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  • Robert Farago

The Key to Happiness...

Is in Finland?

“For six years in a row, Finland has ranked No. 1 as the happiest country in the world,” reports. Finland? A country where summer lasts, at most, three months? Where winter blesses Helsinki with just six hours of feeble sunlight? If nothing else, seasonally adjusted depression should keep the five million Finns from rocking the happiness chart. Here it is…

The World Happiness Report (WHR) is a United Nations deal, subsidized in part by $12.5 billion of your hard-earned tax dollars. But hey, our Founding Fathers told their British overlords that the “pursuit of happiness” is an inalienable right. A goal to which we should aspire, along with the U.N. In March.

It has been over ten years since the first World Happiness Report was published. And it is exactly ten years since the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/281, proclaiming 20 March to be observed annually as International Day of Happiness. Since then, more and more people have come to believe that our success as countries should be judged by the happiness of our people. There is also a growing consensus about how happiness should be measured. This consensus means that national happiness can now become an operational objective for governments.

H-h-h-h-hold it! Call me Fergilicious deaf, but I’m not so sure there’s a consensus about how to measure happiness outside the hallowed halls of the ironically-named United Nations. Isn’t happiness a warm gun?

Apparently not. The seven eggheads who prepared the 166 page report measured happiness on six factors: GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, perception of corruption, dystopia (“an imaginary country that has the world’s least-happy people”).

So simply asking a statistically valid sample of various countries’ population “how happy are you?” is out. Of course it is!

Such subjective measures should, of course, be complemented by the continued collection of various kinds of objective measures, such as measures of deprivation (hunger, destitution, lack of housing), physical and mental health status, civil rights and personal freedoms, measures of values held within the society, and indicators of social trust and social capital.

In short, the authors combine the results of a Gallup poll – whose questions are absent from the report – with a pre-conceived notion of what a society should look like, with a heavy emphasis on government. For example, “The Nordic countries all have high ranks for both happiness and equality.”

Equality equals happiness! Who knew? I’m mean, OK, sure. But…

If I was to point out that a large part of the Nordic countries’ position at the front of the U.N. happiness hit parade is down to the fact they all have a small, homogeneous population, that would be racist. So I’ll toss it to Dr. Martela, a Finnish philosopher/psychologist riffing on the redolent report for

Having lived here my entire life, I’ve learned that finding meaning in life boils down to five words: Make yourself meaningful to others.  You can do this by opening yourself up to deep connections with both your community and your passions.

In short, if you don’t want to be a sad, miserable fuck, don’t chase the American dream of owning a house with a white picket fence or a Mercedes AMG GTC. Swap materialism for altruism and let a smile be your umbrella. Oh and socialism, please.

America’s system of government was based on the idea that the pursuit of happiness comes after life and liberty. And then it’s up to us to define and pursue happiness. Without government intervention.

The fact that the U.S. made it to the top 15 of the WHR with our racially diverse, violent, politically bifurcated society tells me they weren’t wrong. And that makes me happy.

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