Why so happy? Why so happy?

Why is Mexico happier than its neighbor?

Because the foolish economic dogma of the U.S. gave it hope

Mexico has consistently ranked above the U.S. on the World Happiness Report index. Not by much, but given the gargantuan socioeconomic differences, one might reasonably expect Mexico to be in the bottom quartile with, say, Lesotho or Honduras.


Instead it finds itself sharing the top quartile (of the 106 countries surveyed) with Iceland, Finland, Norway, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, among others.

The United States’ GDP dwarfs that of Mexico’s. America’s middle class, adjusted for population, is larger by a large margin. Americans don’t witness the mass murders of students by local government officials in cahoots with drug gangs, or the escape of her most notorious criminals from federal prisons with the help of government officials.

Violent crime has been declining in the U.S. for over three decades, and has been increasing in Mexico during the same period, with more Mexicans killed in the narco wars than Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

Understandably, then, Yankee migrants are not exactly clamoring to slip over the border into Mexico, while the poorest Mexicans still reach for economic opportunities by entering the U.S. illegally (although now the best evidence suggests that the number of illegal Mexican immigrants crossing the border is outpaced by the number returning home).

But surely there must be an explanation as to why Mexicans are happier than Americans in spite of the obvious dichotomies of governance, economies and socioeconomic well-being.

To help guide meaningful public policies, in 2011 the United Nations initiated the Gross Happiness index to complement the Gross Domestic Product index, which ranked countries solely on wealth. The obvious impetus for this new index was the rather forward-looking proposition that there might be things more important than money to provide a barometer measuring the well-being of a country’s residents: per-capita GDP, social support, generosity and life expectancy, to name a few.


Countries like Switzerland expectedly rank near the top, while other countries like Nigeria, also expectedly, rank near the bottom.

I think Paul Krugman’s November 9 column in the New York Times, “Despair, American Style,” is a plausible if not a prescient explanation of this conundrum. Krugman notes, citing the work of Princeton social scientists Agnus Deaton and Anne Case, that mortality rates among 55 million blue-collar white Americans has been rising steadily since 1999.

They’re killing themselves softly not with song, but rather prescription drug overdoses, chronic liver disease from alcohol abuse, and often not-so-softly with self-inflicted bullets to their brains. Interestingly, Hispanic Americans enjoy a much lower mortality rate than whites, despite being poorer and less educated.

Could it be that, as Deaton suggests, middle-aged American whites, traditionally the most privileged of the privileged socioeconomic demographic, have “lost the narrative of their lives” leading to “a darkness spreading over part of our society,” as Krugman then wonders?

Could it be that the proverbial cat has finally escaped from the bag, and the promise of the American Dream is being increasingly recognized for what it is – a lie? Untangling the many causal possibilities contributing to this phenomena may be an impossible task, but I think Krugman is on to something.

Neoliberals both on the Left and Right prescribed America three bad medicines, which when combined, became a toxic cocktail. The first, NAFTA, resulted in the “great sucking sound” of jobs going to Mexico (Ross Perot was bat-shit crazy but sometimes even a blind bird catches a worm).

The second, deregulation, among other disastrous side effects such as increasing environmental degradation, gave us ENRON. Finally, the third ingredient of the cocktail (the catalyst if you will) – and the perfidious dream of Milton Freidman – gave us a globalized free market system where the rich enjoyed the spoils of the war against the working class, and nothing trickled down. It never even dribbled.

The result was a boon to Mexico and a bane to the US. Since 1994 the U.S. has lost a million well paid manufacturing jobs – the majority going to Mexico. American corporate profits boomed, as did wealth and income inequality.

Mexico is now a net exporter of many agricultural products such as avocados and tomatoes, and the U.S. now has a $181 billion trade deficit with Mexico and Canada. The Mexican middle class grew from 9.1 million 15 years ago to 14.6 million today – almost half of the country’s households.

Rigidly clinging to a purblind neoliberal economic ideology (that Keynes warned us against) led to this. And Mexico was the largest beneficiary. After suffering centuries of bullying, cooptation, military invasion and belittlement by the U.S., all I can say is – good for Mexico.

When comparing the social and economic histories of Mexico and the United States, one thing becomes abundantly clear. The reality of the uniquely American idea of exceptionalism – where the future would always be brighter, where an economic dream was achievable by everyone who had the will and daring to reach for it, has only really existed for three decades, and those decades have been behind us for some time now.

