Happiness Index: Costa Rica #1 - U.S. #114

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".....So when the New Economics Foundation released its second Happy Planet Index, a ranking of countries based on their environmental impact and the health and happiness of their citizens, the No. 1 spot went to Costa Rica, population 4 million."

"The United States’ ranking: No. 114."

What can our neighbor to the south teach us about happiness, longevity, and environmental sustainability? :

“Costa Rica enjoys a privileged position as a mid-income country where citizens have sufficient spare time and abundant interpersonal relations,” says Costa Rican economics professor Mariano Rojas. “A mid-income level allows most citizens to satisfy their basic needs. Government intervention in the economy assures that all Costa Ricans have access to education, health, and nutrition services.” Costa Ricans, he added, have not entered the “race for status and conspicuous consumption.”

Interesting article on the topic: http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/climate-action/why-is-costa-rica-smiling

Retired Monk - "Ideology is a disease"

polycarp2
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Comments

Thanks for the link poly. I posted it on a local site and the apologists were out in force with their rationalizations.

A lot of these articles show things that we either are aware of or at least suspect to be so. Reading it in black and white can be a sobering experience.

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norske
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Not having an armed forces costing the country 51cents of every tax dollar, allows them the living standard and happiness they seemingly have.

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Bulawayo2
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

It's probably a combination of things. Whle not having a huge defense expenditure can certainly help....we could afford the same government interventions if FICA taxes didn't have a cap on them above $190,000 incomes.

“A mid-income level allows most citizens to satisfy their basic needs. Government intervention in the economy assures that all Costa Ricans have access to education, health, and nutrition services.” Costa Ricans, he added, have not entered the “race for status and conspicuous consumption.”

Perhaps Costa Ricans get that first filling the closets, then the garage, then the rented storage room with "stuff" ....isn't really the way to pursue happiness in a manner that works.

If a person can't find happiness in a well-maintained cottage, a mansion in the hills over-looking a city isn't going to make much difference. Learned that through trial and error in my 20's. I didn't always have a vow of poverty.

Retired Monk - "Ideology is a disease"

polycarp2
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Maybe Rush isn't so dumb after all. I could probably find an excuse to dump America and live in exile in Costa Rica.

He will have more trouble getting his drugs than if he were in a more corrupt client state of America.

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DRC
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Eric Weiner explores what makes for a happy populus in his book, The Geography of Happiness. It's not intended as a serious treatise, but it does make some interesting points. Of all the countries he visited, the most intriguing was Iceland. Some things he found were:

The population is so small that it is difficult to have sectarian divisions. It is like a huge family. There are few secrets.

It has been a relatively socialist society. The main result of this is that there is a profound lack of envy. Envy is the chief killer of happiness in a society.

The culture celebrates creativity. He says, 'It is hard to find anybody who has not published a book of poetry'.

The culture celebrates professional mobility. If you're in a job that doesn't suit you, it's easy to transition into another career altogether.

The culture celebrates failure. People who fail in their jobs are not treated as criminals. (Americans love failures as long as they win in the end).

In the book, it seems like Icelanders drink a lot. They also don't seem to be bothered by ultraviolet deprivation.

This interesting article tells us that America has dropped to #11 in terms of innovative achievement. #1 is Iceland. Could these national traits have anything to do with it?

(The chapter on Iceland reminded me of one of my favorite movies, Local Hero. While the movie was about a small village in Scotland, the flavor was quite similar to what Weiner described in Iceland.

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Art
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

When I saw that Costa Rica was #1, that was striking, because, as several of you have pointed out, it has no national military. In fact, it is the only nation that has no national military. I found that out last year when I was blogging about war, and did a comparison of different nations' emphasis on military spending and murder rates. I found that military spending also correlates with domestic murder rates, so I believe Costa Rica also has a low violent crime rate (hard to remember). Why can't we in the U.S. seem to learn from other nations?

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Natural Lefty
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

"It has been a relatively socialist society. The main result of this is that there is a profound lack of envy. Envy is the chief killer of happiness in a society." Art

Much the same as in Norway. They really can't wrap their heads on how Americans think.

Reminds me of the head of the BIA during the Reagan years. They built a couple of subdivisions on reservation land and then couldn't understand when the owners didn't try to 'one up the joneses' by making their houses better than their neighbors. They waxed existential on how to develop greed and envy among people who had no use for either. Bizarro world.

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norske
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

If stealing from thy neighbor is your version of "happiness", Costa Rica is your place. http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_rob_percap-crime-robberies-per-capita

slabmaster
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Apr. 1, 2010 11:12 am
Quote Slabmaster:If stealing from thy neighbor is your version of "happiness", Costa Rica is your place.
Yeah. looks like you're right. That's why my money is on Iceland as the world's happiest country. It's down there at #51.

