Author: Anu Partanen
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Today Americans still feel that by and large, every individual is responsible for constructing his or her own fate – the classic pursuit of happiness – and there is still much debate in the United States about the extent to which, if at all, an individual’s success or failure is also shaped by accidents of birth. Nordic people have long ago moved beyond this debate. To most Nordics it’s completely obvious that an accident of birth, like being born into poverty or a neighborhood without a good school, can severely disadvantage an individual and destroy any chances of success, no matter what he or she does.
At the same time, the Nordic theory of love has become an overarching philosophy about how to structure a society. As such, it has inspired the broad variety of policy choices in the Nordic nations that together ensure a single, predominant goal: independence, freedom and opportunity for every member of society.
Overall the secret to Nordic success is not complicated. Nordic societies have simply taken the job of government seriously. They make mistakes and have their troubles, but they keep tweaking their systems in search of improvements, and they work hard to balance the books. They prove that there is nothing inherent in government that automatically makes it less efficient for arranging social services than the private sector.
It’s an unfortunate fact that the United States remains astonishingly backward compared to almost all other advanced Western countries when it comes to education, because in America, what predicts how well a child will do in school is not a child’s aptitude or hard work, but the status of the child’s parents – which is to say, their own levels of education and wealth. Other countries suffer from this condition too, but the United States is especially anachronistic. And it’s getting worse: The influence of this wealth predictor in the United States today has only been growing stronger in recent years.
Imagine, then, what it’s like to be a Nordic parent. You can simply focus on raising a human being, in an age-appropriate way at every stage, without ever once feeling guilty that you’re not saving enough money, or not making enough money, to secure them the college education they’ll need to avoid ending up in the gutter.