Or maybe not. I had a Canadian colleague who insisted that cold weather encourages development of social cooperation and interdependence, and that’s why places like Canada develop better social safety nets.
Recently, Denmark–a cold country with high taxes and one of those “socialist, nanny-state” governments– was ranked the happiest nation on earth.
Of course, being prosperous (not to mention healthy and virtuous) didn’t hurt.
The six factors for a happy nation split evenly between concerns on a government- and on a human-scale. The happiest countries have in common a large GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy at birth and a lack of corruption in leadership. But also essential were three things over which individual citizens have a bit more control: A sense of social support, freedom to make life choices and a culture of generosity.
There’s a fair amount of evidence that strong social safety nets correlate with socially healthier societies–less gun violence, lower divorce rates, less discord, etc. (In all fairness, there’s also evidence suggesting that feelings of mutual obligation/collective responsibility also correlate with high levels of homogeneity. It’s easier to care about the elderly when they all look like grandma…)
The report notes that Danes have “a sense of stewardship” and are massively engaged in political and civil life. During the last election, in 2011, 87.7 % voted. Over 40% volunteer in NGOs, social and political organizations, etc.
Denmark may not be everyone’s idea of the ideal society, but life there sure beats the “vision” espoused by Paul Ryan and the Tea Party–a dog eat dog society in which the privileged deny any obligation to the less fortunate, where basic health care is a consumer good available to those who can afford it, and social security is “charity.”
And if we’re talking about happiness, folks in states like Mississippi and Texas–where Tea Party principles are the order of the day and efforts to create a “culture of generosity” would bring catcalls and derision– don’t look all that happy to me.