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July 11, 2013 3:15 PM   Subscribe

"The country has cheaper medical care, smarter children, happier moms, better working conditions, less-anxious unemployed people, and lower student loan rates than we do. And that probably will never change." In The Atlantic, a comparison of some of the socio-economic aspects of Finland and the USA.

"As the U.S. raises student loan rates, considers cutting food stamps, guts long-term unemployment insurance, and strains to set up its first-ever universal healthcare system, it's easy to get sucked into articles about a country that has lapped America in certain international metrics but has also kept social protections in place. Like doting parents trying to spur an underperforming child, American liberals seem to periodically ask, 'Why can't you be more like your brother?'"

"The no-testing model also makes sense for a culture that's low on one-upmanship: 'I think one of the more important things is that there's less of an emphasis on competition in Finland,' Marakowitz said. 'Many Finnish children don't know how to read before they go to school, and you need a certain kind of cultural setting for that. Some U.S. parents would be quite freaked out.'"

"When Americans hold up Finland as a model, their arguments are usually dismissed with two indisputable facts: Finland is indeed much smaller than the U.S., making it easier to disperse generous benefits on a national scale. It's also far more homogeneous, making disputes over payouts less frequent and less racially charged. Still, Cook says, the claims of homogeneity are a bit over-stated. Finland has both sizeable Swedish- and Russian-speaking communities, and right-leaning parties like the 'True Finns' want to pare back the little immigration the country does have. (Even the True Finns, though, love the welfare state.)"
posted by Wordshore (55 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
When Americans hold up Finland as a model, their arguments are usually dismissed with two indisputable facts: Finland is indeed much smaller than the U.S., making it easier to disperse generous benefits on a national scale.

Yeah, but they also have fewer people to pay for them, and transportation costs aren't really that bad when it comes to benefits, so it cancels out of the equation.

It's also far more homogeneous, making disputes over payouts less frequent and less racially charged.

That's a fucking red herring. If that were true, then some in the US would be getting more benefits than the Finland norm and some would be getting less. Instead, everyone is worse off! What incredible nonsense.
posted by JHarris at 3:21 PM on July 11, 2013 [14 favorites]


Finland has both sizeable Swedish- and Russian-speaking communities

So not only are there blonds, but blonds and blonds, too!
posted by Sys Rq at 3:25 PM on July 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


The language used by the GOP against e.g. welfare always has a very strong xenophobic element -- they don't want their tax money going to pay for people who are culturally (and often racially) different from themselves.

Still, Cook says, the claims of homogeneity are a bit over-stated
Finland's population is 93.4% Finnish, 5.6% Swedish, and 1% other, which is basically culturally homogeneous.

If you look at Sweden, where there's an increasing number of muslim communities, there's more people calling to cut taxes and therefore social programs. Whereas they were once the golden child of what socialism could be, the slow breakdown in their cultural homogeneity is turning some of their loud fringes to the same sort of rhetoric used by the GOP here.

Honestly, the level of social welfare we have, considering just how diverse this country is, is astonishing. I'm not by any means saying this country is all fixed or anything, but these comparisons to Finland (and previously to Sweden) aren't really fair, even if they show what an ideal society could be.
posted by spiderskull at 3:26 PM on July 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm sick and tired of reading about all those countries that do everything better than America. Dammit.
posted by monospace at 3:32 PM on July 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


So deport the racists and everybody can get on fine, is what you're saying.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:37 PM on July 11, 2013 [15 favorites]


So not only are there blonds, but blonds and blonds, too!

Wow. I take it racial distinctions aren't arbitrary to you the way nationality is?
posted by Phalene at 3:38 PM on July 11, 2013


That's a fucking red herring. If that were true, then some in the US would be getting more benefits than the Finland norm and some would be getting less. Instead, everyone is worse off! What incredible nonsense.

No, enough people would cut their nose off to spite their face. It's not so much about our side getting ours, but making sure those so and so's never get theirs. Also, their are enough soft welfare that is usually not listed in the calculations. To mangle the old phrase, in America, the laws allows the rich and poor alike to have their home owner deductions and low capital gains taxes.
posted by zabuni at 3:39 PM on July 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


ENVIOUS not JEALOUS aaarrrgggghhhhhhh!!!! [explodes]
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:49 PM on July 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


No, enough people would cut their nose off to spite their face. It's not so much about our side getting ours, but making sure those so and so's never get theirs.

