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Michael Swartz / Mar. 24, 2017

Sanders, Socialism and the Pursuit of Happiness

Contrary to the senator's assertion, socialism doesn't bring contentment.

Despite chilly weather over much of the nation, on Monday we celebrated the first day of spring. Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but the onset of spring and the optimism brought on by the change in seasons may have been a reason the International Day of Happiness also was celebrated on March 20, as it has been since 2013.

If you’ve never heard of the event, you’re not alone. It’s a creation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). The date also marks the release of the SDSN’s World Happiness Report, which revealed that Norway had taken from Denmark the coveted title of happiest nation. Meanwhile, the United States — the land of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” — slipped one spot to a pedestrian 14th place in the rankings.

Leftists, of course, were giddy upon hearing the news. “Why are the people in Norway so much happier than the U.S.?” asked Senator Bernie Sanders on his social media page. “It’s not that complicated.” Naturally, he recited the standard socialist talking points, such as Norway’s tuition-free public college, paid sick leave for workers, a lower childhood poverty rate, and — of course — a single-payer health care system. “As we strive to be a more just society,” concluded Sanders, “we must follow the examples of our brothers and sisters in other countries who have made better progress.”

So what makes any nation a happy nation, according to the SDSN? “Happy countries are the ones that have a healthy balance of prosperity … and social capital, meaning a high degree of trust in a society, low inequality and confidence in government,” said SDSN director Jeffrey Sachs. The World Happiness Report measures this in six metrics: per capita GDP, healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity, social support, and absence of corruption in government or business. One might expect the land of the free and the home of the brave to clean up in these six categories. But not the SDSN.

In this year’s report, the last chapter — written by Sachs — is on “Restoring American Happiness.” Needless to say, he believes the problem isn’t economic, but social: “To escape this social quagmire, America’s happiness agenda should center on rebuilding social capital,” Sachs writes. “This will require a keen focus on the … factors that have contributed to falling social trust and confidence in government.” Sachs’s laundry list includes campaign finance reform, reducing income inequality, an expanded social safety net, higher taxes on the wealthy, greater public financing of health and education, more multiculturalism, “moving past” the anti-Islamic fear stoked by the 9/11 attack, and improving educational access and attainment. In short, the goal is to make America more like the socialist paradise of Europe, and Donald Trump, with his budget featuring “tax cuts at the top, throwing people off the healthcare rolls, [and] cutting Meals on Wheels in order to raise military spending,” isn’t the person to get us there.

Yet we would argue that the ultimate destination of Western European-style socialism is Venezuela, the nation that has fallen farthest in the five years this happiness survey has been taken. Indeed, the government that once subsidized everything now can’t feed its own people.

Nor is the SDSN and its socialist thumb on the scale the only gauge of happiness. Consider, as writer Peter Johnson does, a completely different measuring stick put out by Gallup called the Global Emotions Report. On that survey we find the world’s happiest nation is Paraguay, and several other Latin American nations rise into the top tier despite their poverty and generally corrupt governmental structures.

And having spent many months in Paraguay to witness this first-hand, Johnson takes a dim view of the SDSN’s efforts: “So a committee of jet-setting elitists decided to tell the rest of the world what happiness looks like. In short, the survey’s authors undertook an ambitious project: to align the UN’s international development work with actual data about happiness in the countries where they work.”

Amazing how that works, huh? They redefine happiness to justify their own beliefs.

Our nation’s guarantee of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” doesn’t mean all of us will achieve happiness — only that we’re free to reach for it. The provision of happiness will inevitably overwhelm Life and Liberty.

This concept simply isn’t reflected a survey that promotes statism, but it makes itself known by the fact that far more people seek to come here and achieve happiness than leave to seek their satisfaction elsewhere. So, ask yourself: Why are Bernie Sanders and his ilk hanging around here? Why haven’t they headed off to a more happy place? No one’s stopping them, and surely there are those who’d be most happy to pay for their safe passage to Norway — provided they get one-way tickets.

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