TCS Daily

Modern Stone-Age Family?

By Tim Worstall - July 20, 2006 12:00 AM

If somebody told you that Colombia was the second best place on the planet to live, the UK 108th and the US 150th you would suspect them, I am sure, of having ingested copious amounts of the marching powder that is Colombia's most famous export. While I am, as a staunch libertarian, all in favor of your right to consume such products unhindered by the law, that doesn't mean I wish to listen to (much less agree with) the drivel spouted by those who have.

The information comes in this report from the new economics foundation. Yes, they are so hip they conserve capital letters, obviously unaware that ee cummings was doing it half a century ago. The actual listing of countries according to the "Happy Planet Index" has Cuba in 6th place, Vietnam 12th, Bhutan 13th and Sri Lanka 15th. You might notice a pattern. All the countries are absolutely dirt stinking poor. The index was, I have to assume, deliberately set up to produce such a result for our friends at the nef (as Madsen Pirie, my part-time boss at the Adam Smith Institute calls them, the non economics foundation) are proud followers of the environmental ideas first laid out in Blueprint for Survival. That is, that we'd all be much happier leaving this capitalism stuff alone and living as happy peasants. Tending our own fields, craftsmen working with local resources to make the few tools we need and rarely, if ever, straying from walking distance of our hut.

It's even possible to have a certain amount of sympathy for this view. Certainly, all those who purchase weekend cottages have bought into the idea, but my own experience of such Rousseau-esque primitivism did not survive a toothache and the prospect of treatment with tools hand crafted in the local blacksmith's forge. Nature is all very well but best kept to the weekend, I feel.

The nef's calculations look at how happy people say they are, how long their lives are, and the size of their ecological footprint. There are a certain number of problems with such measurements: once basic amenities like sewage treatment and vaccination are available, expectations for life-span are based more on genetics than anything else (it's the quality of life that medical treatment changes, not so much the length of it). Happiness is a notoriously difficult thing to measure, highly culturally based (why would places like Finland and Sweden have such high suicide rates, given their egalitarianism and happy smiling socialism, if this were not so?) and I'll come to ecological footprints in a moment.

There is also the problem of measurement in communist police states like Cuba (and, less so now than before, Vietnam). When a man with a clipboard comes around to ask you how happy you are, would you be entirely confident in admitting that building socialism wasn't quite all it is cracked up to be? The point is that the first two are considered positive and the third negative. So a rich country, one with a large ecological footprint, will always do badly on such a test.

Craig over at Heavy Lifting has done some real economics, looking at how the three measures are not actually as independent as the nef seems to think. If graphs and equations are what you lust for on this subject that's the place to look and he finishes with:

"My take is that while it is possible to be happy with less, it is far easier to be happy with more."

The problem with the use of ecological footprints is not that the idea doesn't have merit in and of itself. But straight away we might want to ask if the nef study begs a question along the following lines: We want to prove that people are happier when their ecological footprints are smaller, so we'll measure the ecological footprint to determine how happy they are. Assuming such implicit circularity wasn't intended -- yes, it could be interesting to measure the impact of lifestyles upon resource-use around the planet. More importantly, we might be interested in seeing the impact on something a great deal more important: ecosystem services. But the way that eco-footprints are calculated makes them nearly meaningless. The main, in fact the only major, finding is that CO2 emissions are higher than the natural world's ability to process them through the carbon cycle.

Yes, thank you, we know that; we can see the concentrations rising in the atmosphere. All the yammering about "Gaia's precious resources" comes down, in these calculations, to this one single point. What's worse is that the actual method of calculation is so shoddy. On page 14 of this report (on how the sums are done) we get: "Nuclear power, about 4 per cent of global energy use, does not generate CO2. Its footprint is calculated as the area required to absorb the CO2 emitted by using the equivalent amount of energy from fossil fuels."

