The World's Happiest (And Saddest) Countries
(Photo credit - clockwise: Getty Images/Flickr Open; Andrew Peacock/Lonely Planet Images/Newscom; Peter Adams/Getty Images; AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo)
Whatever happiness is to you, there’s some conditions under which it most readily blossoms. You need enough money to acquire a puppy or a gun, and enough free time to exalt in its warmth. You need the peace of mind that Big Brother isn’t about to come around the corner and take your gun (or puppy) away from you. And because fun things are even more fun when shared with others, you’ll be even happier if you have a family that encourages your passion, or at least a local chapter of the NRA or Kennel Club to hang out with.
The World’s Happiest Countries
A few years ago the directors of the Legatum Institute (part of billionaire Christopher Chandler‘s Dubai-based Legatum Group) were thinking about the wealth of nations. “We found ourselves asking two questions,” says spokesman Julian Knapp. “First, why have some nations — given a similar start — become more successful and wealthier than others? And having recognized that life is about more than simple material satisfaction, the second question: why are some nations happier and more satisfied than others?” Indeed why had Ghana and South Korean, having shared similar GDP’s in the 1950s, gone in such different directions, with Korea’s now $39,000 per capita and Ghana’s just $3,000.
After studying 40 years of data and outcomes, they settled on eight areas – the ingredients of prosperity: economy, entrepreneurship, governance, education, health, safety, personal freedom and social capital. Then they looked for reliable data from the likes of the Gallup polling organization that would let them rank countries on their performance in these areas. Add up the scores and you get the Legatum Prosperity Index.
In its recently released 2011 index, billed as an “inquiry into global wealth and well being,” Legatum ranks 110 countries on their overall level of prosperity. These countries comprise 93% of global population and 97% of GDP.
At No. 1 for the third year in a row: Norway. What’s it got that the rest of the world doesn’t? For one thing, a stunning per capita GDP of $54,000 a year. Norwegians have the second-highest level of satisfaction with their standards of living: 95% say they are satisfied with the freedom to choose the direction of their lives; an unparalleled 74% say other people can be trusted.
Cynics say Norway’s ranking is a fluke, that it’s a boring, godless (just 13% go to church), homogeneous place to live, with a massive welfare state bankrolled by high taxes. Without massive offshore reserves of oil and gas that it exports to the world through state-controlled Statoil, Norway’s GDP would be far smaller.
Natural resources help: Australia, which ranks third, is benefitting greatly from selling its coal, iron and natural gas to China. And yet some of the most resource-reliant nations, like Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, are far down the list. There’s clearly more to it than oil and ore. Joining Norway and Australia in the top 10 are their neighbors