Crabs in a barrel.
posted by grubi at 3:50 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


And the author uses envy properly halfway through the article.

this language am done
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:52 PM on July 11, 2013


It's not so much about our side getting ours, but making sure those so and so's never get theirs.

It's interesting that when I go visit my cousin in semi-rural Texas, I hear about a relative that works in a welfare office who supposedly complains of people there loading up on thousands of dollars of benefits per month. I don't have any idea if that's really true or if the employee is just overhearing things in the office. Either way, crabs in a barrel. I don't even know how to speak to that.. usually I end up changing the subject.
posted by crapmatic at 3:57 PM on July 11, 2013


But do they have...FREEEEDOMMM????
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:09 PM on July 11, 2013


But do they have...FREEEEDOMMM????

You didn't say it right. Here:
(runs off, comes back with various bits of equipment, spends forty minutes setting up sparklers, red white and blue Christmas lights, a big electric light-up Uncle Sam, an iPod playing "America the Beautiful" on continuous loop and various trained animals in Stars-And-Stripes tophats, and has them all going while I say)
FRRREEEEEEEEEEE (inhale) DOOOOOMMMM-mah!

(the NSA agent watching this comment as it passes over the wire to the server): "What a moron."
posted by JHarris at 4:29 PM on July 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Finland has both sizeable Swedish- and Russian-speaking communities
So not only are there blonds, but blonds and blonds, too!
Russians face discrimination in Finland and the Baltic states.
posted by Jehan at 4:29 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


> You didn't say it right.

Well, I'm only Canadian. I did the best I could.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:30 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Isn't the constant trumpeting of Scandinavian nations as some sort of an ideal just a congenial form of racism? It's getting a little tiresome.
posted by Renoroc at 4:34 PM on July 11, 2013


It's getting a little tiresome.

It certainly is tiresome to see other countries try to solve problems that your own country won't even admit are problems, yes.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:45 PM on July 11, 2013 [29 favorites]


a country that has lapped America

I see what etc.
posted by uosuaq at 4:52 PM on July 11, 2013 [24 favorites]


How many people could we feed with the money that's being used to surveil the Internet?

The United States, according to the Census, has 315M people in it. A Google search suggests that the high end of the estimated range for the monthly food costs for a single person in the US is $300. 315M x $300 is 94.5 billion dollars, worst-case scenario. That's less than a tenth of US spending for a year.
posted by JHarris at 4:54 PM on July 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


Russians face discrimination in Finland and the Baltic states.

Well, that sucks, but there are not a whole lot of Russians in Finland. Something like 1-2% of the population.

Equating that to the demographics of the USA is ridiculous.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:57 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


List countries by suicide rate.

19. Finland
34. United States

(which proves nothing much like everything else in this post and thread.)
posted by bukvich at 5:01 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


That's a fucking red herring

Pickled herring actually, if we're discussing Finland.
posted by Kabanos at 5:09 PM on July 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


The "they can do it because they're so much smaller" is the biggest pile of steaming horseshit possible.

It's AMAZING that the naysayers insist that the "market" run everything, but suddenly and conveniently forget the whole concept of ECONOMIES OF SCALE when someone suggests something different. It's good enough for their corporations, though.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:22 PM on July 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


That headline is like if Buzzfeed had a social policy section.

And, frankly, that's what The Atlantic has become. The Buzzfeed of social policy.
posted by Apropos of Something at 5:24 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


"(the NSA agent watching this comment as it passes over the wire to the server): "What a moron."
Best comment of all time, or longer.
posted by Mack Twain at 5:27 PM on July 11, 2013


It certainly is tiresome to see other countries try to solve problems that your own country won't even admit are problems, yes.

I hear where you are coming from, but it isn't fair to compare the USA to Finland when the USA has vastly more people and vastly more KINDS of people.

The hidden subtext of these Scandinavian success stories is that those nations have a small and (mostly) racially homogeneous populations.

It doesn't take a genius to realize that a smaller constituency is vastly more manageable and that people are more amenable to sharing with people who are similar to them.

It's like they are playing Sid Meier's CIVILIZATION on the easiest setting and we're supposed to idolize them or something.
posted by Renoroc at 5:45 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hear where you are coming from, but it isn't fair to compare the USA to Finland when the USA has vastly more people and vastly more KINDS of people.

The hidden subtext of these Scandinavian success stories is that those nations have a small and (mostly) racially homogeneous populations.

