Marja-Leena Rathje
Home ::: Finland Diary

Finland Diary

Wow, did I receive a lovely surprise on this morning's check on ionarts. In Blogging Finland, Charles Downey wrote:

"Thanks to The Cranky Professor, I learned about one of the Washington Post blogs, Robert G. Kaiser's Finland Diary, for which the blogger and a photographer are traveling around Finland, "the world's most interesting country that Americans know least about." Given our admiration for the musical life of the Finns, I have a feeling it will become a regular read. Does Marja-Leena know about it yet?"

I've spent the last hour (I'm supposed to be working!) reading the "diary", really amazed and proud of my birth country's success. Most of it is not really new to me, it's the details that really fascinate me. It's interesting also to hear about places I know such as Kuopio which is in my "home" province in beautiful eastern Finland, and the lively university and arts town of Jyväskylä, and of course Helsinki.

That city mayors are hired, not elected, into permanent positions is news to me. Government by consensus, even in coalition governments, we know about and often bring up in discussions here in Canada, with our presently embattled federal minority government, and in British Columbia where we've just had a referendum on changing to a proportional representation voting system (which exists in Finland).

Finland's high taxes are often brought up but we've found from personal discussions with relatives that they are really no more than what we pay in Canada, when you add all our various taxes and user fees, but they receive more for their money. Finns "generally see taxes as a fair price to pay for a society that provides equal opportunities, and because everyone benefits directly from our public services. Everyone has been educated in public schools and universities. Everyone has used the public health services. These aren't just services for the poor. If you don't allow your democratically-elected government to tax the economy to provide equal opportunities in life for everyone, no one else can do it.  But comparing tax bites as a percentage of GDP is misleading. To compare yourselves to Finland, Americans should add to the 25% you pay in taxes all the costs of health insurance and health care, higher education, savings for pensions and so on--in other words, all the expenses that Finns don't have to pay, once they've paid their taxes."

Finland's excellent education system has received a lot of attention. I'm pleased to have confirmation of a suspicion that credit goes to the high status given to the vocation of teaching. Teachers are required to have a great deal more education than generally here in North America.

Many thanks, Charles, for sharing this link - I do look forward to a "regular read" of Finland Diary.

UPDATE: The word is out in Finland at Finnish blog Pinseri!

Marja-Leena | 25/05/2005
themes: Finland, Estonia & Finno-Ugric