Wednesday, July 02, 2008



Or do diminishing IQs make you happy?

Today when I was getting dressed I had CNN on and a screen crawl went by about some kind of world happiness index. The University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research just released a ranking of 97 countries on a "happiness index" (the World Values Survey). The 10 happiest are Denmark, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Iceland, N. Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, and Austria and the 10 least happy places on earth are Zimbabwe, Armenia, Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine, Albania, Iraq, Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia. The U.S. was the 16th most happy place on earth. In general, the world is a lot happier than it was 20 years ago. China and India, each of which has experienced gigantic economic growth in the past 2 decades have much happier populations, according to the survey, although I suspect they didn't talk to the millions and millions of "invisible" little dark people who don't have fixed addresses in India.
Contrary to the saying that money can't buy happiness, the people of rich countries tend to be happier than those of poor countries. Improving economies is an important factor in the happiness index rising in an overwhelming majority of countries that have been surveyed from 1981 to 2007, researchers say.

...Researchers say there are other factors at work that are important. Political freedom has increased around the world. And in developed societies, tolerance for ethnic minorities and gays and lesbians is on the upswing, and there is more gender equity.

"The results clearly show that the happiest societies are those that allow people the freedom to choose how to live their lives," said Ronald Inglehart, a U-M political scientist who directs the World Values Survey, in a statement.

Now look at who's happy again and specifically look at countries where there is the least effective social stigma for drug and alcohol use: Denmark, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Iceland, N. Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Netherlands, Canada-- 8 of the top 10. You may have even read that this weekend the Netherlands banned indoor tobacco smoking but kept pot smoking legal-- as long as no one mixes it with tobacco! The big flaw in my theory is the U.S., where cocaine use and marijuana use is highest of any country in the world but where the happiness rank isn't as high as the people. Maybe that's because the legal system responds so harshly. I have to figure that out.



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