World’s Best Cities–the US Misses the Cut

I like lists. Here’s Mercer’s top 5 cities, ranked by stuff like personal safety and quality of life:

World, overall:
Zurich, Switzerland (1st)
Vienna, Austria (tied for 2nd)
Geneva, Switzerland (tied for 2nd )
Vancouver, Canada (4th)
Auckland, New Zealand (5th)

World, personal safety:
Luxembourg (1st)
Bern, Switzerland (tied for 2nd)
Geneva, Switzerland (tied for 2nd)
Helsinki, Finland (tied for 2nd)
Zurich, Switzerland (tied for 2nd)

Americas, overall:
Vancouver, Canada (4th)
Toronto, Canada (15th)
Ottawa, Canada (19th)
Montreal, Canada (22nd)
Calgary, Canada (25th)

Americas for personal safety:
Calary, Canada (tied for 22nd)
Montreal, Canada (tied for 22nd)
Ottawa, Canada (tied for 22nd)
Toronto, Canada (tied for 22nd)
Vancouver, Canada (tied for 22nd)

The best American city hardly even counts–Honolulu.

What’s interesting about this is that the best cities are in countries with strong welfare systems, yet welfare isn’t a factor in the ratings. These ratings are intended for expatriates and the multi-national corporations that employ them; Mercer, the source, is an expat-management service.

If welfare is an economic drag on a society, one would expect strong welfare states to score poorly in a rating system that ignores life for people on welfare. In contrast, a country–especially a rich one like the U.S.–that spends less on social services should look better in such a system.   Instead we see the opposite. The largest developed nation in the world doesn’t have a best or safest city at any level. A  plausible explanation is that a dollar spent on welfare does more to reduce crime than a dollar spent on law enforcement.

It’s also worth noting that Switzerland is the only country  in the world that makes heroin available by prescription. It provides the drug to addicts. Yet, that tiny country has 3 of the 5 safest cities in the world.


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