When people talk about politics today in countries like the UK and US, a common complaint on both left and right is that things are terrible/they aren’t like they were. Such sentiments underpin the rise of movements like Trump and Brexit and, on the other side of the spectrum, Sanders and Corbyn. In Poland, the country from which I am writing today, people make similar complaints but do so by comparing Poland to countries in the West. I won’t comment on this trend right now, but it has given me an idea for a blog post.
Specifically I would like to ask people about the time and place they think socio-economic and political conditions have been best for the common person. I therefore ask people to choose, from all the countries and epochs humanity has ever known, the place in which they would most like to live as an average (let’s be more precise and say median) member of the population. Let’s say that time would stand still in those exact socio-economic conditions for a lifespan of 80 years or so, and that you would assume your existing gender/sexuality. In terms of ethnicity/religion, you would assume an equivalent of your existing ethnicity/religion in your chosen country. So if you were a white protestant Brit who thought that conditions were particularly good in France, there you would be a white catholic Frenchman/woman. I know that there are some quite basic problems with this question (i.e. the notion of time standing still), but I do think it will yield some very interesting results.
I have thought about this myself and I would choose…
Germany in 2016
I therefore think that, in Germany in 2016, my median citizen would be most materially comfortable and politically free. As people know I am politically on the centre-left, and I therefore admire the reconciliation between social and economic goals that Germany manages to achieve. The country is also politically very free. The argument can be made that such conditions are better in countries like Sweden and Denmark, but as these countries are smaller (and therefore arguably exceptional) I decided to choose the larger country. I speak no German, have no connections to the country and therefore very much doubt I will ever live there, but in the given scenario I would be an ethnic German and this is therefore irrelevant. I also know that Germany is not renowned for weather or food (!), but in this game I privilege socio-economic and political considerations.
The year was trickier to select. Though I knew for sure that I wanted to live in the modern era, Germany had lots of economic problems in the 1990s and early 2000s and socio-economic conditions generally weren’t as developed at the time. I thought about choosing a year in the late 2000s (i.e. before the European sovereign debt crisis started), but think that conditions are on the whole better today than they were in the late 2000s. One would also miss the series of amazing technological developments in the last five years. I would therefore choose 2016.
Which country and year would you choose? I know the question is problematic in a number of ways (particularly for those who concentrate on the world we might live in one day), but please Facebook/Tweet me your answers or simply write in the comments section. I’ll write a post analysing the answers/the possible reluctance of people to answer (!) in a few days.