It doesn't take a genius to realize that a smaller constituency is vastly more manageable and that people are more amenable to sharing with people who are similar to them.

It's like they are playing Sid Meier's CIVILIZATION on the easiest setting and we're supposed to idolize them or something.
It's hard to read this without gasping at the sheer racism in such a belief. The US is supposed to be good at dealing with race post-apartheid, but it seems that 50 years down the line folk are just putting up their hands and saying "race is hard!"
posted by Jehan at 5:55 PM on July 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


But finns aren't even white people!!!!

Or, weren't, rather.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:56 PM on July 11, 2013


I just realized I made a fairly stupid error above:
(cost to feed everyone in the US) That's less than a tenth of US spending for a year.

I was mistaken. It's less than a hundredth.
posted by JHarris at 6:08 PM on July 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Finland has both sizeable Swedish- and Russian-speaking communities

>So not only are there blonds, but blonds and blonds, too!

All these blonds look the same, eh? You can make your point about diversity in the US without being dismissive of other countries.
posted by ersatz at 6:25 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


JHarris: "... A Google search suggests that the high end of the estimated range for the monthly food costs for a single person in the US is $300. "

300 dollars? They're clearly not taking into account the near 300 I spend on energy drinks in that account are they? (holy. shit. i just put that cost into context just now)
posted by symbioid at 6:37 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I dug in a little more just now, and found this on the USDA's site: Cost of Food at Home. This assumes no eating out, I think. The costs for May 2013, for adults, actually turn out to range from $156.20 (thrifty 70+ year old female) to $360.90 (liberal 18-50 year old male).

I'm unsure as to this is proscriptive (what the USDA says should be enough for each category) or descriptive (what people eating at home typically pay). The site does say: "The Thrifty Food Plan is the basis for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) allotments."
posted by JHarris at 6:56 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Remember. Stop thinking this is a resource problem. That buys into the framing of those who benefit from intraclass warfare. It is a policy problem spun as a resource problem by the plutocrats. Fixing it doesn't require pulling billions out of thin air. Fixing it requires billions to be rerouted from self-perpetuating "wars" on drugs, crime and terror.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:04 PM on July 11, 2013 [19 favorites]


So not only are there blonds, but blonds and blonds, too!

Not to expend tons of effort on throwaway snark, but there's been a bit of political and military tension between Finland and Russia throughout the years, including quite a bit during the mid-20th century during that whole World War thing....

It's just as ridiculous to pretend there's no obstacles to northern europeans getting along as it would be for people in africa, asia, north america, etc..
posted by dubold at 7:22 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


So American diversity is a big obstacle? No, American BIGOTRY toward diversity is. Duh.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:33 PM on July 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


It's hard to read this without gasping at the sheer racism in such a belief. The US is supposed to be good at dealing with race post-apartheid, but it seems that 50 years down the line folk are just putting up their hands and saying "race is hard!"

pause over your keyboard for a moment and imagine whether it's possible to acknowledge—as a very general rule—that homogeneous populations (skin color, religion, [other tribal marker]) might be more inclined to share alike, without also subscribing to social darwinism or tacitly believing that Hitler's heart was in the right place.
posted by echocollate at 7:36 PM on July 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


Not to expend tons of effort on throwaway snark, but there's been a bit of political and military tension between Finland and Russia throughout the years, including quite a bit during the mid-20th century during that whole World War thing....

Well... Exactly. Finland was Russian for like a hundred years. And Swedish before that. There have basically always been Russians and Swedes in Finland. And yet they're still a tiny minority of the Finnish population. To use them as a gotcha to say, "Oh, but Finland is diverse too, full of immigrants, just like America" just doesn't make any sense.

It's hard to read this without gasping at the sheer racism in such a belief. The US is supposed to be good at dealing with race post-apartheid, but it seems that 50 years down the line folk are just putting up their hands and saying "race is hard!"


It's not racist to acknowledge that racism exists in America, always has existed in America, is a huge part of American history, and is deeply entrenched in American society. Yes, eradicating racism is hard. And it's harder in the US than it will ever be in fucking Finland.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:44 PM on July 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


All these blonds look the same, eh?

Yes--just like me. At least in that we all share the one attribute I mentioned.

(We're doing just fine, by the way. No need to stick up for us.)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:51 PM on July 11, 2013


Well... Exactly. Finland was Russian for like a hundred years.

And Texas was Spanish for at least that long. If anything, you'd think there'd be MORE animosity in Finland, just because the conflicts were more recent.

