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The United States Failed to Make List of 10 Happiest Nations and What We Can Do

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a global initiative for the United Nations, released its annual report ranking how happy the people of our planet’s nations are. Here is a summary of the report.

Happiest Countries

Once again, Scandinavian nations dominated the top 10, with Denmark being the happiest, and Scandinavian nations capturing six of the top 10 spots. Once again, the United States failed to make the top 10, ranking only 13th despite being the wealthiest, most powerful nation on Earth. Once again, except for Canada, every nation in the top 10 has a system of national governance which uses proportional representation (PR) for its national legislature or legislatures. And Canada has a new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, who has vowed that his election, the most recent one, will be the last election Canada has with a two-party system.

I have pointed out previously that there is a relationship between having a modern constitutional design with proportional representation and happiness (here), that to achieve such a modern governmental design we need an advanced political consciousness (here), and that doing both of these is necessary to create a much wider policy debate, a greater variety of candidates and parties, and more political innovations (here).

In the slide show, take a look at the images which summarize the results. The first image shows the top 10 nations. The next three images (two through four) show the list of the 157 nations polled, ranked by happiness. The last three images (five through seven) show the changes the nations of the world have for the better (first image in this set—number five) over the last decade, show the nations which have stayed nearly the same (second image of the set—number six), and show the nations which have gotten more unhappy (last image in this set, number seven). This last group of nations includes the United States. The graph shows how our nation has gotten more unhappy over the last decade from 2005-2007, compared to 2013-2015.

There is much talk in this 2016 election cycle of making America great again (Mr. Donald Trump), or making America whole again (Secretary Hillary Clinton), or making America more equal again (Sen. Bernie Sanders). But there has been no discussion about making America happy again if indeed we ever were.

Just looking at the modern political systems in the top 10, it is easy to make the correlation between proportional representation and happiness, when 9 of the 10 have proportional systems, and the one which doesn’t, Canada, is planning to do so under its current government.

For Americans to take the lead in the world in happiness, it will take a real political revolution. Americans can thank Bernie Sanders for making that phrase respectable. Here are some looming questions this happiness study begs us to address:

  • Will Americans pursue actual political innovation for our national government as responsible citizens in our pursuit of happiness?
  • Are Americans too full of hopelessness and apathy to wake up from our political coma?
  • And if we did wake up to our collective people-power as citizens, are we too ignorant to revive the spirit of 1787 and create a new government through amendments to alter and improve our national operating system—our Constitution—so it creates a government which fulfills our desires for safety and happiness?

Taking a look at this study and the governmental designs of the nations in the top 10 happiest nations on Earth is a way forward, away from raging national anger, towards enhanced national happiness. New Zealand did exactly that in 1993 when they used a national referendum to shift from their antiquated two-party system and adopted their multi-party system—Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)—which they reaffirmed in 2011 through another national referendum. The people of New Zealand spoke in one voice, collectively.

Here are more questions we can ask and answer for those who believe our nation should be a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people, as Lincoln asserted at Gettysburg:

  • Can we think deeper than the policies and parties we hate or like?
  • Can Americans follow the lead of New Zealand and so many other nations and actually connect the dots between bad policies we get and the political systems which underly our political woes?
  • Can we organize a people’s constitutional assembly to write amendments to propose to the people to modernize our governmental design? (See Professor Sanford Levinson’s six-minute video about how he proposes we do that.)
  • Can we affirm our national right, as one people, to express ourselves through a national referendum to change our nation’s constitutional design with a method of amending by we, the people ourselves (in addition to the government’s process of amending itself in Article Five)?

I hope so. After all, we’ve had over 200 state constitutional conventions at the state level, which led to over 150 new state constitutions and over 12,000 state constitutional amendments. After all, the Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM25) is pursuing a constitutional assembly for Europe to modernize their democracy. After all, Americans know a lot about sports and other things we have an interest in. We can become interested in modernizing our governmental design.

Let’s wake up and pursue our national happiness by expressing our national will through the obvious procedures other nations have used successfully. Let’s not be victims of our 229-year-old political system. Let’s be leaders and change it to our liking. Let’s wake up and pursue our national happiness by expressing our national will through the obvious procedures other nations have used successfully. Let’s not be victims of our 229-year-old political system. Instead, let’s just grow up and become citizen-leaders, and change it to our liking.

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