Skip to main content

Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

Why are the billionaires laughing?

It’s easy to laugh when the corporate press treats you as a glorious success instead of the epitome of a broken social order. They laugh because they know the corporate media prefers to fawn over them rather than hold them to account.

Today, we ask you to support our nonprofit journalism because we are not impressed by billionaires flying into space, their corporations despoiling our health and planet, or their vast fortunes safely concealed in tax havens across the globe. We are not laughing.

We are hard at work digging out the truth. Please support this independent journalism today by donating to our critical Fall Campaign. We cannot do it without you. Thank you. -- Craig Brown, Co-founder

Support Our Work -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Every donation—large or small—helps us bring you the news that matters.

Helsinki, Finland residents gather in Senate Square. Finland was named the happiest country in the world Wednesday in the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network's annual report. (Photo: Sami C/Flickr/cc)

Social Democratic Nations Rank Happiest on Global Index (Again). US Ranking Falls (Again).

Out-sized corporate power and wealth inequality were named as reasons for Americans' chronic unhappiness in the UN's annual report

Julia Conley

The social democracy of Finland was once again ranked number one on the United Nations' World Happiness Report, released on Wednesday, while the corporate-dominated United States fell one place to rank at 19th.

For the seventh year in a row, the UN's Sustainable Development Solutions Network released a report ranking 156 countries according to measures including income, freedom, trust in government, and social support.

The United States fell one place from last year, ranking as only the 19th-happiest nation in the world despite being the wealthiest nation in the world.

Finland has less wealth than the U.S., but the UN's report suggests that the country's commitment to ensuring an equitable quality of life for all its residents has led to greater satisfaction among the population.

The top ten countries were largely Nordic nations with strong social welfare systems and an emphasis on equality.

"It's not about Finnish DNA. It's the way life is lived in those countries." —John F. Helliwell, economistFinland was followed by Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and the Netherlands, all of which were highly ranked last year as well. Among the top 20 countries, all but the U.S. has some form of universal healthcare for its citizens.

The study noted that some of the highest-ranking nations ensured that immigrants have a high quality of life as well as native residents.

"It's true that last year all Finns were happier than rest of the countries' residents, but their immigrants were also happiest immigrants in the world," economist and report author John F. Helliwell told CNN. "It's not about Finnish DNA. It's the way life is lived in those countries."

The U.S. ranked 37th for social support, 61st for freedom, and 42nd in the report's measure of corruption.

Healthcare costs, high rates of addictions, socioeconomic inequality, and a poor emphasis on ensuring work-life balance were mentioned in the report as causes of unhappiness in countries around the world, including the U.S. The country's low ranking in "freedom" may stem partially from the out-sized power held by corporations, with the government unwilling to protect its citizenry from large companies intent on boosting their profits.

"The United States doesn't have a privacy law, though reference is made in the Constitution against the use of the government of information that violates privacy," reads a chapter on big data and well-being. "Companies can do what governments cannot in the United States."

The report comes three months after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that life expectancy in the U.S. has dropped for the third year in row, with drug overdoses and suicides both major drivers of the trend.

"The U.S. has had, by now, two startling wake-up calls: back to back years of falling life expectancy and declining measured subjective well-being," wrote Jeffrey Sachs, economist and co-author of the report. "Major studies have documented the rising suicide rates and substance misuse...A public policy response built around well-being rather than corporate profits would place the rising addiction rates under intensive and urgent scrutiny, and would design policies to respond to these rising challenges."

As Katia Hetter noted at CNN, the other countries in the report's top 10 list are not free from problems, but they address their populations' difficulties far differently than the United States.

"Ranking high in happiness doesn't protect a country's people from violence or trauma, as the recent attacks on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand show," wrote Hetter. "But the response of New Zealand's people to the attacks does."

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arder led her country through a period of mourning following the attack on two mosques last week by expressing support and love for the Muslim community, condemning white nationalism, and vowing to reform gun laws.

By contrast, the U.S. government has for decades been unwilling to take concrete action to avoid mass shootings while President Donald Trump has openly sympathized with white supremacists following their violent attacks in the United States. 

"What stands out about the happiest and most well connected societies is their resilience and ability to deal with bad things," Helliwell told CNN.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Schumer Endorses 'Inspiring Community Leader' India Walton as Buffalo's Next Mayor

The U.S. Senate majority leader's move comes as some key New York Democrats refuse to back the democratic socialist.

Jessica Corbett ·

'Who Will You Throw Overboard?' Manchin Targeted for Trying to Sink Democratic Agenda

West Virginians gathered at the senator's yacht to demand that he stop blocking the "popular and needed" Build Back Better package.

Jessica Corbett ·

'We Shouldn't Do It at All': Manchin Admits He's the Enemy of Democrats' Ambitions

The right-wing West Virginia Democrat and fossil fuel investor has previously confessed his intent to quash his own party's sweeping $3.5 trillion Build Back Better package.

Brett Wilkins ·

After Getting 'Stealth Bailout' During Pandemic, US Corporations Try to Kill Proposed Tax Hikes

"When it's time to finally put workers first, big businesses are spending millions to maintain their advantage and preserve the status quo," said Kyle Herrig of Accountable.US.

Jessica Corbett ·

'Disgraceful': Just 9 Republicans Join With Dems to Hold Steve Bannon in Criminal Contempt

The vote "reveals just how far the Republican Party has fallen" since Trump took control as GOP's de facto leader, said one pro-democracy advocate.

Jon Queally ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo