Pocket World in Figures comes with Walt's subscription to the Economist. It's a great little fact book, very appealing to the kind of people who enjoy reading dictionaries and telephone books. [Do telephone books even exist any more? Ed.]
You might think tables of "the world's biggest", "the world's worst", "the world's and so on" would be boring, but the trick is to read between the lines. At the same time, keep asking yourself questions that begin with "why". Look for correlations.
Here are some stone truths that "progressive thinkers" in the West don't like to talk about, except of course when they're laying that old liberal guilt trip on the rest of us.
Rich and poor in black and white. One of the most common ways to measure a nation's wealth is in GDP (Gross Domestic Product). The 19 countries with the highest GDP are all (ahem) "white", if we count the Arabs in Qatar (#5) as honorary whites. Japan is #20, Canada #14, the USA #12 and Australia #9. Luxembourg is on top of the league table.
The other end of the list -- the countries with the lowest GDP per head -- begins with Somalia. No prizes for guessing that one. You go on through another 13 African countries until you get to Afghanistan and North Korea, tied for #15. Could a liberal intellectual please explain to us the link between race and poverty/prosperity? Or does it all come down to colonialism?
Where's a good place to live? There's more to life than money, right? [Really? Ed.] GDP and the quality of life aren't necessarily the same. To measure the latter, you use the Disunited Nations Human Development Index (HDI), which combines stats on income, life expectancy, education and all the things we include when we say "Have a nice life."
Let's see now... Isn't this amazing... The top 10 countries on the HDI are all, errr, white. Norway is #1, beating out Australia (#2), the USA (tied with the Netherlands for #3) and Canada (tied with Eire and New Zealand for #5). First Asian countries on the list are Japan (#11) and Hong Kong (tied with Iceland for #12).
At the very bottom of the HDI is Congo (the bigger one, formerly known as Zaire, formerly known as the Congo, etc), followed by Niger, Burundi, Mozambique and so on. All black African states right through to Walt's old stomping ground, Zimbabwe, in 15th place. Afghanistan comes in at #16. Then it's all black Africa again through #23 (Djibouti tied with Zambia), which is where the fecal roster ends.
Wow, Walt is only up to page 28 of the 2013 edition of the Economist's Pocket World in Figures. This should be good for another two posts, minimum. More anon.