By way of contrast, for five centuries Mexicans saw the middle class as an aberration rather than a right. When the foolish economic dogma of her northern neighbor inexplicably dumped into her lap enormously beneficial trade policies, she was suddenly allowed something previously forbidden – hope.

And hope is the sine qua non for happiness.

Conversely, America’s plutocrats with their spurious attachment to an ideological model that can be summed up with the simple idiomatic (and idiotic) expression “a rising tide raises all ships” turned out to be, for the dystopian yet hopeful underclass, a shadow of an illusion.

The purchasers of tickets (steerage deck) on the once-thought unsinkable ship of upward economic mobility, have now had to reluctantly redeem their coupons for their current market value – despair.

Glen Olives Thompson is a professor of North American Law at La Salle University in Chihuahua, a specialist in law and public policy and a regular contributor to Mexico News Daily.

Stories from our archives that you might enjoy

  • Les Phillips

    Very interesting and thought provoking article.

  • michael grosser

    “Why?”, you ask. Quite simply, “Ignorance is bliss”. There now you know, “The rest of the story”

  • robert w

    Sorry can´t agree with ignorance is bliss, if it was the Yankees would be over the moon. They are completely lost in whats going on or just afraid to admit to themselves that they are not exceptional. They are in fact living in a lost dream called the American dream. I can only see them fall even lower.

    • michael grosser

      What part of “Dream” don’t you understand?

  • Hailey Mannering

    Much of the happiness in Mexico does not rely on economic prosperity. Mexicans tend to value their families, friends, co-workers, weekend fun, but will often be at peace with living in poverty if that is what they feel life has brought them. As for NAFTA: the US government subsidizes US agribiz which has put over 2 million Mexican farmers out of work by dumping food below cost in Mexico.

    • EstebanCardenas

      Glad to read a smart comment. Glen Olives seems to ingnore, or at least disregard the most basic aspect which differentiates Mexico from the US: the importance of family and social ties over meterial goods. While an American meassures his life satisfaction / succes by the size of the house he owns and the number of cars in the garage, a Mexican meassures his life satisfaction by the number of friends and relatives he can fit in his house. For this of course, a Mexican will also need economic prosperity, but not as the ultimate goal.

      A very simple way to realize how different family and social values are in each country is to take a look at pop culture manifestations in mass media. In US movies and tv shows, it is customary to refer to how unpleasent it is to deal with family, uncles, parents, etc.. yes supposed to be a “joke”, but indeed it has a meaning… now in thanksgiving season this is everywhere. Americans are too egoistic and intolerant to be able to enjoy spending time even with their close relatives.

      Last but not least: unsustainable and even derogatory to claim that the rise of the Mexican middle class is a gift from NAFTA and influence form the US. NAFTA took millions of Mexican farmers into total bankruptcy and those are the people who emigrated into the USA. Now the work the land of others, with enterprenurial rights being transfered to their American conterparts. The largest waves of migration can be very clearly correlated to the signing of NAFTA. On the other hand, Mexico began its industrialization process way before NAFTA was being negotiatied. After the disastrous leftist administrations of the 70s, the unavoidable liberalization of the economiy would have taken us to the growth of the middle class, regardless of NAFTA. While I do agree that NAFTA has brought benefits, it is by no means an essential part of our achievements. We have WORKED for our OWN prosperity.

      • Richlittle

        Thank you for this response. The truth is far more interspersed with family & friends than economic disparities. The Mexican economy was on track to be by far the highest producer in Latin America until NAFTA came to punish Mexicans (and amerikans). Mexicans are by far the happiest of Latin Amerikan countries (although they are not among those peoples, by border influence), simply because of their love for family and their belief in the ‘amerikan dream’ being somehow part of their own ideals. Mexico, on it’s own, would be far better off without amerika’s influence & drug wars for profit. Left to it’s own, without the PRI & Amerika, Mexico would be, by far, the happiest of peoples and the best country overall to live in and be a part of. Amerika has shunted that experience ten-fold.

        • michael grosser

          Did someone say “Dream”?

      • Hailey Mannering

        We certainly see eye to eye !

    • Glen Olives

      Naturally there have been winners and losers in both the US and Mexico as a result of NAFTA, but on balance, I haven’t seen anyone claim that Mexico hasn’t been the ultimate winner over the long-haul. As to happiness in Mexico not relying entirely on economic prosperity? Of course you’re right.

