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The Happiest Countries in the World: Where Does America Rank?

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There was a time when the words America and happy were almost synonymous. My, how quickly things can change and not for the better. But, then again, does that even matter? Well, in fact, it matters a lot because when the people of a country are happy, when they feel good about their lot in life and the society in which they live, they are much more productive, and their country benefits greatly as a result.

A study was recently conducted by the OECD, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, an international economic organization comprised of 34 countries, founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade. It is a forum of countries committed to promote democracy and the market economy.

The study measured the overall well-being of people in 36 major countries of the world (the original 34 plus Russia and Brazil) based on 11 key measurement factors: housing, income, jobs, community, education, environment, civic engagement, health, life satisfaction, safety and work-life balance.

The main point of the Better Life Index, as the article states is: "There's been a lot of debate lately on measuring the well-being of societies -- is wealth all that matters, or should we be looking at other things, like the balance between work and the rest of our lives? The Index aims to involve citizens in this debate, and to empower them to become more informed and engaged in the policy-making process that shapes all our lives."

This is an annual study and the results always seem to be about the same. Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland always seem to be ranked at or near the top of the list. What is it about these Scandinavian countries that make their people so happy and content? What's their formula for success?

Well let's analyze this situation and try to come up with a meaningful answer to that question? What makes these nations so different, why do they stand out above the rest of these other countries? Well, right off we might say that these are all very peaceful countries that use the wealth and resources that they possess for positive, constructive endeavors that benefit all the people that live within their borders.

So now let's expand on that thought and list some of the more important policies, actions and endeavors of these countries that make them unique and different.

When we look at the countries that rate the highest, we see that education is a top priority in all of them. Many of these countries, notably Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, France and Germany, provide some form of free higher education for students entering college, vocational, or technical schools. When studies of academic excellence are done these are the countries that are consistently ranked at the top. As this study indicates, the U.S. lags behind as it is rated the 21st nation out of the 36. That should be very disturbing to the America people, and it may be difficult to accept, but it's reality.

One thing is for certain; none of the high achieving countries weigh down their students with monumental student debt as is the case in America; and their governments do not generate billions of profits from the interest earned on these loans such as the U.S. government does.

These top rated countries most certainly have to deal with some degree of societal violence but they have generally low crime rates; it's not a significant problem. Their prisons are not overflowing. These countries do not allow the unrestricted proliferation of guns and other weaponry in their societies. They do not have "Stand Your Ground" and "Concealed Carry" laws that have become prevalent, in one form or another, in every state of America. None of these countries has capital punishment because it's against their principles of morality.

Let's talk about jobs. In my view there is nothing more important for a citizen of a country than to have than the opportunity to be employed, to be productive, and not be dependent upon their government for assistance. One very significant conclusion of this study was that "while jobs provide financial security they also affect a person's mental well-being." That "when people lose jobs they don't just lose a salary, they really lose out on their ability to be connected to society." Hello! Is America, the business sector and the U.S. government listening?

Health care that covers all the people of a society to the same degree is present in one form or another in every one of these advanced nations. They provide health care for all of their citizens; no one is excluded. These systems, in most cases, are exemplary; their costs are far lower than those in the U.S., mainly because their laws exclude profit-making insurance companies from any involvement.

Inequality of income and wealth is a universal problem that is present in almost all of the countries in the world, to one extent or another. While the U.S. has the highest per-capita income in the world its inequality is far greater than all the other countries with the exception of Turkey, Mexico and Chile. To have the highest income and one of the worst cases of inequality is a clear indication that there is a tremendous imbalance in America between the rich and all other Americans; an imbalance that will eventually bring down capitalism in the U.S.

Life satisfaction is a very important measurement of how people evaluate their own well being. It involves their state of health, their ability to perform a job, education, and housing among other factors. In this category America does not do well. Life satisfaction in the U.S. which was ranked 14th in the world in last year's report dropped to 17th in 2014; we're going in the wrong direction as is evident for anyone who is aware of what is happening in this country.

Voting is an important function in all these high-ranking countries, all of which have some form of democracy. We know that the voter turnout in America is abysmal and continues to worsen; the typical turnout for national presidential elections is typically no more than 55%. And it's far, far worse in the general congressional elections. So while the people of America have a Constitutional right to vote, millions refuse to exercise that right. What does this study indicate about how people in other countries exercise their voting rights?

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Michael Payne is an independent progressive activist. His writings deal with social, economic, political and foreign policy issues; and especially with the great dangers involved with the proliferation of perpetual war, the associated defense (more...)
 

