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June 6, 2011 10:21 AM   Subscribe

Denmark is the happiest place on Earth! At least according to 24/7 Wall Street, which has released their list of the 10 "Happiest" Countries in the World. Determined using "11 measurements of quality of life including housing, income, jobs, community, education, the environment, health, work-life balance, and life satisfaction," the United States did not make the cut. The US, however, made it to #1 on the list of the 10 Countries with the Most Millionaires.

10 Happiest Countries

10. Austria
9. Israel
8. Finland
7. Switzerland
6. Sweden
5. The Netherlands
4. Australia
3. Norway
2. Canada
1. Denmark

10 Countries with the Most Millionaires

10. Hong Kong
9. France
8. Italy
7. Taiwan
6. Switzerland
5. Germany
4. United Kingdom
3. China
2. Japan
1. United States
posted by eunoia (98 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Not too much overlap on those two lists, hmm.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:25 AM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Economic equality buys happiness.
posted by DU at 10:27 AM on June 6, 2011 [10 favorites]




North Korea recently issued their own "Happiness index" with China at #1 (!), North Korea at #2, Cuba at #3, Iran #4, and the US at dead last (203).

Regarding the OP: I think I'd be much happier in Denmark. The US is a complete nightmare, they don't take care of their own people at all.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:28 AM on June 6, 2011


Noticeably, almost all of the happy countries have small, ethnically homogenous populations, though Canada is an interesting outlier on that front.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:29 AM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I always get the impression these lists are made because actually quantifiable metrics would result in the same lists year after year and it would get boring.
posted by eeeeeez at 10:30 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


But wait, according to Worthington's law, more money = better than. So clearly this must be mistaken, the US is number one!
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:31 AM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


24/7 Wall St. also looked at one critical factor that the OECD study overlooked — economic stability. Our measure of this was total national debt as a percent of GDP.

I often wake up in the morning and dream about how grand life would be if only the national debt was lower. We would dance all day and make love all night.
posted by Winnemac at 10:32 AM on June 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Well, all happy and swell in Denmark, unless you belong to a minority group.
posted by ts;dr at 10:33 AM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Danes are just happy because they got rid of Marmite.
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:33 AM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Canada is the country with the largest population on the first list. About 34 million. Australia has 22 million most of the rest are 7 million or below.

By contrast, China has 1.3 billion, the US 310 million, Germany 82 million, etc. Switzerland is a real outlier there, as even Taiwan has 23 million.

Conclusion: it isn't terribly surprising that some of the largest countries in the world also have the most millionaires. It's a little surprising not to see India or Russia on that list, to be honest. It also isn't terribly surprising to see some of the world's smallest, wealthiest nations on the "happiest" list, particularly, as anotherpanacea points out, with the arguable exception of Canada they're all geographically small and ethnically homogenous.

Yay for numbers made up to boost traffic, I suppose.
posted by valkyryn at 10:34 AM on June 6, 2011


I mean really, there are more people in Philadelphia than there are in Denmark. Comparing the two just doesn't make any sense.
posted by valkyryn at 10:36 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]



I mean really, there are more people in Philadelphia than there are in Denmark. Comparing the two just doesn't make any sense.


I suggest we round up all the people in Philly and put em on a boat to Denmark. Starting with Phillies fans. Then the Eagles fans. The Flyers fans are ok but fuck em...send em anyway.
posted by spicynuts at 10:39 AM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, no wonder they are happy. They did discover Legoland, or as the Americans call it, Legosland.
posted by Elmore at 10:39 AM on June 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


I mean really, there are more people in Philadelphia than there are in Denmark. Comparing the two just doesn't make any sense.

Yeah, I mean, for starters, Philly has a way better baseball team.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:39 AM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's always sunny in Denmark???
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:42 AM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is Canada really all that diverse? I looked up the Stats Can demographics of country of origin for Canadian, but the largest segment is "Canadian" which isn't terrible helpful. I know I've seen much more diversity in Ottawa and Toronto, but this is counterbalanced by the I lived in London which is very white.
posted by Harpocrates at 10:44 AM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sometimes, when I very seriously mull over emigration, one of the relatively chilly countries always come to mind. I know a lot of hypotheses float about but ... those areas generally Have Their Act Together.
posted by adipocere at 10:47 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is Canada really all that diverse?

