Monday, March 3, 2008

Why are the Finns so smart?

The following is an exchange between Cheesesteak and myself regarding a fascinating article from the Wall St. Journal regarding the Finnish educational system:

CtI: On the other hand, whenever I hear about these Scandinavian utopias I always recall a counterpoint the New York Times wrote a year or so back, pointing out the signs of pending outright collapse for these social welfare systems.

A greater proportion of Scandinavians, you see, brown bag their lunches as opposed to power lunching in a restaurant to such a horrible degree that many restaurants in the Scandinavian peninsula or whatever you call that geographic formation ARE NOT OPEN FOR LUNCH.

Seriously, the Times was covering this like it was the harbinger to a cascade of failed states.

CP: There's a common meme in the US media (and no doubt economic/biz circles) that the Scandinavian social democratic system is perpetually on the verge on collapse due to their high taxes, high degree of regulation, and generous welfare benefits, as opposed to the US system in which we tax the middle class the heaviest (and the most wealthy hardly at all), allow industries to write their own regulations (until some major disaster, and then the new regs last til the next Republican administration), and generally fuck the poor.

The Scandinavians then have the poor grace to whip us in educational quality, standard of living, social mobility, entrepeneurship, lifespan, and even happiness (Iceland scores highest in the world on happiness surveys).

There is of course the factor that they have homogeneous societies in hostile climates, leading to a sort of "cooperate or die" attitude, which is an accident of geography and history, but it makes one wonder...

CtI: Are you saying Global warming is some vast socialist conspiracy to create a hostile climate throughout the whole planet, thereby forcing everyone to "cooperate or die"? I knew Gore and the Swedes were cooking up something more than a tease at a Presidential run. "Bork, bork, bork" is the new shibboleth. Whose side are you on?

The Finns are in, because it's all going to be done with cell phones....

CP: Cell phones will give you ear cancer, unless they are steam-powered. You heard it here first.

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