      • EstebanCardenas

        There are PLENTY of people claiming that Mexico has NOT been the ultimate winner over the long-haul in NAFTA. Your reading seems to be limited as it omits the general opinion of the Mexican left (which I certainly do not share).

        “As to happiness in Mexico not relying entirely on economic prosperity? Of course you’re right”

        The pint remains how such an important aspect on the topic of happiness was omited in a 900 word text about the topic.

        • Glen Olives

          At the risk of getting too deep into the weeds, I can’t seem to find a single economist who doesn’t think that Mexico didn’t benefit enormously from NAFTA, anecdotal accountings aside.

          • EstebanCardenas

            UNAMs John Ackerman is an example of an academic who openly claims NAFTA was detrimental to Mexico. While I strongly disagree with this person, I do have the opennes to read ideas different from mine. Maybe you can try; his blog is full of references to various scholars who criticize NAFTA


          • Glen Olives

            Sorry, I didn’t see this post earlier. I’m familiar with Ackerman and the Mexican Left. Ackerman is an army of one. He does indeed cite the scholarship of other academics critical of NAFTA. But their criticisms of NAFTA aren’t based on economics, but rather they’re couched in terms of geopolitical concerns. (Odd bedfellows with Paul Krugman.) I won’t comment on whether or not those concerns are legitimate, but just looking at the metadata available, it’s hard to figure how Mexico hasn’t been an enormous beneficiary of free trade with the U.S. and Canada, anecdotal accounting aside. And as I’ve said — good for Mexico.

          • EstebanCardenas

            Are these not your words Mr Olives?:

            ” I haven’t seen anyone claim that Mexico hasn’t been the ultimate winner over the long-haul.”

            “can’t seem to find a single economist who doesn’t think that Mexico didn’t benefit enormously from NAFTA”

            Paul Krugman happens to be a Noble Laureate. Although I do disagree with many of his views, it is indeed not the case, as you tried to point out, that there is a consensus about Mexico being the net beneficiary of NAFTA.

          • Glen Olives

            Yes, those are my words, obviously. And I stand by them. And yes, there is a consensus that Mexico has been the net beneficiary from NAFTA.

          • EstebanCardenas

            consensus: General agreement.

            Your disregard for those who do not share your views, does not imply the cease of their mere existense.

            “Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal.” Friedrich Nietzsche

  • Pesobill

    Too funny this article. I lived in Mexihole for years and trust me there are lots of unhappy Mexican people. They set the bar of contentment much lower than first world countries. They live in homes that most Americans would not even be able to handle. And as far as the Mexican middle class, it is tiny and the stats are lower. The “so called” middle class are very materialistic and becoming more like American people. Lots of smoke and mirrors in Mexico, pretty hard to generalize.

    • Mexihole indeed. Obviously, you live elsewhere. And the Mexican middle class is substantial and growing daily, a good thing. Materialistic? Of course, another good thing. Striving is great.

    • Carol Montgomery Merchasin

      It is not that Mexicans set the “bar lower” — it is that it is a different “bar.” Not lower, different. Based on community, family, things that do not necessarily correlate to money. It is indeed hard to generalize about Mexico, but family, respect and dignity, these are the things that make Mexicans happy and drive their behavior. If you have to have money to be happy then you will be unhappy if you don’t have money. Mexicans are not in that cycle. Seems better to me.

    • michael grosser

      Amen Brother!

  • Don Neilson

    How bizarre to claim that the American dream is a lie. How convenient to ignore the fact that the American youth of today are onto something when they refurbish and restore the old and decaying neighborhoods of our American cities, build the flourishing craft beer industry in competition with the established giants, design and market such successes as modern electronic tools and toys both inside and outside Silicon Valley, and sustainably grow and market healthy foods that are beginning to successfully compete with the food industry giants. How strange to ignore the fact that women are achieving the success in the business world once reserved only for men and have equaled the success of men in many areas of the entertainment industry. How strange to ignore the fact that any American can obtain any success wished for. People are limited only by how much importance they accord the naysayers.

    • Yup.

