The happiest countries in the world have a very simple secret: socialism.
It may have filled the history books with tales that regale us with the gore and violence belonging to the Vikings, but Scandinavia today is a far cry from the pillaging and raging people that sailed from its shores in the middle ages. Scandinavia today is almost akin to a socialist utopia. From healthcare, standards of living to parental leave policies, Scandinavia is remarkably cozy. And the U.S. should take note.
In the United States, “full-time salaried workers supposedly laboring 40 hours a week actually average 49, with almost 20 percent clocking more than 60” (1). By comparison, Scandinavian people “worked only about 37 hours a week, when they weren’t away on long paid vacations” (1). And at the end of a long workday, they have time to themselves and their family, which compared to the fast track diurnal life of the U.S., helps to explain why job satisfaction in these countries is so much higher than the U.S. In the U.S., the capitalist system is increasingly frustrating the populace, leaving low levels of job satisfaction and life contentedness in its wake.
Scandinavian countries also “consistently rank at the top of the world for highest standard of living” (2). These countries have low crime rates, low unemployment rates, high education standards (with most of the population being educated for an average of 18 years) and well-paying jobs. One need only look at what the progressives in the Democrat Party look to for an ideal example of democratic-socialism, and it just happens to be Scandinavian countries.
Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland also all have high levels of female representation in their governments. And high representation in government signals high levels of gender equality. Just recently, Sanna Marin of Finland was chosen to be Prime Minister. Compare this to the U.S., which has not even had a female President in its supposed “equality utopia.”
Nordic countries also have some of the most progressive parental leave policies in the world. These countries do not simply limit their populace to “maternal leave,” they exercise paternal leave as well, boasting parental leave measures with “high compensation rates and affordable public daycare” (3). Today, parental leave in Norway is around a total of 47 weeks with a minimum of 14 weeks for fathers.
Additionally, Scandinavian countries rank high in cases of press freedom. According to the 2013 report: "The models of respect for media freedom are in northern Europe. Finland, Norway and Netherlands have led the index for years. Their success rests on solid constitutional and legal foundations, which in turn are based on a real culture of individual freedoms” (3). If only such respect could exist in a nation that clouts “fake news.”
Why is this the case? What makes Scandinavia so epically ideal? Research points to secularization, or “the strength of social democratic parties and the development of an extended welfare state, women's entrance into the labor market in large numbers in the 1960s, the educational boom in the 1960s and the electoral system” (3). See, Scandinavia has chosen to walk a middle ground, not becoming too socialist, and not becoming too capitalist. The U.S., by comparison, is extremely capitalist, walking a line where the populace is left increasingly dissatisfied. Look to Scandinavia, U.S., and model it like them, and see how much happier it could make everyone.