It is hard to beat the preferences of the marketplace as a reliable indicator of quality. For example, you may claim to have a great restaurant, but if no one eats there, you gotta wonder if it is really any good. (Of course, the same could be said of a blog, but, well, we won’t go there. Let’s consider that an issue of marketing savvy.)
When it comes to international measures of quality, marketing savvy probably does not have a lot to do with it. If one listens to some sectors of American society, though, you might conclude that our way of life stinks, and the people who really know how to live are in France, for example. I like some French foods. (And I don’t just mean French fries.) They are good at wine (though I think the U.S., Australians, and Chileans are equally good), and their sauces are divine. I think Julia Child did a great service to us Americans by living in France and learning how to cook so that she could teach the rest of us – in English, of course. And without pretension. She is surely missed.
But part of the measure of quality on a national basis has to be whether people want to live there or not. You could even say that the best indication would come from the educated classes – people who have attended college – as they would presumably have the most options in that country, and also the best indications of what conditions are like elsewhere.
OK, so if you followed me this far, you know I’m up to something. You are afraid to agree, because the French are not going to come out very well by the standard I established. But it is not my standard, it is the standard set by the OECD. Its website contains some very interesting statistics on emigration by educated people. The results?
No surprise here, the U.S. is tops. The measurement involves an index which is the ratio of emigrating educated people over the population of educated people in that country. For this purpose, the population includes those who have completed a tertiary level of education – i.e., college graduates.
The US has an index of only 0.38 (meaning we lose less than half a percent of our grads to another country). Japan trails in second place with 1.16, followed by Thailand, Brazil, and Indonesia. Western European nations trail far behind. France and Italy score close together at 4.17 and 4.02, respectively. Canada scored well ahead of them with a 3.02. At the bottom of the scale are countries including Guyana, Haiti, and Jamaica, with scores nearing or exceeding 70. You must assume that if you can get an education, you bail out of that place (as at least you are not put in a gulag there if you don't like it.) You can review the data for yourself here:
http://www.oecd.org/ (select statistics, and then choose demographics).
Our denominator of educated folks may be overstated, particularly if you believe the university grads teaching government who appear on Jaywalking with Jay Leno. Some of these teachers can’t tell you who fought in the Civil War, but someone gave them a degree. One might also argue that the Europeans emigrate because they are so darned cosmopolitan and cool that they want to live in the next country. (For example, maybe the Italians and French exchange places for a while so they can enjoy different cooking and wine.) Well, good luck with that. Some folks are just mighty hard to convince.