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#79924 - 10/21/05 08:06 AM Questions to conservatives
Pia Offline
Member

Registered: 04/03/05
Posts: 134
Loc: Finland
I wanted to start this thread to sort out some things I've been wondering about while reading this message board. I don't know if I'm amused or surprised by all the things I notice some people consider "leftist" and what a negative value connotations the word has to most people writing to this forum. I wanted to do this using the case of my home country because it's a good example of what many would call "leftist": we have free basic education (with free food at the schools), free higher education (with subsidized food, books available in the university libraries so you don't have to buy them etc.) and monthly study grants of 450 euro supplied by the government to all students, universal child benefits payed by the government to the parents for every child they have, paid maternal leave (of 9 months if I remember correctly), unemployment benefits/maintenance allowance paid to all residents that can't support themselves, free health care and national pension (which of course you increase by working but everyone's entitled to the basic part of it). I've never seen anyone beg on the street: in the summer you see some alcoholics sleeping on park benches when they've spent all their money on alcohol but even they are still entitled to the social security benefits that would cover a rent for a flat, food and other basic expenses. This of course means high taxes: our taxation is progressive and starts from 0% for a very low income with a maximum of 60% for very high incomes (a person with a medium wage of 2000e/month would probably pay about 20-22%). There are also high taxes on for example alcohol. The current government consists of members fro the Center Party and the Social Democrats, and also our president, Tarja Halonen, is from the Social Democrats. (She is the ex-president of the national organization for sexual minorities and when elected, she was unmarried but married her boyfriend soon after. She is also not a member of the church as she resigned when she was young as a protest to the church's attitude towards sexual minorities. She is expected to be re-elected in January (due to recent surveys, 61% would vote for her, 18% for the second candidate from the Conservative Party and 16% for the current prime minister from the Center Party). Compared to American standards all these parties are pretty much to the left, and I would say the conservatives are more or less like the US Democrats. According to surveys, over 90% of Finland's 5,500 000 inhabitants are in favor of the welfare state.

And now to my questions: as I've understood, a system like ours is seen as very inefficient, causing corruption, an inefficient economy and lack of freedom. Still, the statistics below tell another story. How would you explain them? I would also like to know what you mean by freedom: many Americans stress that what they are most proud of in their country is freedom. Does it refer only to economic freedom (low taxes and state policies to even out the distribution of income) or other factors as well and if so, which are these factors?

World Economic Forum, Global Competitiveness


Country Rankings 2005-2006

1. Finland
2. USA
3. Sweden
4. Denmark
5. Taiwan
6. Singapore
7. Iceland
8. Switzerland
9.Norway
10.Australia
11.Netherlands
12.Japan
13.United Kingdom
14.Canada
15.Germany
16. New Zealand

(The Global Competitiveness Report is a contribution to enhancing our understanding of the key ingredients of economic growth and prosperity. By highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of an economy, policymakers and business leaders are offered an important tool to assist them in the formulation of improved economic policies and institutional reforms. http://www.weforum.org/site/homepublic.n...iveness+Report)

Transparency International, Corruption Perception Index (Anti-corruption)

1 Finland
2 Denmark
3 New Zealand
4 Iceland
5 Singapore
6 Sweden
7 Canada
8 Luxembourg
9 Netherlands
10 United Kingdom
11 Australia
12 Norway
13 Switzerland
14 Hong Kong
15 Austria
16 USA

(The TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2002 ranks 102 countries, the highest number ever. Seven out of ten countries ranked score less than 5 out of a clean score of 10. http://www.transparency.org/pressreleases_archive/2002/2002.08.28.cpi.en.html)

OECD PISA: Literacy of 15 year olds in reading, mathematics and science

Reading

1. Finland
2. South Korea
3. Canada
4. Australia
5. Liechtenstein
6. New Zealand
(18. United States)

Mathematics

1. Hong Kong
2. Finland
3. Korea
4. Netherlands
5. Liechtenstein
6. Japan
(28. United States)

Science

1. Finland
2. Japan
3. Hong Kong
4. South Korea
5. Liechtenstein
6. Australia
(22. United States)

(OECD: http://pisa.oecd.org)