    • Glen Olives

      A powerfully eloquent refutation of my thesis, but somehow point-missing. I specifically reference the non-college educated white population engaged in the trades — our traditional middle class. They’ve been sold a lie, and they seem to keep buying it. Of course there will continue to be entrepreneurs, of course persons of intelligence and verve and ambition will thrive. I just don’t think honest, hard- working people of perhaps lesser intellectual ability should have been thrown under the bus. If you can make a credible argument that hard working people willing to work are still afforded an opportunity to do so while leading a minimally-dignified life, I’d sure like to hear it. I don’t think you can. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/12/05/u-s-income-inequality-on-rise-for-decades-is-now-highest-since-1928/

      • Don Neilson

        It may seem by my response that I missed your point, but I was so shocked by the claim that the American dream is a lie that I focused all my attention on that one point.

        Continuing… Of course, innate ability does indeed play a part in one’s success. Still, the dream to achieve any success, taught to my (older) generation, is not to be dismissed. For without the dream, and the suggestion to try, without the knowledge that others did and succeeded, many would not, and indeed, many do not. Does that make the dream a lie? I think not. The opportunity is still there.

        Unfortunately, hard working people of lesser ability have always suffered, and will likely continue to do so, just as poor people have always suffered, though not to the same degree. I see the bottom of the middle class as unlikely to have more than minimal success. I would suggest this has been so for as long as there has been a middle class. Fortunately, there are those poor who try very hard to improve their lot with some of them succeeding, though sometimes it is their children, with the encouragement of their elders, who pull the family up from the depths of poverty.

        It is true that the middle class suffers the ups and downs of a variable economy, but it seems to me that it is still the middle class with all of the positives and negatives that implies. We still have the opportunity to achieve, despite the suppression of initiative government regulators and naysayers often impose. Those willing to work hard don’t always succeed, nor do those born with a silver spoon in their mouths; although that damned silver spoon sure does provide an advantage. At the present time it does indeed seem that the hard working folks have it rougher than their forefathers. However, I would suggest that is temporary as the variable economy reaches bottom then ascends once again. I may be wrong. The key may very well be to find ways to encourage individual initiative to flourish, despite current economic woes, whether that be within an established organization, or independently. It is not hopeless, says the optimist.

  • mikegre

    The author of this screed obviously got high grades in Marxist Studies.

  • Güerito

    There are some pretty “Trump-like” sentiments in the essay above. “Mexico is killing us on trade, etc.”

    It’s kinda ironic since the author has written several essays fiercely attacking Trump.

    • Glen Olives

      Facts are facts. I don’t see things through ideological goggles. Nothing written in this op-ed is inconsistent with anything I’ve said about Trump.

  • Peter Hobday

    To meet with your neighbor in Mexico, you walk along your street. In the States, you get in a car and drive. For us, the party shifted South of the Rio Bravo a long time ago.

  • Hank Brice

    Great article. Mexico’s very much on its way up and the US has basically no hope after Citizen’s United.

  • j_b_spence

    Amazing amalgam of BS! I live in both countries. The US is still exceptional , the problem is the current govt, esp. the executive has diminished us. We are still the place where everybody wants to live.
    Good for MX, but they are still very poor and their diet is horrible – diabetes, 80% of the pop are FAT. Bad news for them. Some jobs have gone south but until we get a better prez in the US, nothing will change.

    • EstebanCardenas

      While I do agree that the US is a great place , I strongly doubt it is the country where “everybody” wants to live. The US atracts a certain “class” of inmigrants…. and it still has worse obesity indexes than Mexico…

      If the US is such a wonderplace to live, then please explain us, why do the people living there need to consume so many illegal substances to put up with their reality???? So much material success without happines is not a good sign on the social side….

    • Sal Paradise

      Yeah – it’s all Obama’s fault. Thanks, Donald Trump.

    • michael grosser

      sorry Dude, Obama did not elect himself and then re=elect himself. It took a whole lot of “uninformed voters”
      that’s why I’m an ex-pat..Obama may go but the people and the system that put him there are still there…more than ever……do you get it, my friend? Please try to think. And if you think that the Dems and Reps aren’t two wings of the same rotten bird that has pickded our bones clean and made us the enemy of the whole world then you have had a very sheltered life. PLEEZ PLEEZ PLEEZ Just TRY to think!!!!R U even capable?

  • PintorEnMexico

    Long before “income inequality” became a political buzz phrase, it was shown that a major factor in perceived happiness is the degree to which one’s economic status varies from one’s neighbors. Sure there are immensely wealthy Mexicans but they seem to be a minority. For the most part, from what I observe, Mexicans are largely in the same economic boat and therefore mostly happy. The focus is not on keeping up with the Garcias, but in enjoying the quality of their relationships, as has already been stated.

