[Photo by Jerry Newcombe, the southern coast of Norway] The results of a new study were announced this week, and they are consistent with previous findings. The five million or so people who live in the Scandinavian country of Norway are among the happiest on earth.
Writing for Reuters (3/20/17), Patricia Reaney noted: “Norway displaced Denmark as the world’s happiest country in a new report released on Monday” in a study that ranked 155 nations on earth. The United States ranked as 14th happiest, down from 13th last year.
At the bottom of the list? “Countries in sub-Saharan Africa, along with Syria and Yemen.” The research was conducted and compiled by the UN for the World Happiness Report 2017.
Reaney adds, “The rankings are based on six factors—per capita gross domestic product, healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity, social support and absence of corruption in government or business.”
Norway often tops the list of happiest nations. Why is that? It’s not the weather. Meanwhile, there are many beautiful places throughout Norway, including the fjords.
My wife is from Norway. We were married in Norway. Most of her family still lives there. We have visited many times. Why do Norwegians tend to be happier?
I would argue that it is the Christian values that can still be found in many parts of Norway. Even today’s secular-minded Norwegians are benefiting from Christianity’s residue. About a millennium ago, Norway was the scourge of Europe, with the Vikings ravaging people all over the Continent. “God, save us from the Normans,” went up the prayers. And God answered by converting the Vikings to Jesus. It’s one of the great stories of history.
Now Norway, formerly the land of Viking violence, hands out international peace prizes.
When the Reformation took place some 500 years ago, the Scandinavian countries threw their lot with Martin Luther and company. To this day, many of the state-churches in the Scandinavian countries are Lutheran.
When Bernie Sanders ran against Hilary Clinton on the Democratic side of the aisle last year, he made a big deal about the alleged success of the socialism of the Scandinavian countries. Others made similar points. Scandinavia flourishes because it is socialist lite. Were they correct?
Nima Sanandaji, whose family is from Iran, is from Sweden and is the author of the book, Debunking Utopia: Exposing the Myth of Nordic Socialism (WND Books, 2016).
In an interview we did for one of our D. James Kennedy Ministries television specials exposing the problems of socialism, Sanandaji told me, “Nordic countries are not socialist. The prime minister of Denmark came to the U.S. at the end of 2015, went to Harvard, and spoke, and he said in effect, ‘Stop saying that Denmark is socialist; we’re a market economy.’ And he’s absolutely right, throughout their history…Nordic countries have been perhaps the best example of how free markets create prosperity; and how high taxes, overly generous welfare, have destroyed the same prosperity. Today Nordic countries are very much market economies. They respect private property.”
Sanandaji drilled deeper: “Nordic countries are successful because of their unique culture, and this is why socialists only point to Nordic countries [as examples of “successful socialism”] because their success predates the welfare state and is because of culture, and their economic success is because of free markets. That is why they can never find a good case for socialism which is not about Nordic countries. It’s all smoke and mirrors.” [Emphasis mine].
Sanandaji points out in his book that Scandinavians who left Norway, Denmark, Sweden, etc. about a hundred years ago, when compared with their Nordic cousins who never left, tend to fare better by any comparison. He said, “Nordic-Americans, because they have a Nordic culture of success, are already more successful than the Nordic people.” He said there are 12 million Nordic-Americans, and they “have a 50 percent higher living standard” than do their cousins who never left Scandinavia.
Nima said something we don’t hear often: “Culture matters, and so what is Nordic cultural success? Now it has a lot to do with this Protestant, Lutheran working ethics—Protestant, Lutheran responsibility ethics, and the unfortunate thing is that that ethic has gradually been declining over time.”
Sanandaji, an atheist, cannot be accused of a Christian bias. Yet he says retaining the Judeo-Christian traditions will be key to the future survival of the West.
Seeing the average Norwegian enjoying so many positive benefits tied to their national Christian heritage does not surprise me. They are consistently listed as among the happiest nations on earth. That is primarily because of their Christian heritage, which, sadly, is fading over time.
At the end of the day, each of us is as happy as we make our mind to be. To paraphrase that quintessential colonial American, Ben Franklin: Contentment makes poor men rich. Discontentment makes rich men poor.