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Great article. If I ran for public office I would ... by Nelson Betancourt on Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 1:01:13 PM
Appreciate your comment about using these factors ... by michael payne on Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 2:07:19 PM
As you go on to say, our leaders are perfectly cog... by Deena Stryker on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 3:14:49 PM
Deena: Deena: Here's my take on your statement... by michael payne on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 6:34:30 PM
Possibly, IF the public also took direct control o... by Jill Herendeen on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 5:59:51 AM
What does happiness entail? A recent article by Ch... by Pal Palsimon on Monday, May 26, 2014 at 3:56:15 PM
An excellent quote by one of my greatest heroes al... by michael payne on Monday, May 26, 2014 at 4:43:43 PM
Thanks Paul. This is a wonderful article and it su... by Pal Palsimon on Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 3:43:56 PM
And thank you Pal: One thing, though; how come you... by michael payne on Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 4:20:10 PM
Well I post it on all the blogs, then I post it se... by Pal Palsimon on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 1:51:43 AM
Thanks, Michael, great article! ... by Meryl Ann Butler on Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 8:30:42 PM
But who are the citizens of these happiest countri... by Simon Leigh on Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 8:51:14 PM
Student loans in America seem minor? Well, they no... by michael payne on Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 9:01:00 PM
I think that if America had made all the land in t... by Pal Palsimon on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 11:22:24 AM
Once upon a time most miserable king sought happyn... by David Chester on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 5:17:17 AM
"Perhaps America will one day use some of these e... by John Rachel on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 6:29:34 AM
A "jump" from happy to well-being, not right.How d... by BFalcon on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 6:45:59 AM
BF Falcon: please expand on this: "A "jump" from h... by michael payne on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 3:17:49 PM
To clarify:The title is "The Happiest Countries i... by BFalcon on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 6:35:03 PM
BF Falcon: I think we're getting into a discussion... by michael payne on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 8:08:59 PM
I respectfully fully disagree.Semantically it may ... by BFalcon on Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 8:12:09 AM
To BF Falcon: I enjoy these exchanges; they are in... by michael payne on Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 10:15:05 AM
Thanks,I do believe that the insights of different... by BFalcon on Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 7:57:27 AM
While many people could be happy even living in a ... by Pal Palsimon on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 6:25:29 AM
Well, one may feel threatened by the fear of losin... by BFalcon on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 1:50:09 PM
We are not talking here about normal kinds of thre... by Pal Palsimon on Friday, May 23, 2014 at 7:07:27 AM
I am. I do agree that this is an unusual threat an... by BFalcon on Friday, May 23, 2014 at 8:40:45 AM
And I hope you are right. Absolute job security,... by Pal Palsimon on Friday, May 23, 2014 at 9:41:51 AM
My remark about compulsory voting is actually "cl... by BFalcon on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 6:45:40 PM
I really do think there should be a qualifications... by Pal Palsimon on Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 1:50:34 AM
A thing that puzzles me a lot is that "public tele... by BFalcon on Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 8:20:36 AM
To tell the truth, I also have been thinking of ju... by Pal Palsimon on Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 10:52:27 AM
Pal: What you and others need to think about more ... by michael payne on Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 11:28:19 AM
It is the nomination process that is important. Th... by Pal Palsimon on Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 3:48:39 AM
Read it, not all.Basically, it gives the case for ... by BFalcon on Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 9:09:32 AM
If you don't vote your conscience, are you really ... by Pal Palsimon on Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 10:06:55 AM
Disagree, only LGBT and people who support them ca... by BFalcon on Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 10:19:32 AM
If we had all voted for Ralph Nader, we would have... by Pal Palsimon on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 3:12:55 AM
Do you really think Nader is good? And who are "w... by BFalcon on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 4:15:00 AM
Fully agree, very important. ... by BFalcon on Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 8:57:49 AM
Regarding voting:Michael, I think we need to honor... by Meryl Ann Butler on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 8:49:26 PM
I made that comment about compulsory voting kind o... by michael payne on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 9:20:46 PM
Meryl and Michael,abstaining is a vote too, a vote... by BFalcon on Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 8:23:20 AM
I know exactly what you mean when you say about vo... by michael payne on Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 10:27:19 AM
I believe that you were right.Voting is not about ... by BFalcon on Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 8:12:44 AM
Well when I know both those choices take us in the... by Pal Palsimon on Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 10:27:49 AM
You are not on the wrong blog, you discuss with th... by BFalcon on Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 11:16:03 AM
Yes you are right, but it is grey area for me. Som... by Meryl Ann Butler on Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 9:18:53 AM
Yes, better choice in the future is important. ... by BFalcon on Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 10:21:04 AM