It's about 80/20 white/nonwhite at this point, and the "white" part, it is worth remembering, is subdivided into two extremely distinct subcultures.
posted by mightygodking at 10:49 AM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


ts;dr: Well, all happy and swell in Denmark Canada, unless you belong to a minority group.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:50 AM on June 6, 2011


> Is Canada really all that diverse?

Well, Toronto is. Are you implying there's more to Canada than Toronto?

/ kidding
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:51 AM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, no wonder they are happy. They did discover Legoland, or as the Americans call it, Legosland.

Is this "lolamerica" or serious? The lego store in Minnesota is usually referred to as "Lego Land", even though I don't think it is actually branded as such. People do sometimes say "I play with Legos as a kid" though. Also, Legos are great.
posted by Winnemac at 10:53 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


My theory about why Denmark always tops these lists: low expectations.

Disclaimer: While I do hold a Danish passport, I haven't actually been back for years
posted by AwkwardPause at 10:56 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Canada is pretty diverse if you live in a city. All the bigger ones have significant non-white (immigrant) populations.

Out in smaller or larger towns or like London, Estevan, or Trail, and it's pretty white (except for the Chinese family that runs the "Chinese and Canadian Food" restaurant that seems to be a Charter obligation)
posted by sauril at 10:59 AM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


AwkwardPause, I could not agree more.
posted by azarbayejani at 11:01 AM on June 6, 2011


With the exception of Australia and Israel, the common factor in the first list is Ice Hockey, or possibly Curling.
posted by rocket88 at 11:05 AM on June 6, 2011


Noticeably, almost all of the happy countries have small, ethnically homogenous populations, though Canada is an interesting outlier on that front.

But isn't that because, with a few exceptions, most countries in the world have small, ethnically homogenous populations? It's sort of been the traditional definition of a country. I don't think it's really anything too remarkable.

posted by reformedjerk at 11:06 AM on June 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


A Dutch researcher, Ruut Veenhoven, has been working on the World Database of Happiness since 1984; first in book form, now to be found online here.

From the site:

The World Database of Happiness is an ongoing register of scientific research on the subjective enjoyment of life.
It brings together findings that are scattered throughout many studies and provides a basis for synthetic work.

Size of the collections
6484 publications on Bibliography of happiness, of which 3189 report empirical investigations using accepted measures of happiness.
719 measures of happiness used in 1369 studies.
4525 distributional findings in the general public in 155 nations.
13664 correlational findings observed in 1365 studies excerpted from 1023 publications. About twice as much findings waiting to be entered.
posted by likeso at 11:10 AM on June 6, 2011


Denmark<Disneyland
posted by wheelieman at 11:19 AM on June 6, 2011


I am always curious about why so many Israelis move to this country (USA), and had assumed it was because of the tensions of the Arab/Israeli hostilities, but recently I discussed this with an Israeli woman who had moved here and she said it was because it was so difficult for many Israelis to make a decent living.

Might here note that the two most religious nations are India and the U.S. (based on polls taken and religious institutional membership)...and yet that seems not to be a factor of happiness.
posted by Postroad at 11:21 AM on June 6, 2011


Denmark is the happiest place on Earth!

Nah. Tijuana!
posted by Gelatin at 11:25 AM on June 6, 2011


To the naysayers:
"...housing, income, jobs, community, education, the environment, health, work-life balance, and life satisfaction..."
Yeah, what a bunch of meaningless values, amirite? You probably have more money for your desired level of consumption than the average Dane, solid assets, and a nice retirement all set up, so of course you think this is all hogwash. The US isn't happy because we got so many damned mixed races. Got the yacht ready for summer yet?
posted by anarch at 11:31 AM on June 6, 2011


Noticeably, almost all of the happy countries have small, ethnically homogenous populations,

I doubt this is true at all. Many Scandinavian and European countries are home to large immigrant populations. Israel is a melting pot of cultures.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:33 AM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Chinese and Canadian Food" restaurant

What. Is this a real thing that is for real? If I saw a restaurant advertising "Chinese and American Food" I would just keep on driving because it would be shit.
posted by desjardins at 11:35 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I suggest we round up all the people in Philly and put em on a boat to Denmark. Starting with Phillies fans. Then the Eagles fans. The Flyers fans are ok but fuck em...send em anyway.