I beg your pardon? Nuclear does not generate CO2? This is flat out untrue! But then, to go on and state that we'll calculate as if it is belching out the stuff like an open coal fire is intellectual casuistry of the highest order. So France, as an example, which generates 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear, has a similar footprint to a country that generates the same from coal? Perverse nonsense, and it obviates the need to take these people seriously in any manner. Just as an example of how foolish this is: "Electricity produced by a pressurised light water reactor, when all its carbon costs have been taken into account, emits around 16 tonnes of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour. Gas produces 356 tonnes and coal 891."

That's Georges Monbiot writing in The Guardian. If even the Moonbat-in-Chief regards your information as extreme to the point of perversity then there really isn't much point in listening to arguments based upon it now, is there?

I'm sure that this Index will make it across the pond at some point and be hailed as a new and excitingly meaningful way of proving that the Industrial Revolution was all a bad idea. When it does, you'll now be forewarned for the exercise was constructed to prove exactly that. Machines bad, wealth bad, progress bad. The authors are really not sure that we should ever have left the Stone Age.

By the measures of this report the happiest place on earth is Vanuatu. The Wikipedia description of one island:

"Some of the villages are known as kastom villages, where modern inventions are restricted, the inhabitants wear penis sheaths (Bislama: namba) and grass skirts, and the children do not go to public schools. According to anthropologist Joël Bonnemaison, who has studied the Tannese extensively, their resistance to change is due to their traditional worldview and how they "perceive, internalise, and account for the dual concepts of space and time.""

Avoiding the public schools works for some home schoolers, but I don't see penis sheaths catching on anytime soon in Red State America. Perhaps the nef's admiration is for the New Age mysticism? Or is it the gross poverty? Your call.

One other possible reason for this apotheosis of the human condition could be this:

"The island is the center of the Jon Frum cargo cult and also a cult (at Yaohnanen) which worships Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh."

Worshiping a Greek/German member of the British Royal Family as a living God may indeed be the path to nirvana but it really isn't what I'd expect a progressive think tank to tell us and I'm sure that it wouldn't catch on in the US. Didn't the Yanks decide against such things back in the 1770s?

Tim Worstall is a TCS Daily contributing writer living in Europe.



Modern spelling? - Colombia!
apart from the content - as a diligent libertarian (and I know the difference to librarian) you should get the spelling of a fairly seizable country right...

Nowhere is there a reference for the spelling "Columbia" in the English language for that beautiful country in Southamerica...

keep up the good work!

What is very clear
from the nef's so-called happiness index is that happiness is evidently what the world's population does not want. The populations of their happy countries are busily migrating to the supposedly unhappy ones.

Worstall is also correct about the research behind it. The Living Planet's ecological foot print calculations are complete trash.

what always amazes me
is that those people who are most adamant about poverty being the road to happiness, never live in the countries they claim are such nirvana's.

In fact
the nef is a poncy organization in the U.K. But you're quite right, you don't see the green freaks lining up to move to such places do you?

Gee, does that mean people want to be miserable?

But if you want a real laugh, go on nef's website and look at their so-called departments and programs. I can think of an obvious reason for Director of Fulfilment, but not one used in polite company.

Smacks forehead.

Apologies. That’s one I simply always get wrong and I should know better and check it more rigorously.


Still that’s the difference between English and American spellings isn’t it? We use more u s ?

Good point collin
"But if you want a real laugh, go on nef's website and look at their so-called departments and programs. I can think of an obvious reason for Director of Fulfilment, but not one used in polite company."

Is the term "Head of Fornication" close??!!

Never fails..
Absolutely one of the prime laws of the universe - whenever someone attempts to take someone else to task for a misspelling, it is inevitable that the task-taker him/her-self commit an even more silly mistake in the body of the scolding itself.

Unless, of course, what we are dealing with here is a Freudian Slip, instead of a misspelling - is Colombia really a 'seizable' country? I suppose we could seize it, but wouldn't the Colombians object?

And the U.N would probably squawk about us seizing such a fairly sizeable country.

