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Opening Arguments

Had your happy pill?

Don't worry, be happy! According to the first United Nations' World Happiness Report from the Earth Institute at Columbia University:

The happiest countries in the world are all in Northern Europe (Denmark, Norway, Finland, Netherlands). Their average life evaluation score is 7.6 on a 0-to-10 scale. The least happy countries are all poor countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (Togo, Benin, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone) with average life evaluation scores of 3.4. But it is not just wealth that makes people happy: Political freedom, strong social networks and an absence of corruption are together more important than income in explaining well-being differences between the top and bottom countries.

Ronald Bailey at Reason magazine responds: "The report claims that 'just wealth' is not enough to make people happy, citing political freedom, strong social networks, and lack of corruption as prerequisites for happiness. Of course, those same three items are also precisely the prerequisites for the kind of sustained economic growth that produces, well, you know, wealth."

The United States comes in at No. 11 among 156 countries. I suppose that's not bad, but it's also  meaningless. An essential guarantee of this country's founding, right up there with life and liberty, is the pursuit of happiness. As Robert Samuelson notes: "But the achievement of happiness is not an entitlement. The happiness movement is at best utopian; at worst, it's silly and oppressive."


Mon, 04/16/2012 - 12:12pm

The happy countries listed are also highly socialist, at least by the standards of American political dialogue. They also rank near the bottom in terms of religious belief. In addition, they all are very cold. Actually, you can argue just about anything from these statistics with no assurance that correlation equals causation. Personally, I think it's cuckoo clocks per capita.

Harl Delos
Mon, 04/16/2012 - 5:49pm

Personally, I think it's the climate, and a lack of electric blankets.

It's hard to be unhappy when your marriage is great, and hard to be happy in a miserable marriage - and snuggling every night reminds a couple what's important.