Terrible place.

The results are in, Argentina is the fourth most miserable country in the world… according to a libertarian think tank in Washington, DC using classical macroeconomic measures first instituted in the 1960s to track the popularity of US presidents. Okay, maybe the results are not quite “in.”

News of the Cato Institute’s Misery Index landed on various local news outlets today and, concerned, we took it upon ourselves to investigate.

To the library, Harry! Let us examine the information. The index was originally created by economist Arthur Okun  to measure the success and predict upcoming polls of various US presidents back in the 1960s when Lyndon Johnson held office. A modified version has since been applied by Cato — a libertarian DC-based think tank — to the world at large. According to the results of the 2015 survey, Argentina was indeed ranked as the fourth most miserable country in the world. It placed after Venezuela, Ukraine and Brazil and just above South Africa, Russia, Iran, Palestine and Jamaica.

Right, because Jamaicans are known for their Palestinian levels of misery….

infographic via Business Insider.
infographic via Business Insider.
How does the Cato Institute compile these statistics? The Institute takes into account four factors: inflation (presente!), unemployment, bank lending rates and the percentage change in GDP that year. In other words, it is a mathematically holistic picture of the state of the country’s economy, in the truly classical sense of macroeconomics. It is not exactly in line with the sort of “Freakonomics Economics” happiness indices that people are so fond of giving Ted Talks about these days. So, not included are, you know, what I would call the asado effect and the fact that in my personal economic survey of one, Argentines are the best and the happiest and boys drool Argentines rule chau me voy.
But if you approach this index for what it is — the country is a grim picture. Particularly due to Argentina’s rising inflation, which is the primary indicator, and which here clocks in at a whopping 40 percent annual rate. The first months of President Mauricio Macri’s mandate — as he tries to stabilize the work of previous unnamed finance ministers — have seen wild inflation affect the most basic of goods including bread, milk and water. This actually means that — and projections compiled by Bloomberg attest to this — Argentina is on its way to ranking second as the second most miserable nation for next year’s report.
Next years bleak projections via Bloomberg.
Next year’s bleak projections via Bloomberg.
Further caveats: research from Harvard University has found — unsurprisingly — that unemployment should actually be a more weighted indicator in a survey of  so-called misery. And, always and, the statistics used by the Cato Institute every year are taken from the Economist Intelligence Unit, which has information only from countries that can compile them. War-torn places such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Syria are not included, so maybe the Most Miserable Countries That Sort of Have Their Shit Together would be a more appropriate categorization. All this is to say that essentially, this is an excellent yearly overlook of the macro state of the economy — but the word “misery” is perhaps a bit outdated.  One might venture that it is a measure of how miserable a macroeconomist such as my father would be living in reported countries.