I'll be a devoted Phillies fan if it gets me a free trip to Denmark.
posted by metl_lord at 11:36 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


desjardins - "Chinese and American Food"

Yes, and yes they usually are. A lot of them are a holdover from decades back; a few in the cities survive in low-rent areas. Burger/fries or wonton/chop suey/sweet-and-sour-pork places, usually with greasy all-day breakfasts.

*only they're Chinese and Canadian Food, around here
posted by porpoise at 11:39 AM on June 6, 2011


I'm not sure I trust a list that has Israel as one of the happiest countries.
posted by aspo at 11:42 AM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


To the naysayers:

"...housing, income, jobs, community, education, the environment, health, work-life balance, and life satisfaction..."

Yeah, what a bunch of meaningless values, amirite? You probably have more money for your desired level of consumption than the average Dane, solid assets, and a nice retirement all set up, so of course you think this is all hogwash. The US isn't happy because we got so many damned mixed races. Got the yacht ready for summer yet?



Who are you arguing with?

I May have missed something, but I don"t think I have seen naysayers in this thread.

Do you just mean naysayers in general?
posted by St. Sorryass at 11:48 AM on June 6, 2011


with the arguable exception of Canada they're all geographically small and ethnically homogenous.

Wow, I'd like to see the argument that Canada is geographically small. As for homogenous, well, Canada has one of the highest per-capita immigration rates in the world over the past thirty years or so - not to mention large Quebecois and aboriginal populations.

I don't know why Canadians might be "happy" though, exactly - unless we confuse "smug" with "happy". I suspect we might confuse "contentment" and a "lack of worry" with happiness since, in my view, Canada has a long way to go on the environment and social justice and personally I won't be happy until we make some big strides that way.
posted by Rumple at 11:52 AM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I lived in Denmark for several years in the not-too-distant past. Nearly all Danes would say that they're "content," but that's not quite the same thing as "happy."

My theory about why Denmark always tops these lists: low expectations.

60 Minutes agrees with you.
posted by Dr. Eigenvariable at 11:59 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll take 'content' over the general malaise and disenfranchisement I've got going on now, I'll tell you that.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:03 PM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Canada is a misprint - it should be Harperiest
posted by aeshnid at 12:07 PM on June 6, 2011


I'm not sure by what levels would be the best measures (income to debt level per capita, etc?), but I'd be interested in seeing the 'levels of consumerism' in the top 10 compared to the US.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 12:10 PM on June 6, 2011


I live in Wisconsin.

In winter I believe that the happiest place on earth in anyplace warmer. (e.g. anywhere)

In the summer I believe it's anyplace with less mosquitoes.

In spring and fall? The rest of the world can suck it, because it's pretty fucking awesome right here. (well, if you ignore the current state governance, the unemployment, the segregation, the crazy-people, and a litany of other social issues... but otherwise, it can be pretty great.)
posted by quin at 12:11 PM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Visited some friends in Copenhagen a few years ago. It was one of those trips you return home and look around and say to yourself, "man, we really don't know what we are doing over here do we????"

People biked everywhere, even those old folks. They took care of their own, the city was clean. you could leave your nice bike outside your house in the city and for the most part no one would screw with it. Great public transit, quiet streets even in the city.

I returned to San Francisco kind of pissed off.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 12:16 PM on June 6, 2011 [10 favorites]


"Chinese and Canadian Food" restaurant

What. Is this a real thing that is for real? If I saw a restaurant advertising "Chinese and American Food" I would just keep on driving because it would be shit.


And thank Ghu for them. There's many a time that the only decent (i.e. non-roadhouse) food to be had is at the local "Chinese" place. Some of them are crap, sure, but many, like old roadside diners, are worth the stop.

Saved my stomach many times on field sampling seasons.
posted by bonehead at 12:30 PM on June 6, 2011


> "Chinese and Canadian Food" restaurant

University of Toronto Press put out a book named Eating Chinese: Culture On The Menu In Small Town Canada last year.

In my experience, the quality of these restaurants ranges wildly from surprisingly good to unsurprisingly awful.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:40 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


> "Chinese and Canadian Food" restaurant

Pretty much every small town you drive through will have one of these, usually owned by immigrant Chinese. As The Card Cheat says, they range from awful to awesome, with no indication of which before you actually eat there.