And it's harder in the US than it will ever be in fucking Finland.

Finland's more "successful" in this area because of the social priorities and mores of the culture there, not because humans there have inherently easier struggles than the US.
posted by dubold at 8:12 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Finland's more "successful" in this area because of the social priorities and mores of the culture there

Yes. Such as being less racist by default because there are fewer races to be racist against.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:15 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I know how to make America the equal of Finland in all the ways mentioned in the FPP. We need to teach the Finns that greed is good. What good is having 36 days of vacation when your neighbor does too? Aren't you better than him? You work harder so you should be paid more. The government is taking away your money and giving it to those who work less. Expensive medical benefits, daycare, and education takes money away from those who are creating wealth. And excessive regulations restrict creative financial activities.

Just teach those Finns some good o'le American values and they'll be the equal of the US in no time.
posted by eye of newt at 8:30 PM on July 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yes. Such as being less racist by default because there are fewer races to be racist against.

It's been my experience that the most virulent racists have less first-hand knowledge of their targets, not more.

I want to be careful that this discussion doesn't overshadow the other elements in the post worth talking about, so if you'd like to continue it, I'll suggest we take it to MeMail. Otherwise I'm likely to break my personal rule about number of comments per post. Thanks!
posted by dubold at 8:32 PM on July 11, 2013


As a long-time listener first-time commenter on the matter of Scandanavian socialism, I am genuinely curious:

Could a system akin to that of Finland actually be viable in the US? I'm not asking whether it would be politically viable; of course it would not for god knows how many reasons. I am simply asking, theoretically, could the US, allowing for massive, bloody haircuts for all other sectors, actually manage to pay out on the kind of benefit levels required for each and every citizen to be guaranteed at least the pretension of a comfortable existence?

This is the question that drives me nuts and seems to never be really followed through with. If we really went full on into the darkest welfare-state fever dreams of the American right, doubled down on the socialist US heresy over which so much internet ink has already spilled, what then?

Is the US just simply eaten by other powers?
posted by passerby at 8:54 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's been my experience that the most virulent racists have less first-hand knowledge of their targets, not more.

Are you under the impression that slavers didn't come into contact with minorities on a regular basis? That there weren't Jews in Germany, aren't Hispanic people in Arizona?

Racism is generally not a problem in a vacuum. It's still shitty, but, well, it's sort of if a tree falls in the forest and no one's around to hear it...? A Klansman without black people is just an asshole with a dumb outfit.

So anyway.

The biggest cause of discrimination is, well, discrimination--people actually acting against people. For example, if employers systemically discriminate against a group, then that group can't get steady work or work that pays enough, so they become and remain poor, and dependent on the state, which creates the appearance that that group is inherently or pathologically dependent on the welfare state, when really it's just that no one will give them a job. The US has had 400 years of that, with the starting round of discrimination consisting of slavery and genocide, and eventually trickling into every imaginable aspect of American life. It takes more than spackle to patch that up, is all I'm saying, and it's not something Finland has to think about at all.

Is the US just simply eaten by other powers?


Well, there's this. That shit's expensive.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:17 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was mistaken. It's less than a hundredth.

Ah, no, wait, 90B x 10 is 900B, I was right the first time, a tenth.

God, it is not a good brain day for me today.
posted by JHarris at 9:30 PM on July 11, 2013


I am simply asking, theoretically, could the US, allowing for massive, bloody haircuts for all other sectors, actually manage to pay out on the kind of benefit levels required for each and every citizen to be guaranteed at least the pretension of a comfortable existence?

Since GDP per capita is about $13,000 more in the US than in Finalnd, my guess is "yes".
posted by junco at 10:45 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's just as ridiculous to pretend there's no obstacles to northern europeans getting along as it would be for people in africa, asia, north america, etc..

Yes, it's pretty uninformed. Let's not fall into the trap, all too easy on an America-centric site, of thinking that America is the only country in the world to have had problems with racial and cultural tension. Pretty much every part of Europe has had a period in its history that makes America look like a cuddly hug-puppy country of peace and love; the two worst events in American history - the genocide of the native Americans and the establishment of Atlantic slavery - were both driven by Europeans exported to the new world.

The Atlantic is a "moderate" American magazine, which is to say centre-right. This article looks (to my jaded eye) suspiciously like the old argument that because only capitalism drives economic growth, any welfare state must somehow be parasitic off a more capitalist economy somewhere else. Hence this quote: "some economists argue that it's because of all that American capitalism contributes to the global economy that countries like Finland -- kinder, gentler, but still wealthy -- can afford to pamper their citizens. With actual Pampers, no less."

