The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life by Anu PartanenA Finnish journalist, now a naturalized American citizen, asks Americans to draw on elements of the Nordic way of life to nurture a fairer, happier, more secure, and less stressful society for themselves and their children.
Moving to America in 2008, Finnish journalist Anu Partanen quickly went from confident, successful professional to wary, self-doubting mess. She found that navigating the basics of everyday life—from buying a cell phone and filing taxes to education and childcare—was much more complicated and stressful than anything she encountered in her homeland. At first, she attributed her crippling anxiety to the difficulty of adapting to a freewheeling new culture. But as she got to know Americans better, she discovered they shared her deep apprehension. To understand why life is so different in the U.S. and Finland, Partanen began to look closely at both.
In The Nordic Theory of Everything, Partanen compares and contrasts life in the United States with life in the Nordic region, focusing on four key relationships—parents and children, men and women, employees and employers, and government and citizens. She debunks criticism that Nordic countries are socialist “nanny states,” revealing instead that it is we Americans who are far more enmeshed in unhealthy dependencies than we realize. As Partanen explains step by step, the Nordic approach allows citizens to enjoy more individual freedom and independence than we do.
Partanen wants to open Americans’ eyes to how much better things can be—to show her beloved new country what it can learn from her homeland to reinvigorate and fulfill the promise of the American dream—to provide the opportunity to live a healthy, safe, economically secure, upwardly mobile life for everyone. Offering insights, advice, and solutions, The Nordic Theory of Everything makes a convincing argument that we can rebuild our society, rekindle our optimism, and restore true freedom to our relationships and lives.
Ten Reasons We Can’t, and Shouldn’t, Be Nordic
In our model which is just that, a model , U. In contrast, when Sweden switches from cutthroat to cuddly capitalism or vice versa , this does not have an impact on the long-run growth rate of the world economy, because the important work is being done by U. Many of the desirable features of Scandinavian societies, such as low income inequality, low levels of poverty and high levels of economic growth predated the development of the welfare state. These and other indicators began to deteriorate after the expansion of the welfare state and the increase in taxes to fund it. As Robert Kaiser, an associate editor of the Washington Post , wrote after a three-week trip to Finland in :. Finland is as big as two Missouris, but with just 5.
Rubio could safely assume that Republican primary voters more or less agreed that becoming more like Sweden was precisely not what the United States should be doing. George Lakey disagrees. Since then, he has mentored younger activists as a professor at Swarthmore College, a founder of Training for Change and a member of the the Earth Quaker Action Team, which mounts strategic campaigns against the systems that pollute the planet for profit. I came to know George as editor of his columns at Waging Nonviolence , where he shared stories and lessons from his long experience, attuned to the challenges of ongoing struggles like Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter. When my wife Berit and I settled in the United States, I naturally wanted to share some of what I learned overseas, since I regarded the Nordic peoples as having created a kind of lab where they could try out new approaches and find out what worked.
Bernie Sanders is hanging on, still pushing his vision of a Nordic-like socialist utopia for America, and his supporters love him for it. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, is chalking up victories by sounding more sensible. The upshot is that Sanders, and his supporters, are being treated a bit like children—good-hearted, but hopelessly naive. A Nordic person myself, I left my native Finland seven years ago and moved to the U. This, in turn, makes Nordic citizens willing to sacrifice their own interests to help their neighbors. What this is mostly taken to mean is that Americans will never, ever agree to pay higher taxes to provide universal social services, as the Nordics do.
The central argument is this: All the socialized programs that make Nordic countries different from the US — centralized health care, free higher education, mandatory paid parental leave — are done to help people individually , not collectively, as many Americans assume. Partanen goes on to say that this view isn't a niche opinion; it's the prevailing mindset. Nordic citizens may pay higher tax rates so there's a larger pot of money to give out to everyone, but that doesn't mean people necessarily care that others are getting off easier. That breeds more trust between ordinary people and between those people and their government, which helps legitimize the system. And that's important, because even if Americans understand that social welfare programs work without them having to give up being selfish, the reality is still bleak.