Congratulations, Uruguay. The South American nation is the winner of the first-ever "country of the year" honor bestowed by the Economist. Uruguay? The editors explain that they eschewed focusing on things such as GDP or having a dominant world leader and instead looked for a country with "path-breaking reforms that do not merely improve a single nation but, if emulated, might benefit the world." Uruguay hits the mark on two counts, by legalizing not only gay marriage but the production, sale, and consumption of marijuana.
Instead of a Putin-style swaggering leader, Uruguay has the "admirably self-effacing" Jose Mujica as president. "He lives in a humble cottage, drives himself to work in a Volkswagen Beetle and flies economy class," they write. And he leads a country that is "modest yet bold, liberal and fun-loving." See the full article for the also-rans, which include Ireland and Somaliland. (Read more Uruguay stories.)