Which Country is Happier?

happypeopleIf I asked which country is happier, which one would you choose? Guatemala? or America?


The United States has a GDP of 16.72 Trillion dollars[i], while only 1511.64 miles away[ii], Guatemala has a GDP of only 81.51 billion dollars.[iii] The U.S. has the largest GDP in the world, and Guatemala sits in the 80th seat[iv]. The interesting thing about Guatemala, however, is that it has a larger GDP growth rate than the U.S. Guatemala is growing much faster than the U.S. on a yearly basis.[v]  Although it could be assumed the people in the U.S. would be happier than the Guatemalans, but that would be going against what Aristotle says.

I have been to Guatemala three times in my life, and have experienced the work and the lives of high ranking people as well as observed families working in the dump for less than 10 cents a day. [vi] There is not a job in the U.S. that pays less than minimum wage an hour (well possibly in the black market somewhere….). In general, however, Americans “need” money. They have to be making a certain salary to “be happy,” live a “good life”, or to “succeed.” Again, these “wants” in life go dispute what Aristotle says about a happy life. In the case of Americans who just want to make a lot of money, “As for the money-making life, it is something quite contrary to nature; and wealth evidently is not the good of which we are in search, for it is merely useful as a means to something else.”[vii] What I believe Aristotle to be saying here is that money making is not something humans should be focused on—it is not “natural” to human beings. Making money is just something humans partake in for a short-lived happiness that will someday go away because while we are making money, Aristotle believes we are not actually wanting only to make money, but to use money and to do something we love or want to do with it. I can personally attest to this kind of statement. My parents want me to become very successful out of college making quite a bit of money so I will be able to support myself. I do agree that I will need to support myself, but the career they want me to go into, accounting, is not something I really care to do. What I really would love to do with my time and talent is to someday run an organization that benefits people with special needs. I would love to be the face of something, and be great! I would think this would make me happy! Aristotle, in my opinion, would agree that running a special needs organization would make me happy and a good use of my faculties.

I have always loved special needs children especially working with them and being around them.  I do like math and adding and subtracting numbers because it is relatively easy, but I have never loved it. “For pleasure is an affection of the soul, and each man [or woman] takes pleasure in that which he is said to love…” [viii] I believe this is where America goes wrong in helping its people achieve happiness. America has always been the place where “people’s dreams come true,” which unlike many beliefs is not always the case. People’s dreams either have to do with becoming rich or famous. To be happy, Aristotle says, is to use our faculties to the best of our ability—“The function of man, then, is exercise of his vital faculties [or soul] on one side in obedience to reason, and on the other side with reason.” [ix] Someone, like me, who loves one thing, but is “forced” into another occupation to achieve a “dream” is not using his/her true faculties, and is therefore not truly happy. America puts a mask on its people by making them believe they will be happy if they make a lot of money and become powerful and famous, but in actuality, no one is happy unless they are doing what they were born to do.

In Guatemala, I do believe they live what one may call a “simpler” life.  I can honestly say that I think it is a lot easier to be who you are truly meant to be in Guatemala than in America. Guatemalan people are always so optimistic with what they do. I have been on mission trips and have made several Guatemalan friends down there. Our translators are always so happy to be doing what they are doing. They may not make as much money as say one of the government officials (Carla) I met on my last trip, but honestly, they seem to be a lot happier than Carla was. I know our translators love what they do, and they truly seem to be what Aristotle defines as a happy person. Aristotle says that “… happiness was defined as a certain kind of exercise of the vital faculties in accordance with excellence or virtue.” [x] Therefore, when a person is truly using their talents to the best of their ability, they are truly and undeniably happy. To prove my point a little bit, I looked up the amount of suicide rates in both of these countries. Who had more suicide rates? If you guessed Guatemala, you are correct. In 2003, it was recorded that The U.S. had a total (female and male) of 11.0 suicides.[xi] In what I believed was and what actually seems to be the happier country, Guatemala, only had 2.1 in 2003.[xii] Although there are many factors to suicides, one of the main ones tends to be unhappiness, and in the U.S. a lot of that unhappiness can come from stress from jobs. If one were to truly love their job, they would be happy, and therefore using their faculties, and ultimately would not want to die because they hate their job so much.

America and Guatemala are two very different countries. The U.S. has the “American Dream” that comes with wealth, fame, and prosperity, but what the dream does not tell you is all the stress and unhappiness that comes along for the ride. America forces people to want to be the richest and most famous people in the country; it does not advocate for the occupation that will make you happy or help you utilize your faculties to the best of your ability, it vouches for the one that will get you to the top. Guatemala on the other hand, does not have the “Guatemalan Dream”. People live a lot simpler there. I believe they are not as pressured to be the best of the best, and even if they are, they do it so they can better their country—not for the sake of themselves. Now, not everyone is happy in Guatemala, kind of like how everyone is not necessarily unhappy in America. I am sure people in both countries do what they love and do not love to some extent, it just seems like America has one way to live for its people, and that seems to be the “good life”, which in Aristotle’s opinion, is not necessarily the happy life.  Like I said before, people are happy to be doing what they are doing; they go to school to become what they want to be—unlike many Americans. We go to school possibly to be “what we want to be” but most likely we are in our majors for the money, power, or fame. What we really want is not what we tend to do with our lives. However, some of us do, which according to Aristotle is really living and being happy. Therefore, I believe that Aristotle would think Guatemala does a better job at allowing its people to be happy. Life in Guatemala is not all about “external goods” [xiii] but about doing something you love and something you are meant to be doing.  I do not believe America will ever change. The majority of America will always be vying for more money and more power. I do however think Guatemala will become a little bit more like America each year as it advances but I do think it will always be considered to be a happy country in Aristotle’s eyes.


[i] Central Intelligence Agency:North America: United States. Central Intelligence Agency, n.d. <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/us.html&gt;. (accessed April 12, 2014).

[ii] “Distance from United States to Guatemala.” Distance from United States to Guatemala. N.p., n.d. <http://www.distancefromto.net/distance-from/United%2BStates/to/Guatemala&gt;. (accessed April 12, 2014).

[iii] Central Intelligence Agency: Central America: Guatemala. Central Intelligence Agency, n.d. <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/gt.html&gt;. (accessed April 12, 2014).

[iv] Central Intelligence Agency: Central America: Guatemala.

[v]  Central Intelligence Agency: Central America: Guatemala.

[vi] Aristotle. “Nicomachean Ethics,” in: How to Find Happiness Without a Free Lunch: Great Ideas in Ethics, Politics, and Economics 2013. Ed. Bernardo Aparicio (Dallas: Ursuline Academy of Dallas, 2014).

[vii] Aristotle.

[viii] Aristotle.

[ix] Aristotle.

[x] Aristotle.

[xi] “International Suicide Statistics – Suicide.org!” International Suicide Statistics – Suicide.org!N.p., n.d. <http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-statistics.html&gt;. (accessed April 13, 2014).

[xii] “International Suicide Statistics- Suicide.org!.

[xiii] Aristotle.

[xiv] “Govt. Survey Reveals Mental Wellbeing despite Recession | Mental Healthy.”Mental Healthy. N.p., n.d. <http://www.mentalhealthy.co.uk/news/1303-govt-survey-reveals-mental-wellbeing-despite-recession.html&gt;. (accessed April 15, 2014).


Carolyn Quint

Macroeconomics: Period 4


April 14, 2014

Word Count: 1,373


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