My university room-mate came from a family who owned the local Chinese place in Wawa.
posted by sauril at 12:59 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Switzerland isn't homogenous, they have three ethnolinguistic groups: German, Italian and French.
posted by wuwei at 1:01 PM on June 6, 2011


Sometimes it's called "Chinese and Western Food".

It's a bit of a greasy spoon, but I think Lido Café in Calgary is a delicious example of this.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:14 PM on June 6, 2011


We have a dwindling number of Chinese/Cuban restaurants in New York. They are pretty damn good.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:20 PM on June 6, 2011


Switzerland isn't homogenous, they have three ethnolinguistic groups: German, Italian and French.

Must be devilishly tricky to hire a decent mechanic.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:24 PM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I lived in Denmark for several years in the not-too-distant past. Nearly all Danes would say that they're "content," but that's not quite the same thing as "happy."

Self reporting as "happy" is the kind of vulgarity that Scandinavians prefer to leave to Americans.
posted by atrazine at 1:46 PM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Switzerland isn't homogenous, they have three ethnolinguistic groups: German, Italian and French.

You forgot the... never mind, even Swiss don't give a fuck about the Romansh speakers.
posted by atrazine at 1:47 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know why Canadians might be "happy" though, exactly - unless we confuse "smug" with "happy".

I'm never afraid of what it means if the headache won’t go away.

I never worry about whether or not something is covered, ever, and I've never once had to lie to a doctor because an unrelated preexisting condition might mean voiding my insurance and its coverage of my current problem, and even better, I'm never stuck in a job I hate because of the fear losing my health coverage. I don't have to fight with insurance companies about how much of whatever treatment they’ll pay. It never even occurs to me to wonder how we’ll make ends meet if my wife or I get sick, and I'm never afraid of losing my home or business because of medical bills.

Not only that, but our roads are in reasonably good repair, and clean water comes out of our taps every single time we turn them on. Enough immigration that we've got some fresh blood, new ideas and great takeout available, and man. It's not perfect, and there's work to be done, sure, but it's pretty fucking great, all told. It really, really is.

You should try it.
posted by mhoye at 1:55 PM on June 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'm never stuck in a job I hate because of the fear losing my health coverage.

/eyes narrowing

Well played, mhoye. Well played.
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:15 PM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


What am I doing here in NYC being far from a millionaire when I could go back to Canada and be totally happy?? Hmm....
posted by bquarters at 2:19 PM on June 6, 2011


I'm Australian and I'm a miserable bastard.
posted by smithsmith at 2:24 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, what a bunch of meaningless values, amirite?

The question is: how come those countries score high on those values? What's the cause of differing achievement on the things that seem to cause happiness? It seems to me that the US legacy of slavery, segregation, and racism might be relevant here. Those things seem to make people unhappy. They certainly contribute to the inequality, instability, and mistrust that undermines the civic capacities needed to reorient public policy with happy-making values, so if you live in a country without them, you might be happier.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:33 PM on June 6, 2011


Sometimes it's called "Chinese and Western Food".

It's a bit of a greasy spoon, but I think Lido Café in Calgary is a delicious example of this.


I always preferred the "Western" on 4th, myself. RIP

Last derail, promise...


posted by sauril at 2:47 PM on June 6, 2011


The "happiest" country in the world is officialy in recession on less spending
posted by voferreira at 3:01 PM on June 6, 2011


Israel? Seriously? Even putting the word 'happy' in the same sentence seems strange.
posted by Surfurrus at 3:07 PM on June 6, 2011


Is Canada really all that diverse? I looked up the Stats Can demographics of country of origin for Canadian, but the largest segment is "Canadian" which isn't terrible helpful. I know I've seen much more diversity in Ottawa and Toronto, but this is counterbalanced by the I lived in London which is very white.