    In the States, happiness correlates with income up to about $75,000, depending on the region. After that, working harder to acquire more has a diminishing return on perceived happiness. The airwaves are filled with commercials whose not-so-subtle message is “you need more stuff.” Watching that steady diet of compare-and-despair materialism from your trailer park does not a happy camper make.

    I believe in the upside for Mexico. A few things need to happen. Of course, headway needs to be made on corruption. Financial reform will allow capital to flow, instead of being locked up in byzantine property regulations. With those reforms, Mexican businesses can confidently borrow and invest their gains in meaningful research and development. Too much capital flows out of the country into safer monetary zones. I see Mexico overtaking Brazil and perhaps Canada to rival the US in economic power in the Americas. I hope they can do so and sidestep some of the pitfalls the US has stepped in.

    As for American exceptionalism, I want nothing to do with it. We’ve been duped into fighting and policing everyone else’s battles. We spend more on the military than the next 10 countries combined. And the drum beats continue for yet more war. Ugh.

    • michael grosser

      I disagree , I think Mexico has made great “headway in corruption” they may not have invented it but are well on their way to perfecting it.

      • PintorEnMexico

        Nah, the Koch brothers and Citizens United have all the honors there.

        • michael grosser

          So much to steal and so little time……

  • Peter St. John

    My wife and I are ten year plus residents at Lake Chapala in central México, south of Guadalajara. We are semi retired. I show houses for Coldwell Banker/Chapala Realty and occasionally, sell one. My wife does free lance Graphic Design. We were able to leave Cincinnati, (nice town, lousy weather) at ages 51 and 48 because of the reduced cost of living. We decided not to wait for retirement. We live in a Méxican neighborhood, know and like all of our neighbors and they know and like us. We live with our windows open all year with the best climate in the world. Check out: chapalaweather.net and see for yourselves.

    There are a million or so expat Americans in México. We are on to something. Nice people, good climate, low cost of living and no insane fundamentalists shooting up Planned Parenthood, malls, schools, movie theaters, grocery stores, churches, freeways and the lot. Granted some corrupt officials, police and narcos are killing each other and the 43 students were a crime of terrific proportion but the U.S manages to kill 43 students month after month, world without end…

    The drug trafficking problems here are because of demand in the U.S. The guns are mostly purchased in the U.S. and smuggled into México.

    It is small wonder that we are HAPPY here!

    • Hailey Mannering

      No one asked where you work. Sorry that you have to resort to advertising in inappropriate places.

  • Gabriel

    This is a BAD article. A really bad article… trying to explain happiness through some sort of economic hope and illusion. Glen, this is not to offend you, this is a critic: You know very little about social psychology. Now. I’m one of those “middle class Mexicans”, I’ve travel through the States several times and I have a lot of expat friend living here. Now, I’m going to explain you something. We are happier because we are not enslaved by our economic system. Yes, there’s corruption, but we are free. There are no shootings at schools, malls or supermarkets because we don’t have a frustrated society. We base our happiness in friendship, family, parties, laughing and having a good quality time. We don’t measure our happiness with success, money, power or recognition. We have been bullied by America for centuries, and even so, we try to see the positive side of it. We like to laugh about life, not taking it too seriously. We have a day of the death, because we try looking at it as something natural, not as something dark and perverted. About your comment: “one might reasonably expect Mexico to be in the bottom quartile with, say, Lesotho or Honduras”, this is just exactly what I’m talking about. Your society thinks you can measure reality through dogmatism and fixed concepts. You really still believe that “manifest destiny” shit, and you are convinced that Mexico is a dirty and dusty place full of cactuses and tequila. We have jungle, we have mountain forests, we have beautiful lakes and a amazing colonial towns. Mexico City is the city with most museums in the entire world. We are a cultured country, but you are so blind that only keep listening to what you hear on the news. Your country and your people is unhappy because you are so blind, so blind… You only believe what you want to believe. I hope you and your “democratic” country one day starts paying attention to how the world really is.

    • Glen Olives

      Based on your comment, I don’t see where we disagree. Which makes me think you didn’t actually read the article.

