Norwegians Are the Happiest People on Earth

With apparently nothing more challenging to do with its time, the UN, since 2012, has been publishing an annual list of the happiest countries in the world. The document is cheerfully titled, “The World’s Happiness Report.” Not surprisingly, its 2017 findings place Norway at the head of the pack, followed closely by last year’s winner, Denmark.

Although such lists are always going to be accused of being grossly subjective or unfairly skewed, the six broad categories in which citizens of 154 countries were asked to assess themselves are: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, income, and good governance.

The 2017 top ten countries, all bunched closely together, are: Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, and (tied) Australia and Sweden. The U.S. is ranked #14, which, given that Donald Trump is president, and Betty DeVos is Secretary of Education, seems outlandishly high.

When the first list appeared, in 2012 (with the Top Ten being uncomfortably similar to the 2017 list) some social critics voiced their objections. They claimed that the list was not only fundamentally flawed, but “classist.” Other observers, struck by the fact that these countries were inhabited overwhelmingly by white people, accused it of being blatantly “racist.” (“Yea! Let’s hear it for White People!”)

While the case can be made that societies which are demographically homogeneous are going to have certain, undeniable advantages over ones that are wildly heterogeneous (i.e. with less conflict, less confusion, less oppression, fewer resentments, etc.), the key characteristic reflected in this UN list is neither ethnicity nor class. It ain’t race and it ain’t elitism.

The one feature these countries all have in common—indeed, the feature that, arguably, contributes most to defining and explaining them—is their embrace of a quasi-socialist approach to life. [Fun fact: They also aren’t plagued by the world’s most extravagantly inflated military budget.]

Difficult as it may be for Free Market fundamentalists and Ayn Rand worshippers to admit, these “successful” countries are the product of a profound sense of collectivism. The simple-minded notion of “Every man for himself” is alien to them. In truth, various levels of high taxes, national health care, universal education (including college), and free services have all combined to make them “happy.” What’s not to like?

Take the notion of a free college education, for example. Instead of seeing college attendance as a “privilege,” Scandinavia tends to view government subsidization not as a “burden” but as an “investment.” After all, which scenario, in principle, makes more sense in a democracy: one where the voting public is educated, or one where it isn’t?

If we all lived in a monarchy, no one would care. An educated electorate wouldn’t matter. We might still gather at the donut shop and complain about potholes in the street, and the high cost of cable TV, but our opinions would be irrelevant.

These opinions wouldn’t even count as “background noise” because ultimately it would be the King or Queen who decides everything. But because in our political system opinions do matter, voters need to be educated. Accordingly, an enlightened government is going to acknowledge that, and act upon it.

Some Christians like to say that if Jesus Christ were to return, he would be a Socialist. They insist there is no way he would tolerate a “winner take all” format, where some people live in mansions, and others eat out of dumpsters. They’re probably right. But the “non-religious” among don’t have to turn to Jesus. All we need do is look at Norway.

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us
Nomi Prins 
Jared Kushner, RIP: a Political Obituary for the President’s Son-in-Law
Georgina Downs
The Double Standards and Hypocrisy of the UK Government Over the ‘Nerve Agent’ Spy Poisoning
Dean Baker
Trump and the Federal Reserve
Colin Todhunter
The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
US Empire on Decline
Ralph Nader
Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day
Robert Dodge
Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by Divesting from Them
Laura Finley
Shame on You, Katy Perry
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It