Much consternation over the pond on what it is that makes people happy. For the OECD has released the "Your Better Life" report and the US isn't top. Surely this cannot be, that there are 16 countries happier than the US?

So I thought I'd have a look through the numbers and see what I could find. The most obvious point is that higher taxes and a larger welfare state don't provide the answer. For other than Hong Kong, just about everyone has those and some of them are less happy than the US. They are not the definitive factor (s) therefore.

So I went and looked at the various measures of economic freedom instead. We can look at things like business freedom, trade freedom, monetary such, investment, financial, the protection of property rights and the lack of corruption. The other measures clearly are to do with that tax and spend stuff that we've already rejected as our explanation. I looked only at those 16 countries which are happier than the US. There are a couple of wobbles, France is an outlier on these figures just as it is for the use of soap or the sale of ladies' razors.

But all of those countries are, with the occasional already admitted wobble, freer economically than the US. Higher business freedom, investment, financial and trade. These we could and should lump together as free trade really: free trade internally and externally.

Freedom from corruption is really the rule of law: a corrupt place doesn't have that because the corruption is in itself being paid to undermine the rule of law. Low corruption means the law (whatever it actually is) isn't being subverted. And property rights are, well, they're property rights.

So, now we have it, now we know what it is that makes countries happy, happier than the United States. Free trade, property rights and the rule of law.

Who knew?