It all started with… free time and curiosity

I live by myself so after completing my self-imposed honey-do lists, getting in my exercising, of course, and adapting to this new routine of no routine, it was time to broaden my mind. I have a column due, an admitted preoccupation with current events (I’m not allowed to mention), so I asked myself what else has been on my mind lately? And it’s this angry Persistent Political Polarization that seems so ridiculous in the midst of all we have and all we have to deal with.

It’s always seemed to me that getting along with others, finding common ground through compromise in personal, professional, political, business or even international relationships has to be the objective. Seeking harmony wherever possible has to be the civilized approach. Interacting with each other, not dividing. Maybe not always achievable but certainly always the goal. I like to think it still is for many of us.

If you read history, today’s polarization in our country is really no worse than many, many previous examples, but it doesn’t offer much evidence of civilized progress either. We have so much here to appreciate; yet it seems many are still dissatisfied. I don’t get it. My curiosity asked: We really are a young country. Are there societies older and wiser than ours, with more experience, maybe actually more evolved that are, well, happier?

So, I went to that unbelievable source of information for curious minds: Google. And it really led me in directions I never anticipated. There are a lot of credible annual surveys of citizens to find out who is and who isn’t happy with one’s present life. Offered is a pretty comprehensive evaluation of “happy” based on:

  • Life expectancy
  • Freedom to choose work, relationships and lifestyles
  • Equality of access to education and health care
  • Trust in one’s government which provides the health care, education and a social support system
  • Low crime rate — robberies, assaults, vandalism
  • Prioritized generosity, education, career choice freedom and family over status, income or material accumulation

This information, of course, identifies countries where the relatively satisfied population works cooperatively and successfully, facing challenges together. OK, so who are they and much more importantly, what do they have in common?

Finland, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, New Zealand, Sweden, Iceland, The Netherlands…

In common they all have:

  • A capitalistic free enterprise economic system based on private property, equal individual rights, competition, profit motive and a strong social safety net
  • Democratic government
  • Higher income tax rates than the 18th-ranked U.S.

While I obviously know there are lots of additional comparison factors
(I could write a column about that, too) and I’m not trying to oversimplify, I’m trying to learn. I also know you will draw your own conclusions from this, but from My Viewpoint, there’s a strong argument to consider, at least consider, that if a government provides security, if it is appreciated and trusted, many crimes are reduced, people have fewer worries, and if also combined with plenty of free enterprise opportunity to excel, surely it would seem to make people more secure and therefore happier!

Combining cooperation with competition sounds so easy but depends on the attitudes of the people and of their leadership. I’ll not be moving to New Zealand. My family and my business are here and they’re more important, but I’d sure like to see our country move in a more compatible direction. You know, “Don’t worry, be happy!”