Sunday, May 17, 2009

Do high taxes equal happiness?

It's a question you have to ask following the results of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's world survey of "life satisfaction" a.k.a happiness. Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands finished 1,2,3 in the survey, which prompted's Thomas Kostigen to note that along with all three being Northern European countries, all also pay, by American standards, incredibly high taxes - for example, taxes will gobble up about two-thirds of your average Dane's salary, that’s the kind of level of taxation that would get an American politician tarred and feathered.

But, Kostigen notes, that for those taxes you get an incredibly high level of social services, including, among other things: comprehensive health care (including rehabilitation services and generous disability payments), education, old age pensions, nursing home services and a year's worth of maternity leave.

Nobody likes paying taxes, but what I find even more annoying is to pay taxes and feel like I'm getting nothing in return. Sure my taxes help fund a military that can pound any place on the Earth's surface into dust - let's see Denmark match that; but they don't go towards paying for a national health care or higher education system (my student loan payments can attest to that last one). That gets back to the point Kostigen raises, that taxes don't seem to have the same negative connotation in these European countries because their citizens can actually see the benefits they receive from their taxes. And not having to worry, like their American counterparts, about paying for health insurance or student loans or a number of other social welfare services, seems to make people happier.

Rounding out the OECD's Happy Nations Top Ten were Sweden, Belgium, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and Norway. The United States finished 11th.
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