The United States of America is the 14th happiest country on earth, according to the annual World Happiness Report. Canada is the happiest nation in North America, seven slots ahead of the US. The five happiest countries on earth, as per usual with the annual survey, use the “social democracy” or “Nordic way” of government – the model Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders recommended for America in his upstart, almost-successful campaign for president.
The five happiest countries according to the yearly survey from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network were: Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, and Finland.
Each of these countries have slightly different variations on democracy. Norway and Denmark have monarchies that works with an elected legislature. Switzerland and Finland elect a legislature that elects an executive branch. Iceland elects a president and a legislature much like the US. But while their bones are different their souls are similar. Here’s how Investopedia defines the “Nordic model” of governance:
“The Nordic model is a term coined to capture the unique combination of free market capitalism and social benefits that have given rise to a society that enjoys a host of top-quality services, including free education and free healthcare, as well as generous, guaranteed pension payments for retirees. These benefits are funded by taxpayers and administered by the government for the benefit of all citizens. The citizens have a high degree of trust in their government and a history of working together to reach compromises and address societal challenges through democratic processes. Their policy makers have chosen a mixed economic system that reduces the gap between the rich and the poor through redistributive taxation and a robust public sector while preserving the benefits of capitalism.”
I’d argue that both Republicans and Democrats, to varying degrees, have been moving away from this model since Ronald Reagan was president. Republicans favor a far smaller public sector than do Nordic countries, with private industry picking up the slack for social welfare. Democrats have largely tried to compromise with Republicans on this idea.
An example would be healthcare. The Nordic model is that healthcare is a right provided for free by the government. The US healthcare system requires people to purchase insurance from companies. This was a Republican idea until it was adopted by Democrats, and currently Republicans are trying to repeal this and replace it with an even more business-friendly alternative.
The report said the United States has become less happy, even as we have grown more wealthy.
“The central paradox of the modern American economy, as identified by Richard Easterlin (1964, 2016), is this: income per person has increased roughly three times since 1960, but measured happiness has not risen. The situation has gotten worse in recent years: per capita GDP is still rising, but happiness is now actually falling.
It was critical of American reliance on economic growth as a tool to improve society, a strategy seen as sacrosanct to Republicans as well as many Democrats. Certainly it’s the prevailing political gospel from Governor Gina Raimondo and House Speaker Nick Mattiello, both Democrats.
“The predominant political discourse in the United States is aimed at raising economic growth, with the goal of restoring the American Dream and the happiness that is supposed to accompany it. But the data show conclusively that this is the wrong approach. The United States can and should raise happiness by addressing America’s multi-faceted social crisis—rising inequality, corruption, isolation, and distrust—rather than focusing exclusively or even mainly on economic growth, especially since the concrete proposals along these lines would exacerbate rather than ameliorate the deepening social crisis.”