It's the Danish word for happiness, which these days seems in short supply.
Meik Wiking literally wrote the book on Hygge; now the head of the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark has followed it up with The Little Book of Lykke, which our Hygge expert Katherine will be reviewing shortly. He spoke recently in Toronto at the Rotman School of Business on the launch of the new book.
He bases his research on happiness, the explanation of why Denmark keeps coming up as the happiest country in the world, on six pillars:
- Social support (also described as togetherness)
But he is not the only person in the Happiness gig, and points to the World Happiness Report, from The Earth Institute and Columbia University, which provides significant backup data.
Given what we are going through in North America right now, where everything (particularly things that help the poor) is being cut back to get ready for big tax cuts for the not so poor, Wiking's comments about money were particularly interesting. He noted that Danes pay the highest taxes in the world at 52 percent of his income, no deductions or credits, but he claimed that 90 percent of Danes accept this because they appreciate the benefits: Free university education for everyone smart enough (with a thousand bucks a month living allowance), free health care, a year off work when the kid is born, free child care, and continuous capital investment in infrastructure.
People of almost any economic status do not have to worry about the big economic issues; no wonder they are happier. But another side of the story is that there is far less inequality. That the poor are not noticeably poorer. They still have nice things and live in nice homes. And almost everybody rides bikes.
Wiking notes that money is like birthday cake; the first piece is really great but by the fifth, you really don't need it anymore. More money means less utility. So a thousand bucks buy a lot of food if you don't have much money, or it can get you a Serenity Dog Pod if you do.
The 2016 report on happiness asks:
What are the consequences of inequality for subjective well-being? There are arguments both ethical and empirical suggesting that humans are or at least ought to be happier to live where there is more equality of opportunities and generally of outcomes as well. Beyond such direct links between inequality and subjective well-being, income inequalities have been argued to be responsible for damage to other key supports for well-being, including social trust, safety, good governance, and both the average quality of and equal access to health and education -- important, in turn, as supports for future generations to have more equal opportunities.
I suspect that none of this will play well in the USA; even Wiking said, "Don't call me a communist." But where I live, libraries and transit suffer while highways get billions because the suburban base doesn't like taxes. The place is falling apart.
In the USA, the environment gets sacrificed in the name of a coal- and oil-fired economy. Everything gets cut back except the military. The country is unequal, divided and it doesn't appear that anyone is very happy these days. And environmentalism is a leftie plot to take away freedom.
I look around these days and there is so little trust, not much kindness, shrinking freedom and increasing inequality. I really do want to move to Copenhagen.