The 2017 World Happiness Report is out! And according to a UN project, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Norway is Earth’s happiest nation.
Unfortunately, the World Happiness Report is a joke.
For one, a quick look at SDSN’s donor base reveals funding from the Norwegian foreign ministry. Perhaps then, the SDSN is not as objectively impartial as one might desire?
Second, the report is entirely liberal in its structural biases. In awarding first place to Norway, it praises the Scandinavian nation for integration, social cooperation, and effective government. It also, amusingly, pretends that Norway’s vast sovereign oil wealth fund has little to do with the nation’s success. I say “amusing” because if America had hundreds of billions of dollars in the bank that would make me happy. But perhaps more importantly, the report also ignores the rising political power of Norwegian anti-immigration sentiments. And as Anders Breivik’s life attests, Norway is not the happy utopia some claim it to be.
Of course, happiness is a subjective construct in and of itself. While Norwegians apparently enjoy paying high taxes and comparatively high prices for goods and services, I very much doubt most Americans would feel the same way. Americans pride ourselves on individual aspirations within our particular communities. In socialist nations, however, the individual is taught to serve the liberal government first. Again, the authors seem to like this. But I suspect most Americans would not. There’s also the issue of expectation here. Namely, the question of whether we believe we could be happier or whether we accept that we are happy enough. Again, in America’s consumer driven economy, we are always propelled to demand and expect more. Conversely, in socialist nations like Norway, the expectation is capped by socialist indoctrination.
Nevertheless, the authors implicitly accept that happiness is best served by socialism. In doing so, they forget socialism’s key failure: its inherent limitation on enterprising creativity. Think I’m wrong? Then tell me how many major technological, medical, or consumer goods advances have been developed in socialist nations. The answer is not many. In America, the opposite is true. Why? Because we reward risk-taking by the profit model.
Yet this disagreement with capitalism speaks to a broader problem with the report. It hints at anti-American attitudes. In their brief on how the U.S. can become happier, for example, the authors’ first demand is that Americans overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United campaign finance decision. They also call for tax increases and complain about a perceived U.S. government decision to ‘‘stoke fear’’ rather than unity after 9/11. Personally, I doubt many Americans would see these changes leading to improvements in their state of happiness. And although the left wails about Citizens United as some kind of kleptocratic theft of freedom, it simply defends free speech.
Capping off the humor, in their rather extraordinary conclusion, the authors argue that Americans need ‘‘an expanded social safety net, wealth taxes, and greater public financing of health and education.’’ They add that ‘‘Canada has demonstrated a considerable success with multiculturalism; the United States has not tried very hard.’’ Aside from the idiocy of using ‘‘has not tried very hard’’ in a supposedly serious report, it speaks to the report’s willful delusion. After all, America’s success as the world’s sole superpower proves that we are manifestly the most successfully integrated nation on Earth: we’re all immigrants!
Normally a report such as this would be pushed aside and ignored for what it is: liberal drivel. Sadly, though, the report is gaining traction from mainstream media outlets. They see it as an opportunity to criticize conservatism in an era where it is growing stronger around the world. But readers should be careful taking this report at face value. In basic analytical terms, it is fundamentally unserious.