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Commentary: More Norwegian sweaters leads to happiness

The United Nations has just issued a report naming Norway the happiest country in the world — for now. A year ago, Denmark was in first place. The United States dropped from 13th place to 14th. First, we'll review the facts, then a bit of analysis is in order.

The top 10 happiest countries are Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden. All but New Zealand and Australia are cold climate countries. One of Norway's big boosts comes from oil. Because of oil, Norway has a per-person annual income of $100,000, nearly double that of the U.S.

The rankings are based on six factors: per capita gross domestic product, healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity, social support and absence of corruption in government or business.

In spite of the listing of factors, there is no science in measuring happiness. So what's the non-scientific basis for America slipping to 14th place? What's the inside scoop? What do we need more of?

During the past year, Bernie Sanders clearly pointed out that the top 1 percent in America are doing better than ever and should be very happy. But nobody surveyed the top 1 percent apparently and their happiness didn't count in the final analysis.

As it turns out, political analysis had nothing to do with the American happiness, so don't go blaming Barack Obama, Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders.

The answer is much simpler than politics and me and my sister Marjo (yes, that's her real name) both saw the light, one week apart last December.

In December, Eartha and I went to Concordia College in Moorhead for the annual Christmas concert of the fabulous and famous Concordia Choir. We got there about 45 minutes early and watched as the auditorium slowly filled with families, fans and holiday celebrators. I detected a pattern developing. Finally, I poked Eartha and said "look at all the Norwegian sweaters coming into this place." The Red River Valley is filled with Norwegians. She looked around and agreed. I'm not Norwegian myself, but I was wearing a phony Norwegian sweater (made in the U.S.A.) myself. The concert was wonderful and inspiring and the crowd was happy.

A week later, the Concordia Choir took their act on the road and performed the same concert in Minneapolis. My sister, Marjo, and her husband Jerry have a granddaughter in that choir so Marjo and Jerry were at that concert. I was talking to Marjo on the phone about the concert a few days later and she commented to me that she noticed a huge number of Norwegian sweaters in the crowd, including the one she was wearing. This is a true story. You can ask Eartha, Marjo, Jerry or our friend Anne who was at the same concert we attended wearing a genuine Norwegian sweater made in Norway. And of course, the concert in Minneapolis was wonderful and inspiring and the crowd was happy.

That about sums it up: Norway is the happiest country in the world not because of oil money, the midnight sun, lutefisk, lefsa, krumkake or rommegrot, but because of the happiness of Norwegian sweaters — no matter where they're made. Happiness is a warm Norwegian sweater. We need more of them in America. If you don't believe me, ask the Sons of Norway.