Norway ranks No. 1 for ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’

Norway ranks No. 1 for ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’

Norway ranks No. 1 for ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’

The American Dream seems more attainable overseas.

President Trump on Thursday reportedly used vulgar language to describe immigrants from Haiti and African countries and said the U.S. needed more immigrants from countries like Norway. The president’s comments were described as “racist” by Rupert Colville, the United Nations spokesman for human rights, and widely derided by others. Immigrants from poor countries come to America for a better life, numerous studies show social inequality in the U.S. has worsened in recent years.

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In fact, Norway ranked No. 1 for happiness and personal freedom, according to an analysis of three separate studies on life expectancy by the World Bank, on civil liberties from Freedom House, a New York-based nonprofit that conducts research on advocacy and democracy, on happiness from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a group linked to the United Nations, and on rule of law from the World Justice Project, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit.

The analysis was released by information-analytics firm LexisNexis Legal & Professional, a RELX Group RELX, -1.04% company, found that countries that have established a strong rule of law have significantly more success in securing measures of life, liberty and happiness for their citizens. Sweden ranked No. 2 and Canada was No. 3, followed by Australia, the Netherlands, Finland and Austria. The U.S. ranked No. 19 just behind the Czech Republic, Japan and France. Afghanistan ranked last at No. 98.

Norway ranked No. 1 for happiness, the U.S. was No. 14

Norway was also No. 1 out of 155 countries on the 2017 “World Happiness Report,” up from No. 4 the year before, followed by Denmark (last year’s No. 1), Iceland and Switzerland. The U.S. was trailing at No. 14. These four countries rank highly on all the main factors found to support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance. “Their averages are so close that small changes can re-order the rankings from year to year,” the report said.

The “World Happiness Report” was released in March 2017 and involved polling of 1,000 residents per country by research organization Gallup, and was put together by SDSN, a group linked to the United Nations and led in part by economist Jeffrey D. Sachs, known for “The End of Poverty” and other books. Where necessary, Gallup seeks the permissions of national, regional, and local governments. The interviews are conducted by phone and face-to-face.

“Norway moves to the top of the ranking despite weaker oil prices,” the report noted. “It is sometimes said that Norway achieves and maintains its high happiness not because of its oil wealth, but in spite of it. By choosing to produce its oil slowly, and investing the proceeds for the future rather than spending them in the present, Norway has insulated itself from the boom and bust cycle of many other resource-rich economies.”

U.S. criticized for inequality and cuts in welfare

President Trump’s latest remarks about immigrants follows criticisms last month made by Professor Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. He released a report heaping scorn on what he described as the Trump administration’s “dramatic change of direction in U.S. policies relating to inequality and extreme poverty.” He cited the administration’s current tax proposals and “dramatic cuts in welfare.”

Alston spent two weeks traveling through California, Alabama, Georgia, Puerto Rico, West Virginia, and Washington D.C. and spoke with dozens of experts and civil society groups, met with senior state and federal government officials and talked with many people who are homeless or living in deep poverty. Contrasts between private wealth and public squalor abound, he said.

This week, a separate of researchers released a report examining mortality for the U.S. and other wealthy nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development for children from birth to age 19 from 1961 to 2010. From 2001 to 2010 the risk of death in the U.S. was 76% greater for infants and 57% greater for children ages 1 to 19, according to the study, “Child Mortality In The US And 19 OECD Comparator Nations: A 50-Year Time-Trend Analysis,” published in Health Affairs journal.

U.S. has fallen on happiness list among OECD countries

The U.S. has seen its happiness slide happiness over the last decade. In 2007, it ranked No. 3 among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries. But it now hovers at 19th place, partly due to the political discourse. “The predominant political discourse in the United States is aimed at raising economic growth, with the goal of restoring the American Dream and the happiness that is supposed to accompany it. But the data show conclusively that this is the wrong approach,” the report concluded.

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For those interviewed in the report, perception is reality. At least, as far as their happiness is concerned and, experts say, the divisive political climate likely hasn’t helped. “The United States can and should raise happiness by addressing America’s multi-faceted social crisis — rising inequality, corruption, isolation, and distrust — rather than focusing exclusively or even mainly on economic growth, especially since the concrete proposals along these lines would exacerbate rather than ameliorate the deepening social crisis,” the report said.

The U.S showed less social support, less sense of personal freedom, lower donations, and more perceived corruption of government and business, it said. “America’s crisis is, in short, a social crisis, not an economic crisis… Almost all of the policy discourse in Washington, D.C. centers on naïve attempts to raise the economic growth rate, as if a higher growth rate would somehow heal the deepening divisions and angst in American society. This kind of growth-only agenda is doubly wrong-headed.”

(This story was republished.)

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