The Happiest Country on Earth( it ain’t us)…What’s work got to do with it?

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  1. Happiness is __________! I admire the attempt to transform this complex, subjective concept into something that can be measured and then compared. But isn’t what varied individuals and various cultures call “happiness” itself varied in meaning? In some contexts such as war, that which makes some happy literally requires the destruction of others. (Just a diversionary thought – could it be a good thing when a masochist is happy?) Is contentment happiness? But then what happens to invention if necessity is required to mother it? We have all heard the admonition: “Be careful of what you wish for”. How many big lottery winners became less happy? (I would gladly take this test.) It is fun, but pondering the variables tends to get us lost, confused in the weeds of detail. Perhaps there are ways whereby a mind can grasp essential understandings about factors common to all the “weeds”. For instance, consider “gratitude”. When experiencing this emotion, is it possible not to be happy? Now consider “victimization”. Is it possible for a person who feels victimized to simultaneously feel happy? Not unless that person is a masochist – and this dysfunction may be more prevalent than we would like to acknowledge. Do we believe that our life is a cause or an effect? One of our political parties has had great political success in fomenting among sizable groups various beliefs of victimization. This may be a major reason that in this UN report the U.S. is rated number 18 and not higher.

    Daedal2207 informs us that the most recent issue of the American Journal of Public Health (March 2018) supplies an answer as to why Finland and other Scandinavian countries are rated “happiest”. He quotes Journal writer Emily Quinn Ahonen: “Leaving work out of public health inequities research creates a blind spot. Work primarily determines a person’s income, comprises much of social prestige and provides social connection, all of which are related to power”. Daedal2207 goes on to write: “I would conclude that the Finnish (and Scandinavian) happiness relate to more security in the population vis à vis employment, fairness, and redress of inequity, than in our country where Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are our declared goals.”

    Feeling that one has a place of meaning is apparently a significant ingredient required in that which evokes the flavor (and nourishment) called happiness. To be employed provides many forms of meaning, and includes a sense that one’s self possesses sufficient “power” to cause things to progress toward a planned-for effect. Daedal2207 apparently believes that our government can most equitably (and efficiently?) control and blend employment needs to suit our diverse population of 326 million. (Finland 5.5 million, Sweden 9.8 million, Norway 5.2 million, Denmark 5.7 million. Iceland 350,000.) Certainly it would take a powerfully controlling government to redistribute the outcome of our country’s product to conform to its “social justice” interpretation of “fairness” and “equity”. If instead, individually measured equity and fairness of opportunity (the founders’ concept of justice) were to prevail, a freer market would expand a more diverse economy. It would be an economy in which a greater number of citizens could find rewarding niches of employment and thereby reap the honest rewards of a productively meaningful “happiness”.

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