By Dale Lucht
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) was established in 1961. The United States is a charter member. Currently there are 35 members. The mission of the OECD is to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world. In June 2016 the OECD committed itself “to redefine the growth narrative to put people’s well-being at the center of governments’ efforts”. In other words-it’s the government’s job to provide opportunities to make their citizens happy.
A year ago the UN published a report done in 2016, deciding which countries were the happiest. Six of the key variables used to explain happiness were: income, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on in times of trouble, generosity, freedom and trust. Trust is measured by the absence of corruption in business and government.
Norway came in first place, followed by Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland. Climate must not have been a deciding factor. All of the top four countries rank highly on the factors that support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance. All of the other top ten countries have high values in the key variables. Finland is in 5th place, followed by the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden, tied for 9th place.
Where did the US rank? We’re still up there, of the 155 nations polled in 2016, the US came in 15th. However, Americans think corruption is on the rise in the country, and donations, social support and our sense of freedom have also deteriorated. We are in a deepening social crisis.
Last year Oprah went to Denmark to see if they really were that happy. Denmark is much smaller, their living space is smaller, they don’t buy a lot of extra stuff, and many don’t have cars, so bicycles are everywhere. This also contributes to their health, along with shopping daily for fresh food-again, because they don’t have the storage space.
Oprah pointed out the fact that Denmark is a Democratic Country but has Socialist views. One of her guests, Nanna Norup, put it in context. “Well, you might think so,” she said. “We don’t necessarily think of it as that. We all think of it as being civilized; that you take care of your old and your sick. And you make sure that people get well educated. So we think of it more as being civilized.” That is what separates ideologies. Some are humane while others are intrinsically selfish.
Denmark has up to a year maternity or paternity leave, up to 4 years unemployment, free healthcare and free education. Nanna admitted that they did have a high tax rate, which is about 50% for most people, but the peace of mind she gets is worth the price.
Denmark has other taxes, such as sales tax. But I would like someone to figure out exactly what the taxes are in our country. Include income tax, state income tax, property tax, social security tax, Medicare tax, other insurance payments, sewer and water bill, tax on our power and light, gasoline tax, highway tolls, car registration and licenses, sales tax. This enquiring mind would like to know. We would probably still be lower than Denmark, but do we have peace of mind? Are we happy?
Last year I was in Canada and I asked a tour guide about their medical system. She said that they paid more in taxes, but did not have to worry about not being able to pay for medical emergencies. Being a recipient of socialized medicine myself, the VA health care, I can attest to the fact that it does bring peace of mind. Living in a society entails a contract. We should obey the laws, pay our taxes, and live amiably with our neighbors. Society should guarantee some things to each of us, such as; clean water, clean air, safe food, safe medicines, and a good education. Like our police and fire departments, teachers should be well paid for their service. Our future depends on them. I also believe every person should have a roof over their head, food and free healthcare. There is no reason to have homeless people scrounging for food in our country. Some call me a socialist for my view. I don’t agree with them, but so be it.