Monday, May 11, 2009

Happiest Place On Earth

A while back I wrote about the possible implications of the economic meltdown, wondering aloud whether it could lead to a reordering of priorities. Implying that those countries whose economies were more "socialistic" (that oft-used and frequently misconstrued buzzword) than ours might actually be happier, I suggested it wasn't so bad. My gosh, I might have been right.

According to a new report released by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), a Paris-based group of 30 countries with democratic governments that provides economic and social statistics and data, happiness levels are highest in northern European countries.
First was Finland, then Denmark, then the Netherlands. Among many interesting statements:

Overall economic health played a powerful role, says Simon Chapple, senior economist from the Social Policy Division of the OECD, which put together the report.

While the global economic crisis has taken a toll on every nation, the countries that scored at the top still boast some of the highest gross domestic product per capita in the world. Denmark, which got the highest score, is not only a wealthy country, it's also highly productive, with a 2009 GDP per capita of $68,000, according to the International Monetary Fund. The United States' GDP per capita, by contrast, is $47,335. Though the U.S. got an above-average score of 74, it did not break the top 10.
So much for the idea that having social programs such as health care, education, and retirement covered by the government leads to low productivity, or a bunch of zombies. Likewise:

Wealth alone does not bring the greatest degree of happiness. Norway has the highest GDP per capita on the list--$98,822--yet it ranked ninth, not first. On the other hand, New Zealand's happiness level is 76.7 out of 100 on the OECD list, but its 2009 GDP per capita is just $30,556.
I think a single such study can't be considered definitive. Yet it's in concordance with what seems intuitively obvious: in the US we've lost sight of what's important. Ironically, it's the party of so-called family values and of a self-proclaimed higher level of godliness that seems to be the one fomenting the most divisiveness, the most fear, the most reactionary response to those things that in fact seem to make for happy families. Strange, isn't it?


  1. You're not gonna like this Sid...and y'all can blame it on my Dad...
    There's another reason the people in those Scandinavian countries are so happy... Same reason such diverse States as Utah, North Dakota, Vermont, and New Hampshire also have a High Happy Quotient..
    On the other hand, what makes people in such hell holes as Darfur, Somalia, Mississippi, and Alabama so sucidally Miserable???

    Ha Ha, just kidding, I know plenty of happy people in Alabama, and a former classmate of mine killed himself in New Hampshire, something about how that "Live Free or Die" was a bunch of S***

    So how many of these 30 Countries "With Democratic Governments" are on the list of great places to live??

    Did they have "Journal Clubs" back when you trained??? This Reports got more holes than Augusta National...


  2. bang, you nailed it, sid.

    i think this trend of happiness in the northern 'socialistic' countries has been documented before. what it is interesting is that there is probably an attenuation of happiness up there because they are northern countries with real winters [similar to my country of canada]. no doubt there are many who struggle with SAD, which makes it all the more impressive.

    frank, you didn't nail it. in fact, i can't even tell what your point is, so i suspect you merely hit your thumb with your SRW-hammer.

  3. First of all...
    The President of the OECD, hails from MEXICO... ever been there??? "Happy" doesn't really fit...
    Surprising that all the top rated countries have an extremely high "Hot Blonds/Black People" Ratio, sorry if that sounds racist, the truth hurts.

    Holland's not really so great once you've done the Hash Bars...


  4. Frank, I did say one study isn't enough. And, believe it or not, the lack of ethnic diversity explanation occurred to me too, even before you brought it up. Ours is a much more complex society. On the other hand, there's Japan: a very mono-ethnic society, democratic, and pretty prosperous. Also not on the list. I think the main point is that it'd be harder to reorder priorities in a hyperpluralistic society like ours. But it doesn't refute the central idea, namely that were we to spend a little more money on certain social programs, maybe at the expense of your six-speed car and mine (well, ours are so old who'd want them?) or the untrammeled pursuit of 60 inch LED flat screens with Boze home theater and maybe I'd settle for regular Bombay instead of Sapphire, we might be better off and happier. Some people, of course, will never be happy unless there are hoses leaking nearby. Not that there's anything wrong with that.


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