Meryl Ann: talk about a conflict over the lesser o... by michael payne on Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 11:48:22 AM
Sen Elizabeth Warren is "our candidate" and I beli... by BFalcon on Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 1:40:22 PM
What! A rational realist projecting a double-dream... by Robert S. Becker on Monday, May 19, 2014 at 10:48:34 AM
That's a VERY good question, Michael and omg, I ho... by Meryl Ann Butler on Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 9:43:12 PM
We have leaders in this country who are not only "... by Pal Palsimon on Monday, May 19, 2014 at 2:28:54 AM
Of course it is, you are right.However, sometimes ... by BFalcon on Monday, May 19, 2014 at 4:55:34 AM
Okay. You choose your poison. Not me. ... by Pal Palsimon on Monday, May 19, 2014 at 12:21:14 PM
Meryl Ann, Here are some great thoughts about voti... by Pal Palsimon on Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 1:36:49 AM
Thanks, Pal, I just took a quick peek at this, and... by Meryl Ann Butler on Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 9:20:19 AM
Meryl - I made a vow never again to vote for a Dem... by Pal Palsimon on Monday, May 19, 2014 at 1:39:00 AM
"the same mistake over and over, well, that's pure... by BFalcon on Monday, May 19, 2014 at 4:58:17 AM
Yeah. Democrats are the "good cops," and Republic... by Pal Palsimon on Monday, May 19, 2014 at 12:15:27 PM
If you don't see the difference between McConnell ... by BFalcon on Monday, May 19, 2014 at 2:37:16 PM
Ooops. I accidentally gave you a thumbs up on that... by Pal Palsimon on Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 5:56:23 AM
Again,while you wait for your Savior, I will vote ... by BFalcon on Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 8:49:54 AM
Pal: Please tell me that you are not one of those ... by michael payne on Monday, May 19, 2014 at 6:31:52 PM
The Republicans and Democrats are exactly the same... by Pal Palsimon on Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 4:03:42 AM
"The only difference are shades of difference (bu... by michael payne on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 11:10:11 AM
I have been a thoughtful student of politics for ... by Pal Palsimon on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 3:19:10 AM
I disagree with some other things but will focus o... by BFalcon on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 1:46:11 PM
This link shows some of my many, many allies.And t... by Pal Palsimon on Friday, May 23, 2014 at 6:45:18 AM
Sure, Cenk Uygur and Wolf-PAC are fine but I rathe... by BFalcon on Friday, May 23, 2014 at 8:49:50 AM
I am their ally because they are starting a proces... by Pal Palsimon on Friday, May 23, 2014 at 9:28:27 AM
Capitalism has no real prospect of dying since mon... by BFalcon on Friday, May 23, 2014 at 10:28:43 AM
Yes, is there anything more tiresome than ideologi... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, May 23, 2014 at 12:05:28 PM
Well, I listened to Sen Warren quite a few times a... by BFalcon on Friday, May 23, 2014 at 8:19:10 PM
from a blogger at RSN:+63# bmiluski 2014-05-22 07:... by Robert S. Becker on Saturday, May 24, 2014 at 12:31:55 PM
It's a GREAT article, thanks! ... by Meryl Ann Butler on Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 10:38:03 PM
Yes. I agree it is a great article. I hope people ... by Pal Palsimon on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 3:09:58 AM
I'd say that a person who was poorly educated or ... by Leonard Allan on Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 4:13:54 PM
An excellent article, but with nan important omis... by Neal Herrick on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 8:38:09 AM
Hey Neal:I have to confess; I didn't even think of... by michael payne on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 2:32:40 PM
Absolutely correct about need for unions and more ... by Pal Palsimon on Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 1:53:15 AM
Here are the arguments for worker coops by Richard... by Pal Palsimon on Monday, May 19, 2014 at 2:36:39 AM
I personally believe that this is the Last Century... by Linda Laurin on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 10:00:14 AM
I totally agree with you; this military empire is ... by michael payne on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 2:35:13 PM
No question that we are headed in the wrong direct... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 3:52:31 PM
Robert: when I look up the definitions and synonym... by michael payne on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 7:00:56 PM
My point wasn't to challenge your point only to su... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 8:45:51 PM
There was a time when the words America and happy ... by Vik Bat on Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 2:55:09 AM
Changing the intellectualism of this discourse, an... by Pal Palsimon on Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 3:10:35 AM
rticle: The Happiest Countries in the World: Where... by Pal Palsimon on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 5:35:35 AM
The main problem is that the author of this articl... by Pal Palsimon on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 3:51:15 AM
Pal: while you and I agree on most issues that's c... by michael payne on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 11:48:47 AM
First thing, you are right. I have more respect fo... by Pal Palsimon on Friday, May 23, 2014 at 6:57:08 AM
Let me clear the air a bit. When we disagree, I ha... by michael payne on Friday, May 23, 2014 at 10:20:51 AM
THE LONG, LONG-AWAITED ANSWER to your questions, w... by Pal Palsimon on Friday, May 23, 2014 at 2:50:58 PM
You are to be congratulated Pal for you are the fi... by michael payne on Friday, May 23, 2014 at 5:23:37 PM
My short answer really was sufficient, but perhaps... by Pal Palsimon on Saturday, May 24, 2014 at 5:28:56 AM
Privatization Is the Problem, Not the Solution... by Pal Palsimon on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 3:58:14 AM
Have Republicans OR Democrats done anything to cha... by Pal Palsimon on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 4:24:51 AM
Democrats and Republicans sell Justice to the rich... by Pal Palsimon on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 5:15:25 AM
If there were more charity in this country, there ... by Pal Palsimon on Friday, May 23, 2014 at 7:25:04 AM