If you could design a perfect country, which existing countries/places would you use?
Here are my 15 criteria in order of importance:
1.) Safety – Iceland: A low crime rate is paramount above all else. And Iceland has been ranked #1 on the Global Peace Index for decades.
(In my mind, standing at this angle behind Iceland’s Seljalandsfoss with my wife is precisely the picture in my mind of what my Utopia would look like)
2.) Ability to handle the coronavirus – Switzerland + Taiwan: If you asked this question in 2019, this category wouldn’t even be on our radar. But in 2020, it’s become a reality. And still in the moment, I’m so desperate for a country with almost no threat of coronavirus, and the ability to quash it when it arrives.
If you’ve read the post Peter Wade’s answer to What countries are still safe from COVID-19?, you’ll see there are only nine countries unaffected by the pandemic. Taiwan was ranked by Time magazine as the best at responding to the pandemic. With only 0.002% of the nation infected, that’s the ability to deal with a health crisis that I want in my country! Switzerland has cases, but they’ve been ranked tops for COVID-19 safety!
3.) Freedom and human rights – Iceland + Malta + Netherlands + New Zealand: These Utopian characteristics would be worthless if we have no freedom. Imagine all these ideal attributes, but while living in a dictatorship like North Korea! According to the Human Freedom Index, places like Canada and the U.S. rank very high in freedom. But New Zealand takes the top spot.
Additionally, the Netherlands ranks first in religious freedom, which appeals to me as a Christian. Iceland has the greatest gender equality. Malta ranks #1 in LGBTQ rights and happens to be one of my top five favorite places in the world. In my country, these rights are vital for every citizen, no matter their race nor sexual orientation nor religion nor gender!
I would also give a nod to Botswana and Canada for their racial harmony. Sadly, Hong Kong was ranked third among the nations with the most freedom by the 2019 Freedom Index. Thanks to the antics of China, that’s changing as we speak.
4.) Economy – China + United States: Clearly a strong economy is imperative. Based on GDP and economic strength, these two countries top every list. Even with big losses during the pandemic, they’ll remain on top, and what one country doesn’t manufacture, the other country often does.
5.) Government – Canada + Switzerland: We’ll need strong leadership with considerable diplomacy! Well, I know what country I’m NOT picking! Meanwhile, the government of Canada is ranked the most politically stable in the world, and quite popular through citizen perception. Switzerland ranks as the best-governed country in the world. So I’ll both of these.
6.) Medical care – Denmark + Japan + South Korea + United States: These countries are world leaders in heart attack treatment, recovery from strokes, cancer treatment, and overall quality of doctors respectively.
7.) Public healthcare system – Canada + France: Nearly every list compiled by experts indicates that either Canada or France has the world’s best healthcare system. Combine that with the doctors in #3 and we have a medical Utopia.
8.) Food – China + Japan + United States: Before you accuse me of Americentrism, just hold on. I don’t actually mean American food. I mean the food that’s offered in America from everywhere on the planet! And yes, including American food.
Thai cuisine is my favorite. But living in Thailand, could I ever taste authentic Peruvian food again? Indian food is my second favorite, but I once lived in India. I couldn’t find an acceptable pizza anywhere! Greek food is amazing, but I’ll never find that perfect fried chicken from the Southeastern U.S. in Greece.
Here’s my solution. Because the United States is such a melting pot of cultures, I can find authentic Thai, Indian, Greek, Italian, Mexican, Middle Eastern cuisine … (we could keep listing categories forever) … if I go to the right immigrant-operated restaurants. No country covers all the world’s cuisines better than the U.S., and I’ve been to a lot of countries!
However, I find that proper Chinese and Japanese food is the most difficult to find in America, so I’ll need to add those two countries to the list. I’ll also say that in all my travels, China had the best local cuisine I’ve ever tasted, Japan was second, and Peru and Italy were tied for third. But the U.S. already has Peruvian and Italian covered.
9.) Friendliness – Canada + Japan + Norway + Taiwan: People tell me Taiwan has the friendliest citizens in the world. I haven’t been yet. Norway and Japan have been the most welcoming to me.
