By Mark Bauer
People who live in countries with proportional representation tend to report being happier than those who don’t.
We noticed a trend when reviewing a ranking of the world’s happiest countries: The top seven all have proportional representation, including Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. Finland tops the list with a rating of 7.842. The United States appears at number 19 with a happiness rating of 6.95. Afghanistan is last with a rating of 2.567.
Now, correlation does not equal causation. It’s entirely possible that relationship is spurious. But if you dive into the details it might not seem like such a stretch. First, consider the criteria used to measure happiness. Countries are ranked based on how respondents rate their social support, freedom to make their own life choices, generosity among the residents, and perception of corruption.
Given that proportional representation gives people more self-determination in how they are governed, is it any wonder that people with proportional representation would rate higher satisfaction in those categories, particularly the freedom to make their own life choices?
Electoral systems like proportional representation and ranked choice voting also tend to help alleviate the stranglehold that two-party systems have on the democratic process. When every election seems to amount to an existential crisis, we’ll resort to all kinds of tribalistic nastiness to secure victory for our team. All the while, there’s no shortage of cable news punditry to keep us abreast of the latest indignities perpetuated by our political rivals. It’s hard not to feel cynical and hopeless in such a doom loop.
Contrast that to ranked choice voting and proportional representation, where election campaigns tend more toward identifying common good solutions. And if what’s good for you in one part of the country isn’t good for someone else in another part of the country, then those neighbors can elect a representative most aligned with their values.
There’s a lot more that goes into finding your happiness. But we believe that electoral reforms could actually move the needle quite a bit in helping us realize that. And as much momentum as the United States is experiencing with the case of ranked choice voting, it’s clear America hasn’t given up on its pursuit of that happiness.
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Mark Bauer is a producer, entrepreneur, day trader and former Independent candidate for Congress in Texas. Previously he spent 10 years as a legal journalist covering the legal market in Texas and regulatory issues in Washington DC. Mark’s primary interests involve using content and storytelling to help different groups of people better understand one another.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Rank the Vote, its members, supporters, funders, or affiliates.