Why smaller countries are "happier"

All these countries share one common characteristic: They’re small in population and, except Canada and Australia, land mass. Small countries enjoy an advantage in the happiness derby. They’re more likely to have homogeneous populations with fewer ethnic, religious and geographic conflicts. This minimizes one potentially large source of unhappiness. Among big countries, the United States ranks first.

The irony is that Europe, where the happiness movement is strongest, generally registers lower happiness. On the same ranking, the United Kingdom (18) is the leading large European nation, followed by Spain (22), France (23), Italy (28) and Germany (30)…

All rich societies already try to balance economic growth with social justice, security and environmental progress. The happiness movement would merely impose more intervention. It “boils down to having zealous politicians regulate the rest of us into their version of happiness,” argues Marc De Vos of the Itinera Institute, a Belgian think tank.

Creating an impossible goal — universal happiness — also condemns government to failure. Happiness depends on too much that is uncontrollable. For starters, personality. We all know people who seem blessed — stable marriage, healthy children, successful job — who are restless, grumpy and sometimes depressed. Meanwhile, others plagued by misfortune — sickness, shaky finances, family disappointment — persevere and remain upbeat.