Of course, Saudi Arabia is down in the #60 spot. Isn't that where they chop off your hand for stealing a loaf of bread? I haven't heard that they have to go to those draconian methods in places like Iceland.

Norway is in the #40 slot, Norske. Not quite as good as Iceland, but way ahead of the USA.

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Art
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

I'm pretty damn happy right here. So are most people I know. That's why I live here.

I know alot of posters here can't stand the USA, but I notice only Mel has manned up and left. One way tickets are cheap nowadays. Life is short, be happy.

I'm curious as to the fixation with other peoples livelihoods. I've never seen a group of people so worried about other people having more stuff than they do. Has living on the dole created that much jelousy?

slabmaster
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Apr. 1, 2010 11:12 am

Pretty snarky. You're good at that.

I think people get upset when they realize that 30 years of government policy has resulted in the most massive re-distribution of wealth from the former middle class to the wealthy elite in American history. That is to say that you guys in the top brackets possess a lot of wealth that once belonged to people who rightly earned that wealth.

Here's that description of what happened during the "Reagan revolution" and continues unabated. (I cited this in another thread). Did you ever wonder how the wealthy elite became so much more deserving in 1987?

Costa Rica may be the current theft capital of the world, but America ain't no slouch, either. If I was in the upper eschalon, I, too, would probably resent people's curiosity about how much of my wealth I really deserve.

Enjoy your wealth, Slab! I'm glad you're happy.

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Art
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Slab, your personal values are not a problem, but your politics suck because they are so judgemental. They are also costly rather than efficient, and they lead to a low degree of overall public "happiness" and to a high degree of volatility. It is the inequality and the contrast between oppulance and poverty that grates and corrodes any sense of national or social unity.

The economic gloss on social reality misses every family value human beings have evern acknowledged. It confuses "personal responsibility" with neglect of your neighbors need. It makes the basic social investments in a healthy, educated and highly motivated population the basis for resenting having to live with those who are not as "good" as you.

You have described a lazy brother in law as an example of liberal largesse. Since there isn't any here, I suspect the case is more complex. His knowledge of the structural unfairness of America may not be working for him, but he is not wrong to see the injustice even if he ought not use it as an excuse for his own depression.

The lazy bums I know collect tolls and dividends from money they caged out of the system without a return on value. They cost me a lot more than all the lazy unemployed people or disabled, etc. It is the "welfare" at the top that robs me of my money. It is the effing war tax even apart from the active wars that has burdened me and made sure that my taxes get me the least value of any modern "industrial" nation.

I have never begrudged you any of the pleasures of your success. I wish I could relieve you of the resentment you feel toward those on welfare at the bottom and replace it with compassion for poor souls who lack the grace of meaningful and well-paid work. I am all for them showing initiative, but I don't mind helping them pick themselves up so they can get back in the game. They don't have to feel like lepers to receive our help.

Some wealthy people are aware that they are lucky instead of deserving. Deserving is a rather narcisstic gloss on reality. Where did "there but for the grace of God go I?" Just because you worked hard, did you deserve to have it pay off when others who worked just as hard did not get the reward? I don't know what the payoff for you is in the resentment, and I think you are wasting a lot of soul energy and missing the feeling of gratitude. Too bad.

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DRC
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Art, I don't agree that happiness has anything to do with being financially well off. My husband and I were in the top 3% of earners in the US, and if anything we were much better off financially in the US than in the UK (especially living in London).

I personally find happiness isn't just about my individual wealth, its about the society I live in, and here in the UK, that society is fairer and healthier for all (well at least compared to the US that is). The primary reason we decided to move back here, is because we realized it was a MUCH better place to raise our son, and we have all benefited from being in a fairer, happier environment.

Slab, I don't hate the US, but its not the place for me any longer. My priorities and values are different to what seems to be so important to the American way of life.

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meljomur
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Probably judging people by what the have rather than who they are has a lot to do with it. It determines a person's status in our society. Having "money to burn" was a much different social experience than one has after taking a vow of poverty. Same person...different treatment. A table in a dark corner of a restaurant rather than one by the fountain, etc..My mom bought me "suitable clothing"....so she could sit by the fountain. I could care less...and the social differences are there.

To paraphrase Dr Martin Luther King, a man should be judged by his character...not by the size of his McMansion or the price of his suit.

The daily megaphone of the media telling people they really need this and really deserve that probably has a lot to do with "envy".

Then of course, there is the daily reality of the working poor. A sense of hopelessness sort of sets in when they can't even afford the basics....and can't see a way of ever doing that. "Get an education, get an education". Right...when schools in poor neighborhoods are so badly financed they are lucky if they can spell their names. let alone throw $100,000 at a college while attempting to pay the rent. Reality sets in..and it doesn't match the image of who TV says they should be.

