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Opinion
Virginia Postrel

It’s a Healthy Sign When Americans Fail the ‘Happiness’ Test

The ranking measures contentment and complacency. It penalizes imagination, opportunity and ambition.

They may not be happy but they are ambitious.

They may not be happy but they are ambitious.

Photographer: Bloomberg

When the 10th annual World Happiness Report comes out next month, several things are sure bets. The Nordic countries will score highest. The U.S. won’t be in the top 10. And commentators will suggest that if Americans could only be more like the Finns and Danes — with a stronger social safety net, less economic inequality, more ethnic homogeneity or cozier homes — we wouldn’t be so grumpy.

What few will notice is that the ranking doesn’t measure happiness. It measures contentment and complacency. It penalizes imagination, opportunity and ambition.