While many of us envy our European neighbors who flirt with socialism, little Finland can give us a lesson of the dangers of trying too hard to maintain a welfare state. At the highest incomes, income taxes are a staggering 45%. The government, trying to educate a formerly uneducated population, has made a university education free for Finnish citizens. The CIA World Factbook entry on Finland lists "N/A" for "percentage of Finns under the poverty line" due to large payouts to the unemployed. And don't forget about their socialized health care, subsidized day care, extended paid maternity leave, generous pensions and many other payouts.
The list goes on an on about how much money the Finnish government has been spending. And the price they pay for this? The World Economic Forum, for the past four out of five years, has listed them as the most competitive nation in the world (the US comes in second place). Of course, we know that you can't have a healthy economy and protect the environment, right? Seems the Finns rank highest in the World Economic Forum's Environmental Index, too. The US comes in a dismal 51st place.
If you check the CIA World Factbook (linked above) you also find out they have a higher life expectancy than the USA, half the infant mortality rate and, to add insult to injury, the Christian Science Monitor reports that Finland has been running a budget surplus for ten years.
After doing a bit of reading, one thing does stand out. It seems the Finnish people are happy with their system and work hard to support it. Here in the US, we worship the dollar and I'm sure there are plenty of nay-sayers who will happily explain why the Finnish model could never, ever work here. Unfortunately, I think they would be right that the Finnish model can't work here. You'd have to convince enough people to actually care enough about their fellow citizens to be willing to help them out and I don't think that's going to happen any time soon (because, you know, starving to death while unemployed builds character). Plus, we have to spend enough money to kill the brown people, too.
Really, in reading up about Finland, it sounds too good to be true. Anyone familiar with Finland able to provide a counterpoint?