributes to the planet — for better or for worse. Ireland earned the title of “goodest” country, if you will, followed by Finland, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. New Zealand earned a friendly fifth place. Needless to say, Ireland is pretty excited.

“I don’t mean morally or ethically good,” Anholt told TED, “but a country that considers the common good as much as it considers its own citizens.”

Taking data from 2010 — the year with the most reliable data for the greatest number of countries — Anholt determined “goodness” by weighting statistics from seven different categories. These included science and technology, world order, prosperity and equality, and health and wellbeing. Within each heading were five different criteria. “Take for example world order,” Anholt explained to TED, “That includes five data sets representing things like how much each country gives in charity and overseas development, its population growth, and its status of ratification and signatories of UN treaties.”

Patriots will be pleased to know that Anholt's decision to rank prosperity based on GDP instead of the country's total contribution didn't help the U.S. ranking."Its total contribution is so great,” acknowledges Anholt. “But then again, so is its total debit and harm.”

It’s actually quite ironic that the study produced a ranking given that its stated intention was to encourage the “ordinary person” to consider themselves a member of a global world, rather than an individual country. In an interview with TED, Anholt explained how narrow country-centered thinking can be detrimental with a humorous analogy: “A chicken catches a cold and sneezes in a Chinese village. 20 years ago that would only have been bad news for the chicken and its immediate family; today it threatens the survival of the human species because of globalization.”

By focusing on their own success, he explained, “countries perform better and better but the world and planet and humanity in general are getting worse and worse.” (He went on to provide a visually evocative analogy of successful countries as cankerous tumors, which I shall spare you from). Evidently, too much emphasis on our stars and stripes can lead to selfishness.

America, it's time to up your goodness game with a little less violence and a little more global consideration.