Would Americans Be Happier If U.S. Were More Like Denmark?

would Americans be happier if the U.S. were more like Denmark
Jochen A. Krause/APLegos are one of Denmark's happiest creations.
As income taxes arrive from around the country, Congress is debating how to spend the loot.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration submitted to Congress its proposed fiscal 2015 budget -- a Santa Claus wish list of facts and figures $3.9 trillion tall and stretching to 218 pages. The numbers in this draft will certainly be subject to tweaking by Congress. Whatever emerges at the end, one thing is certain: No one's going to be entirely happy with the result.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could all agree on a budget that did make everyone happy? Take the folks in Denmark. According to the 2013 "World Happiness Report," published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network under the auspices of the United Nations, Denmark ranks as the "happiest" country on Earth.

Factors going into the creation of a happiness score include real GDP per capita, health, life expectancy, social support networks, personal freedom, lack of corruption in government and generosity. After 156 pages of crunching such numbers, Denmark got a 7.7 rating (out of 10 points possible). America scores a 7.1 and ranks 17th. The least happy place is the West African nation of Togo, which scores a 2.9.

What makes Danes so happy? And how might we imitate them? Working largely from data from the CIA World Factbook, here are a few ideas.

Make Do With Less

Denmark's a small country, with an even smaller economy. Per capita gross domestic product in Demark, adjusted to reflect purchasing power relative to America's economy, is $37,800 -- vs. $52,800 in the U.S. Yet somehow, Danes live quite happily on incomes just 70 percent of the American average -- or even less than that.

Pay More Taxes

This is the time of year when Americans love to complain about how "overtaxed" we are. But compared to Denmark, American taxes are nothing. The federal government collects about 22 percent of U.S. gross domestic product as taxes (including Social Security). Denmark, in contrast, takes nearly 56 percent of gross domestic product. This makes Denmark the eighth most-taxed nation.

Save More

Somehow, even with less money coming in the door and the tax man taking so much of it, Danes sock away more money for retirement than Americans do. Gross national saving (which includes savings by both individuals and government) in 2013 was estimated at 24.1 percent of GDP -- versus 13.5 percent in the U.S.

Spend Less

Logically, saving more -- and paying more for taxes -- implies lower levels of spending on "stuff." Danes spend about 49 percent of their GDP on "household consumption." In America's more consumption-oriented economy, household spending consumes 69 percent of GDP.

Invest More in People

Taxes provide free education for all students through university. A national health care system covering all Danish citizens. Health care spending in Denmark is about half what the U.S. spends, per person. Yet polls show that more than 90 percent of Danes are "totally satisfied" with the health care they receive. And while that's a subjective measure, the fact that life expectancy in Denmark is almost identical to that in the U.S. suggests that the quality of health care in Denmark is high.

Satisfaction Is the Key

Socrates wrote that "the secret of happiness ... is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less." This seems to be a trick the Danes have mastered. They have worked out a system for distributing what they do earn to satisfy the needs of the population.

The result -- among other advantages -- is a country with lower poverty, unemployment, inflation, budget deficits and national debt than we have here in the U.S. More than just reasons to be happy, these all sound like accomplishments Danes can be proud of.

Rich Smith is a contributing writer for The Motley Fool. ​

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March 27 2014 at 5:31 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Cradle to grave, the Socialist model. Following is a good read for the HUFPO lefties.
Forty years after his death, the philosophy espoused by Saul Alinsky —(the founder of the community-organizing model that continues to inspire both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton) through his 8 Levels of Control, which are rules designed to turn America into a Socialist State. These rules were first published in his book ‘Rules for Radicals.

I have printed these rules below for your information and consideration. It’s scary to see how much has been accomplished --- implemented---by various administrations over more than four decades through enacting laws, regulations and social programs by a largely Democrat controlled Senate and, until recently, House of Representatives. (Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society”, the 50 year-long “War on Poverty”, the war on God, and ObamaCare are examples.)
I fear it may be too late to turn things a round. In case you haven’t noticed, all 8 Rules are now operational in one degree or another.

How to create a social state by Saul Alinsky:
There are eight levels of control that must be obtained before you are able to create a social state. The first is the most important.

1) Healthcare – Control healthcare and you control the people.

2) Poverty – Increase the Poverty level as high as possible, poor people are easier to control and will not fight back if you are providing everything for them to live.

3) Debt – Increase the debt to an unsustainable level. That way you are able to increase taxes, and this will produce more poverty.