Even though the subject of the thread seems provocative, I'd like to stress that my only motive for starting is thread is to start a discussion and gaining a better understanding by stating another point of view, not saying that our system is better and converting everyone to "leftists" smile

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#79925 - 10/21/05 08:32 AM Re: Questions to conservatives
Bill from NYC Offline
Executive Member

Registered: 10/04/04
Posts: 683
Loc: New York City
Bottom line for me is that my country, US and being the world policeman has a price. Would you like to see some of the countries that are listed higher in the world than the U.S. in charge?

Bill
_________________________
William Bert Photography

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#79926 - 10/21/05 09:05 AM Re: Questions to conservatives
Pia Offline
Member

Registered: 04/03/05
Posts: 134
Loc: Finland
As I said I'm not accusing anyone of anything or saying one thing is better than the other, I'm just genuinely interested. I don't believe you answered my questions.

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#79927 - 10/21/05 10:48 AM Re: Questions to conservatives
gazpacho Offline
Executive Member

Registered: 06/23/00
Posts: 807
Loc: Macomb, MI U.S.
Pia,

I'm not for sure I understand the nature of your question, and I have a feeling that I probably won't answer it to your satisfaction. If you think your form of government is the cat's meow, more power to you. I can't say that the U.S. is better or worse than your country, because this is undoubtably an arbitrary judgement.

However, I love the U.S. better than any other country, because of the opportunity. No matter what station of life one starts from, he can work hard and overcome horrific hardships. And this isn't with the help of a government, this is individual effort in which, to me, freedom exists. Capitalism brings out the best in everyone and provides true freedom. So, the more capitalism, the more freedom. There is a lot of pride in overcoming obstacles by personal achievement and private ownership.

I can just hear the caterwauling from other posters on this board as far as the unfairness of current times, racism, whatever excuse they feel makes them feel better. But the truth is there are so many success stories here that people beg to come here to improve their lot in life.

Bottom line. If you love your country, I don't blame you. I just don't like it when Europeans blame us for defending our freedom (and theirs come to think of it). In other words, I don't like being criticized or second-guessed by other countries. So, if you don't like me doing so, please don't instigate this conservative by doing it.

As a very infamous American said, "Can't we all just get along?" wink
_________________________
"I swear -by my life and my love of it -that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."

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#79928 - 10/21/05 01:08 PM Re: Questions to conservatives
Pia Offline
Member

Registered: 04/03/05
Posts: 134
Loc: Finland
No, as I said that's not my point. I don't think europeans blame you for "defending you freedom", I just think that we feel we are as free and for example I consider my rights to free education and health care "freedoms": I'm free to study and get treatment when I'm sick, without it depending on my financial situation. That was one of the things I wanted to discuss and yes, your reply that you believe capitalism brings out the best in people was satisfactory to me.

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#79929 - 10/21/05 01:19 PM Re: Questions to conservatives
Alando Offline
Member

Registered: 06/18/05
Posts: 65
Loc: Japan
Pia,

a couple of thoughts - firstly, how much do your citizens pay in federal taxes for these programs? My guess would be that you pay a much higher level of taxation than does the average American citizen. And I would further guess that most Americans would rather have more money in their pocket and fewer of those dollars going to Government services. Sorry if that sounds a bit conservative! Haha...

Second, isn't Finland basically a non-populated country? :p I think it is much easier to offer the types of services you are referring to when you have a country with a very small population. Much more difficult to do this type of plan with a larger, more diverse country such as America.

And I would add that even if America were to implement your system of Government, what may work for you in Finland is not likely to work in America. Apples and oranges, right?!
_________________________
http://www.danielalandogarcia.com

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#79930 - 10/21/05 01:27 PM Re: Questions to conservatives
Pia Offline
Member

Registered: 04/03/05
Posts: 134
Loc: Finland
Yes, I wrote about it in the original post: taxes are progressive starting from 0% for a very low income ening at 60% for a very high income, with most people earning a medium wage of 2000e/month would pay approximately 20-22% in taxes. Alcohol, tobacco and other "harmful" products that bring expenses to society are also highly taxed. And one of my questions was whether you think low taxes and interfering policies = freedom or if the concept means something more, and what that is.

