Daily Management Review

Where the Happiness Lies


04/30/2015


According to World Happiness Report 2015, which revises a number of influential economists, the happiest people live in Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark and Norway. And just only one of these countries is a member of the European Union. Perhaps the Scandinavian countries have some secret unknown to the rest of the world?



Jeffrey Sachs from Columbia University, Richard Layard from the London School of Economics and John Helliwell of British Columbia are working on these reports since 2012. The meaning of their work is to remind to states of the world that the level of success of the country rests not alone in economic growth or any other measures of this kind. Of course, the level of happiness is higher in developed countries, since the people there are more rich and healthy. But this is not the only indicators of well-being. And that’s what the drafters try to catch in the report: they are asking people from different countries to evaluate various aspects of their lives.

Scientists came to the conclusion that there are the six main variables that affect the level of happiness - GDP per capita, social support of the state citizens, life expectancy, freedom of choice, responsiveness of citizens and corruption indicators. Interesting, that social support of citizens and responsiveness are relatively independent of economic development or political system. This explains why the inhabitants of relatively poor countries with underdeveloped democracy can be happier than people in most democratic countries of the West. For example, according to the study, Mexicans are happier than Americans, Brazilians feel better than inhabitants of the rich and free country of Luxembourg, and Venezuelans are satisfied with life more than Singaporeans.

So, countries giving home to a rich, healthy and free people, who help each other in difficult times, are at the top of the podium. We can only assume that Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden are among the ten happiest countries in the world thanks to the Law of Jante, unspoken set of rules formulated by the writer Axel Sandemuse and regulating life in a society that does not recognize the right to individualism. Scandinavians can make fun of these rules, as they exhibit individualism as a crime, but Law of Jante really helps to create an unusually close-knit and friendly community.

The happiest countries - those where people see themselves as an important element in the life of their country. This applies both to Switzerland, which is famous for its direct democracy and a close-knit community, and the Scandinavian countries, which, as Sachs wrote in his chapter of the report, have possibly "the largest social capital in the world." The participation of citizens in public life and deliberative democracy in society help develop mutual trust, which is an important component of social capital. People are more willing to pay taxes, less prone to corruption and extensive system of social protection becomes a usual thing.

Such relationships, however - a complex and delicate system. The happiest countries have a relatively small population. The largest country in terms of population, which is in the top 10 happiest countries - is Canada with a population of 35 million people. The country's participation in major alliances or blocs (such as the EU) does not help build social capital. Moreover, when such unions, some countries are lagging behind on some indicators, their system of trust breaks down, people stop believing the government and each other, and the level of happiness falls lower than would be expected on the basis of economic indicators alone. That's what happened in Greece, which has lost most of the positions in the ranking of happiness in the period from 2005 to 2007. In a similar situation were Italy and Spain.  

One of the conclusions that researchers make, is that the countries of the world should be more concerned about building up its own social system, rather than trying to use someone else's rules that have worked elsewhere. This is a clear review of the views of Jeffrey Sachs and Richard Layard, who advised the Russian government to take ultra-liberal economic policies after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Sachs wrote (referring probably to failed Russian liberal experiment or the economic difficulties faced by Greece after the debt relief): "If the proclaimed legal norms and laws are contrary to the social, and, more importantly, moral norms prevailing in this society, can the laws produce the desired results? They fail to comply simply because it would be impossible to punish all violators. Worse yet, such a discrepancy would undermine the confidence of the citizens to the social and moral norms, what would be a direct threat to social stability.”

source: bloomberg.com






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