Volkswagen and Bayer and Siemens, Oh My!

Germany. A country of riches beyond the grasp of men, of Oktoberfest and a female head of government. Or so we are led to believe. Well, okay – Germany really does have the Oktoberfest (which, by the way, takes place in September) and a female Federal Chancellor. Its economy is also doing itself a lot of good – that we can all agree upon. We can also agree that it’s better than the US American model. However – and this is where the mainstream media seem to be terribly deluded – it isn’t doing any good to its people.

And here’s why: Efficient economy ≠happy people. On the Happy Planet Index, the US is ranked #114, while Germany is ranked #51, true. But nobody’s arguing that the US doesn’t have a horrifying economy that is causing a majority of its society to be unhappy. The point-in-case here is that there are a dazzling 50 nations which are doing better than Germany. To expand on the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” metaphor: If it is broke, why fix it with so-so old parts if you might as well just as easily fix it with shiny new ones? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather get my broken car to work well for a long time than mediocrely for a short time.

Also, the Happy Planet Index – surprise, surprise – isn’t really an index of how happy people are. It is an index of how happy they should be, according to some complex calculation of various statistics. If we want to look at how happy people really feel, we’ve got to look at the so-called Satisfaction with Life Index. Even at a quick glance, it is an obviously more accurate representation of happiness – according to the Happy Planet Index, the People’s Republic of China is a very happy country. Yeah, right. Its position on the Satisfaction with Life Index is a lot more meaningful and accurate to its political, economic and social situation.

So where is the United States on that index? #23. And Germany? #35. Turns out Germany isn’t the land of milk and honey people like to portray it as. Now Republicans tend to brand the German economic model as socialist. Can’t blame them – they’re Republicans, they’d call fascist Italy socialist. The truth is, Germany’s economy isn’t nearly socialist enough. Cenk Uygur, founder of the popular web-based political talk show The Young Turks, remarks that Germany is in a better economic position than the US. Great. So is China. That doesn’t mean the US should emulate China. The US has 9.1% unemployment, Germany has 6.1%. It seems great, doesn’t it? But 6.1% unemployment is still pretty damn high. Even in a recession. Germany’s economy is definitely left of Republican – but then again, everything with more than half a brain and an IQ above 110 is left of Republican (either that, or simply ill-informed, as this MSNBC report by Rachel Maddox displays). That doesn’t mean Germany’s economy is ideal. And that’s exactly the problem: Why strive for a suboptimal economy? Doesn’t the US strive for an ideal economy? Isn’t that the American Dream?

What the United States needs is an economy that works – and not for the top 1%. An economy that works for the common man (and woman) who has to work for a living – and thus gives more incentive for that same common man or woman to do exactly that. If an economy doesn’t make people happy, it isn’t sustainable. Nobody in their right mind is willing to support an economic machine that is making their life miserable.

So where to look? Life Satisfaction, as established, and maybe take a glance or two at the Human Development Index (after all, if a country is developed, it must have a pretty good economy and at least moderately happy people). If we take away the countries that actually have miserable economies (the outliers of these statistics, so to say) we quickly find the conclusion that – at least what economics are concerned – the Scandinavian nations appear to have figured out the way to go.

So, what are we waiting for?

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