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Omdahl: Celebrate Norskies, the ‘old country’ is happy!

By Staff | Mar 24, 2017

Rise up and celebrate, Norskes. The ‘Old Country’ may not have discovered the fountain of youth but it just won first prize as the happiest nation in the world.

So plan an extra day at the North American Mecca for Scandinavians, the Hostfest in Minot September 27-30. Heck! This is a big deal. Take two days.

Share the joy. Take a lefse stuffed with lutefisk to your Swedish neighbor.

Swing into a Norwegian square dance with the Bohemians down the street.

Bring a big bowl of torsk to the crotchety troll from Trondheim in the nursing home.

After all, the ‘Old Country’ is on a roll. Happiness No. 1 is only one of its recent achievements. In 2016 or 2015, Norway ranked No. 1 in Human Development, in OECD Better Life, the Prosperity Index, the Index of Public Integrity and the Democracy Index.

Meanwhile, our adopted United States ranked 14th on the happiness scale. The Norwegians who immigrated to the United States to find the American dream are going to pull up stakes and go back home where happiness is more than a free quarter of land.

To stop this emigration, we American-Norwegians need to ask ourselves: What has Norway got that we don’t have in America? We should plan some remedial work before the next ranking comes out.

There is no doubt that we have been working hard at being happy here in the U. S.

In North Dakota, breweries are cropping up throughout the state with the hope that we can drown our unhappiness.

Groping for happiness, we are opening our liquor establishments on Sunday mornings because church isn’t cutting it.

We have created such a strong market for drugs that the Mexican drug lords are killing each other for our business.

On the opiate market, the United States ranks 27th in the world while Norway stands at 47th.

On the obesity scale, the United States ranks 19th, while Norway is 84th. While Americans are counting on comfort food, the Norwegians are snowshoeing across the mountains.

Legislators and governors have been telling us for years that happiness can be found in low taxes. Well, happy high-tax Norway ranks ninth in the world on the tax scale while low-tax North Dakota ranks 33rd.

We can only conclude that high taxes make a happier country. That’s easy to understand. Norwegians don’t have to worry about money because the government has all of it. Workers don’t end up with take-home pay they get allowances.

But high taxes make it possible for Norway to rank second in health care costs at $9,003 per capita while America spends $8,895. For the extra $108, Norway wins first place in the OECD Better Life Index.

When it comes to religiosity, 78 percent of the Norwegians think religion is “not important” while only 31 percent hold that view in the United States.

There is an explanation. For centuries, Lutheran was the official state religion, meaning that the government ran the church and paid the preachers without the involvement of the parishioners. So the citizenry didn’t absorb a lot of theology.

In the last few years, the Norwegian government has decided to get out of the church business. It wasn’t working, anyway. People were being nice without religion.

Since the happiest country in the world is low in religiosity, should the United States cut back on religion to be more competitive in 2018? Some patriotic parishioners would cheerfully give up their pews if it would help make America great again.

By emulating the attitudes and lifestyles in Norway, we could become a happier country by 2018. But let’s look at all other options first.

Omdahl is a former lieutenant governor and former political science professor at UND.

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