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Useful Comparisons

I like to look at maps, but maps can be deceptive. They might lead us to believe that countries that cover a big area are more important. You can also be deceived by prominence in the news. An interactive map from the Economist puts in some perspective. Giant Russia has a GDP the size of Texas and oil rich Saudi Arabia is no richer than Massachusetts.

Your perspective changes when you look at the map that compares population. Saudi Arabia has a Texas sized population, even if it doesn’t manage Texas style prosperity. Cameroon has a population as big as New York’s. New York’s GDP partner is Australia.

Countries like Sweden and Finland would fit in well as states in both terms of population and GDP. Sweden has a GDP about the size of North Carolina with a similar sized population. Finland has a GDP about the size of Wisconsin’s and a population like Minnesota. Finland, Wisconsin & Minnesota all feature clean cities, cold weather, northern forests & lots of lakes, so maybe that is appropriate.

International comparisons are always rough and the United States is especially problematic because of its unusual size, population, prosperity & diversity. The only "country" that really can be compared to the U.S. on all counts is the EU. We are often fond of the cherry picking comparisons that seem to prove a point. In fact, as we can see from the map, that the unit of comparison might often be more at the state level. I remember an interesting comparison. The GDP per capita in Germany is about the same as in Arkansas.


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