As an expat who grew up in Mississauga, lived in London, Guelph and Ottawa and now lives in Birmingham, England my answer is "YES!" and boy do I miss it.
posted by srboisvert at 3:12 PM on June 6, 2011


before reading all comments:
Noticeably, almost all of the happy countries have small, ethnically homogenous populations, though Canada is an interesting outlier on that front.
As is Australia, The Netherlands, Switzerland and Israel. 5 out of 10. Maybe outlier is the wrong expression. Excuse me if someone posted this already, I got caught up..
posted by mumimor at 3:20 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a Dane living in Denmark, I'd say we are relatively happy. Maybe too happy. No one really seems to worry about the very real recession Voferreria posted about. And no one seems to to understand the consequences of our ten years with the Danish Peoples Party at the helm of our country.
Still, I believe the basic principles which distinguish the happy countries from the less fortunate are valid. As DU said Economic equality buys happiness.
And BTW - we still have room for billionaires
posted by mumimor at 3:39 PM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Noticeably, almost all of the happy countries have small, ethnically homogenous populations, though Canada is an interesting outlier on that front.

In addition to our rich Indigenous cultures, Australia is a nation built on the migrant experience and consequently is one of the most diverse countries in the world [...] Today, there are approximately 22 million Australians, speaking almost 400 languages, including Indigenous languages (End note 1), identifying with more than 270 ancestries and observing a wide variety of cultural and religious traditions.

16% of people speak a language other than English at home. In 2006 the six most commonly spoken languages other than English were Italian, Greek, Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin and Vietnamese with speakers of these languages together comprising 7% of the total population.

People of more than 210 ethnicities today call Melbourne home, a figure that has climbed from 95 in 1981, when Australia was considered one of the most culturally diverse nations in the world.

20 per cent define their origins as at least partly Italian, German, Greek or elsewhere in continental Europe

More than 10 per cent of Australians now define themselves as being of Asian or Middle Eastern ancestry.

Just over one -fifth of Australia's population (22%) was born overseas.


I can't find it in the above figures, but census data reveal that 46% of Australians were either born overseas, or had at least one parent born overseas. After the UK & NZ, the most common were Italy, Vietnam, China, Greece, Germany, the Philippines, India & the Netherlands, South Africa, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Poland & Yugoslavia.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:40 PM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Nonsense. The Netherlands and Australia are not ethnically diverse, nor is Switzerland, since everybody speaks all three languages. Europe in general treats very small inflows of Muslims as if they're going to destroy everything. Israel's happiness: do you think they're counting Palestinians?

Compare ethnic diversity: non-Hispanic Whites make up 66% of the American population, while Canada's non-"Visible Minority" population is 84%. 90% of Australians are of European descent.

I don't understand why anyone would deny that racism plays a major role in American inequality and unhappiness.
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:59 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


quin: "I live in Wisconsin... In spring and fall? The rest of the world can suck it, because it's pretty fucking awesome right here. (well, if you ignore the current state governance, the unemployment, the segregation, the crazy-people, and a litany of other social issues... but otherwise, it can be pretty great.)"

Yeah in the five minutes of sunshine before it gets cloudy again. *sigh* (thankfully it seems like it's finally getting sunny a majority of the time).
posted by symbioid at 4:07 PM on June 6, 2011


I often wake up in the morning and dream about how grand life would be if only the national debt was lower. We would dance all day and make love all night.

Let me guess: You don't live in a state with a severe debt problem. When the national debt is too high and you have to cut social services, public investment and/or wages, it does tend to affect happiness.
posted by ersatz at 4:09 PM on June 6, 2011


Compare ethnic diversity: non-Hispanic Whites make up 66% of the American population

Are Hispanics not ultimately of (often mixed) European descent?

If you add them to your bucket of people of European descent, what does that leave? The descendents of slaves and a much lower proportion of asians than we have down under?
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:24 PM on June 6, 2011


As an Australian living in London, I have to agree that Australia is very culturally homogenous, despite the european makeup and recent asian immigration.
posted by panaceanot at 4:32 PM on June 6, 2011


Compared with London? Well, that's a no-brainer.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:36 PM on June 6, 2011


It seems I do the linking wrong. But anotherpanacea is obviously ignorant of European populations.
In the Netherlands, 20% of the population are officially "not Dutch". But among the other 80%, The Netherlands still has several Dutch Jews, and a colonial population which has been nationalized. It is right and fair that the Netherlands do not register these people. But it shouldn't lead anyone to believe that it is a homogeneous country.
In Switzerland, one cannot underrate the ethnic diversity, as anotherpanacea does, these groups have very different interests. Added to that, it is the home of countless rich people of all sorts. And their servants.
Even Denmark is a bad example, although I will admit our ignorant and populist politicians do their best to spread the image of a harmonic, monocultural nation. In 1848, when the Danish constitution was written, Denmark was a multicultural nation, and Copenhagen was a city where everyone knew at least two languages. At the time, at least 25 % spoke German as their primary language. Even today, "Denmark" includes Greenland and the Faeroe Islands, each with distinct cultures and languages. We also still host thousands of students from the other Scandinavian countries, as well as Germans and some Brits. (The latter seem to come here for the blondes, but whatever...)
We do have problems with integration of people from third world countries. It is embarrassing. We should do better. But it is really not an indicator of Danish happiness.