Now, about Canada. As Americans, we absolutely LOVE Canadians, more than any other people in the world according to polls (although the U.K. comes close). Sadly, according similar polls, they don’t like us back. But injecting that well-known Canadian politeness and kindness into this ideal country we’re creating, I’ll no longer have to worry about their disdain because we’ll all be citizens of the same country.
10.) Coastal scenery – Fiji + Seychelles + United States: Large bodies of water have always appealed to me, so this category is important. If you read the link at the bottom of this post, you’ll see my top-ranked countries in the world based on oceanfront beauty. Fiji has the best coastline I’ve ever seen, and Seychelles is a close second.
The United States alone, with its picturesque beaches in Southern California, its unique mountainous coastline of Northern California and forested oceanfront in Washington, the majestic shores of Oregon, the Fiji-like beaches of Hawaii, and the glacial bays of Alaska, pretty much covers everything!
11.) Mountainous scenery – Chile + Nepal + Switzerland: Nepal has the highest mountains, Switzerland has those gorgeous alpine views, and Chile features my favorite combination of the coast and the razor-sharp Andes.
12.) Miscellaneous scenery – Antarctica + Argentina + Iceland + New Zealand + United States: In this ideal country, I cannot forgo the jaw-dropping national parks of remote Argentina, scenic New Zealand, and the globally famous parks of the U.S.
I must mention that Antarctica is the most stunning place I’ve ever been, while Iceland is so beautiful it might as well be one giant national park. But limiting myself to five countries, I sure hate to give up some of the beauty I’ve enjoyed in Peru, Pakistan, India, Norway, Australia, Canada, Samoa, Vietnam, and many other nations. That’s why I’m happy we can travel the world to see it all.
13.) Climate – United States: I really tried not to pick the U.S. for climate. But let’s consider this. My ideal temperature is right around 70 F (21.1 C). I also like to see snow and periodic rain showers. The country closest to my ideal average temperature is Zimbabwe, averaging 69.8 F (21 C), but they have no snow.
Pakistan averages 68.4 (20.2 C) with snow and rain, nearly the perfect pick! But being mostly desert, that leads to blistering highs and chilly lows that produce a deceiving average annual temperature. Burundi and Botswana have wonderful climates too, but no snow.
Fine, just give me the U.S. which has a tremendously diverse climate, partially because it’s so large while not as far north as Canada and Russia. I could live in Southern California from November through June, Seattle from July to September, and Boston in October. I’ll never have to experience a temperature above 72 F (22.2 C) for the rest of my life! And I can pop up to New England or over to Colorado when I want to see a nice, thick snow, or Alaska for the glaciers.
(The warm Christmas weather of Los Angeles will always have a special place in my heart)
14.) Diversity – Canada + South Africa: To me, skin color doesn’t matter. The people in this perfect country of mine can be majority black, majority white, or Asian, or Hispanic, or whatever. Skin color should never matter. But I do love the diversity of the U.S., so my country is going to feature diverse ethnic and religious groups all getting along.
Canada is among the most balanced and harmonious countries when considering the most prevalent races populating the world. And South Africa has the most diverse religious beliefs.
15.) Happiness – Finland: Yes, there are statistics on everything posted to the Internet. And of course, there is an annual World Happiness Report. If all the above characteristics don’t already make you happy, let’s inject a major dose of cheer into this Utopian country. Finland perpetually takes the top spot in the world for happiness. I want what they have!
Note: There is also a Where-to-be-born Index published periodically, ranking countries by quality of life and the best opportunities for a safe and prosperous life. Switzerland usually captures the top spot, but with all the aspects already listed above, we’ve already manufactured plenty of prosperity and safety.
Even before the first comment is added to my post, let me just mention the following disclaimers up front. Inexperienced Quorans seem to struggle with these concepts.
Disclaimer 1: This is MY list, it’s not YOUR list. This is just a fun way to express my opinions based on my extensive world travels to all seven continents. If you don’t agree, then post your own answer so we can read your list. You don’t have to comment to express your disagreement. I’m allowed to form my own opinion.
Disclaimer 2: This is especially for European Quorans! I will not tolerate America-bashing. I also do not think America is the greatest country in the world. In fact, far from it. I do cherish certain aspects of the U.S. when compared to the nearly 80 countries I’ve visited. However, as someone who has traveled internationally for over 40 years, I am extraordinarily impartial and objective and open-minded, and I truly value every country I’ve visited.