Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The US Aint No Unhappy Place!

I love how some crazy organization will periodically perform a study on happiness, and eventually tell us how unhappy people in the US and other rich countries are. And news organizations will report it as the holy word, so that you and I can sit and either feel miserable about our affluence, or pleased with our lack of it. Well, hooey! MSNBC reported that Vanuatu was rated as the happiest place in the world while the US, Russia and the UK came in at 150, 172 and 108 off the 178 places in the world. The conclusion - happiness is not correlated with economic success.

Now, I live the US, and I know it certainly couldn't be the happiest place in the world, but come on ... 150! Something fishy ... Turns out the (Un)Happy Planet Index is an "innovative measure" (quotes from website) of true happiness. Except that they rigged the index to make industrial nations do poorly. The HPI is defined as:

HPI = Life satisfaction x Life expectancy/Ecological Footprint

Look at that for a moment. Assume life satisfaction surveys indicate that about the twice the percentage of people in the US are satisfied with their lives, as compared to oh say Malawi (a random African nation), but the US consumes 10 times as much. To achieve the same HPI, the US would have to have life expectancies 5 times as high as the Malawians, which means the average Malawian would have to live to less than 20 years of age.

Listen, I don't believe affluence alone brings happiness. I think there are far more important factors, including social structures and a rich faith tradition. But to create "innovative measures" to justify poverty the world over makes me sick (which is what most leftist groups try to do)! The reality is that the average farmer in each of those purportedly happier countries would gladly accept higher incomes, better healthcare, and not having to commit suicide because the monsoon failed!

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