Citizen-led initiatives scored big wins in the midterms. But now this form of direct democracy is under attack.
For a country with a population the size of Wisconsin’s, Denmark has figured surprisingly prominently in the U.S. presidential election debates.
In the very first Democratic debate last October, Bernie Sanders ignited a national debate over the tiny Scandinavian country’s economic model by saying we could “learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.”
In February, Denmark made U.S. political headlines again when Ted Cruz warned that if we elect Donald Trump, we would be liable to wake up one morning to find that the president had “nuked Denmark.”
Cruz didn’t elaborate on why he thought Denmark would be a particularly likely Trump target for nuclear destruction. Perhaps it’s because those Danes are just so darn happy.
According to UN World Happiness rankings released this week, Denmark comes in first, up from their third place showing in 2015. The United States ranks #13. At the bottom: Greece.
How do these folks measure happiness? The rankings are based largely on six factors:
- GDP per capita
- healthy years of life expectancy
- social support (“If you were in trouble, do you have relatives or friends you can count on to help you whenever you need them, or not?”)
- trust (as measured by a perceived absence of corruption in government and business)
- freedom to make life decisions (“Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your freedom to choose what you do with your life?”)
- generosity (as measured by recent donations)
The authors argue this broader measure of well-being is a more meaningful way to analyze inequality than income and wealth indicators. They find that people are happier in societies where there is less inequality of happiness.
Happiness might not necessarily be a good thing, though—that is if you’re Donald Trump and you’re running for president. Yahoo Finance recently ranked all 50 U.S. states according to an “anger index.” Trump is cleaning up in the angry ones, with a 91 percent win rate in states among the 20 angriest that have held primaries.
Happier voters aren’t going so much for the blustery tycoon. Trump has won just 4 of 11 primaries (36 percent) that have been held so far in the 20 least-angry states.
So, happy Danes, beware.
Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and co-edits Inequality.org. Follow her at @Anderson_IPS