We all know the famous words emblazoned on the Declaration of Independence. We’ve analyzed them in civics class, heard countless presidents use them as some tether to the past — to show that we still hold those truths to be self-evident.
So which words do you focus on when you hear that line?
I’ll be honest — I’ve always focused on liberty, assuming (correct or not) that my right to life was without question and that happiness was the glowing ideal that flowed in liberty’s wake.
In his 2021 year-end letter, Baupost's Seth Klarman looked at the year in review and how COVID-19 swept through every part of our lives. He blamed much of the ills of the pandemic on those who choose not to get vaccinated while also expressing a dislike for the social division COVID-19 has caused. Q4 2021 Read More
Liberty — freedom — was a very tangible goal. Happiness? I can think about that later, after my bills are paid.
But the fact is … it’s something we need to focus on now.
As I mentioned last week, Americans aren’t exactly skipping with merriment down gold-paved streets. In fact, the country has been rapidly declining in international happiness rankings for about a decade. According to the World Happiness Report: “While the U.S. ranked third among the 23 OECD countries surveyed in 2007, it had fallen to 19th of the 34 OECD countries surveyed in 2016.” (Chapter 7 is devoted to that entire topic if you want to read it.)
And in the end, America took 14th place out of 155 countries ranked in the report — our lowest score since 2006.
Somehow, we’re losing our happiness — and this is despite the fact that income per person has increased roughly three times since 1960.
With all that in mind, I turned to you last week to get your feedback. I was curious if you felt your level of happiness was lessening in the States — and, if so, were you considering alternatives?
I received a number of great responses, and this week, I just want to highlight a few:
Archie B. is happy living in the U.S.: “I’m extremely happy living in the U.S. That’s not to say I’m totally happy with the U.S. But never in my life would I have thought I would have the income that I have — and that is certainly part of why I’m happy here. We have excellent health care. Yes, expensive, but it’s available if you don’t mind working hard to earn money.”
Jack D. has some concerns: “I would have to say that I am happy, but concerned … When I graduated from school, I had a number of job offers, but chose to start a little business of my own that didn’t work out. At that point, I decided that I would become a stockbroker (1973). Six or seven years later, I got backing to start the brokerage firm that I still own today. That is a direct function of the ability to bootstrap yourself in the U.S., and that is one of the great things about this country.
“I love this country and feel strongly that I have lived through its golden age. To answer your basic question, however, I would have to say that I am not ready to leave it. I am, however, very concerned about the future. In my opinion, Congress has done a pretty bad job of financial management.”
Mike W. is considering his alternatives: “I feel much the same as you. I am getting close to the end of my career and also tired of fighting constant oversight and regulations.”
W.D. already has his Plan B in place: “When I am Ecuador, where I live about half to two-thirds of my time, I would rate my happiness at an 8, and in the U.S., where I am a lot of the remaining time, at about a 4.”
Evan G. thinks a Plan B is sensible: “Having another passport or legal residency is a good place to start, but even with that in hand, it would still be prudent to search out other possible places to live. I hear great things about Medellín, Colombia.”
I want to say a big thank-you to everyone who wrote in, even if I didn’t highlight your email. I read each one, and it was enlightening to get your thoughts on life in the U.S.
Many of you mentioned that even if you wanted to have a Plan B in place, you didn’t know how to get started. For that, I suggest checking out Ted Bauman’s Plan B program. He lays out all the steps for considering a new place to put down roots. Click here to learn more.