Guest column: Come on now, come on. Get happy

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By Dave Trecker

Pelican Bay

We read a lot today about the “wheres.” Where jobs are most plentiful. Where the best schools are. Where tax rates are the lowest.

One of the most interesting “wheres” is where people are the happiest. Presumably everybody wants to be happy.

To measure this, you first have to define happiness. What are the parameters?

The demographers have decided happiness equates to quality of life which in turn is measured by jobs, income, environment and health.

And where is quality of life best?

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says it’s Australia, which tops the list for the third straight year.

The Aussies have enjoyed an economy that has expanded for 21 years in a row. No one in Australia under the age of 40 has experienced a recession.

Anyone who has visited there knows the Aussies are the friendliest people around welcoming, smart and funny. (The Sydney Olympics in 2000 were the best in recent memory.) And the Australians really like Americans something of a rarity these days.

Some time ago, I polled a group of friends who are seasoned world travelers. I asked if they had a choice of where to live outside the U.S. which country would they choose. Over half said Australia.

If Australia tops the happiness list, where else are people enjoying life?

Canada, we are told, ranks third and the U.S. sixth. Not bad.

The others are all in northern Europe: Sweden (2), Norway (4), Switzerland (5), Denmark (7), The Netherlands (8), Iceland (9) and the U.K. (10).

It’s interesting to note what these happy countries have in common.

Setting aside the U.S., Switzerland and Australia, the happiest countries all have large, controlling governments. Some are openly socialist. A big safety net is apparently a plus.

Some regions are notable by their absence. For example, no Mediterranean country made the top ten. According to the Better Life Index, there’s not a lot of happiness in Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal or even France countries with sagging economies.

African and Middle Eastern countries were completely absent no surprise there as was all of South America.

What about the Far East, the Tigers of Asia?

Growth alone doesn’t cut it. China and Russia were probably done in by repressive governments. India didn’t make the list either. Neither did Japan.

But wait a minute. What about Germany? It has high employment, a “green” mentality and good health care. But no go. Maybe the French are right. Maybe the dour Germans are incapable of happiness.

One final thought. Suppose Southwest Florida were a country. How would it fare on the happiness scale?

Probably pretty well.

We’ve got a quality of life second to none good economy, great weather, beaches, first-rate cuisine, music, even the Everglades. I’m not sure even Australia could top that.

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