Why is Norway so happy?

Nordic countries finish atop the fifth annual World Happiness Report

While Switzerland may be the world’s best country in the eyes of outsiders, the world’s happiest people actually live in Norway according to a UN-commissioned survey.

Rounding out the top ten after Norway is Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, Nethlerlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden, respectively

By contrast, the US took the 14th slot this year and has never placed within the top ten. Even worse, the survey found that the US is actually trending downward, losing half a point out of ten over last year. What might account for this difference? An obvious starting point would have to be a Nordic model that favours egalitarianism and democracy over an American model which favours pursuit of wealth and consumerism. In America, freedom is often defined as freedom-from government, whereas Norway prefers freedom-to government: universal public childcare frees women to keep whatever working schedule they wish, while universal healthcare frees Norwegian businesses from costly health plans for employees. The concept of government-provided freedom is undoubtedly quite alien to any American who did not support Bernie Sanders during last year’s election. But it could be our anathema to these ideas that is driving America’s transition from democracy to oligarchy, under which the principal beneficiaries of American government policy and economy are the super-rich. The Nordic model is based on the assumption that you cannot have democracy without equality and a basic living standard. The American experience is showing that you cannot have happiness without those either.

Image: BBC

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