There is an old Maori proverb, he kai kei aku ringa, “there is food at the end of my hands”. It speaks of a resilience, an ability to use your basic skills and resources to create success.

If we were to look at success simply in economic terms, then New Zealand wouldn’t score particularly highly. Its economy is small by global standards, and its GDP per capita fairly average among developed countries. However, national success is not simply about wealth. It is about life more broadly. Prosperity is as much about wellbeing as it is about wealth.

It is for this reason that the Legatum Prosperity Index™, published today, ranks New Zealand as the most prosperous country in the world. This small trading nation of just 4.7 million people has beaten wealthy economic giants like the US (ranked 17th) and Germany (12th) to the top spot. It has even beaten Norway and its vast natural resources into second place.

Prosperity is not simply about wealth. It is about economic opportunity, business environment, how fairly you are governed, the quality of health and education, personal safety and national security, how free you are, the strength of your community, and the quality of the natural environment.

New Zealand’s success comes from its unrivalled ability to turn the wealth that it has into prosperity. On this efficient conversion of resources into national success, New Zealand has never been surpassed in the Index. What is New Zealand’s secret?

It is not necessarily just a Kiwi secret – developed Commonwealth nations New Zealand (1st), Australia (6th), Canada (5th), and the United Kingdom (10th) are all in the global top five when it comes to how well they turn wealth into prosperity.

Their prosperity success is based on the common foundations of free markets, free people, and strong society. This ‘Anglosphere’ model of prosperity – reflected in the Prosperity Index by the Personal Freedom and Social Capital sub-indices, and aspects of Economic Quality and Business Environment – has proved the most successful model in delivering prosperity to people. In both the level of prosperity delivered, and the effective conversion of wealth into prosperity, the Anglosphere model outperforms the Nordic model, and the social democracy of Continental Europe.

Free markets and undistorted economies are critical to the success of these nations. Together, they significantly over-perform in the Business Environment sub-index, with New Zealand ranking 2nd, Australia 7th, Canada 3rd, and the UK 5th. They also have lower non-tariff trade barriers, more flexible labour markets, and more competitive regulation than the Nordic nations or Western Europe.

Important too is the freedom and opportunity open to their people. In these developed Commonwealth nations people are most free to pursue their ambitions and achieve their potential. Tolerance is higher, and human capital stronger, than in the Nordics or Western Europe. The link between socioeconomic background and educational attainment is also less pronounced.

Free markets and free people are one thing, but their potential is limited when civil society is weak and people do not support each other to be the best they can be. This is certainly New Zealand’s secret weapon. The country ranks 1st globally in Social Capital, with 99% of New Zealanders saying that they have family or friends to rely on in times of need. The strength of New Zealand society stands out like no other in the world.

The model of free markets, free people, and strong society has delivered prosperity like nothing else. It is not just bringing prosperity to the most prosperous corners of the globe, but across the world. A similar pattern of prosperity is clear across the Commonwealth more broadly. Whether it is globally, or across continents, together the Commonwealth nations deliver more prosperity to their citizens than their peers. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the ‘Commonwealth Effect’ lifts prosperity by nearly 10%.

Rising national success can come from the humblest of foundations and in the poorest of places. Through the unique lens of the Prosperity Index, New Zealand, its Anglosphere allies, and its fellow Commonwealth nations, show the world that the path to greater prosperity comes from free markets, free people, and strong society. GDP alone tells us nothing.