And, lest I break my own rule, please understand that I am just playig.

I checked out the nef-FERS web site and it seems like the stuff they're shoveling is something a pig (barnyard variety) could find true happiness in. They definately seem to miss that perhaps the reason these folks they rate with their 'happy meter' are so 'happy' is merely the localized perception of what 'happiness' is (assuming they can define the meaning of 'is'). I'd guess that your average stone age/primitive living folk who spend the vast majority of their daily hours just rustling up enough calories to keep walking are 'happy' that they do. They'd likey be close to ecstatic if they came with some varmint they felled with their pointy stick(s)to add to the cook pot. Are they unhappy they don't have a cell phones or internet access? Likely not I'd guess.

Don't you just love

What's interesting is how secretive the nef is about their members and supporters. Has no relevance to the calibre of the research they do (which has no value whatsoever beyond comic relief) but it would be interesting to find out just who's paying for such rubbish.

Always nice to know your enemy.

So Tim
Who is nef really? Their website is very concealing about who their members are and who funds them.

If this is typical of their research and it turns out they get tax dollars (pounds in your case), then when should the MPs be introduced to the business end of a cricket bat?

Ignorance is Bliss
Maybe the nef-FERS should have a lobotomy and they can all be happy.

Or they could strip themselves naked and go live in the rain forest. (End of Clancy's Rainbow Six).

Check the co-publisher
From the article:

"The Happy Planet Index: An index of human well-being and environmental impact, published in association with Friends of the Earth"

Yes it is
Also, I want to know if they are receiving corporate funding, who the individual idiots backing this group are and, most importantly, whether or not they receive governmental funding from any country.

Is Vietnam paying their bills??

couldn't handle it
They would really squeal the first time one of them got bit on the ***** by a mamba. Thank God the it would all be over in a few minutes; I couldn't handle hearing it for very long!

No Tax $
As far as I’m aware they get no tax money although they might do the odd (very odd tee hee) piece of contract research.

Essentially they’ve not moved on from the economic ideas behind Blueprint for Survivial, linked in the piece, which was really the founding document of the modern enviro movement. I’ve written about them a couple of times here, they really do seem to believe that stone age peasantry is a desirable lifestyle.

Think Georges Monbiot without the ability to learn.

They’re very close to Friends ofthe Earth as well.

Female Issues
That is, that we'd all be much happier leaving this capitalism stuff alone and living as happy peasants. Tending our own fields, craftsmen working with local resources to make the few tools we need and rarely, if ever, straying from walking distance of our hut.

It's even possible to have a certain amount of sympathy for this view. Certainly, all those who purchase weekend cottages have bought into the idea, but my own experience of such Rousseau-esque primitivism did not survive a toothache and the prospect of treatment with tools hand crafted in the local blacksmith's forge. Nature is all very well but best kept to the weekend, I feel.

I'm sure the women in our society will really enjoy giving up their sanitary pads and tampons and going back to dried moss and grasses. They'll also enjoy using leaves (or their hands) instead of toilet paper to clean themselves.

nef funding
I can’t see proper figures anywhere but an idea would be to look at pages 1 and 14 of this .pdf.

Flush Toilets
THAT is civilization. (And maybe bidets.)

If they believe that stone age peasantry is so desireable,
what the heck are they doing still living here?

My wife tells of having to use smooth stones when she visited her grandma's ranch in northern Mexico.

Each kid would maintain a stash of such stones, just in case they needed more than one.

female survival
Didn't something like 1 in 3 women die during child birth before the invention of modern medicine?

Why isn't NOW up in arms about these guys, they want to kill women by the billions.

We've got basically a boatload of trusts (makes sense because nef is a charity) with a few others thrown in for glamor, namely the Prince's Trust (do Willie and Harry know where their money's going?), the office of the Deputy Prime Minister (good old Two Jags; and I have no idea how he reconciles paving over southern England with the antidevelopment crud emitted by nef) and Gordon Brown (?????). It's enough to make you scream, or want to stick sharp objects in the vessels of such hypocrisy.

