The great figures of old went down in lauded history not because they were billionaires, empire/ corp titans, or wielders of powerful weapons, but often because they made great contributions to human society thanks to their extraordinary qualities. These very qualities, rather than violence, power, or scheming, helped them win the hearts of generations and leave lasting influence for centuries after they were gone. Although they might not gain or claim any achievement, what they achieved is often etched on the hearts and minds of many. Those who did the opposite might be able to oppress others only for a short period of time but then would be reduced to dust or face regrettable consequences.
An Intriguing Reality
One may wonder why the opposite seems to be happening in today's world which is reigned by wealthy and powerful forces and regimes. In the West, capitalism and billionaires are taking control over billions whose lives serve mostly to line the pockets of a minority at the top. In the East, communism and authoritarians keep dominating their victims, forcing them into frivolous games only to entertain a minority at the top. In this dim picture, change-makers may have a role to play: they can choose to continue oiling the game wheels, to mind their own interests, to simply stand and watch, or to liberate the victims.
Zooming into the Brightish Spots
In a previous post, ten countries were presented from the top rankings of U.S. News. Here, a different list of countries is selected based on their rankings in the latest World Happiness Report. Each best country will be singled out for each region - North America, Latin America, Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, MENA, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, East Asia, and Oceania. Below is an attempt to briefly account for the levels of their happiness.
Happiness Score: 7.82
Finland, which functions today as a parliamentary democracy, is an international leader in providing education. She ranks high for good performances in civil rights, press freedom, and quality of life.
The country’s economy is primarily geared toward free-market capitalism while also prioritizing substantial spending on social safety nets and public services. In recent years, she is still emerging from recession.
Head of State: Sauli Niinisto won the presidential election in 2012 to become the country's first conservative head of state in five decades.
Finland's president has a largely ceremonial role, but can be an important shaper of public opinion.
Social Democrat Sanna Marin took over as prime minister of a center-left coalition in December 2019. It pledges to invest in the country's generous education, welfare state, and green tech. Her government consistently achieves high approval ratings, esp. thanks to good COVID measures.
Happiness Score: 7.36
Israel is a parliamentary democracy made up of six districts. Israel has an advanced market economy with cut diamonds, high-technology equipment, and pharmaceuticals among its major exports. The country is very highly developed in terms of education, per capita income, and other human development index indicators. Meanwhile, she has significant gaps between the rich and poor.
Head of State: Naftali Bennett, Israel's Prime Minister, is a tech millionaire who succeeds a long-standing politician. Although he heads a small Jewish nationalist party, Bennett was able to assemble parliamentary support from the right and left. His "government of change" has pledged to heal communal differences and restore probity to Israel's political life, but their lack of consensus on many issues makes this mission difficult.
#10 New Zealand
Happiness Score: 7.20
New Zealand has operated under an independent parliamentary democracy led by a prime minister since its independence in 1907. In 2017, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern led the progressive Labour party to victory and became the youngest female leader in the world.
Her amazing scenery is widely known across the world. With nature's bounty, she exports many products, such as dairy, meat, fruit, vegetables, and wine. Per capita income remains high and education expenditures are among the highest in the world.
Head of State: Jacinda Ardern began her role as prime minister in October 2017, pledging to lead a government for all. Her first foci included social issues such as housing affordability, improved healthcare, raising the minimum wage, environmental issues, and tackling homelessness and child poverty. She has particularly been applauded for measures against the COVID pandemic.
Happiness Score: 7.03
A very well-known country, Canada ranks first thanks especially to its quality of life, social purpose, agility, and openness for business.
Canada is a high-tech industrial society with a high standard of living. She and her neighbor are each other's largest trading partner. While the service sector is her biggest economic driver, the country is a significant exporter of energy, food, and minerals.
Head of State: Justin Trudeau won election victory for his Liberal Party in October 2015. He promised to shift some of the tax burden from mid-income earners to the richest, and increase spending to boost growth. He won much support from young voters thanks to his dashing youthful appeal.
His approval rating has been falling ever since. In early 2022, he took a controversial action against truckers and protesters to maintain COVID-19 restrictions. Additionally, pandemic fatigue and inflation have been hitting young workers the hardest.
Happiness Score: 6.92
Breaking away from the Soviet Union and communism in 1989, the Czech Republic today is a parliamentary democracy. She is considered an advanced economy with high living standards. The country compares favorably to the rest of the world for human development and manufacturing.
Head of State: Andrej Babis was the latest Czech PM who stepped down in 2021. The billionaire came to power by riding on the wave of populism and the influence of Trump's victory. His policies focused on modernization, pension increases, and support for the disadvantaged. Ineffective measures against COVID coupled with scandals caused him to lose the latest election.
#23 Costa Rica
Happiness Score: 6.58
Costa Rica has been one of the most stable countries in Central America since its birth in the 19th century. The nation compares favorably to its neighbors in human development and democracy, although poverty and inequality still persist.
Exports of agricultural products form the backbone of Costa Rica’s economy. Stability and an educated workforce have made the country attractive for foreign investment. She has also developed a reputation for ecotourism.
Head of State: Soon after Carlos Andrés won the election in 2018, Costa Rica was hit hard by the pandemic. Despite a high level of national debt, the government had to borrow another sizable loan from the IMF. Plans to raise taxes and cut spending have been shelved due to public protests.
Additionally, corruption remains a persistent issue in the government. It deterred voters from participating in the latest election.
Happiness Score: 6.48
Singapore is a bustling metropolis in Southeast Asia and home to one of the world’s busiest ports. She operates under a conservative parliamentary republic that is renowned for strict laws and tight regulations.
Singapore has seen impressive growth in recent years thanks to efficient business practices and free-market innovations.
Head of State: The eldest son of Singapore's founding leader, Lee Hsien Loong, entered politics at the age of 34. He has been serving as PM since August 2004. In this role, he has launched policies to build a competitive economy, new programs to upgrade the education system, and multiple investments to transform the city-state.
#91 South Africa
Happiness Score: 5.19
Although South Africa ended apartheid in 1994, she remains a country of vast inequality and high crime. The country grapples with the AIDS epidemic, rising unemployment, and persistent poverty. While the ruling party has increased services for the country’s poor, it has faced serious allegations of corruption throughout its ranks.