A life of forever living on the outside looking in can be pretty discouraging. "Pull yourself up by your bookstraps".. First, one needs a boot.

Retired Monk - "Ideology is a disease"

polycarp2
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

I just wanted to point out that the reason robbery rates are higher in Costa Rica than here in the U.S. is probably that robbery is actually illegal in Costa Rica, whereas it has been made legal for those most inclined to steal from their fellow citizens in the U.S.

Also, we have a greater percentage of the population in jail here in the U.S. than anywhere else. Banksters can rob the rest of us here, but a person can't be caught with a marijuana joint without going to jail.

I think this more or less summarizes what DRC was saying.

Mel, I agree that happiness comes from our society, family, and how we arrange our lives and personal environment, not from wealth.

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Natural Lefty
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote Mel:Art, I don't agree that happiness has anything to do with being financially well off.

Well, I'm the first to agree that wealth does not equal happiness. However, I do believe that poverty is closely connected to misery, envy, despair - in short, unhappiness.

It seemed to me that the Weiner book made these points quite well. He visited one of the -Stans, a former Soviet country that is suffering from horrible poverty (i don't remember which one). This is where he featured the role that envy plays in human misery. Qatar was another point of investigation. This is a place that is drowning in oil money. Everybody has a personal servant to satisfy every possible human desire. People there are not particularly happy. (Weiner attributed this to a lack of cultural identity with a history. I didn't think that this was a very satisfying explanation).

I'm back to favoring Iceland. No extremes in wealth or poverty. No keeping-up-with-the-Joneses. Tons of opportunity for personal expression.

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Art
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote meljomur:

Art, I don't agree that happiness has anything to do with being financially well off. My husband and I were in the top 3% of earners in the US, and if anything we were much better off financially in the US than in the UK (especially living in London).

I personally find happiness isn't just about my individual wealth, its about the society I live in, and here in the UK, that society is fairer and healthier for all (well at least compared to the US that is). The primary reason we decided to move back here, is because we realized it was a MUCH better place to raise our son, and we have all benefited from being in a fairer, happier environment.

Slab, I don't hate the US, but its not the place for me any longer. My priorities and values are different to what seems to be so important to the American way of life.

I think that people ought to do what makes them happy. You are proof of doing something about your living conditions rather than pissing and moaning about how unfair life is. You like England better for the reasons you listed and moved. That's what I'd do if I wasn't happy about where I lived.

I agree that money is not the source of happiness. It is just a vehicle that can provide better opportunity. Frankly, I'd rather have it than not as having it suits my needs and wants. What I've never understood is liberal chant of the zero sum game....that isn't. Because your nieghbor has a big house is no reason to resent him. You don't have to live there and it doesn't mean that you can't have a big house if you choose to. If your nieghbor invests well and reaps rewards for his investment, you need not hold him in disdain. I say good for him. The jelousy of what others have aquired will eat a hole in you and does absolutely nothing to further your happiness.

slabmaster
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Apr. 1, 2010 11:12 am
Quote DRC:

Slab, your personal values are not a problem, but your politics suck because they are so judgemental.

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

You have described a lazy brother in law as an example of liberal largesse. Since there isn't any here, I suspect the case is more complex. His knowledge of the structural unfairness of America may not be working for him, but he is not wrong to see the injustice even if he ought not use it as an excuse for his own depression.
He's a sloth that milks the system. He needs a swift kick, not a diaper.

The lazy bums I know collect tolls and dividends from money they caged out of the system without a return on value. They cost me a lot more than all the lazy unemployed people or disabled, etc. It is the "welfare" at the top that robs me of my money. It is the effing war tax even apart from the active wars that has burdened me and made sure that my taxes get me the least value of any modern "industrial" nation.
Yet you blindly support Obamas escalation of those illegal wars..etc? Why not vote for a guy that will stop all of the military excursions that are taxing you to death?

I have never begrudged you any of the pleasures of your success. I wish I could relieve you of the resentment you feel toward those on welfare at the bottom and replace it with compassion for poor souls who lack the grace of meaningful and well-paid work. I am all for them showing initiative, but I don't mind helping them pick themselves up so they can get back in the game. They don't have to feel like lepers to receive our help.
Where would you ever get the idea I "resent" anyone? I resent no one. I donate hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly to the plight of those in need. How backwards can you get DRC? The segment of society that I disagree with is the bums that feel "owed" for some reason and jelousy driven people that figure taking away from someone else is better than achieving their own gains. Those people are a cancer to society.