And yes, there's just 5,5 Million of us so it isn't impossible to control, but wouldn't it be possible in the US as well if taken care of by regional authorities? We're also still, as you said, a pretty homogenous nation: there are not many minorities and we started getting refugees and immigrants from "poorer" countries in the late 80's. How do you think your more diverse population makes this situation different?

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#79931 - 10/21/05 05:59 PM Re: Questions to conservatives
Wolf Offline
Member

Registered: 01/25/01
Posts: 1245
Loc: Rockford, IL/Milton, WI, USA
Pia,

We have 5.5 million people in a single city, with its inherent problems of education, work, ethnic incompatability, and all the trimmings that make something that a "single language speaking nation" doesn't have, because they don't have the influx of immigrants like we do.

Although I think its wonderful that Finland has a real handle on their problems, I don't think its legitimate to compare your nation to ours which is a melting pot of societies from all over the world.

Now, on immigration into Finland....

Who do you have that's indigent coming into Finland on a regular basis trying to make a new life?

What "industry" do you have that is slowly slipping away from your shores to a place where cheaper labor is available?

Also, tell us about your standing military, and the cost of defense, and being a world player in such issues as the Cold War was? How much of your national budget is going to defense?

And next, do you give as much help to the world on a per capita basis as the US does through its various efforts throughout the world?

There's a lot of differences between Finland and the US. They go far beyond the basics offered in the information you posted.

I'm not being critical, I'm just stating that statistics that do not cover the entire scope of what the nation's involvement is in world affairs is only something that scratches the surface of reality.

Another point. Why is it that I only see Finland and Lichtenstein in the top five in these categories? Obviously the rest of Europe ain't a top 5er, so how can we assume that these figures actually tell us anything of value? The only European nations listed essentially don't even have military forces...

Wolf

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#79932 - 10/21/05 06:25 PM Re: Questions to conservatives
Pia Offline
Member

Registered: 04/03/05
Posts: 134
Loc: Finland
You don't have to be so defensive, my intention was not (again) to compare Finland and the US with the intention of showing you how everything is better here, just to find out how you think. We do of course have people from Eastern Europe, Africa etc. "trying to make a new life" like all other European countries - more than we can take, although we're not very favorably situated and as the EU has the Dublin convention that means you have to seek asylum in the first EU country where you arrive, most asylum seekers of course end up in bigger countries like Germany or France.

According to the CIA, our defense budget is 2% of GDP, compared to 3,3% in the US and as we've fought two wars with Russia (who we gained independence from in 1917) in 1939-40 and 1941-44 we still have mandatory military (or civilian) service for all men, which is a leftover from old times but won't change as long as there are many war veterans or other people that lived through the war alive.

Foreign aid: according to this list http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0930884.html we're giving 24 per capita compared to 13 for the US.

You are not the only country with industry slipping away to cheaper countries and if our biggest company, Nokia, would ever relocate, we'd be facing huge problems. The cost of labor is much higher in Finland than in the US and taxes are obviously higher.

Finland and Liechtenstein are the only top 5 European countries only in EDUCATION: if you look at the statistics for global competitiveness and anti-corruption, you'll see that especially the other Nordic countries (Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland) with similar welfare policies are rated very high.

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#79933 - 10/21/05 08:39 PM Re: Questions to conservatives
gazpacho Offline
Executive Member

Registered: 06/23/00
Posts: 807
Loc: Macomb, MI U.S.
Pia,

Besides opportunity, there is the feeling of independence that is a real part of our culture. That's another benefit of personal achievement that identifies our character.

I live in the state of Michigan that has an Upper Peninsula which is full of woods and beautiful. Many Finnish immigrants settled in the U.P. and they used to be noted for their independent, anti-government interferrence attitude. I don't know where they learned that from. confused Must have been old school.
_________________________
"I swear -by my life and my love of it -that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."

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