Rhein on Energy and Climate

In recent years social scientists and policy makers have thought about the major objectives of socio-economic policy and come to the conclusion that the maximisation of per capita income should not be the only objective to be pursued.

In 2012/13 the UN “Sustainable Development Solutions Network” has come up with the idea of measuring citizens` happiness by six criteria: per capita income, healthy life expectation, personal relations and trust, freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption and generosity.

Measuring by these six criteria five small European countries – Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands and Sweden – with high standard of living, good health standards, longevity and good governance have emerged as the happiest countries on earth. Each of them has been given notes of close to 8 from 10 possible points. The choice of these countries makes a lot of sense. They have not known war for decades or centuries like Switzerland and Sweden. Corruption is very rare and personal security used to be very high.

Following this list are 15 countries starting with Canada, Finland, Austria, Iceland, Australia, Israel, Costa Rica, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates, Panama, Mexico, USA, Ireland, Luxembourg and Venezuela, each of which scores at least seven points.Some of these like Venezuela, Mexico and the USA raise questions, and they would hardly appear in a 2015 review.

From an EU perspective, it is highly satisfactory to see seven member countries, all of them small and north of the Alps, considered among the happiest 20 on earth! That contrasts with public perception of wide-spread EU discontent and frustration.

Citizens from the “happy” countries seem to be aware, as I found out these days when talking to a Danish NATO soldier in Brussels who was proud about his home country being the happiest on earth.

The EU policy framework should learn from this experience, and make happiness of its citizens the supreme target of its socio-economic policy however difficult that may be to implement.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 24/3/2015

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