I had never thought of the Economist Intelligence Unit as a bastion of mad lefties until I read an Andrew Bolt column in the Melbourne Herald Sun last month.

The EIU for which I used to, years ago, help prepare a quarterly review of the Australian economy, was a proudly capitalist institution. Precise and thorough analysis was what the organisation demanded so I was surprised when columnist Bolt lumped one of its recent publications in with people and institutions that were part of “a suicidal tendency among the West’s intelligentsia to see the worst in the West and the best in the totalitarians pledged to destroy it.” What could this be about?

A visit to the EIU website showed no signs of a recent and secret Marxist takeover. It proudly proclaimed that “The Economist Intelligence Unit provides a constant flow of analysis and forecasts on more than 200 countries and eight key industries.”

A definitive analytical and statistical guide to the future of global foreign direct investment hardly seemed heretical and telling executives how the EIU can provide “vital input into your organisation’s financial risk assessment procedures through data, models, early warning services and in-depth analysis” is not the stuff of socialist traitors.

And then I spotted it: along with helping executives make informed business decisions through dependable intelligence delivered online, in print, as well as through conferences and peer interchange, the EIU provided “customised research”. Those greedy capitalists had dared to do some work for someone from the other side and an Australian no less!

Steve Killelea, in a press statement that I guess he authorised, is described as an “Australian IT entrepreneur and philanthropist”. If he could pay the normally outrageously high fees of the EIU he must be a rich entrepreneur but I know nothing of Mr Killelea other than what I learned from a Sydney Morning Herald article about him published in February last year.

There he was described as a wiry, sun-weathered businessman and lifelong surfer, watching the waves curl in towards his house on Sydney’s northern beaches, who proclaims “my driving focus is peace”.

His desire to “find bold new ways of finding global peace or humanity’s going to self-destruct” was behind his decision to finance a study to rank countries around the world according to their peacefulness.

The Economist Intelligence Unit was hired to measure countries’ peacefulness based on a wide range of indicators — 24 in all — including ease of access to “weapons of minor destruction” (guns, small explosives), military expenditure, local corruption, and the level of respect for human rights. Norway emerged as the country most at peace followed by New Zealand and Denmark.

The Global Peace Index also revealed that countries which had a turbulent time for parts of the twentieth century, such as Ireland and Germany, have emerged as peace leaders in the 21st century.

That Australia came in on the EIU rankings at a respectably peaceful 25th was surely not the reason that Andrew Bolt declared the whole exercise as “a manifestation of a moral blindness among our elites.” Presumably he saw something conspiratorial about the United States of America being 96th in the list of 134 countries although the researchers sought to explain that ranking in a description of the “drivers” that make for peaceful societies that they discovered by examining their data. They found that peaceful countries often shared high levels of democracy and transparency of government, education and material well-being.

“While the US possesses many of these characteristics”, it commented, “its ranking was brought down by its engagement in warfare and external conflict, as well as high levels of incarceration and homicide. The US’s rank also suffered due to the large share of military expenditure from its GDP, attributed to its status as one of the world’s military-diplomatic powers.”

There is a full listing of country rankings on the peace index here.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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