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Earth Government Japan Math United States Politics

How Old Is the Average Country? 375

Posted by timothy
from the we-just-eat-a-lot-of-yogurt dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes with a snippet from his piece at Vice: "I did some calculations in Excel, using independence dates provided on About.com, and found the average age of a country is about 158.78 years old. Now, before anyone throws a tizzy about what makes a country a country, about nations, tribes, civilizations, ethnic categories, or about my makeshift methodology, keep in mind, I simply assessed 195 countries based on their political sovereignty. That is the occasion we're celebrating today, right?"
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How Old Is the Average Country?

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  • by RedHackTea (2779623) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @04:41PM (#44190661)
    Excel and About.com
    • He lost me at "That is the occasion we're celebrating today, right?", wrong. Today is Higgs Day - one year since the announcement of the Higgs!
  • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @04:50PM (#44190725) Homepage

    158.78 years old.

    Next.

  • What about standard deviation and median? At least give me a histogram.

  • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @04:51PM (#44190737)

    Given that this is America's 237'th birthday, which make us 78.22 years older than the average (49.26%), should they change the name of the magazine from "The New Republic" to "The Somewhat-Older-Than-Average Republic"?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You inadvertently put your finger on the point of this article: yet another "see, us Americans are better than most countries." But the more the Americans go on and on about how much better they are proves the point of how immature they are, like the 12 year old who insists his dad can beat anybody else's dad.

      • You inadvertently put your finger on the point of this article: yet another "see, us Americans are better than most countries." But the more the Americans go on and on about how much better they are proves the point of how immature they are, like the 12 year old who insists his dad can beat anybody else's dad.

        You inadvertently don't understand something called "humor".

      • by Livius (318358) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @08:33PM (#44191873)

        Adolescence is actually an excellent metaphor for the US. A mix of overconfidence and insecurity, for the wrong reasons in both cases.

    • We're not a republic any more as of the 17th amendment. Not quite a democracy, though.

      • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @05:59PM (#44191215)

        The 17th Amendment changes the US government vis-à-vis federalism, but doesn't make it any less a republic. You could eliminate the states and federalism entirely and still have a republic. Many countries, such as France, have such an arrangement.

      • by Motard (1553251)

        We still have a representative form of government. Just not the part that was representative of the representatives.

        Not saying that's either good or bad, but it didn't change the form of government.

      • by NicBenjamin (2124018) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @06:14PM (#44191293)

        That's an incredibly restrictive definition of "Republic." It's also very odd. The 17th says we directly vote for Senators, instead of having them appointed by the states. I have never heard of a definition of Republic which hinged on whether a single House of the Legislature was appointed or elected.

        The general definition of republic is any state that has a non-hereditary Head-of-State. That's why France, Ireland, India, Nigeria, Iraq, Communist China, Iran etc. are Republics despite vastly different forms of government.

    • by PPH (736903)

      The Somewhat-Older-Than-Average Republic

      And stay off our lawn! BTW, the world is our lawn.

  • Egypt in 1922? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Voyager529 (1363959) <voyager529 AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday July 04, 2013 @04:52PM (#44190747)

    A cursory look at the Wikipedia article indicates that Egypt has spent time under the rule of a few empires here and there over history, but it and Greece have both been their own societies for several thousand years in spite of this. I figure that both countries are closer to the age of China than they're listed...but that's just me.

    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      And how something like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Revolution [wikipedia.org] doesn't mean it's not a new country where many others in the list fall into the same category.

      • Re:Egypt in 1922? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Alef (605149) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @05:14PM (#44190923)

        ...or the fact that France was occupied by the Germans during WWII. The three year occupation of Sweden by the Danes during a war in the 1520:s, on the other hand, is apparently enough to cut Sweden's age down to 490 years.

        Something which by the way wouldn't bother a Swede if it wasn't for the fact that the blasted Danes are listed at 1048 years. ;-)

        • Re:Egypt in 1922? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by NicBenjamin (2124018) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @05:27PM (#44191033)

          It looks like his choice of independence year in these cases is based on what the people in that country say.

          Swedes say they were conquered by Denmark, and became independent in 1523, therefore that is the year that gets entered on the spreadsheet. The French don't recognize Petain's government as legitimate, therefore the slightly-longer German occupation of France during WW2 doesn't count as France losing it's independence.

          The French actually have a legal point. For the entire time they were occupied in the homeland de Gaulle had troops under his command throughout their Empire.

          • by Alef (605149)

            While it is true that 1523 is celebrated as a year of independence, I don't think you could say the Swedes recognise Christian II as a legitimate ruler either (even more so than Petain). Christian II started his reign in Sweden by massacring about a hundred Swedish nobility in what is known as the Stockholm blood bath [wikipedia.org], which resulted in a deep-rooted hatred between Swedes and Danes that lasted for several hundreds of years thereafter. In Sweden, Christian II carries the epithet "the Tyrant" to this day.