(Disclaimer: I live in an immigrant quarter, my youngest attends the local public school, my own family includes a multitude of cultures and religions)
posted by mumimor at 4:53 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hispanic Whites add another 12%, which still makes us more racially diverse then Canada.

It is right and fair that the Netherlands do not register these people. But it shouldn't lead anyone to believe that it is a homogeneous country

So diverse means non-Dutch? This is a very different standard for ethnic diversity. By this standard, *I'm* diverse because my grandparents were Irish Catholics and Lithuanian Jews?
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:07 PM on June 6, 2011


I think there is something to the "small, homogeneous" country angle. Progressive social policy -- which I regard as a major underpinning to all these measures of happiness -- is predicated on inclusiveness, which is easier to come by when there are fewer prominent Others in society.

In other words, it's not that good outcomes in a large, heterogeneous society are harder to achieve, it's that they're easier to undermine. Said undermining being largely at the hands of the very same Othering douchebags who bitch about how hard it is to live in a heterogeneous society.
posted by bjrubble at 5:15 PM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


So diverse means non-Dutch? This is a very different standard for ethnic diversity. By this standard, *I'm* diverse because my grandparents were Irish Catholics and Lithuanian Jews?

I think there are various layers of difficulty in defining diversity here, and it can only realistically be approached from various angles, with no ultimate truth at the bottom.

In the Australian data, for example, they look at things like languages spoken, religion, birthplace, citizenship, previous citizenship, and self-reported ancestry and/or identification.

Self-identification is a particularly touchy one. Plenty of people will think "whatever, the past is the past" and simply self-report as "Australian" or "Dutch" regardless of where their family members came from, or how long ago.

In other cases, people can maintain their ethnic identity generations after their forebears settled in a country. African-Americans are a case in point - as far as I know, most wouldn't have the slightest clue where in Africa their ancestors came from, or what the cultural traditions are there, and yet, you implied earlier that simply by being "non-white" that's some kind of indication of "diversity".

In my own case, my grandparents were Irish Catholic (Australians) and Latvian gentiles. I self-identify as both Australian & Latvian, as I spent more than a decade formally studying the language & culture. I could accept, though, if people identified as, say, Vietnamese even if they didn't speak a word of the language or have anything to do with any Vietnamese community events or organisations.

So yeah, if you identify with your Irish-Catholic-Lithuanian-Jewish heritage in any way, then you are part of the diversity of where you live.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:54 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nonsense. The Netherlands and Australia are not ethnically diverse

19.93% of Australians were born overseas, and Australia places 4th on the WSJ's happiness list.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_foreign-born_population_in_2005
posted by surenoproblem at 6:39 PM on June 6, 2011


You're arguing that the whole of the European continent = ethnically homogenous. Oh dude, you're on a hiding to nothing here; admit you made a silly/ignorant generalisation and move on.
posted by smoke at 7:22 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Compare ethnic diversity: non-Hispanic Whites make up 66% of the American population, while Canada's non-"Visible Minority" population is 84%. 90% of Australians are of European descent.

I don't understand why anyone would deny that racism plays a major role in American inequality and unhappiness


Well, I've certainly noticed this American tendency to focus on some as artificially constructed as "race". Your comment is a fine example. There are different cultures, perhaps, but there are no different races. We're all a bit of a blend.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:41 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Indeed. Typical and depressing how this devolved so quickly into a bizarre round of spurious explanations for this measure of 'national happiness' based on even more spurious ideas of 'race', at least partly in the service of trying to justify why America isn't as pleasant a place to live -- apparently -- as many other places are.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:22 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


my goodness, it's metafilter catnip.
posted by demagogue at 10:40 PM on June 6, 2011


Let me guess: You don't live in a state with a severe debt problem. When the national debt is too high and you have to cut social services, public investment and/or wages, it does tend to affect happiness.

