One of the best things about subscribing to The Economist is that it comes with a copy of the "Pocket World in Figures", an annual compilation of all sorts of interesting statistics. I used to be a sucker for the "Statistical Abstract of the United States," too. But this is so much more broadening.
Browsing through it, I'm reminded that we're still the world's largest economy, by a long shot, and, after the combined Euro nations, the world's largest exporter of goods, services, and income. I'm not quite sure what "exporter of income" means, unless it's the remittances sent back to the poor folks back home by our immigrant population (legal and other). It obviously can't mean that we export our income to buy crap from China. Or can it?
We also rank highest, thanks to our infrastructure and institutions, in terms of overall global competitiveness; and we're tops in creativity and innovation.
We do, of course, run the world's largest deficit - but that's in absolute terms, not as a percent of GDP. (Phew.)
And we can't, of course, rest on our laurels. Israel spends more, as a percentage of GDP, on R&D. As do Sweden, Finland, South Korea, and Switzerland. (What are they R&D-ing about? Watches and chocolates?) And Japan has more patents in force than we do.
Surprisingly, we don't own as many cars, proportionately, as many other countries. We only have 461 cars per 1,000 population. (I'm doing my bit to keep it down!) We, in fact, rank 19th.
The number one honors go to Luxembourg - 647 cars per 1,000.
They can afford it, what with having the highest per capita GDP in the world - $103K to our $46K.
Luxembourg's not all that big, but L-bourgians do a lot of driving, because they're consuming a lot more kilograms of oil per capita than we are - 9,972 vs. 7,768. But oil consumption is highest in Qatar - 22,057 per person, far surpassing runner up Iceland's rate of 14,237.
See, it does take more energy to AC than to heat. And maybe Qatari wash their windows and brush their teeth with gasoline.
Qatari might have such a high number because they may be burning up a lot of fuel by driving fast. Which would explain why they lead the world in auto injuries (nearly 10,000 per year per 100,000 in population), and road deaths 33 per 100,000. (Qatar also has some of the highest rates of M-F obesity in the world. Must be all that driving. I'd say, get out and walk, but who wants to walk when it would be 110 in the shade, if there were any shade.)
Anyway, while you're not driving in Qatar, if you're a software salesperson, you probably want to stay out of Armenia, where 93% of the software is pirated.
Ah, the things I've picked up in my "Pocket World."
For one thing, Ireland doesn't make the Top 40 in terms of tourists. Maybe because Ireland is so small it just seems like it's always full of swarms of tourists in plaid pants and scally caps, trying to figure out if anyone in Ballymahangnail remembers their Great Aunt Geraldine, who came to The States in 1911.
Who would have imagined that Syria, Bulgaria, and Vietnam all get more tourists than the Old Sod?
I was pleased to see that the US is second, right behind France, in minutes slept per day, although 518 minutes a day seems about 38 minutes over long. (I do like those 480 minutes....)
The US also ranks highest in consumption of chocolate, but is not - alas - among the biggest consumers of champagne. (Don't people realize that chocolate and champagne go hand in glove?)
What else do you need to know?