            I gu

            • Re:Egypt in 1922? (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Clueless Moron (548336) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @07:24PM (#44191587)

              Yeah, but if were to walk into Stockholm in 1250 and say hi to Birger Jarl and ask him what country you were in, what do you think he would have said? Not "Danmark" or "Kalmarunionen" or something like that, I can guarantee you.

              A lot of the "independence" dates for European countries are really arbitrary, because they just gradually grew into place.

              Equally idiotic is calling the Koreas "68 years old". So what the hell was there before 1945? Or how about year 1000?

    • During WW1 Egypt was ruled by a Khedive who was technically a vassal of the British Monarch. The Khedive was actually originally an Ottoman vassal, but in the late 19th the Egyptians decided to join an Empire that didn't suck and switched allegiances. In 1922 the Egyptians became independent of the Brits and the Khedive promoted himself to King.

    • Re:Egypt in 1922? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tirerim (1108567) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @05:09PM (#44190869)
      Indeed, there are a lot of countries that have been sovereign nations at various discontinuous periods in history, with varying degrees of continuity between those periods. Iceland was independent for a few centuries at the beginning of the previous milennium before merging with Norway again, and counts its legislature as continuous since that time, but the map only counts its most recent independence. On the other hand, France is listed as having been independent since the end of the rule of Charlemagne, despite having changed types of government several times since then and being conquered by Germany in World War II.
    • by erice (13380)

      A cursory look at the Wikipedia article indicates that Egypt has spent time under the rule of a few empires here and there over history, but it and Greece have both been their own societies for several thousand years in spite of this. I figure that both countries are closer to the age of China than they're listed...but that's just me.

      But China is wrong too. The Ming Dynasty was conquered by the Manchu Empire in 1644 which gradually morphed into the Qing Dynasty. So no more than 369 years.

      China before 1950 did not include Tibet.

      It could even be argued that modern China's sovereignty was not recognized until 1971 when the UN recognized the PRC as the legitimate ruler of China.

      • But that's not the Chinese take on the situation. The Chinese take is that all land currently owned by the PRC (and some more, like Taiwan) has always rightfully belonged to the legitimate government of China. Sometimes the various bits of China have disagreed about who is the rightful legitimate government (ie: the rise of the Manchus, Tibet in the 50s), but it's all always been China.

        I don't entirely agree with that take on the situation, but the standard this guy is using for his list is what does the go

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 04, 2013 @04:54PM (#44190755)

    Poland 95 years old? Germany 142 years? Italy 152? Greece 184? Come on, you can do better than that. Nice try. Next try.

    • by NicBenjamin (2124018) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @05:15PM (#44190927)

      Here's what you don't get:
      He's not talking about existence as a culture, he's talking about being recognized as an independent nation-state.

      Germany, for example, did not actually exist as a nation-state prior to the Prussian defeat of the Hapsburgs in the Austro-Prussian War, and the defeat of Napoleon III in the Franco-Prussian War a few years after that. What existed were hundreds of feuding statelets that all spoke German.

      The Greeks existed as a culture, but the last independent Greek state had been conquered by the Ottomans in the 15th century.

      The Italians were in exactly the same boat as the Germans. There were the Kings of the Two Sicilies and Piedmont, the Pope, a Grand Duke of Tuscony, Hapsburgs in Venice, and several smaller states that were absorbed by Piedmont prior to unification.

      Poland was divided between three Empires at the end of the 18th. Officially the Czar was Polish Head of State, but he didn't give the Poles any autonomy, and ran his bit of Poland as if it was merely another Oblast of Russia, so the Poles don;t count that as independence.

      • by Alomex (148003)

        What existed were hundreds of feuding statelets that all spoke German.

        Not even that, they all spoke dialects of Germanic such as:

        Ripuarian, Moselle Franconian, Central Hessian, East Hessian, North Hessian, Thuringian, North Upper Saxon, Rhine Franconian, Lorraine Franconian, Silesian German, High Prussian, Lausitzisch-NeumÃrkisch, Upper Saxon, Alsatian, Swabian, Low Alemannic, Central Alemannic, High Alemannic, Highest Alemannic, Southern Austro-Bavarian, Central Austro-Bavarian and Northern Austro-Bavarian. [wikipedia]

        when the feuding statelets came together th

        • by bfandreas (603438) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @06:21PM (#44191319)
          Which is why the first stanza of the Deutschlandlied(Deutschland über alles) is horribly misunderstood. It was composed to commemorate the CULTURAL unity. Not the NATIONAL one. There was a bit of a civil war in 1848 in bits of Germany to achieve that but it sort of...fizzled. When the king of Prussia was first offered the position of Emperor by the people he flatly refused it as a "pig's crown". The people could in his understanding not choose their king. That was up to god. Who it turned out to live in France. Versailles to be precise.
          Which kind of highlights the huge difference between mainland European monarchy and the one in England. England had a regular parliament of sorts since the Provisions of Oxford in 1258 even if it was only used to levy taxes without too much of a revolt. And every monarch who went against it met a bad end afterwards. Except Henry VIII. Who propably was the only absolutistic(ish) monarch since William the Bastard's line drowned.