4) Gun Control – Remove the ability to defend themselves from the Government. That way you are able to create a police state.

5) Welfare – Take control of every aspect of their lives (Food, Housing, and Income).

6) Education – Take control of what people read and listen to – take control of what children learn in school. Common Core is added to classrooms across America.

7) Religion – Remove the belief in God from the Government and schools.

8) Class Warfare – Divide the people into the wealthy and the poor. This will cause more discontent and it will be easier to take (Tax) the wealthy with the support of the poor.

Does any of this sound like what is happening today in the United States? Alinsky merely simplified Vladimir Lenin's original scheme for world conquest by communism, under Russian rule. Stalin described his converts as "Useful Idiots." The Useful Idiots have destroyed every nation in which they have seized power and control. It is presently happening at an alarming rate in the U.S. with the so-called Progressive Movement. It may be too late to reverse the decline. The elections of 2014 and 2016 may be the last chance to save our country.

March 27 2014 at 12:19 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to charlie4562r's comment

Your item 1) " Healthcare – Control healthcare and you control the people".
You are quite right but in the wrong context. Big Pharma and Insurance companies control health care. We are their slaves and dependent on their good graces. Personally, I'm NOT afraid of government perse, Just the ones Americans keep reelecting - the one that is owned by corporations and, yes, big pharma and insurance companies. Thanks for unwittingly stating the case.

March 27 2014 at 5:37 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

How much does Denmark spend annually on financial assistance to their poor or unemployed? Military?? Assistance to allied countries???
Obama wants to increase assistance to the poor, while greatly reducing military budgets? How about reducing both greatly? Eliminate financial assistance to allies at the same time!
We police and protect too many who do not contribute. Many of the allies that we try to pay to be our friends with money or inteligence, or cheap weapons disrespect us on a constant basis (Israel; Afghanistan; ETC) WE (read "Middle class") support all the people who don't want to work meanwhile they get a cash job and cry poverty!!!.
We borrow huge amounts of money from CHINA in order to pay for it all??? ABSURD; send the politicians to economics class

March 26 2014 at 11:48 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Would someone please elaborate on the cost per person of military defense in Denmark? And then compare it to the US. If there's a reason we're headed off a cliff it's because we spend way too much on National Defense. We spend way too much on the war in drugs. We incarcerate far too many people for non-violent crimes. Those three expense points have more to do with the health and well being of a supremely well oiled bureaucracy and less to do with public safety--although they may once have, the ever increasing militatization of America's law enforcement sector is costing us billions and has little effect on crime overall.

March 26 2014 at 11:36 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Alex Vagias

40 years ago, the poorest 80% of Americans, collectively, possessed 19% of the country's wealth. Today, the poorest 80% possess 11%. This, should be, an alarming statistic and is, to a large extent, a product of calculated machinations of the wealthy to cut their taxes and increase their wealth. That is why we're seeing a diminishment in the size and the wealth of the middle class. We're going in a bad direction, folks. On the way to a two class society. Nothing like Denmark-unless the masses stand up and say "no more."

March 26 2014 at 11:02 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Problem here is that Denmark don't spend tons of money for military while we do trying to rule the world from Washington and going bankrupt Chinese money (communist China) is our banker and mortgage holder...I remember when China was our #1 enemy and I was in Taiwan in the military advising the Chiang Kai shek crowd LOL ...times sure change.

March 26 2014 at 10:47 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply


March 26 2014 at 10:15 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

If anyone has any doubt where the future of the average American citizen is headed to, read "Executive Order 13603," Or, even "United Nations Agenda 21." Our country has been sold down the river...

March 26 2014 at 10:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Steve's comment

I don't care for the UN much at all and I totally agree that the UN is not to be trusted, but it has no legal or governmental authority within the borders of the US. Also the US cannot engage in any foreign treaty which is contrary to US law,that is illegal under the Constitution. That agenda is just globalist elitist fairys and unicorns nonsense that has no bearing on the US.

March 26 2014 at 10:25 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Here's a good one.....MOVE TO DENMARK and stop trying to "FIX" us. My dog is fully aware of what "Fix" means, and he wasn't totally happy with the result either.

March 26 2014 at 9:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We would all be happier, and the country would be way better off if we could resurrect the Truman/Eisenhauer years when we had POTUS who really cared about the country, were honest, and would call a spade a spade. The years since then have been a continual slide downhill to sorry mess we have now. Can you imagine what Harry would have told Pelosi when she said "Vote now, read it later"? Denmark? Get a life!

March 26 2014 at 9:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply