Partisanship, as I’ve said repeatedly (and, yes, probably demonstrated on more than one occasion), is a hell of a drug. That was on full display in a recent attempt by Canada Proud to dunk on the Trudeau government for Canada’s position on a ranking of the world’s happiest countries. After peaking at fifth in 2015, the latest World Happiness Report ranked us 13th. “Not good!” the right-wing meme factory tweeted.

That ranking still puts Canada ahead of places like the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany and France. More importantly, the countries ahead of us on the list aren’t exactly the sort of libertarian small-government paradises you’d think the folks at Canada Proud would gravitate towards. Number 1? Finland. Number 2? Denmark. Also in the top 10: Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and New Zealand.

A severe case of Partisan Blindness Syndrome prevented the meme makers at Canada Proud from appreciating the implications of their dunk or realizing that the ball would come back flying at their faces. Blaming the Trudeau government for a slight decrease in the reported happiness of Canadians is an exercise in spurious correlation, given the fact that their time in power coincides with the Donald Trump era and a global pandemic, never mind the negative existential gravity the United States continues to exert. And if we’re trading in spurious correlation, we could just as easily blame it on the existence of Canada Proud and its constant rage-farming, which began right as Canada’s happiness levels started heading south.

But their dumb dunk actually raises some interesting questions about what actually informs our happiness — and what doesn’t. It’s clearly not low taxes, since Finland, Norway, Iceland and Sweden are among the most highly taxed countries in the world. It’s not about regulations or “red tape,” since they’re also some of the most effectively regulated economies and countries on Earth. Small government and low taxes might make conservative lobbyists and pundits happy, but that doesn’t appear to hold for the population at large.

So what is driving happiness? In a deliberately cheeky tweet, John Cleese — yes, that John Cleese — suggested it was correlated with one’s proximity to more socialist forms of government. Perhaps. But according to John Helliwell, one of the authors of the World Happiness Report and a professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver School of Economics, it’s really about being connected with other people. Not surprisingly, the countries where the social safety net is most robust — and where governments are most involved in helping people build and maintain their communities — are the ones where people are happiest.

That extends to our own lives and the choices we make in them. “It’s about co-operating with other people in a useful way,” he told CNN. “You do end up feeling better about yourself if you’re actually looking after other people rather than Number 1.”

We’d do well to remember that — and to ask our elected officials to do the same. The relentless pursuit of our own self-interest, and a government that encourages us to do the same, might seem like a path to fulfilment and happiness. But the research and the rankings it produces clearly suggest otherwise. An economy of caring, and a government that helps us build it, might be more important than all the tax cuts in the world — especially when those cuts will make it even harder for the government to support people who need a little help.

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Happiness. Excellent article. Never heard the words “rage farming” before. True.

This should all be obvious.
But it is also obvious, that as we age, fewer opportunities present themselves for real interaction with others. And too often, the dangeorus partisanship ginned up on the right, makes it harder to discuss the issues we actually should be talking about together.. Superficial get togethers where everyone avoids the real needs of our society, and just talks about restaurants and travel plans.........are competitive in nature and likely create more unhappiness than anything else....but too often that's the safe formula for polite social action these days.

We need to transition off an energy system and lifestyle that isn't sustainable; we need to engage in new ideas and projects to make our communities, not just more communal, but safer....and we need to involve more citizens in this transition, and relie less on outside experts and foreign investment.

Once we start seriously building safe, affordable communities, with good schools and adequate daycare...we'll all be happier.

At some level, you can look at this issue as a divide between consumerism and society-building. The people who want lower taxes don't seem to realize that we'll all be better off if we fund a stronger society full of healthier (including and maybe especially mentally healthy), more educated, and less stressed people. We have a choice; we can invest in future generations of brilliant, high-functioning people who are an asset to society, do better work, and cause fewer problems for everyone else. Or we can have a somewhat bigger house and a newer car. The people calling for lower taxes seem to be choosing the latter. They sure do seem to be unhappy themselves, but having a bit more money to do consumerism with isn't going to fix that. Canadians over-spend on marginally valuable things while missing the forest for the trees.

It's also a shame how some people don't understand the long-term negative consequences of conservative policies, we will be recovering from the Harper era and all of these low-wisdom conservative provincial governments for decades. Complaining that things got worse after nearly a decade of under-investment in people is certainly not the dunk they were looking for.

It's a shame that this excellent article does not even mention the preponderance of Proportional Representation governance among the leading "happy" nations. Think about it!

Love the photo with this article!
I think the single most dispiriting thing for every decent, thinking adult is what Max's entirely rational argument in this article reminds us of yet again---that it no longer MATTERS WHAT WE SAY OR DO at all because reason has been relegated. I'm struck by the observation I read in the context of the conference at the Manning centre about why so many young conservative boys are lining up behind Boilievre--because it's FUN. A LARK. No "adulting" required.
But even worse are the older, more deliberate cons who unceremoniously (an understatement) yank a more moderate Erin O'Toole in their eagerness to push forward the top brat as the best "leader" for this Trumpian moment we're all unhappily stuck in, i.e. an attack dog with the nerve to stick to a nasty script relentlessly and obliviously, even in the august context of the House of Commons, a bold script rife with open jeering and sneering.
Tawdry and tacky though it is though, it also seems to work because it turns out no one actually knows what to do in the face of such unprecedented "nerve;" we've shown ourselves to be deer in the headlights. And the pandemic was an unexpected gift with it's additional, strong impression of "the center not holding," along with ongoing catastrophic climate change. It's all extremely upsetting.
And with the flight of reason and truth, what better group to bulk up your numbers than the horde of deluded, the "believers" among us who always want and need more power as affirmation for their nebulous alternate reality. Bill Maher pointed out this week that atheism has grown to a third of the population at least, which in the U.S. is 100 million, but not one person in government will declare that.
But once you've sidelined the truth and commandeered the discourse of politics, you can villify anything, even "socialism," which is in truth utterly sane and humane, not to mention the underpinning of our survival as a species.
Conservatives really COULD kill us all.

'Any god worth believing in would forgive us for not believing in him.'