You guess wrong. Debt is an odd metric because their rationale is that it might influence future happiness. Being unhealthy usually makes people unhappy. Having no leisure time usually makes people unhappy. However, living beyond your means can be tons of fun! It CAN lead to problems in the future, but this isn't a list of "our guesses for the happiest countries in the world five years from now" so I think it's weird to assume that people are getting all mopey in advance.

Also, is there really any way to make an objective assessment happiness? I suspect not, but perhaps neurologists know something I don't.
posted by Winnemac at 11:31 PM on June 6, 2011


The demographic homogeneity argument is from the FPP:

The happiest people in the developed world get loads of social services without having to work too hard. Having abundant natural resources, a thriving services sector and a fairly homogeneous population helps as well.

All these happiness indexes do is give us correlations: they tells us where certain institutions are strong. They don't tell us why. Every American progressive social movement in the last ninety years has been riven by racial tensions, and quite a lot of what would otherwise be class-based solidarities have been co-opted by racism and nativism. Yet while Americans are deeply racist, that's precisely because we've got comparatively open borders and because we didn't murder all the ethnic Others.

Europe profited from two centuries of colonial exploitation and then spent WWII murdering its primary sources of ethnic tension. Now, European countries with good social safety nets maintain the legitimacy of those social services through highly xenophobic public policies. You'll notice that places with current ethnic and religious tensions aren't high on the happiness index: there's no Belgium, no Kosovo. Haiti spent 122 years paying an "independence debt" as reparations for "stealing" French slaves and plantations back from their colonial oppressors. The Netherlands still uses blood laws for citizenship for citizenship, defended by mumimor in this very thread as "right and fair." Switzerland banned Muslim minarets, even though only 4% of the population practices Islam. France has spent the last three decades debating a ban on the hijab, despite the fact that only about 2,000 women in the entire country wear them.

As I said, Canada is an interesting exception here: I wish the US could learn more from them. But the rest of those countries got happy by being even more racist than the US.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:55 AM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


murdering its primary sources of ethnic tension.

I don't really think this is possible. Certainly many attempts have been done, not just by Europeans, but history seems to show that there is always re-appearing some new metric for defining 'us' and 'them'. A formerly homogeneous group can, given a little time easily split into two apparently incompatible populations that hate each others guts, no problem. It doesn't matter how small a shithole, as soon as some difference, no matter how tiny can be defined that can be enough for people to build the barriers in their heads.
posted by Catfry at 10:45 AM on June 7, 2011


the rest of those countries got happy by being even more racist than the US.

*ahem* Ground Zero Mosque *cough* entire Iraq war.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:40 PM on June 7, 2011


Now, European countries with good social safety nets maintain the legitimacy of those social services through highly xenophobic public policies.

Respectfully, you don't know what you're talking about. These huge generalisations about a whole continent are unsupportable in light of the reality: many of these countries that have large, diverse migrant populations and public policies reflecting that. This is not to say that Europe is some kind of racism-free paradise, but to act like most countries in the continent have public policies supporting xenphobia is manifestly wrong; the very existence of the EU is a rebuttal to that specious argument.
posted by smoke at 5:15 PM on June 7, 2011


... the rest of those countries got happy by being even more racist than the US.

Well, maybe they are less *overtly* racist, but I tend to agree, anotherpanacea, there is a strong undercurrent of racism over much of Europe. (Maybe the US would be a 'happier' country if we *pretended* we weren't racist?)

I just watched an Al Jazeera news clip about Denmarks' People Party (as mentioned above by mumimor Those people are even more scary than the US's tea-party nuts. (Sorry, I don't have a link for the news clip; I was watching live)
posted by Surfurrus at 7:19 PM on June 7, 2011


many of these countries that have large, diverse migrant populations and public policies reflecting that

Name one country from that list, other than Canada, with pro-immigration policies. Australia comes closest, since they have recently stopped detaining asylum seekers, but that's very recent, and until 1973 their immigration policies were explicitly racist under the "White Australia" policy.

the very existence of the EU is a rebuttal to that specious argument

And yet look what's happened with Turkish accession. For that matter, look at the status of Turkish immigrants in Germany. The EU is just as much about exclusion as it is about unity.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:43 PM on June 7, 2011


I'm talking about now, not 1973. Also, you don't know anything about our refugee policy - which is still based around detaining refugees and actually just about to get a lot worse. However, the totality of our immigration policy is not xenophobic - we have literally hundreds of thousands of immigrants a year.

