For further thought and reflection is the value of rankings and comparative indices in decision-making.

Perhaps a useful analogy to work this question through is to consider an individual who is thinking about how to spend his or her time.

Say an individual is wondering whether to spend time on physical health (exercise, eating better), accumulating knowledge (reading, writing, reflecting) or on “social capital” (socializing, networking, building ‘weak ties’)?

The individual has a set amount of time, money and effort. Spending time on one thing comes at the cost of not doing another.

Let’s say the individual ranks him or herself against others, and finds out that they are below average on physical fitness, and above average on knowledge accumulation.

What should the individual do? How does the knowledge about this ranking affect the individual’s resource allocation decisions?

I think the answer is that the ranking has very limited utility for resource allocation decisions. Comparing yourself against others should rarely determine how you spend your time.

Just because you are, for example, better than others in accumulating knowledge doesn’t mean you should stop accumulating knowledge. And just because you are lower than average in physical fitness doesn’t necessarily mean you should invest in your health.

Where you want to spend your time depends on your personal goals, not how you compare with others.

The point is perhaps that rankings and indices tell us how we compare with others, but should not and do not inform how we should therefore allocate our resources.

This analogy of the individual can be applied to a country deciding where to spend its resources. A ranking is just a ranking. It tells how you compare, but doesn’t prescribe what you should therefore do.

Is the above information correct? More research and reflection required…

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