It's so bad. Maybe what we need is 1789 all over again and re-introduce the ruling class to the notion of Madame la Guillotine. Given the abysmal quality of this crowd (the current Conservatives in the UK are even worse) I suspect that this time Edmund Burke would volunteer to pull the handle.

No wonder, to paraphrase an old Supertramp song, "the island is sinking".

No, it's worse than that
Just look up the address in the post by Tim Worstall. The funders are enough to make you weep.

your number is pretty close. Childbed fever was the number one killer of women, pre 20th century. It's why there is a slight imbalance between male and female births in the species.

I saw your comment above and, well, Yikes!!
How the he ll does this happen?? Sadly, it ain't just the U.K., we see similar craziness in the States, Canada and Australia. Have all English-speaking countries just gone mad??

In a word
Yes. And it's been going on for a long, long time. It happens because we have a population that is both illiterate and innumerate. It happens because television has reinforced the importance of appearance over substance. It happens because this is an age of barbarism, defined by Arthur C Clarke as "those who manipulate technology without understanding it". It happens because in this degraded age, conviction of belief is equated with virtue. It happens because the more people have and the better the quality of their lives, the easier it is to terrify them with the notion that someone or something will take it away, hence the excessive panic over terrorism. It happens because at the perceived pinnacle of human and social development, our civilization has nowhere to go but down.

Remember the famous line from The American President (bad movie but a few good zingers): "People drink sand because they can't tell the difference" (between sand and water).

I missed that one. FOE, might have known that collection of Rousseauian recidivists was mixed into this pig's stew.

I actually liked the movie, until he changed tactics at the end
And that is a good line. I also agree with the Arthur C. Clark line.

I do add another point. We are here because so many people are truely sheep. They are stupid, milling creatures who can't and won't defend themselves. Worse, they whine about how unfair it is that there are wolves in the world, yet decry the sheep dog who attacks a wolf to protect them.

Take it back, sheep don't pi ss and moan at the sheep dog and shepherd for protecting them; many people simply aren't as smart as sheep.

You can't have
a democracy of sheep. The coyotes take over.

So, how sustainable (to use that hideous word) do you think the democratic system really is?

Say what?
The author presupposed that all readers are right wing zealots and so takes liberty us use sarcasm at odd points in what otherwise may have been called “discussions”. This results in near total confusion over what the authors intends to communicate. It is actually hilarious that someone calling themselves a writer would pawn this off as a story. The random sarcasm and insults results in this article being a total piece of rubbish. Nobody could possibly understand this story, unless perhaps they also were a raving right winger.

Three cheers for allowing ones political bias blind them to meaningful communications. Enter this article in the “null and void“ category.

Did you even try
to read the reports and papers Worstall referenced? nef are a gang of utter lunatics. The crud palmed off as research by nef is so bad the authors deserve far worse than mere sarcasm.

Enter Stephen as synonymous with "vacuum between the ears".

Modern Stone-Age Family
The author writes 891 tonnes of carbon are emitted per megawatt-hour of electricity generated by coal. I think the number would be in pounds; not tonnes. The same would apply to amount of carbon emitted by electricity generation by nuclear power of natural gas.

Very close
The number I have seen used most frequently is 940 g CO2/kWh, so that would be 940 kg/MWh or 940 tonnes/GWh. But that's for coal. If you average it for the fossil fuel mix, it will be lower. Natural gas is about 640 kg/MWh. The thing about the coal number is it varies depending on the coal being burned.

So three orders of magnitude were slipped. No big deal, right?

