The contiguous United States (that is, excluding Alaska and Hawaii) cover 3.1 million square miles, including deserts, mountain ranges, rivers and two oceanic coastlines. In a world of vast dictatorships (China), tiny democracies (Switzerland) and everything in between, from Malta to Mexico, the challenge of building and maintaining first-rate roads, bridges, railroads, airports and seaports in a country like the United States is extraordinary — and so is the degree to which the United States succeeds.

When you compare America’s WEF rankings with those of the 19 other largest countries, it stands second only to Canada, which is lightly populated — and whose infrastructure is linked with ours.

Among the 20 most populous countries, the United States ranks behind France, Germany and Japan, in that order. This would seem to confirm the case for U.S. inferiority in the developed world.

But France and Germany, in addition to being substantially smaller than the United States, are part of the European Union, a borderless single market from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. Sure enough, when you average out the scores of all 27 E.U. nations, the United States beats them by a clear margin.