      • Gabriel

        I read it, and I find a very materialistic point of view. I mean, your article is a mixture of Friedmanism and Marxism. I don’t see the reflection around the cultural element. I’m sorry, this is not a bad article, I just found it based a lot on economic priorities, like “jobs” or “households”, as if economical devices are actually the formula for happiness… if you think about it -specially if you are American-, this is a very big irony.

        • Glen Olives

          Well, yes I’m an American. I speak Spanish. I’ve studied Mexican history and culture. I’m familiar with her best writers and intellectuals. I’ve visited every Mexican state and have lived here for 15 years. My wife and children are Mexican. I love Mexican culture and wouldn’t live anywhere else. I research and publish academic work dealing with contemporary public policy issues in Mexico and the US. I know a little.

          I mention this only because it has been my experience that when a Gringo makes and observation about Mexican society and culture, Mexicans naturally often become somewhat sensitive. Which is exactly what I took from your first post.

          With regard to the substance of your second post, as mentioned in this piece, for the Happiness Index the UN uses per capita GDP, but also many other things such as generosity, social support, life expectancy, etc. I did not claim that material wealth equals happiness (in fact some recent studies put it in inverse proportion), but rather more that hope for a better future is the sin qua non. The cultural element, though much more difficult to quantify, is as important as the socioeconomic element, but the latter surely can’t be ignored, and with a 900 word limit, it will have to wait for another time.

          Thank you for your comments.

          • EstebanCardenas

            ” when a Gringo makes and observation about Mexican society and culture, Mexicans naturally often become somewhat sensitive”

            That is NOT the point Mr Olives. As Gabriel points out, this is a matter to be analyzed from a social psychology point of view: Mexicans and Americans have very different sets of values when it comes to material well being and family/social ties. Your article, on the other hand, considers happiness as a purely economic aspect. You downgrade happiness to a feeling of hope for economic prosperity. That is why the white American middle class is so desperate using drugs and running into violent mass shootings: with material well being there is simply NEVER enough. An then again, this shows your conditions as an American, who simply cannot identify a non-material concept of happiness, even as it is being explained by several users in the forum, including friendly American immigrants who have embraced our way of living.

            Cultural elements such as values scale can indeed be quantified. It seems to me that in a 900 word text, such a central aspect in the topic should definitely find some space.

          • Glen Olives

            I appreciate your editorial opinion. If you think that is a matter to be analyzed from a strictly social psychology point of view, then we must agree to disagree. In point of fact, Mexicans do have economic concerns, are aspiring to obtain more, and the middle class is growing. You may try to divorce this from any relevance to happiness, but in my view that would be naive. You’re implication that Americans cannot identify a non-material source of happiness is a generalization just shy of a stereotype. Yes, several readers have “pointed this out” after reading the op-ed and they, like you, seem to be reading between lines that are not even there.

          • EstebanCardenas

            I find your response to be a naive generalization, Mr Olives.

            I NEVER said happiness is to be studied from a “strictly social psychology” point of view. I said the social psychology aspect it is too important to be disregarded in a 900 word text about the topic.

            I NEVER said the economic aspect is not important for Mexicans. Read my other comments on this forum, where I state that material goods are important, but only as a base to be able to search for happiness based on family and social ties.

            Last but not least, I never said Americans cannot identify a non-material source of happiness. I even made reference to other Americans in the forum not sharing your views. I said you present the symptoms of a material-based visualization of happiness, which is so common for Americans. And I made this observation as you have downgraded happiness to a felling of hope for economic prosperity, thus disregarding the most important aspect for Mexicans: family and social ties.

            Putting words in the mouth of other is a very unethical practice for the discussion of ideas, Mr. Olives.

          • Glen Olives

            “[T]his is a matter to be analyzed from a social psychology point of view.” “Your article considers happiness…as a purely economic aspect.” “…this shows your conditions as an American, who simply cannot identify a non-material concept of happiness…”

            Are these not your words?

            You read too much into this piece from the beginning, then exaggerated what might have otherwise been legitimate and interesting criticism. And now your over-arguing your position by denying you said what you said.

            Who’s being unethical?

          • EstebanCardenas

            You are

          • Glen Olives

            Repeating your argument does not make it stronger. I think it was the British philosopher Bryan Magee who said something to the effect that when one begins to re-argue (or in this case re-re-argue) one’s position, useful discussion has come to an end. It’s been a pleasure.

