How does one measure happiness? I would say it can not be measured. Happiness is an emotion that people feel from time to time. But that doesn’t stop the UN from producing an index of happiest countries. One, I believe is called UNI. Hugo Chavez is always touting it because it shows the people of Venezuela and Cuba as being among the happiest people anywhere. The UN has another program which ranks Iceland at the top of its list: United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Index rankings, meaning that as a society and as an economy – in terms of wealth, health and education – they are champions of the world.
Back in May of 2008, John Carlin wrote a lengthy report on Iceland for The Guardian. He starts his report with this rather alarming information about Iceland.
Highest birth rate in Europe + highest divorce rate + highest percentage of women working outside the home = the best country in the world in which to live. There has to be something wrong with this equation. Put those three factors together – loads of children, broken homes, absent mothers – and what you have, surely, is a recipe for misery and social chaos…. are Icelanders happy? Actually, in so far as one can reliably measure such things, they are. According to a seemingly serious academic study reported in the Guardian in 2006, Icelanders are the happiest people on earth. (The study was lent some credibility by the finding that the Russians were the most unhappy.)
The report is quite long but also quite interesting. In spite of the very high divorce rate, Icelanders have a very keen sense of family. When a child has a birthday, all the parents and all the grandparents and all the aunts and uncles come to celebrate. The education of their children is an extremely high priority. It is interesting that the author noted the rapidly growing banking industry in Iceland. This report is dated may 18, 2008. This is several months before the financial crisis that rocked the world. The banks of Iceland were in deep trouble. But, apparently Iceland’s government has much more common sense than the governments of the US, Europe, and the UK. Iceland did not bailout their banks and as a result they have recovered from the crisis very well.
The author offers several opinions on why Iceland is such a successful culture. I will offer my own opinions. First, I think that Iceland is a very uniform culture. By that I mean it is not diverse. Probably 95% of the people in Iceland are Icelanders whose families can be traced back many generations. Secondly, their relative isolation from the rest of the world forces them to be very self-reliant. And, thirdly, their severe and unpredictable weather has also made caused them to be very imaginative in seeking out ways to prosper.
American progressive/socialist love to point to Norway as their ideal of a socialist state that America should strive to be like. A couple of weeks ago, Randel Hoven of American Thinker wrote The Norwegian ‘Miracle’:
Liberals love Norway (for example, see this). First, it is a European country. Second, it is a liberal country; it gives out the Nobel Peace Prize. Third, it is considered a welfare state, maybe even a socialist one. In 2011 its tax revenues were 57% of its GDP, the highest of all advanced economies.
And fourth, and what liberals really love about it, it beats the U.S. in multiple economic categories. In fact, Norway is one of the richest countries around. Its GDP per capita was 10% more than the U.S.’s in 2011. Its net government debt was a negative 168% of GDP. That is, it is one of the few countries with no net debt at all, but instead a huge surplus.
Hoven waste no time in attack the utopic view American liberals have of Norway:
Let me bring that down to earth. First, Norway’s population is about 4.7 million, or about the same South Carolina’s, or a bit more than half of New York City’s. That population is at least 98% white, and almost all of that is Norwegian. It is also about 90% Christian. About four out of five Norwegians live in cities, with almost one in five living in Oslo itself.
Norway might be liberal, but it is not diverse. (The U.S., for comparison, is 80% white and 70% Christian. So whites outnumber minorities 4-to-1 in the U.S. In Norway, the ratio is 50-to-1.)
Similar to the argument I was making about Iceland except Icelanders consider themselves a pagan country mot a Christian country.
Hoven goes on to point out that Norway’s success over recent decades coincides with an explosion of North Sea oil production and an explosion in oil prices. While Saudi Arabia produces about 125 barrels per year per person, Norway for the last ten years has been producing between 135 and 250 barrels per year per person. In 2011, Norway’s oil receipts were $13,500 per man, woman, and child. What our liberals don’t talk about is that Norway has a “Drill Baby Drill” philosophy. They are not interested in “green energy” and they have shown no interest in reducing their “carbon footprint”. And, guess what? Norway does not have a progressive tax policy:
One more little tidbit: Norway’s tax system is regressive, not progressive. The top 10% make 28.9% of the income but pay only 27.4% of taxes! The U.S. has the most progressive tax structure of advanced economies, in which the top 10% make 33.5% of the income but pay 45.1% of the taxes.
And, here is Mr. Hoven’s summary of why Norway works::
- A tiny, non-diverse, predominantly white and Christian population.
- Drilling in its ocean for oil to become one of the biggest oil exporters on the planet, and the biggest by far on a per capita basis, all during a time when oil prices quintupled.
- Letting its carbon footprint grow at one of the fastest paces in Europe, a pace almost five times faster than the U.S.’s.
- Shrinking its government spending, the equivalent to the U.S. federal government cutting its spending in half over 16 years. Shrinking its government spending to about the level of the U.S.’s, and smaller than most of Europe’s.
- A tax system that is flatter than flat; it is regressive — the rich pay less than the non-rich.
So, it does seem that semi-socialist policies can work in small non.diverse cultures. It is not working in Europe and it will not work in America. It is pathetic that the American left can not or will not see what should be obvious.
Well, that’s what I’m thinking. What are your thoughts?