More on the Successful Societies Scale

This post, are we better off without religion? delves more deeply into Gregory Paul’s Successful Societies Scale (and its shoddy presentation) than did mine. (Some of the comments are also interesting.)

One thing that surprises me is that Paul ignores or brushes aside other potential correlates. While the U.S. is clearly more racially diverse than the other nations on his scale, with less than 80 percent of the U.S. being white, vs. more than 90 percent of the populations of countries like Britain, or Germany, he chooses to deal with diversity by looking at foreign-born populations. The U.S.’s white population is also far more diverse than that of any of the countries he examines. Paul also brushes aside the U.S.’s status as a nation with significant slave population in its relatively recent history, saying that was one more sign of its dysfunction due to religiosity. For that matter, he doesn’t seem to note that the U.S. is the only nation without nationalized healthcare. Perhaps that, and not religion, is the factor that matters most for many of the well-being statistics he presents.

If racial diversity is not just a correlate but a cause, I expect we’ll see a  steady decline over time in performance of European nations. For instance, Andrew Brown’s book Fishing in Utopia argues that Sweden has failed to establish itself as the enlightened socialist democracy it envisioned becoming. The book documents some of the discrimination faced by immigrants to this supposedly enlightened country. Racial upheaval in Germany and France also come to mind. The biggest unanswered question in his paper is why the U.S. is both tops in religious belief and per capita income. That simply shouldn’t happen. I hope his paper drives more studies. And that they avoid some of the needless errors that plague his paper.

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