Lists and rankings fascinate many, from Letterman's top ten to People magazine's best and worst dressed. Even economies have their own such lists. This week the Economist Intelligence Unit published its business environment rankings, with the United States the 9th most attractive place for business out of 82 countries, "the lowest the country has placed since the launch of the business environment rankings in 1997". Angola came last, while Denmark was ranked first, followed by Finland and Singapore. Canada came fourth, followed by Switzerland and Hong Kong.
The World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2007-08 was also published this week. They rank the United States first for their Global Competitiveness Index, followed by Switzerland and Denmark.
The IMD's World Competitiveness Yearbook 2007 also ranked the US first, closely followed by Singapore and Hong Kong. Luxembourg was fourth, followed by Denmark and Switzerland.
Finally, the World Bank's Doing Business 2008 (sic) report ranks Singapore first in its Ease of Doing Business Index - followed by New Zealand and the United States. Hong Kong was fourth, followed by Denmark and the United Kingdom.
One can of course argue with the components and weighting of the various indices, which are by their nature somewhat arbitrary. Nonetheless, despite very different methodologies, the same handful of countries crop up time and time again. The general conclusion, as a previous post on this topic argued, is that three groups typically do well:
* the Nordic economies, particularly the smaller economies of Denmark and Finland;
* the Anglo-saxon economies - the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand;
* the Asian city-states of Singapore and Hong Kong.
So too does Switzerland.
These are clearly very different economic models, showing that in the path to economic prosperity 'one size fits all' just isn't true. Second, most of these countries have relatively 'free' markets and light regulatory regimes. Third, the relative success of the Nordic economies show that low tax rates are not a necessary pre-requisite. Fourth, in Europe smaller countries seem to do better than the larger ones.