Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life by Anu Partanen. Politics.
Firstly, this book is oriented toward Americans, so if you aren’t American it will probably just make you laugh sadly. (In fact, I am an American and it made me laugh sadly too.) The author is a Finn who married an American and promptly ran up against the fact that Americans can’t afford to get sick, lose a job, get a good education or have children. Her innocence is kind of adorable and for her sake I wish she’d kept it. The “Nordic Theory of Everything,” as featured in the title, is the premise that it is the responsibility of the government to take care of the basic needs of its people, because the other options are that people be taken care of by each other (which leads to dysfunctional relationships driven by money and not love) or by their employers (an anti-capitalist notion if there ever was one). This is perfectly sensible, except we’ve all seen what happens when any representative of the American government tries to suggest any such plans. Cue sad laugh. My neutral review reflects not on the quality of Partanen’s research, argument or prose, but merely on its, well, pointlessness, because the people who need to read it won’t.
It also struck me as peculiarly un-American that private businesses would be saddled with such a profound social duty. It sounded so, well, socialist. Wasn’t the purpose of a business to make profits, not to arrange the medical treatment of its employees? Meanwhile American citizens were dutifully paying their taxes—so wasn’t it the purpose of their government to provide essential social services in return for those taxes? And wasn’t it completely twisted that when people lost their jobs, they lost their health insurance as well, right when they might need it the most?
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