How can you rank Germany/Russia/UK/USA so high? Have you ever even HEARD of Hitler/Stalin/the British Empire/Hiroshima?

The Good Country Index cannot be, and does not attempt to be, a historical overview of each country's contribution to humanity and the planet. It can only focus on a single point in time, or else the data becomes overwhelming. Consider: it took a small team of volunteer statisticians and researchers two years to collect, verify and process the 2010 data for 125 countries which underpins the first edition of the Good Country Index. If we had also included 2009, that would have taken another two years. To include 2008 would have taken us six years ... and so on. 

And good global statistics of the kind we're using only go back a couple of decades anyway, so to examine, measure and account for the roots and causes and origins of today’s world would be a 99.9% subjective exercise. 

Of course, understanding a country also means understanding its history: as George Santayana said, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. But how would we even begin to put a reliable numerical score on the past actions of 163 countries, no matter how strong our feelings and opinions about them might be? 

Exactly how many points should we take away from the Germans of today for the Holocaust, two generations after the crimes of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents? How many points should we deduct from Britain for the British Empire, or from India for its own Chola Empire six hundred years earlier? How many points should we give the Greeks for their country’s contribution to human wisdom two thousand years ago, and is it right that present-day Iran should take all the credit for what the Persians achieved five thousand years ago? Do we give more points to the Italians for the poetry of Virgil or deduct more points for the crucifixion of Christ by the Romans? Shouldn’t we penalise the entire Western world for slavery? Is it right to mark down the whole South African nation for the crime of apartheid? 

These are all discussions which are well worth having, but they can't ever be resolved - and especially not by a relatively simple, entirely unfunded, data-driven index. The Good Country Index can only answer one simple question about countries: what are they doing for humanity now? Having an answer to that question is a useful contribution to the discussion, but it certainly doesn't intend to resolve it.