Some wealthy people are aware that they are lucky instead of deserving. Deserving is a rather narcisstic gloss on reality. Where did "there but for the grace of God go I?" Just because you worked hard, did you deserve to have it pay off when others who worked just as hard did not get the reward? I don't know what the payoff for you is in the resentment, and I think you are wasting a lot of soul energy and missing the feeling of gratitude. Too bad.
I think you have not the foggiest idea of what I think. It's as if what goes in, comes out scrambled in liberal psychobabble. I don't know if I deserve anything more than the next guy. No idea. Until now, I never thought about it. I do what I do and to the best of my ability and if it works, great. If it doesn't, I'll try harder. There is no "I'm owed" for trying. I have alot of gratitude for being healthy and happy and still being 6 feet above ground. Lucky? I find the harder I perservere, the luckier I get.

slabmaster
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Apr. 1, 2010 11:12 am

My friend, I am responding to what you have posted. My analysis is not an attempt to put you on any couch. It is just about consistent themes in your posts. I tried to put it in a context where the judgement is not about your personal values, and I include your noble charitable activities. It is about your reaction to what you label as "lazy" and a cancer on society.

Having worked with such victims, I understand that they have a serious motivation problem. Clearly, if they were able to be persistant they would be luckier. But a kick in the butt was rarely what the people I dealt with needed, at least at that point in their distress. The first thing they needed was empathy and someone who could hear their plight without judging them. This is not about your irritating person or lazy bum of your personal knowledge. It is about the generalization.

And hard ass get tough social policies do not help people get motivated. To believe in themselves, others must believe in them. To get out of the hole of depression, one often needs a helping hand, even a Good Samaritan willing to pick you up and take you to care you need. It takes more than knowing what the depressed person needs to do, like get over depression and get back in the game. Duh. The mystery is why a person who knows that cannot internalize it and make it work even though that person is desperate to get out of the hole.

Breaking that spell by force or coercion is ineffective and can be harmful. What is needed is affirmation, support and intervention from people who have built a relationship of trust rather than of judgement. I suspect you are not a helpful party to your brother-in-laws recovery. He will react against your kick in the butt approach and say and do stuff that fulfills our expectations and analysis. It will drive you nuts, of course.

It makes sense to recognize that the system is toxic and people get hung out to dry by work all the time. I don't think coercion produces great motivation, career choices or job performance. Helping people find work that satisfies their souls has been satisfying for me. Liberating some high end worker bees from their success was also a blessing as they found far greater satisfaction at lower money.

What I urge you is to put a bit more distance between your personal story of effort and reward and what works for everyone else. I think you have some valid points, but the larger frame is too angry about real victims and does not recognize the value of what you dismiss as "nanny" support services. That is where I pin the contempt for the victim on your policies, and I don't believe that charity replaces the sound social service programs we need from government. In this case it is grounded and experienced knowlege, not an intellectual projection.

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DRC
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

You are speaking mostly in your post about clinical depression. Two different subjects.

I am talking about the scores of people that have no motivation because they have a free check coming their way. First sign of discomfort, get a free check from the nanny state. Nothing is your resposibility afterall.

The ideals of those excusing any and all behavior breeds laziness and uselessness and a "I'm owed" mentality. It reinforces the depression you speak of. It is a backwards approach to a real problem. The system is far from toxic IMO. If people look at the glass as half empty constantly and in every endeavor, I can understand why you have people lying on your couch wondering why they are so effed up in the head. The system (which is a huge generalization) can be productive for most if not all people in it. The responsibility falls of the person, not a pinhead beurocrat that strives to weaken peoples constitution with giveaways for all. Selective breeding by reliance on government may be your idea of utopia, but I see it as the fattening up the cattle.

Some people without doubt need assistence as they truly can't fend for themselves. They are the small minority of people that I am not talking about. It is the majority of enabled lazy bums that milk the giveaway system that I disagree with. IMO, they get off of their ass, or get some experience in a ridgid diet program. If I was in charge of my brother in laws "recovery" as you put it, it would start with a swat upside the head and a boot out the door. He's already been trained to be a bum. Time to learn something new.

slabmaster
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Apr. 1, 2010 11:12 am
Quote Slabmaster:I am talking about the scores of people that have no motivation because they have a free check coming their way. First sign of discomfort, get a free check from the nanny state. Nothing is your resposibility afterall.
I know a number of people who have been out of work for some time now. I certainly don't know anybody like that. Where do I go to find such people? How do I identify them?

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Art
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Currently Chatting

Should public radio program in the public interest?

NPR is supposed to be our national public radio, but they're barely covering climate issues that are in the public's interest.

Only one month ago, a national New York Times/CBS News poll found that half of all Americans think that global warming is already having a serious impact. Sixty percent of those surveyed even said that protecting our environment should be a priority “even at the risk of curbing economic growth.”

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