Indeed, the status of Turkish immigrants in Germany is problematic, but the policy of immigration in Germany is a different kettle of fish. The existence of Turkish immigrants in Germany, for example you.

Your claim was that government policies in Europe are xenphobic. Not that there exists a high degree of xenophobia or racism in Europe. We could both cherrypick examples all day to prove that, but you have yet to demonstrate xenophobic policies as widespread government policy across roughly 50 different countries. It's an extraordinary claim, and you seem largely ignorant of European migration policies (I don't blame you, few people wouldn't be).

The existence of the EU has facilitated and increased cross-border migration and travel in Europe immensely; this is the opposite of xenophobia.
posted by smoke at 8:01 PM on June 7, 2011


"for example, refutes your point".
posted by smoke at 8:01 PM on June 7, 2011


Australia comes closest, since they have recently stopped detaining asylum seekers, but that's very recent

Not sure what you're talking about there.

But anyway, the mandatory detention policy is very often misunderstood, as appying to all asylum seekers. In fact, only asylum seekers who arrive illegally (ie without a valid visa, eg by boat) are detained. These comprise between 1-4% of asylum seekers:

In Australia, the vast majority of asylum seekers applying for protection arrive originally by air with a valid visa and then apply for asylum at a later date while living in the community. Estimates vary, but it is likely that between 96 and 99 percent of asylum applicants arrived by air originally.

On average, 692 "illegals" arrive by boat & are detained per annum, compared with at least 17,000 asylum seekers in total who are free to move as they please in the general community, and this figure doesn't even include the ~14,000 registered refugees accepted from UNHCR camps around the world each year.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:07 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm talking about now, not 1973.

When it comes to racism, everybody wants to forget their past as fast as possible.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:42 AM on June 8, 2011


Especially if they weren't even born then.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:02 AM on June 8, 2011


So diverse means non-Dutch? This is a very different standard for ethnic diversity. By this standard, *I'm* diverse because my grandparents were Irish Catholics and Lithuanian Jews?

Well, the best known case of European racism was directed towards Jews, Roma and Slavs. And even today, I don't think Europeans in Europe see themselves as one homogeneous "culture" or ethnic group - that's only when they are in other continents.
But regarding the Netherlands, I was actually thinking more about the multitude of people from the former Dutch colonies, which are spread all over the world.

I am well aware of the "homogenous population" argument, and I believe it is BS, as stated above. The people who use it have a not much hidden agenda, which is not only racist but also is about promoting more inequality. The message is: "we can have inequality and stay happy if we keep our borders closed".
posted by mumimor at 9:36 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


And yet that is not my message. My own view is that open borders may trump aggregate happiness outcomes. Immigration may increase domestic inequality and reduce average domestic happiness metrics, but it also tends to reduce international inequality and increase total global happiness.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:56 AM on June 9, 2011


Which is a point of view I might have agreed upon a few (well 10) years ago. But then I discovered how the politicians promoting this view found it very easy to compromise with that view. So I had to stop.
But obviously that doesn't have to be the case where you are. Cheers
posted by mumimor at 2:53 PM on June 9, 2011


Just because you've changed your mind doesn't mean you've done it for good reason. Small populations that equitably distribute natural resources are likely to be happy, it's true, but only so long as they don't have to share with too large a crowd. What good is that for resource-poor countries or countries with large populations? The policy-guidance here seems to be: "Contrive so as to be born (resource- and institution-) rich!"

This was a pretty shitty economic decade for most of the rich world. You know who did well? Africa. When was the last time Africa had a good decade? And yet all anybody talks about is Europe and North America. Maybe we should focus less on competition among the rich countries to be the happiest, and focus more on the bottom billion competing not to be the most miserable.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:27 AM on June 10, 2011


A new [in 2003] study of more than 65 countries published in the UK's New Scientist magazine suggests that the happiest people in the world live in Nigeria.

Happiest countries in the world:
1. Nigeria
2. Mexico
3. Venezuela
4. El Salvador
5. Puerto Rico
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:12 AM on June 11, 2011


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