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Quoting Christophe Grandsire <[log in to unmask]>:

> En réponse à John Cowan <[log in to unmask]>:
>
> > By that standard, Singapore is the most important city in the
> > world, with Montevideo behind and all other cities lost in the dust.
>
> I was talking about the importance of a town *in a country*. [...]
> For instance, I find it nonsense to compare countries' richness with
> absolute values. How can you compare a country with 1 billion
> inhabitants with a country with 1 million inhabitants? The only
> true way of comparing countries' wealth is the richness per
> inhabitant, a relative notion that really allows to make meaningful
> comparisons. And indeed using it you get interesting results
> (for instance, the US are economically strong only because they
> are the biggest First World country. When we look at the wealth
> per inhabitant, they go back to the 15th position or so - making
> it a very poor country in the First World -,

This is actually false, both factually and analytically.  The
United States is the second richest nation on the planet, according
to this list:

<http://www.photius.com/wfb1999/rankings/gdp_per_capita_0.html>
(I do not believe this is adjusted for purchasing power parity,
which takes into account how much you can buy in a given society
with a given amount of money. American labor and commodity costs
are considerably lower than in Europe, which means that the raw
GDP hides a certain amount of American wealth.)

What makes the US so powerful is that it is not only very wealthy,
it is wealthy with such a large population.  If you take the per
capita GDP, adjusted for PPP, as a whole of the US, and compare
that with all the other first world nations, the US comes out to
be about $37,000, or about one third or more richer than almost
all of them, including the big ones like France, Germany, and
Britain.  Note too that on this list, almost all the ones in the
top ten are *very* small; using them is rather like comparing
cities to nations, and so probably not a very accurate measurement.
Some European countries are approximately as wealthy; Switzerland
has about the same GDP per capita adjusted for PPP.  But Switzerland
has a population smaller than quite a few US states, and so its
influence on the world economy, though disproportionate to its
raw population, is relatively small.  If we counted Switzerland
on the list, it would only be fair to count New Jersey, which has
about a million more population than Switzerland, but a GDP per
capita about double that of France, Britain or Germany.  Or if
we count Singapore, why not count Washington DC, which has a per
capita GDP roughly four times that of France, Great Britain or
Germany, at $107,576? (you can find that here:
<http://www.demographia.com/db-usgdpr99.htm>) Indeed, the *poorest*
US state, West Virginia, is about as wealthy as Britain or France
on the same scale.  The US is bathed in a kind of sybaritic wealth
unprecedented in human history on such a scale, which is worrying,
in its own way.

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Thomas Wier            "I find it useful to meet my subjects personally,
Dept. of Linguistics    because our secret police don't get it right
University of Chicago   half the time." -- octogenarian Sheikh Zayed of
1010 E. 59th Street     Abu Dhabi, to a French reporter.
Chicago, IL 60637