I don't know all the ins and outs of how the Danish government works, but I know enough not to have been at all surprised when a recent survey ranked the Danes as "the happiest people in the world." Years ago, when we were on our way back from living in the Middle East, Copenhagen was one of the many stops we made along the way. While there, we took a tour of some government run facilities, including a day care center and a retirement home. They were unlike anything I had ever seen in the states, and I couldn't believe the Danes got to use them for free.

Later, when we signed up to host an exchange student for a year, we were lucky enough to get a Danish boy named Eric, whom we have stayed in touch with for about 30 years now, and visited a couple of times. I remember telling my father once, about how things worked in Denmark -- how they don't have "the dole" as we know it, but that each Dane is guaranteed a job that pays a living wage, good child care so that they can perform this job, and great public transportation so that they can get to this job, not to mention health care, education and geriatric care. Dad was horrified. "So where's their motivation to go out and work their asses off building a career and becoming a success?" I had no answer for him.

At first it seemed as if Eric had set out to prove my father's point. He never did settle into one career and throw himself into clawing his way up the ladder as America's youth were expected to do. He loved to travel, and he loved spending time with his kids, so he would work at a job just until he had saved up enough money, then they would take off to do something amazing -- like spending the summer on the beaches of a Greek island and learning to scuba dive. When they returned, he'd try on another job for size.

Thirty years later, this is still his modus operandi. Was my father right? I'm not so sure anymore. Is their way of doing things really so bad? What did our singleminded determination to be "successful" get us? An entire generation of kids whose parents were never home? Who completely missed out on seeing their kids grow up, and the chance to really know them? Landfills overflowing with all our discarded "stuff"? Rampant greed and corruption? A country that can no longer feed or fuel itself?

Eric's life has been anything but carefree. He has been dealt some shattering hardships -- of the sort that have forced many Americans to end up living on the streets -- but because he is Danish, he has received excellent medical care, has stayed employed, has a decent home, his kids are going to get a good education, and he knows that he will be well cared for in his old age. Best of all, he has been an important part of his kids' lives every step of the way. Is it any wonder that the Danes are so happy?

P.S. Many thanks to for the above image.
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Reviewed by juragan asem
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Rating : 4.5