For all the distasteful triumphalism about the tarnishing of the 'arc of prosperity' last year, a stubborn fact remained largely unremarked upon - that one of the countries in the 'arc', Norway, had come through the global economic crisis remarkably unscathed. Yesterday it was revealed that Norway has topped the UN's annual Human Development Index, measuring quality of life - or as the BBC put it, the best places to live. Even more remarkably, Iceland is in third place and Ireland fifth. So should the arc of prosperity simply be rebranded the 'arc of desirability'? Well, to be fair, the data on which the rankings are based is two years old. But there seems little reason to suppose that Norway in particular will have slipped much since then.
And it's always intriguing to see how certain American commentators cover a story like this - can they bring themselves to concede that it might just have something to do with the Scandinavian social democratic model? I'll give you three guesses. The blogger Ann Althouse sums up why she thinks Norway is actually top with characteristic succinctness - "mainly because of a lot of extra wealth from oil". Now doesn't that remind you of somewhere?