The happiest countries in the world also pay a lot in taxes

The happiest countries in the world in 2017 are prosperous Western-style liberal democracies. Their populations are, in many cases, largely homogeneous. And they also have something else in common: They each pay a lot in taxes.

According to the United Nations’ latest World Happiness Report, as covered by CBS News, the top 10 happiest countries are:

  1. Norway
    2. Denmark
    3. Iceland
    4. Switzerland
    5. Finland
    6. Netherlands
    7. Canada
    8. New Zealand
    9. Australia
    10. Sweden

Report co-author Jeffrey Sachs, who is also the director of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, tells CBS that “happiness is a result of creating strong social foundations,” and that if other nations prioritized “social trust” and “healthy lives,” they could also find that their citizens become more content.

The top three happiest countries, Norway, Denmark and Iceland, are all among the highest taxed countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in terms of total tax revenue as a percentage of GDP. The widely enjoyed social benefits residents get in exchange for their taxes, such as universal health care, access to education and subsidized parental leave, could have something to do with the “strong social foundations” touted by Sachs.

Indeed, citizens’ satisfaction is related to what they get for their tax dollars, Sachs tells CNBC Make It: “They are happy because these societies are not only prosperous but also with high equality, social trust and honesty of government. They enjoy long paid vacations, zero out-of-pocket costs of health care, zero or low tuition costs and quality public services for all.”

He adds that, “by the way, they are also environmentally conscious and moving to become zero-emission economies.”

As of 2014, in terms of total tax revenue as a percentage of GDP and measured per capita, Norway came in at No. 2 out of 35 countries ($37,682 USD), Denmark at No. 3 ($30,630 USD), and Iceland came in at No. 9 ($20,418 USD), according to the OECD.

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