Monday, April 16, 2012

Culture and the Happiness of Nations: Denmark and Costa Rica are Doing Something Right : Models for the Future?

Why is Costa Rica the happiest country in the Americas and why does Denmark always sit atop the happiness charts for nations?

The Global Happiness Derby is a posting by Robert J. Samuelson today at the Washington Post -- hat tip to CaryGEE for bringing the article to my attention -- where Samuelson cites to the just published World Happiness Report. Samuelson writes inter alia:
"A person who smiles a lot is either a fool or an American,” says a Russian adage cited by historian Peter N. Stearns of George Mason University in the Harvard Business Review....

...The “pursuit of happiness” may be a “right,” as the Declaration of Independence says. But the achievement of happiness is not an entitlement. The happiness movement is at best utopian; at worst, it’s silly and oppressive."
We do not share Samuelson's somewhat skeptical view.

It would seem to this author that the happiness of individuals and nations is to a large degree the product of expectations, but also a product of rational social and environmental policies.

On the individual level, someone with small expectations is much more likely to be pleased with even the smallest of blessings while persons with exaggerated expectations about themselves or the world are almost always going to be "unhappy" because those expectations are not going to being met by the realities. 

Such unhappy people will always be "wanting", i.e. "wanting more". 

Hence, one might posit that you have to be "realistic" to be happy, or perhaps, even be "deluded" into being "satisfied" with the whatever you have, large, middle or small, rather than always "wanting more".

Another factor for happiness is suggested by Erika Andersen at Forbes, who visited Denmark, the country that perennially scores the highest in tests for the happiness of nations. Andersen writes at Happy in Denmark - How Come?:
"I'm less surprised than I would have otherwise been: it seemed extraordinarily calm, clean and prosperous. Nearly everyone we met was relaxed, curious, helpful, and friendly.  It's not perfect – I know, for instance, that the Danes pay a huge amount in income taxes. But it looks like they get a lot for it; medical care and education are covered, childcare and parental leave policies are generous, public transport is good, the streets are safe.
However, I noticed one difference between Denmark and many other countries with a high level of socialized services: it seemed remarkably un-bureaucratic. Things were organized without being regimented or restrictive.
As I've been reading more about Denmark since returning, I've stumbled upon an element that I think may be key to understanding the Danish happiness phenomenon – and one that also explains this unusual combination of simplicity and structure. It turns out the Danes also have high levels of trust. They trust each other, the government, and they even trust 'outsiders' – visitors and foreign nationals who come to Denmark to live and work."
If "trust" is in fact the answer,
then the rest of the world can forget about being globally "happy".
It is not going to happen. Just watch the daily news on TV.
The kind of trust that is possible in a small, largely homogeneous nation such as Denmark is duplicated elsewhere in northern Europe, and that is where the happiest nations, with a couple of exceptions, are found, as seen in World Now at the Los Angeles Times:
"According to polls taken from 2005 to 2011, these were the happiest countries:
  1. Denmark
  2. Finland
  3. Norway
  4. Netherlands
  5. Canada
  6. Switzerland
  7. Sweden
  8. New Zealand
  9. Australia
  10. Ireland"
So, what explains the unexpectedly high happiness more recently documented in a third-world nation such as Costa Rica, which does not fit the normal northern European mold of happiness?

Why are people in Costa Rica so happy?

Read Costa Rica Happiest Country In The Americas, via, which tells us inter alia:
"Costa Rica, today, has come full circle and proven that a life focused on the well-being of the people and the planet is the best recipe to living a long and happy life....
The key to happiness, as Costa Rica has proven, isn't necessarily limited to the act of consuming less. Rather, it is the philosophy that when people take the time to take care of and appreciate the things around them that aren't replaceable, such as the environment, their people, and their culture, then they begin to create a society that finds happiness in the simple things that the world has to offer."
In view of the world's receding natural resources, that looks like a very good recipe for happiness.

Most Popular Posts of All Time

Sky Earth Native America

Sky Earth Native America 1:
American Indian Rock Art Petroglyphs Pictographs
Cave Paintings Earthworks & Mounds as Land Survey & Astronomy
Volume 1, Edition 2, 266 pages, by Andis Kaulins.

  • Sky Earth Native America 2:
    American Indian Rock Art Petroglyphs Pictographs
    Cave Paintings Earthworks & Mounds as Land Survey & Astronomy
    Volume 2, Edition 2, 262 pages, by Andis Kaulins.

  • Both volumes have the same cover except for the labels "Volume 1" viz. "Volume 2".
    The image on the cover was created using public domain space photos of Earth from NASA.


    Both book volumes contain the following basic book description:
    "Alice Cunningham Fletcher observed in her 1902 publication in the American Anthropologist
    that there is ample evidence that some ancient cultures in Native America, e.g. the Pawnee in Nebraska,
    geographically located their villages according to patterns seen in stars of the heavens.
    See Alice C. Fletcher, Star Cult Among the Pawnee--A Preliminary Report,
    American Anthropologist, 4, 730-736, 1902.
    Ralph N. Buckstaff wrote:
    "These Indians recognized the constellations as we do, also the important stars,
    drawing them according to their magnitude.
    The groups were placed with a great deal of thought and care and show long study.
    ... They were keen observers....
    The Pawnee Indians must have had a knowledge of astronomy comparable to that of the early white men."
    See Ralph N. Buckstaff, Stars and Constellations of a Pawnee Sky Map,
    American Anthropologist, Vol. 29, Nr. 2, April-June 1927, pp. 279-285, 1927.
    In our book, we take these observations one level further
    and show that megalithic sites and petroglyphic rock carving and pictographic rock art in Native America,
    together with mounds and earthworks, were made to represent territorial geographic landmarks
    placed according to the stars of the sky using the ready map of the starry sky
    in the hermetic tradition, "as above, so below".
    That mirror image of the heavens on terrestrial land is the "Sky Earth" of Native America,
    whose "rock stars" are the real stars of the heavens, "immortalized" by rock art petroglyphs, pictographs,
    cave paintings, earthworks and mounds of various kinds (stone, earth, shells) on our Earth.
    These landmarks were placed systematically in North America, Central America (Meso-America) and South America
    and can to a large degree be reconstructed as the Sky Earth of Native America."