Some economists, huh? I think by now, we'd be wise enough to take the views of "some" economists with more than a pinch of salt, given how hopelessly politicised that profession has become in recent years.

The main section setting out why America essentially pays for Finland's benefit system is this quote:

...some economists argue that the only way countries like Finland can be so well-off and yet so cushy is because countries like the U.S. create the technology that powers the rest of the world -- with huge rewards for success but few safety nets in the case of failure.

"The entire world benefits because of Apple's iPhones," said Daron Acemoglu, an economist at MIT, admitting it was a relatable but not necessarily optimal example (Finland gave us Nokia and Linux's Linus Torvalds, after all). "If the United States did not provide incentives for Apple to come up with and develop the iPhone, then the entire world economy would lose the benefits it obtains from this product. The cutthroat reward structure in the United States is encouraging the creation of many products and technologies like this."


This is a strange argument. As Mariana Mazzucato has recently shown, in her book THE ENTREPRENEURIAL STATE, every component of the iPhone was developed with government backing. It is, essentially, a creation of big government sponsorship, not private industry. It is the product of a socialist, welfare state approach to innovation. You can find a short introduction to Professor Mazzucato's views here. Of course, in line with the neoliberal tradition, America has allowed private individuals to keep the profits on innovations developed with public money and public risks. That's how American - and neoliberal - capitalism operates. But if you pop open the hood and look at what is actually going on in the economy, the engine is the state. It's always the state, in America or Finland.

But even leaving that aside, the reason why the iPhone is so great is at least partly because Apple - a tiny company in the US - can take advantage of the cheap labour of sweatshops in China to make the parts for its machines. Why should the Finns be thanking American 'innovation' rather than Chinese labour?

Of course, the real question is: why should the Finns be thanking anyone, in fact? This is about the distribution they have chosen for their wealth inside Finland. It's their money. Americans have chosen a distribution in which a tiny minority are allowed to claim ownership of enormous resources and in which everyone else has to scramble and 'compete' for a pittance. That's the American choice. If the Finns want to do things differently, why not let them? Or does the principle of "hands off my money" not extend to another country making what an American considers to be the "wrong" choices about how to spend it?

The answer appears to be, that the Finns have not only chosen to do things differently, they are happy with their choice. One of the things that I have noticed about Americans is that they seem to find the idea that anyone else could have organised society in a better way than they have to be utterly unthinkable - an unbearable idea that has to be quashed as soon as it pops up. I don't know why. Perhaps it is the relentless and silly propaganda about America being the greatest country on earth that they have pumped into their veins from childhood - but whatever the reason, it turns otherwise sensible people into drooling idiots who will seize on the most half-formed arguments to slap down any suggestion that maybe, this time, Uncle Sam might have something to learn from somebody else.

This article is transparently written to play to that reaction. It's meant to make American readers shake their heads at the silly Europeans, trying to do things differently, when really they are just like children dependent on America after all.

The alternative - the terrifying alternative - would be for Americans to realise that they could actually change the current distribution of wealth in their society. And that, if they did so, the world would not end. The apocalypse might not come. They might, in fact, be a little more secure, a little happier, their children might enjoy a slightly better quality of life...

Nope! Can't have that! Better cite the Heritage Foundation (as the author of this article also does) and it's mumbo jumbo "Index of Economic Freedom". Oh dear. The Heritage Foundation is not in any meaningful sense an independent body and it seriously undermines the authority, pretence to objectivity or value of an article if you cite them. Intellectually, they are on a level with tabloid psychics (although without the integrity).

There are some interesting observations in the article - it might well be worth learning from the Finnish tradition of strong local government. And goodness knows, no human organisation is perfect, so there probably are plenty of flaws in the Finnish model or things that don't scale up. But there is a deeper problem here that comes up every time the current American distribution of wealth is discussed: that is, there is a lot of disingenuous rubbish out there which seeks to avoid having the debate at all. This article does that: it promises to prove a conclusion which it then doesn't, in fact, prove at all, and kind of hopes you'd sort of not really notice that it failed to do so, because, hey, look at all the nice facts and figures and graphs.
posted by lucien_reeve at 2:54 AM on July 12, 2013 [16 favorites]


Finland should be compared to Minnesota. Both have a population of about 5.4 million, are cold, and have a meaningful population of Scandinavians.

