I remember umpteen years ago the beginning of the yellow happy faces. They were everywhere and still are. Walmart uses it or did as its messaging board. Happy faces are placed after signatures, bills, graded papers and just about everything. But, there is a darker side to the happy faces, America is losing its happiness. Countries are ranked in their happiness quotient and America keeps falling in the category of happiness. We also keep losing in the life expectancy area. In the last three years we have dropped in life expectancy. Cheerful thought!
Little Finland, which has the population of about 5.5 million (and 75% the size of California) is the winner for first place. Followed behind are Denmark, Norway, Sweden etc. America ranks 19th. Finland has won this first place for the last 2 years and is now exporting its experts across the Atlantic to help America get some quick fixes for its problems. Good luck! The key reasons that these fixes don’t take root in the US is because Finland has a different mindset about success–theirs is based on equity and community. In America, happiness and success are perceived as “individual pursuits”, even competitive ones. Finland sees success as a team sport.
Jorma Ollila, former CEO of the Finnish technology company, Nokia, wrote that the Finnish education system is a microcosm of the differences between the US and Finland. More than 90% of the teachers report being satisfied with their jobs according to the OCED. Teachers are rigorously trained and highly respected. Only 1 in 10 make it into a master’s program in education. Once teachers are certified, they are given a great deal of autonomy in lesson planning and running their classes. Students take only one standardized test at the end of their secondary education, the National Matriculation Examination. Granting schools more autonomy over the curriculum leads to not only happier teachers, but also better student scores. Finland’s education system works because its ethos is not one of the individual teacher accountability or comparison between schools, but one of equity, community and shared success.
Here’s the kicker, the educational success doesn’t necessarily correlate with wealth. While Finns are not struggling financially, its GDP is lower than other Nordic countries and much lower than that of the US, the difference is, in the words of Meik Wiking of the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark, “the Finns are good at converting wealth into well-being.”
The more equal a society is, the happier its citizens are. Ollila goes on to say that it is well documented that as income inequality rises, a country’s overall well-being goes down. Finland is ranked among the most equal of all the 36 OECD countries. This underpins not just the Finnish education systems but it helps support overall high levels of trust in the country. Here is another kicker “Finns trust one another and, perhaps more impressively, they trust their government to support all vulnerable citizens. Finland spends 31% of its GDP on its welfare state, the 2nd highest among the OECD. Finns pay high taxes but there is a transparency to this system. Each year the government makes public the tax data of ALL its citizens and corporations on what has come to be called the National Envy Day. In Finland, most would be shamed if caught not paying their fair share. For instance, the CEO of Super Cell, a major mobile games company, said in 2014 “we’ve received a lot of help from society, and now it is our turn to pay back.”
Are we on the same planet? What is the takeaway from Finland? Is it that success isn’t about individual wealth, power or prestige? Their belief is that a country is successful when it meets the needs of its citizens and creates the conditions for people and communities to meet their full potential. It’s an interesting attitude that underpins its success.
Here in the stadium seats looking at the scene below, the irony now in America is hide those tax returns, the extreme wealthy are now saying they should be taxed more heavily–this was written up this week in several dailies including the Wall St. Journal. As we continue to increase the inequality of income in this country, we can expect more conflict. Just read history to know the story. How about a tax write off for paying money to a bogus charity to get your child in a prestigious college?
Our current planetary transits moving through the heavens favors government and corporations but it will not stay that way. The worm starts turning January, 2021 and moves more and more to the citizens as we go deeper into the 2020’s. Nothing stays the same and our past is not prologue. Perhaps, we can ponder Finland in first place and America in 19th. What can we learn?
Great article Gail, thanks, you’re always spot on. Insert happy face. 🙂
I just found your videos on YouTube last week, and I think they’re great! I just ordered your book this morning and I cannot wait to receive it. Everything you say makes sense to me. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.
I love to own the book ‘Divine Design-How You Created the Life You Are Living-Expanded 3rd Edition’ and wonder if you are going to have a new release soon?
What Brilliance. So glad I found you and your site Gail.
There is not that much difference between socialism and communism. What is going to happen when our government runs out of money after they tax “wealthy” people. They will go after the middle class. It is not the government job to redistribute the wealth. They waste and misuse to much money already. I am not for equal poverty for all. Our politicians promise lots of “free” goodies so they can be elected.
Margaret Thacher said it best, “Socialism works well until you ran out of other people’s money.
Our country is a lot different than the Scandinavian countries for one thing we accept more immigrants than all other countries combined.
If you want socialism please look into Venezuela. The government started running businesses instead of allowing for private enterprises
If you look into history you can see that capitalism, while not perfected, has lifted more people from poverty than socialism. Socialism and communism discourages individual freedom.
Thanks for this, Gail…first, glad you’re better…this article is timely for all of us and for me, personally. Just yesterday an acquaintance became very agitated when discussing politics…no surprise as she is conservative while I’m not. The discussion centered on the huge dispute pitting “capitalism” which she prefers…I have no problem with it, but mentioned how upsetting and dangerous wealth inequality is becoming. Her rebuttal is that “socialism” in all things is abhorrent. When I gave examples of how socialism shouldn’t be equated with Communism and has an important place in American life, (social security which she and her husband enjoy, farm subsidies to help out farmers hurt by the new tariffs, etc) she was even more aggressive.
Finland and the Scandinavian countries look at society as a whole and treat it as such…her rebuttal is that those governments want everyone to be “taken care of” but she feels that people should not be denied their ability to make wealth. She feels that talking about narrowing that gap is like hating the wealthy because they are wealthier…and is basically un-American.
Wealth inequality seems to the conservative mind, the old zero sum gain…wanting those who have less to have more will be bad for the rich…an old saw in my opinion…My belief is that everyone who could have/earn more does not have to be seen as taking wealth from the wealthy.
Excellent article and our country is the most dysfunctional I’ve seen since Nixon and Watergate.
I pray our Americans and voters will awaken, as there is a bigger income disparity now than I can ever remember
and I’m approaching my 8th decade!
Glad your health is returning and that you had a savvy dr. who diagnosed the issue, Gail!
This was such an interesting article. Thank you Gail.
I’ll work this into our Prosperity Workshop.
Thanks for commenting Mary Ann. It is always good to hear from you.
Thanks for commenting Cheryl. Interesting concept. There will be many changes in how America operates once we get out of this Pluto/Capricorn period. She has to take a look at all her structures, education, justice, immigration, health care, political systems etc. Right now they all look dysfunctional so that change will be forced to take place. I imagine the 2020’s to be somewhat volatile as the citizens begin to force leaders to improve their governing or get out.
Excellent and well-written article. Finland is a more homogenous society and its educational needs are geared to a smaller population by comparison. America’s growing diversity has put a stranglehold on its public education. Perhaps it is time to seriously re-think splitting up the country into more manageable regions by geography and local culture.
Wow! Thank you, Gail. This is important information. Glad you are feeling better!