Sure, ask the pessimist
Not very, in the overall scheme of things. In my opinion we are seeing the final glory days of this system of government. Within the next 100 years or so we will see present democracies descend into elected dictatorships of the type warned about by the U.S. founding fathers. "many dictators instead of one". This is happening through the slow clamping down of individual freedom, even in the U.S. which has the strongest "Rule of law" Constitutional Republic. (I.E. gun laws, the war on drugs, anti-smoking laws, etc. And coming soon, the fat police!!) This eventually reach a boiling point that will cause 5-20% of the population (Of every major democracy) to eventually revolt, leading to anarchy and the rise of a dictatorship of some sort. Imagine 15-60 million pissed off Americans going after their government and all who support it. The 200+ million lemmings will get out of the way and the Government won't stand a chance of fighting them off.)

Sadly, this will not happen in just one or two countries. I expect it to break out nearly simultanously in all of the major representative government nations. We seem to be headed down the same path and at roughly the same speed, so I expect we will see Western Europe, North America and several pacific rim countries go under all within a few years of each other.

Oddly, I look for the day China becomes a representative government as the beginning of the end. I figure that is less than 25 years away.

Of course, this is all entirely my opinion and there is still a lot of time and opportunity to pull back from the abyss. But I've seen little of that worldwide. We all seem to be running like lemmings into the ocean.

If history is any indication, some type of dictatorship or monarchy is the natural order of things for humans in large numbers. The only other possible outcome is a bloody global war followed by 10,000 small tribal-like nations.

Who knows, maybe we will have one world government and billions of happy little lemmings. Great Nervana for the lemmings!

alarik4th AND Tim both live in Glass Houses
Alarik complains of the spelling of Colombia, rightly so. However he himself misspells "sizeable" using seizable; then Tim misses it and "smacks self".

So that is an excuse?
So even if what you refer to as "nef" are not good writers is that any excuse for the present article?

It is very difficult to communicate. Writers are supposed to be the persons in our society that communicate well. The author of this article is not a communicator. Thus, they are not a writer. The article itself is not an issue because it is nonsensical raving. It is not even worth discussing the grammar flaws, let alone the technical errors.

And, you are incorrect that stephen means "vacuum between the ears". It actually means "king" by some accounts. In any case, your statement was an insult that tells me you are not capable of intelligent conversation.

Of course. They still dream of going to the moon. They still talk in terms of progress, not in suppression of research (can't resist a dig at Bush for his idiotic veto). A democracy? Hardly, but can anyone say that China hasn't made large advances in the last 10-15 years?

All of your list is true, Pauled, but you have to add one other thing to the list, the excessive clampdown in various ways in the name of national security against terrorism. A recent poll showed 1:10 Americans expect to perish in a terrorist event. For that to happen, a 9/11 would have to happen in the U.S. every day. Just shows to what extremes people can be driven by excessive fear of unlikely events.

Yup, China
How many people really knew how close the Soviet Union was to it's fall until it happened? With that in mind, yeah China. Like I said, it isn't "just around the corner" but I don't think it will take too much longer either.

As for your post on National Security and Terrorism, too true.

The problem is no middle ground. When the administration tries to do something under the radar that makes sense, the liberals scream about it. But, then they sign on to things like the Patroit Act. It's all crazy.

You want senseless? I live in Montana, a place with an average population density of something like 7 people per square mile. The area of the state I live in is much lower than that. We have a dam south of town and I had fished off that dam for 25 years. In 2002 they made fishing on the dam illegal, terrorist trheat. Yes, there are several million acre-feet of water (lake is 25+ miles long, averages over 1 mile wide and is 200 feet deep at it deepest point with an average depth of something like 85 feet.) Yes, it would create a mess if all that water was released at once, but there is a problem. The dam is nearly a mile long and is an earthen dam. It is 40 verticle feet from the dam top to the water level at full pool.

A 2,000 pound penetrator wouldn't leave a deep enough crater to reach water level for Christ Sake!! It would tale all the explosives in Al Queda's arsenal to get that thing to leak! Worse, for 70 or 80 river miles down stream there is nothing but ranch and farm land; then the mighty Missouri. The total output from this dam would only raise the level of Ft. Peck dam about 6 feet.