Minnesota 2012 GDP =$294.7 billion (US Commerce)

Finland 2011 GDP =$263.0 billion (World Bank)
posted by otto42 at 4:06 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I notice that Linus Torvalds is now an American and Nokia is getting its arse kicked by two American conpanies.
posted by alasdair at 4:31 AM on July 12, 2013


America is just too diverse of a country. There's just no way that all the Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, Scot-Americans, British-Americans, German-Americans, Norwegian-Americans, Austrian-Americans, Hungarian-Americans... will just blend together and consider themselves part of the same group. Nope, simply not possible.

Oh wait, "homogeneity" is actually a code for something else. Right.
posted by leopard at 5:00 AM on July 12, 2013



In terms of diversity there is a country close to the US that has a similar origin history, similar immigration patterns, groups of racially different people, similar history with racism and similarity of cited of other social reasons the Finnish model wouldn't work in the US. Canada is at least the most similar country in many regards that you'll get.

Canada is not at the level of social service and standards the Finland is at but in comparison to the US in many of the metrics cited in the article measures higher.

I just don't buy diversity of different people as being a sound reason that these sort of policy measures aren't or can't be implemented. Population size could be a factor as the numbers are different but geographic size is again similar.

Canada has racism. Canada has the same sorts of talking about problems with the 'other' in context of using social services. Historically we've treated 'others' like crap for similar reasons. We have right from the start. We even had slavery though not of course to the extent found in US history. Still it wasn't a foreign idea to the early populace.

Over the years I've puzzled over why our respective countries ended up the way we are in terms of social attitudes. Healthcare is the big one in terms of social policy. Our system is far from perfect or not even a model that would work the same way in the US. However the major difference I've come across is the cultural and social foundation where healthcare policy extends from. Somewhere along the historical timeline society developed a sort of national consensus that healthcare is a basic human right. Everyone, no matter who, where or in what situation has the right to basic healthcare. It's a moral foundation. Our policy arguments and debates about the healthcare system stem out of this sort of basic agreement that crosses political lines.

This moral and social idea does of course exists in the US but in my experience it's just not as agreed upon. I've found myself in so many debates about the US healthcare system which end up at a complete impasse because the arguments stem from a different foundation then "Healthcare is a right." I've ended up in arguments about this basic, fundemental idea that has been so culturally ingrained in so many ways, from growing up here that I find such arguments against the idea repugnant to the point of making me feel physically ill. It's difficult to find Canadians that would disagree with this core principle, even if they don't even consciously understand that it's there. It's easy to find Americans that do.

I'm not meaning to bash at all. Just point out what I see as a major cultural difference underlying our respective social policy regarding healthcare. And that it's a cultural difference that came about in a country of very diverse people. A country that hasn't overcome racism, treating people like an 'other' and all sorts of negative social ills.
posted by Jalliah at 6:38 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just don't buy diversity of different people as being a sound reason that these sort of policy measures aren't or can't be implemented.

It's not the diversity that's the problem. Let me repeat that in bold so the people who keep suggesting the argument I'm making is somehow racist will notice: It's not the diversity that's the problem. (Don't make me use the blink tag.) It's that discrimination has been baked into everything from the very beginning. Extricating it is hard, and has to be done bit by bit. Merely fixing the policies that created things like, for example, South Central LA, doesn't magically fix all the problems those policies subsequently caused.

Plus, in terms of socialism, which is the real issue here, it's just unfortunate that the one thing everyone knows about the founding of the USA is a tax protest; there's just too much residual "taxes are bad m'kay" sentiment in general, and the fact that those flames are fanned constantly by the media (an agent of big business) -- and the government itself (ditto) -- isn't much help.

It wouldn't be impossible, mind you -- I agree 100% that the article is bullshit in that regard (among many other regards) -- but it's really fucking hard. It's just not as easy as flipping a switch marked Finland.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:22 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I notice that Linus Torvalds is now an American

Well yes, but his pivotal work came while he was a Finn, and most of it while he was living in Finland itself. I'm not sure how much that matters, but definitely him being an American now is irrelevant.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:31 AM on July 12, 2013


Also that was the least sophisticated way to respond to that awesome comment on American exceptionalism
posted by lordaych at 9:04 AM on July 12, 2013


Thank you, Bear Person.
posted by glasseyes at 8:59 PM on July 12, 2013


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