But it turns out that Japan also ranked fifth in Vision of Humanity’s Global Peace Index, behind Iceland, Denmark, Norway, and New Zealand. Looking at the top five, it seems obvious that homogeneity helps. (Wikipedia has more on the index here.)
A look at the index’s methodology shows that Vision of Humanity is measuring not just international peacefulness, but “societal safety and security.”
Japan’s gross military expenditures didn’t hurt its rank because the index considered military expenditures as a percentage of GDP, not total spending. Incidentally, according to Vision of Humanity, Japan’s defense spending is 1.295% of GDP, not less than 1%, reflecting the fact that Japan hides some military expenditures in other ministries and agencies. (VoH uses the following definition for military expenditures as a percentage of GDP: “Cash outlays of central or federal government to meet the costs of national armed forces – including strategic, land, naval, air, command, administration and support forces as well as paramilitary forces, customs forces and border guards if these are trained and equipped as a military force.”)
Meanwhile, the Economist, which played a role in organizing the index, has acknowledged that the index is distorted somewhat because many countries may score well on the index because they are protected by the US, enabling them to lower their military expenditures. This certainly must be kept in mind — were the US-Japan alliance to loosen or dissolve, Japan’s rank would probably rise over time. Nevertheless, given the range of variables used to determine the ranking, the alliance with the US doesn’t explain all or most of the result. As I argued in this post, Japan has built an extraordinary society in the sixty years since the war ended, an island of peace, stability, and prosperity in a region and world that is often anything but.
It seems that the Japanese people should be proud of this achievement, and their leaders should not be so quick to discard it.
(Hat tip to The Strategist for the survey.)