Bust this dam and you killl 2,000 cows, 4,000 deer, a bunch of skunks, porcupines, rabits, rattle snakes and Antelope. If you hit it just right you might drown 100 people in the state camping park below the dam and 5 ranchers downstream.

Trust me, this is a worst case scenario. It would probably be tremendous bad luck if 20 people died when this dam blew.

What do you think the chances are that a terrorist group, even a home grown one, is going to hit this dam? Get real!! But the cops come a running if they get a call that anyone is parked ont he dam or fishing near the spillway.

Now there is your real post 9/11 stupidity.

I keep hoping that practical space flight will be available before that time comes.
In the past, when the heavy hand of state become unbearable, the risk-takers and freedom lovers pulled up stakes and trekked over the horizon.

This planet is fresh out of horizons to trek over. The planets, and then the stars are our only option.

why am I not surprised that stephen couldn't figure out the author's point.
much less deal with it honestly.

strange thing
you are the only one who had trouble figuring it out.

Me too…
But I'm not interested in being the first. Let someone else get eaten by the local predators, I'll come with the second wave, properly armed!

I lived in Colombia... and did not want to come back to the U.S.!
I recently lived in Colombia for three years, and I did not want to come back to the U.S. The cost of living was 1/4, the people were so amazingly friendly, and, as a teacher, I was respected in a way that does not exist here.

It is a wonderful country to live in, especially in the coast (though Bogota is amazing). Coming home was one of the worst decisions I ever had to make.

For the record, I feel more unsafe in the United States now than I ever did in Colombia.

Radioactivity from coal
Who know how much radioactive material is discharged from coal fired plants?

OK. You are, indeed, onto something...

The United Nations of sovereign states are surely going to transition into a collection of far different entities during this century.

The business of sovereignty has been a growth industry for the past 3000 years. If your game was military capitalism (rather than financial capitalism) then controlling your own country was the way to go.

For the past 2000 years powerful citizens have attempted to curtail the more predatory urges of their own sovereign governments. Republics, democracies and communism have been attempted with a mixed record of success . Of course, fascism and totalitarian autocracies are a move back in the other direction. So let me explain why this will not happen.

Aside from establishing and maintaining sovereignty over its lands, its resources and its people, a nation must create wealth by putting those productive resources to work. And the government needs to fund its activities by taxing its own GDP. If a nation is not able to generate substantial wealth and collect taxes then it will not be competitive in the global arena. Money talks.

It used to be that a nation's military did the talking. But that time is quickly passing away. Military imperialism is no longer cost effective. The best you can hope for is to hold onto what you already have. So military spending is essentially defensive. You cannot grow your GDP by simply annexing your neighbors any more.

You grow your GDP with prosperous industrial companies and a healthy economy full of rapidly expanding small operations. Experience has shown that free enterprise, the private ownership of the factors of production, enforcable contracts (rule of law) and robust financial (banking) services constitute the best course.

Any government that tends to constrain free enterprise will not be competitive in the Post Industrial Society as global companies have more choices regarding where they want to do business and where they will "capture a taxable margin". And your business does not need to be very large to make such decisions today.

Your company is not captive to a particular sovereign state and neither are the people who work for your company. If a nation starts to become relatively difficult to do business in, then you can pick up and move. If a government even starts to look like they might "nationalize" your assets, and you have a large firm then you may hedge against such a risk with a Special Purpose Entity to sell those assets into the financial markets and then lease them back to you. If you are small and the government starts to seriously misbehave then you may cut your exposure, liquidate your real estate and fixed assets, take a loss if necessary and move.

Set up another operation in a more reasonable venue. That new country should allow you to move your workers, if you like, and they should encourage you to declare your earnings inside their borders. Today we often use offshore trading companies to avoid corporate income taxes. But such a mechanism is a sham. Nations should compete for productive operations with real tax savings, solid infrastructure, very little corruption, progressive regulations and an educated labor pool. Successful, competitive governments should be efficient, professional, cost effective, responsive and as small as possible. They should not insist on doing anything for us that we might better do for ourselves.

