THE BLOG

Prosperity Can Save the World

16/01/2015 11:04 GMT | Updated 17/03/2015 09:59 GMT

Prime Minister David Cameron and President Obama have come together to champion prosperity. The two leaders highlight the importance of economic growth - but they define prosperity as being also the rule of law, peace and freedom. These Western values have become a matter of life and death: Obama and Cameron explicitly urge their citizens to defend them from those who claim our way of life is 'decadent' and must be crushed. The leaders have an unlikely ally in Ed Balls, who has also made an appeal for 'inclusive prosperity'.

Obama, Cameron and Balls are behind the curve. The Legatum Prosperity Index™ has been working for the last eight years on defining prosperity as wealth and wellbeing in all-encompassing terms: economy, entrepreneurship, governance, education, health, security, freedom and community. The Index ranks 142 countries based on these indicators, - covering 96% of the world's population and 99% of global GDP -, putting them together to reach an overall prosperity rank. For the Legatum Institute, "prosperity" is the term that embodies the true achievement of a better life, one where living standards are high, countries are peaceful and safe, and people are healthy, educated and free.

When Cameron and Obama talk of the threats to 'our' way of life - they mean the atrocities in Paris by al-Qaeda, the violent video killings of Islamic State, the murderous pillaging of Boko Haram, the attacks on the school in Peshawar, and to Russia's aggressive actions in Ukraine. Security and freedom is under threat; prosperity stands between these values and violence, repression, and impunity.

The US and the UK may not have an unblemished record when it comes to true prosperity. Neither is the freest country in the world, (the US ranks 21st in Personal Freedom in the 2014 Prosperity Index, placing it below Uruguay, Costa Rica, Malta or Portugal). But in terms of other variables, like rule of law, tolerance, and social capital, these two nations enjoy a high level of overall prosperity -- the US ranks 10th of 142 countries in 2014 for its good overall performance; while the UK ranks 13th. This lends the leaders of these two nations the authority to urge others to follow suit: only if governments can secure such all-important values for their citizens can they protect ordinary people from the violence of extremists.