That is the upshot of my latest Bloomberg column, as the Doing Business index, PISA scores, and the Corruption Perceptions Index have been highly influential. Here are a few of my further requests:
These successes raise a question: Which other indexes might be useful? Think of the suggestions that follow as a kind of Christmas wish list.
How about a loneliness index? David Brooks has argued that America faces a crisis of loneliness, making us unhappy and impoverishing us spiritually. I find these claims plausible, especially since the median U.S. household size has been shrinking. Still, just how bad is this problem? One recent study found that American loneliness has not been rising lately, and that loneliness increases only after people reach their early 70s…
A stress index for Americans another related idea: Just how much do our lives focus our attention on our worries rather than on our joys and hopeful expectations?
There are less emotional concerns as well. How about an infrastructure speed index? I worry about bureaucratization and the slow pace of building important public works. Construction on Manhattan’s Second Avenue subway line, for example, started in 1972, paused, resumed in 2004, and was finally completed (the first phase, anyway) in 2017. In contrast, construction of the core New York City subway system, with 28 stations, began in 1900 and finished in 1904. Similarly, construction of the Empire State Building took only 410 days.
Why do so many U.S. infrastructure projects today take so long? And if the process of improving and reshaping the environment to further human progress is now so much slower, doesn’t it make sense to try to measure this decline for the purpose of eventual improvement? Given the need for a greener energy infrastructure, this is a matter of the utmost urgency.
Speaking of energy infrastructure, how about a severity index for climate change and associated problems?
There are further noteworthy suggestions at the link. Which indices do you wish for?