Money talks. Financial capitalism makes the money. Governments are at the mercy of their own GDPs. The business of sovereignty itself is rapidly becoming that of the landlord who provides his own campus security (police), janitorial services and day care for dependents. If one sovereign state wants to play hardball or increase the rent then we will simply move somewhere else.

I have my manufacturing operations at my home in the Philippines and I am over there about half the time. I have said for years that if they had the money we enjoy here, then the PI would be the best place on Earth. It's the people! (And the beer.)

Perhaps it's just the ceaseless whining of the anti-environmental movement that ruins the story.
Of course, as a demonstrated anti-intellectual, you would be inclined to accept anything said along these lines, as long as they whine like you.

As for me, as soon as I read the whining rhetoric of authors like this, I'm done.

Anyone who cannot write without building support through the use of quipped sarcasm intended to draw like-thinkers into "the pack" does not deserve my time.

I am not here to point out any technical errors in this article. I doesn't even matter what the author was upset about per se. He has not offered an alternative answer to the question.

There have been several attempts to rank human happiness “tout le monde”. Interestingly enough, these reports all have similar results; Persons living in societies where people spend a majority of their time making money are not as happy, in general, as those with more leisure time. An intellectual discussion of these outcomes would be welcomed. Instead, what we have is another blogger whining about somebody else’s findings. Ho hum.

Reminds me of a saying "who are "they" and what makes them experts?"

...only like it in Europe.

It is amazing how many Americans there are over here who do not want to go back. There are more and more as time goes on, and orders of magnitude more since the change in political climate that occurred in the botched 2000 elections. That election seemed to have taken away the last reason to be happy with America, the right to free and honest political elections.

I have been trying to figure out what went wrong there for many years now. After all, the first step in improving things is to figure out what you want to do.

In this case, one needs to determine why in the US crime and poverty rates are so high; why the cost of living (as gaged by how many hours households need to work to survive) is so high; why the currency is so volatile; why such a huge fraction of the population is in prison; why people are taught to work their whole lives and not expect rewards other than to buy "stuff" and eat at chain restaurants serving plastic preprocessed food; why fruits and vegetables are tasteless and picked before rippenning.

Many more abstract domestic and international problems have become painfully apparent under the current political leadership. Greed is up there in the list of ills, as is the lack of a free press. Sometimes I suspect that the controlled information put out through the major media sources and the constant barrage of advertising is the main cause for people not being happy in the USA.

To each is own, but Europe is not nirvana Stephen
If you are happier in Colombia, Philippines or Europe, then more power to you. Happiness is subjective.

Just like if the fruit tastes better to you when it comes from Tesco, Aldi or the Carrefour vs Whole Foods, Safeway or the Food Lion.

However, you make some statements on facts that I don't think are correct.

Violent crime is rising in Europe. In Belgium (where I live), I have seen statistics that the murder and manslaughter rate is about 60% higher than the US on a per capita basis. In the UK now, it is basically illegal to defend yourself. The US has more of it's population in prison, which has led to a reduction in crime.

On a parity purchasing power basis, Western Europe has more "poor" people than in the US.

I don't know how you can make a ridiculous comment that there is no free press in the US.

Finally, I would argue that there is movement toward a lack of free speech in Europe, with Orianna Fallici being prosecuted in Italy and France for expressing her opinion in a book about how she does not particulary care for Muslims.

Happy to be rich in a poor country
It is always nice to rich in a poor country, but the point of the article was that the vast majority is much happier in rich countries. Hence "middle class" americans are much happier than the poor sods living in say Tchad, but the nef tries to "prove" the opposit.

The same goes for past times: the vast majority did not own a farm, nor were rich, and suffered badly because of it.

All in all I think the recipe for greater happiness is to allow each and everyone to pursue his own happines, however he may define it.

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