          Honestly, putting a clear date next to a sovereign state is bound to stir an argument. I do not know what that was supposed to be good for. It's like painting a border around Israel and hoping that nobody will object. Ask a Glaswegian how old the UK is and he won't give you the 1066 date. Thistles, leeks, lions...there's bound to be a huge and pointless argument. And that's even before waking up the French. There might even be a war.
      • by Xolotl (675282) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @08:23PM (#44191839) Journal

        Here's what you don't get: He's not talking about existence as a culture, he's talking about being recognized as an independent nation-state. (...)

        Poland was divided between three Empires at the end of the 18th. Officially the Czar was Polish Head of State, but he didn't give the Poles any autonomy, and ran his bit of Poland as if it was merely another Oblast of Russia, so the Poles don;t count that as independence.

        No, but they count the time before the partitions as independence. Poland existed as an independent and recognised state with the same name and in substantially the same geographical location with the same captial city for hundreds of years prior. What happened in 1918 was not 'gaining independence' and creating a new state as in the US in 1776, but re-gaining independence. The current Polish state considers itself a continuation of that earlier one, and no Pole would say that their country is 95 years old.

    • by Carewolf (581105)

      They count the age of the current country. Been conquerored for half a millenia and only recently later got lose again, you are a young country Greece. Existed as geograpic feature for millenia but only recently became a country you are young too Germany and Italy.. Seriously why are you surprised of Germany and Italys age?? They are very young countries formed from a random selection of smaller states.

      • by Sique (173459)
        Both Italy and Germany didn't form from randomly collected smaller states. All states that joined Germany in 1871 were either member states of the Holy Roman Empire until 1806 or at least had predecessors that were. Similarly with Italy. All states that joined Italy in 1861 were on the territory of the Kingdom of Italy as founded by Odoacer in 476 AD.
    • by Sique (173459)
      The actual Poland is really 95 years old, after the Polish Rzeczpospolita was dissolved in 1791 and the parts were distributed between Prussia, Russia and Austria. They only rejoined in 1918. Same with Germany. The first ever state which had "Germany" (or Deutschland) in its name was founded in 1949. There was always some idea about a unified Germany, but never an actual state, until 1871 the German Reich was founded (which still wasn't officially called Germany). Greece was not a sovereign state since the
      • by Sique (173459)
        Ah yes, Italy. Italy was not a sovereign state until the unification of the Dukedom of Milan with the Kingdom of Naples, Sicilia and large parts of the Holy See, which happened in 1861.
    • by BluBrick (1924)
      Agreed. USA 237 years old? Does April 9th, 1865 ring a bell?
  • by JanneM (7445) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @05:07PM (#44190857) Homepage

    I'm pretty sure* the distribution is not Gaussian, so the mean is a misleading statistic. At least add the median as well.

    Also, as others have pointed out, there seems to be some rather problematic methodological issues with the way age is defined and used in the data set.

    * This is Slashdot; you didn't think I would go and actually check, do you?

  • What about former countries? Yugoslavia? How old is Serbia? It wasn't a country while it was part of Yugoslavia.
    The list goes on and on.
    • Look, this isn't deep.

      Serb independence on this list is dated to whenever the current Serb government dates it's independence. Serbs date that to the dissolution of Yugoslavia seven years ago, so it's seven. It's not necessarily accurate (the difference between "Yugoslavia" and "Serbia" is a lot smaller then the Serbs claimed), but it is rigorously fair.

      If you want a 100% accurate, perfect list then why don;t you do some of this research yourself. There's only 200 or so countries, and you'll only offend a B

  • Wasn't fully sovereign until 1982. So there is more than political sovereignty in this map.

    • Canada wasn't fully sovereign until 1982.

      Canada is a country now? Really? Historically it was just a dumping ground for unrepentant Tories (tell the Francophones and First Nations we're sorry about that).

  • by happyjack27 (1219574) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @05:27PM (#44191031)

    if you're looking for average lifespan of a country, you have to actually look at countries that are no longer around. since ones that are alive you have no idea of how long they will continue to be alive. maybe one day, maybe a thousand years. if all the countries you sampled are still around then your sample size - as far as survival time is concerned - is effectively zero. you could assume an exponential probability distribution and try to compose a maximum likelihood estimate based on they all will live longer than they have been around, or on average their expectation is twice as long as they've been around, but still... why make such extrapolations when you can use actual samples from countries that are no longer around?

  • I do not see that people are primarily defined by what government they're under. Human relationships are less bounded, more amorphous, more interwoven than the neat lines and branches nationalism would imply.

    Come on! The Assyrian people didn't go away because their empire ended; there's an identifiable group of them living today. The local past didn't disappear when nations like modern Germany and Italy united out of their former parts. People don't sever their family relationships and traditions at the

  • Did you assess the US based on the beginning of the Civil War, or today's current date? Because legally, it was a different country - a different government rulers, different governmental rules, and with different laws - enforced upon the losers of the war by those who won.

There must be more to life than having everything. -- Maurice Sendak

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