Virginia Needs More Vikings and Mormons

What we're missing in Virginia
What we’re lackng in Virginia

by James A. Bacon

One of the most intriguing disciplines of social scientific study in the 21st  century explores the social and economic dimensions of happiness. Academics routinely rank the nations of the world and, less consistently, the fifty states. Our friends at WalletHub have taken a crack at devising their own state-by-state breakdown. But instead of polling people on how happy they are, the financial services website looks at a basket of 28 metrics measuring emotional and physical well being, the work environment and the community & environment. (To view the methodology click here.)

As the 21st happiest state, the glorious commonwealth of Virginia fares better than average, but it’s hardly a Shangri-la. The Old Dominion scores best (10th) in the “community & environment” cluster of metrics, which includes such measures as the volunteerism rate, leisure time, the divorce rate and safety. But it runs in the middle of the pack for emotional & physical well-being (22nd) and work environment (23rd).

We can take some comfort in being the happiest of the Southern states, but that’s setting a low bar.. We lag New England, the West Coast, and a vast bloc of states stretching in the northern plains and Inter-Mountain states. The happiest states are Utah (loaded with Mormons) and Minnesota and North Dakota (chock full of Scandinavian-Americans).

Is it coincidence that the happiest countries in the world — Denmark (#1), Norway (#4), Finland (#5) and Sweden (#8) — are Scandinavian while two of the three happiest states are inhabited mainly by Americans of Scandinavian descent?

I think not. My light, night-time reading at the moment, “Debunking Utopia,” takes a close-up look at the Scandinavian welfare states. One of several fascinating arguments advanced by the author (an Iranian immigrant to Sweden, incidentally) is that the Scandinavian countries are homogeneous societies marked by high degrees of social cohesion, shared values, personal responsibility and trust. As it happens, those traits are associated to a large degree with happiness. Thus, it should come as no surprise that the descendants of Scandinavians, who shared those ancestral traits, are among the happiest of all Americans.

(Both Scandinavians and Scandinavian Americans also are taciturn, as lamented in another book I’ve been reading, “Lab Girl,” but luckily for them gregariousness is not a big predictor of happiness.)

Likewise, Mormons are notable for their social cohesion, shared values, personal responsibility and trust, so it should come as no surprise that Utah and neighboring states with large Mormon populations also score high in the WalletHub rankings.

One of Virginia’s misfortunes, it appears, is to suffer a paucity of Mormons and Scandinavians. If we want to increase our share of  happiness, we need to import more Mormons and Scandinavians. There may be more to it than that, but that’s my story right now, and I’m sticking to it.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


12 responses to “Virginia Needs More Vikings and Mormons”

  1. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Vikings and Mormons are the flip answer.

    Why this survey really shows is that countries with strong government social care, especially for health, are happier. They also get probably three to four times as much vacation as Americans. They probably have decent maternity and paternity leave. They may not have to worry about retirement all that much.

    Yet, the U.S. is losing on all counts. The vast middle class has been screwed since the Bush Recession of 2007-08. Since then, the rich have gotten richer, companies are more productive and profits up. You paid the bill? Workers who have been screwed over little or negative income growth. Meanwhile, they are expected to increase their normal workloads in the aim of “speed up.” That means doing more; doing the job of someone else who has left and isn’t being replaced and so on.

    Don’t believe some of the rich assholes on this blog. They do very well, thank you, with earned or unearned income and are quite willing to bloviate about the lives of those forced to struggle.And, BTW, unions are evil and right to work should be in the constitution.

    And speaking of “speed up” here’s a penetrating piece from “Mother Jones.” I’ve been dealing with “speed up” for at least twenty years. In the news business, it means management fucked up dealing with the Net, so they are going slash positions and if you keep your job, you are going to your job plus those that others used to do. You’ll do 4,000 word in depth pieces and then be asked where those five or six “clickbait” items are for online. And you won’t get a raise.

    1. “The vast middle class has been screwed since the Bush Recession of 2007-08. Since then, the rich have gotten richer, companies are more productive and profits up.”

      That’s what 7 1/2 years of the Obama administration has accomplished. Let’s double down and get more of the same!

      By the way, who are those “rich assholes on this blog” that you are referring to? Just curious. I may be an “asshole” but I meet nobody’s definition of “rich.” You must be talking about someone else.

  2. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    What about the Mother Jones article? Did you read it? Did I call you an asshole? I would never do that. Half basket of deplorable, maybe.

    1. Deplorable for sure!

      Sorry, I was confused by the “on this blog” part.

    2. I suppose Peter betrays an underlying presumption, deplorable as it may be, that only a rich asshole has the time to write a blog, unpaid (except by the Forces Of Darkness And Evil). Thank heavens that does not make you a basket case.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    this is not spam

    but what exactly could Obama himself have done about the economy? Remember – he actually AGREE to tax cuts for the middle class. but Congress had to actually do the deed.

    And with sequestration – again – Congress had to write the legislation before Obama could sign it.

    so what was it that Obama did not do that he should have done?

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      One thing would have been not to have had Stimulus money for Broadband Internet access. I dealt with two small companies, one in Maryland and one in Virginia, that each went belly-up due to the Stimulus program. While Uncle Sam was deciding which companies qualified for funding, all private sector funding for smaller broadband companies dried up. They couldn’t afford to lease radio spectrum from schools or build out their networks. And some of the School Divisions that had leased their radio spectrum to those companies stopped getting payments.

      Without federal intervention, both companies had a reasonable shot of making it.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Obama can not do what Congress does not allow in terms of funding programs.. right?

        1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

          You’re right and that one is on the Democrats that controlled Congress when the Stimulus was passed. I don’t know whether the concept was necessarily bad, but the program was poorly managed and, at least, from what I saw from my admittedly narrow vantage point, a disaster for two companies, their employees and the schools from which they leased radio spectrum.

  4. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Get real, Bacon. Those Vikings in that photo caption are celebrating their Viking women, period. Nothing else happens in those static socialist states. Even WW II passed Sweden by. Even Hitler didn’t want anything to do with that glum and sullen place.

    And who’s ever gone to a Mormon town to get happy? Zero, Zip, Nada. How many tourists visit Monticello, Utah, save for those hopelessly lost? None.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    Vikings and Mormons and Scandinavians.. gadzooks!

    I agree with Reed… Mormon towns are “happy” places like Scandinavia places are?

    I don’t know what Bacon is slurping while he is reading …but it’s obviously mind altering!

    One thing you CAN SAY is that both Scandinavians and Mormons do like top-down govt – but their “values” are very different as to what the want govt to be doing!!!

    of course the other thing – if you REALLY want to KNOW Scandinavian values – why not listen to someone who is a Scandinavian? I’m not oppose to listening to other perspectives but the perspective has to be one of from “afar” not one they really explains the generational culture.

  6. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    “of course the other thing – if you REALLY want to KNOW Scandinavian values – why not listen to someone who is a Scandinavian?”

    I have, the Swedish ones in particular, they were down on the place too.

    And now the Norwegian’s got a corruption problem of all things. See:

Leave a Reply