          • EstebanCardenas

            It is not a repetition of my arguments Mr Olives, but an amplification of the same position to your stubborn attempt to take them out of context. Maybe some day you will manage to overcome your arrogance and take criticism by counter argumentation instead of the unethical practice of taking responses out of context and putting words in the mouth of others.

          • Glen Olives

            I get it. We disagree. You can stop now.

          • EstebanCardenas

            “You can stop now”

            …yet another display of your arrrogance.

          • Sal Paradise

            I would suggest that the UNHDI model fails to capture one or more omitted variables related to culture – the strength of family relationships, for example – that are much stronger in Mexico than in the United States. If those were added, I suspect that the observed error in the model would be much smaller (and the R^2) would be much larger.

          • Glen Olives

            You may be right, that makes sense.

          • Gabriel

            Thanks for answering Glen, I apologize for being a dick 😛 You are a cultured and cabal person.

          • Glen Olives

            No need to apologize. I’m glad we could clear things up. We’re cool. Saludos.

  • David Nichols

    Glen, there seems to be a dichotomy between the “Foolish economic dogma” of things will get better for each generation (In the USA), and your comments regarding the influence of the conditions (In Mexico) resulting in a growing middle class, giving Mexicans “hope”, an important component of happiness…
    How is that hope not the same hope that the American Dream was all about?
    Don’t get me wrong, I agree it is a definite factor in Mexican happiness, but I believe diminished expectations is on a par with hope in the equation…
    My neighbors have no expectations of buying a Cadillac or a new ski boat, nor do they have any yearnings to do so.
    This I think is a crucial factor in their happiness, and mine as well…

    • Glen Olives

      I’m not sure I completely understood your comment. Which is probably not your fault — I’m a bit glassy-eyed from grading final exams and wrapping other things up for the semester. So let me answer in a general way. I’ve been labeled both a Marxist and a Neoconservative in comments regarding this piece. Not that I mind — labels are for weak minds trying to understand a complex world. My point is that as reference, trying to understand our world by filtering every fact through an ideological screen tends more toward obfuscation than understanding. Wealth does not equal happiness in my view, nor does it contribute to happiness much. Nor does poverty equate to misery. I’ve been rich and poor, and in between. At my richest, practicing law in California, I was also at the apogee of my misery. At my poorest, teaching English in the hinterlands of Chiapas, I was happy. There is, sorry to tell both my hippie-guru and conservative-Gucci friends, no formula.

      • David Nichols

        We are in agreement, there is definitely no formula for happiness, regardless of the UN effort to reduce it to numbers. Like you, I am happier now, here in Mexico, with a fraction of the income I had from my business in the USA.
        A wife, two children who have turned out to be responsible adults, and a home with room for the grandkids…this is what I meant by diminished expectations– it’s not a perjorative to me…

        • Glen Olives

          I know we come from opposite sides of the political spectrum. And I’m glad that we can agree that some things in life transcend politics and ideology.

  • michael grosser

    Hey did you guys hear?, there’s a “War on Women” Man, I heard that and I rushed right home and stabbed my little Mexican girlfriend (repeatedly) and again and again. I didn’t care HOW much she screamed and moaned…..and just kept stabbing her and stabbing her. Sometimes it’s about doing what’s right. Actually, I do feel happier now.

  • alance

    Mexicans have a homogeneous population and culture with a live and let live tolerant attitude. They do not celebrate diversity or political correctness.

    • Glen Olives

      Yes, a prescient comment. And the subject of a future piece.

  • alance

    Happiness: Is it in your DNA?


    Minkov and his colleague Michael Harris Bond from Hong Kong Polytechnic University, relied on the World Values Survey (WVS), a ranking based on questionnaires in which respondents have to rate themselves as “very happy,” “rather happy,” “not very happy” or “not at all happy”.

    They compared this to data on the ethnic prevalence of “A allele”, a variant of a gene involved in regulating anandamide, a substance which enhances sensory pleasure and helps reduce pain.

    The country with the highest happiness rating, Mexico, also had the highest estimated prevalence of A allele, the researchers found.

  • Ivan Sandini

    With more Mexicans killed in the gang wars than Americans in the war of irak and Afghanistan, you ignorant reporter all the people from irak and afganistan that are killed because of the war do not count? If you count them i am sure it would be lots more killed on those wars than in the 5 more dangerous countries in the world your comparison is stupid.

  • francan

    Easy answer. Mexicans have heart. Americans have constant war.