Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Socialism 101: Finland

The Christian Science Monitor is running a series on the economies of Europe. Don't miss today's piece by Peter Ford on the Finnish "social model."

Some fast facts:

As is typical of anything you may learn of the successes of socialism through the U.S. media, the author—either by editorial requirement or acculturation—needed to find reasons why socialism may work in Finland but not here. Or why it might not be desirable.

There were slim pickings. Ford managed to come up with homogeneity, high taxes, a high suicide rate and an overcrowded healthcare system.

Let's take a brief look at these—


The largest minority in Finland is Swedish, which accounts for 6% of the population. (They all look the same to me.) While this has the undoubted advantage of reducing intrasocietal tribalism, I have to wonder if one of the advantages of this homogeneity (which you will never see mentioned) is that it makes subversion of the society by capitalists and autocrats more difficult.

The Finns managed to maintain their neutrality and independence during the Cold War despite sitting atop the Soviet Union. But the ways of capitalism are far less benign than most Americans can bring themselves to imagine. Western oligarchies will spare no expense to make any form of socialism appear "unworkable," and in all likelihood, some such effort is being made with the Finns.

Meanwhile, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, who's trying to use Venezuela's oil money to bring education and health care to the Venezuelans over the objections of You Know Who, must contend with made-in-America efforts at subversion.1

High taxes

Since the Finns are among the world's best educated, it wouldn't occur to them that they are going to receive social services for free. But since they also live in a democracy, they are free to insist that all citizens have the basic requisites of life. The capitalist myth is that if you must share your wealth with your fellow citizens, you will just take your toys and go home. No innovation. No invention. Stagnation, stagnation, stagnation.

This has certainly not proven to be the case with the Finns. In fact, I can't imagine that what the Finns have discovered would not apply in just about any society—

"When people can fulfill their potential they become innovators," [government advisor] Dr. Himanen argues. "The innovative economy is competitive and makes it possible to finance the welfare state, which is not just a cost, but a sustainable basis for the economy, producing new innovators with social protection."

High suicide rate

I believe it was the Swedes who invented this. I recall that back in the 60s everybody was worried about anomie, which is an affliction of the comfortable. (Did anomie kill Christine Onassis? we wonder.) Nowadays we don't have time to suffer from anomie; we're too busy scrambling for our daily bread.

Socialism is not a finished work. At best it is a system of satisfying only the first two levels—physiological needs and safety needs—of what Abraham Maslow identified as a hierarchy of needs.2 There is no reason to think, however, that success may not be had in satisfying higher level needs if we put our collective minds to the task.

Overcrowded health-care system

I have always thought this was the strangest objection to socialized medicine, but it plays well in a society based on greed. By not treating people, as is our wont in the U.S., we have certainly solved the problem of overcrowding. Meanwhile it may be hoped that the Finns will devote even more resources to caring for themselves.

Related posts
Have you been trickled on yet? (7/28/04)
The best place in the world to do business (11/8/04)
The death of the Left? (11/27/04)
Gasp! Socialists in the press (2/2/05)
Lie of the Day (6/20/05)
Lie of the Day (7/4/05)
Human development rank of the world's countries — 2005 (9/10/05)


1 reports

Hard-line Venezuelan opposition sectors are said to be behind initiating a bizarre new terror campaign to mark next week-end's Halloween.

Sinister pumpkins have appeared in parts of Caracas with warnings and photos of government officials.

The State Political & Security (DISIP) Police and the Police Detective Branch (CICPC) are taking the matter seriously using anti-bomb units to withdraw the pumpkins.

* However, it has been learned that the pumpkins were not bombs but did contain messages and photos of possible assassination targets.

Among the names are: President Chavez Frias of course, Metropolitan Mayor Juan Barreto, Attorney General Isaias Rodriguez and former Media Minister Andres Izarra.

Reuters offers this

Venezuelan security services scrambled on Monday to tackle a new threat on the streets of Caracas: Halloween-style pumpkins carrying messages of rebellion against President Hugo Chavez.

Local media showed heavily armed police and bomb experts surrounding one orange squash with a Halloween face and covered with stickers; others sprouted cables and wires making authorities wary they could be home-made explosives.

The pumpkins were found outside the state petrochemical company Pequiven and the offices of Chavez's political party with references to a constitutional article about civil resistance, local media reported. Chavez opponents often refer to Article 350 when calling for support of street protests.

The pumpkin alert came just weeks after authorities found scores of paper skeletons with anti-Chavez messages hanging from bridges and lampposts in Caracas. Police described them as a "Machiavellian" attempt to cause unrest.

Doesn't that just beat anything you could've imagined? [back]

2Please don't get into a debate as to the correctness of Maslow's model. The indisputable point is that needs emerge as "lower level" needs are satisfied. [back]

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