Wednesday, April 2, 2008

FINLAND AND THE U.S.

From an introduction of the ambassador from Finland

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS In talking about the United States and Finland, we should be very clear that these are two very, very different countries. Finland has a population of 5.2 million people. We are over 300 million. Finland has a very homogenous population. We are extremely diverse. Almost all of us have come from somewhere else in the not too distant past. Finland is the size of Montana. We stretch 3,000 miles from coast to coast, plus Alaska and Hawaii.

And yet, as we acknowledge the difference we should also acknowledge that we are all human beings with very much the same DNA, the same kind of intelligence and the same human needs.

In that context we should ask how does it happen that in Finland they have virtually abolished childhood poverty, have free high quality child care, free college and graduate school education and have, according to international reports, the best primary and secondary educational system in the world. Is there something that we can learn from that model?

In Finland, a high quality national health care program exists which provides almost free health care for all – and ends up costing about half as much per capital as our system. In Finland, when students become doctors and nurses they leave school debt free – because there are no costs in going to school. Is there something we can learn from that model?

In Finland, in the midst of having one of the most competitive economies in the world, 80 percent of workers there belong to unions and the benefits that workers receive there, such as unemployment compensation, dwarf what workers in this country receive. In Finland workers receive 30 days paid vacation, plus ten national holidays.

Finland is no utopia and it has its share of problems. Not so many years ago, in fact, Finland had a very severe economic downturn and its economy today is not immune to what happens in the rest of the world. . .

Having said that, there is no question that Finland, as well as other Scandinavian countries have much to be proud of. When one thinks about the long march of human history, it is no small thing that countries now exist, like Finland, which operate under egalitarian principles, which have virtually abolished poverty, which provide almost-free quality health care to all their people, and provide free, high quality education from child care to graduate school. These are models, it seems to me, that we can learn from.

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