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Big Business Can't Buy Happiness?

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How does a country define quality of life? Higher levels of employment, economic wealth and rates of home ownership? Seems sensible. Now, what makes higher levels of employment, economic wealth and rates of home ownership possible? Business, right? So wouldn’t a country that claimed the biggest companies in the world also be home to the most satisfied citizens? Nope.

While the United States hosts half of the top 10 Forbes World's Biggest Public Companies list -- including JPMorgan Chase, General Electric, ExxonMobil, Berkshire Hathaway, and Citigroup -- we don’t even rank among the Ten Countries With The Happiest People, as determined by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Better Life Initiative.

The world’s shiniest, happiest, in order, can be found in:

1. Denmark
2. Canada
3. Norway
4. Australia
5. The Netherlands
6. Sweden
7. Switzerland
8. Finland
9. Israel
10. Austria

Despite its low-ranking public corporations and being shrouded in darkness for half of the year, Northern Europe’s happiness quotient is putting the rest of us to shame. Top dog Denmark, a mixed welfare and capitalist economy, boasts only a handful of public companies that made the Forbes Global 2000. Møller-Maersk, an oil and gas company with a humble 125 ranking, is Denmark’s business heavyweight. Then again, in terms deciphering national satisfaction, this is after all, the country that invented LEGOS.

And yes, even Israel is happier than us. Not only has the constant threat of violence by rockets and mortar shell fire not dampened its people’s life satisfaction, its corporate cream of the crop is Teva Pharmaceutical, the 213rd largest public company in the world with a mere $17.1 billion in sales.

What lessons should the US take about improving nationwide well-being from this information? Well, we already have two Legolands and, unlike Canadians, we can only take so much hockey. Maybe there’s something to Scandinavia’s whole distribution of wealth idea....
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.