In September, I wrote about visiting Denmark and being impressed with how progressive the country is, with a huge social safety net that means, for example, free health care and public education from kindergarten through college, but also a firm grip on capitalism.
Today, I read an op-ed in the New York Times by Anu Partanen and Trevor Corson, an American couple who moved to Finland (Denmark’s neighbor) a year ago when she got a new job, and found the same sort of system thriving in that country. It, too, involves high taxes for both people and businesses, but both are prospering because the latter discovered that a healthy, educated population makes for happier, more productive workers — even with lots of vacation days and liberal parental leave policies. The Finns know something about education, too, as their public schools are consistently ranked as the finest in the world.
While conservatives in the US have, for decades, applied trickle-down policies to our economy, believing that lower taxes create more business, that has been proven false time and again (including in the wake of Trump’s tax cuts). Meanwhile, these Scandinavian countries are proof that a bottom-up approach, taking care of citizens first, is more effective, creates a happier nation, and actually helps capitalism work better.
Is it correct to call that socialism? Here’s an excerpt from Partanen and Corson’s piece:
For starters, politicians in the United States might want to think twice about calling the Nordics “socialist.” From our perch, the term seems to have more currency on the other side of the Atlantic than it does here.
In the United States, Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are often demonized as dangerous radicals. In Finland, many of their policy ideas would seem normal — and not particularly socialist.
When Mr. Sanders ran for president in 2016, what surprised our Finnish friends was that the United States, a country with so much wealth and successful capitalist enterprise, had not already set up some sort of universal public health care program and access to tuition-free college. Such programs tend to be seen by Nordic people as the bare basics required for any business-friendly nation to compete in the 21st century.
Even more peculiar is that in Finland, you don’t really see the kind of socialist movement that has been gaining popularity in some of the more radical fringes of the left in America, especially around goals such as curtailing free markets and even nationalizing the means of production. The irony is that if you championed socialism like this in Finland, you’d get few takers.
Given that, would I ever move to Finland? Well, I like that the country just named 34-year-old Sanna Marin to become its youngest-ever (and third female) Prime Minister, but my answer would still be, “Hell, no!” Like Denmark, Finland is so far north that there are only a few hours of sun on winter days, and I don’t do well in the cold and dark. Besides, I’m not into two things Finns love: seafood and saunas.
But I’d still like to see some of those economic policies applied here in the USA.