Etcetera #7: The Nordic Theory Of Everything

This week, we had the privilege to talk with Mella McCormick, a philosophy professor at Northwestern Michigan College, about The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life, by Anu Partanen. Here’s Mella’s overview:
The book compares the Nordic approach to life with that of the United States, which interestingly enough is polar opposite in many ways; for example, the Nordic countries provide their citizens with free universal health-care, free higher education, paid maternity and paternity leave, to name a few things.   
Despite the United States' proposed claims to value principles such as liberty, freedom, independence, the U.S. has created a system that makes its citizens dependent on others: students are dependent on parents to help pay for higher education and thus become beholden to them (this could potentially influence where the student goes to school, what she studies, selected career path, etc.); employees are dependent on their employees for health benefits, thus potentially enslaving a person to a job that he does not like or finds unfulfilling but cannot afford to leave; due to the high cost of geriatric care, adult children are left with the task of caring for their elderly parents which could potentially corrupt the elderly-parent/adult-child relationship (i.e. elderly parents feel like a "burden" to their children, children feel overwhelmed by medical tasks they are not trained to perform). 
Partanen argues that the social services that Nordic countries provide for their citizens is what allows them to lead more authentic, free, and liberating lives, not less, as the anti-socialist rhetoric that portrays Nordic countries as "welfare states" would have you believe.
Though we covered a lot of topics in this conversation, there are two important questions that stood out to me was we wrapped up the conversation:
  • Both the Nordic model and the United States model have individual freedom as a goal. The Nordic model wants to be free from dependence others; the US model historically wanted to be free from government (rugged individualism). Could it be that the United States has been inadvertently undermining one of its highly valued goals?
  • The NTOE seems to suggest that dependence (interdependence?) leads to negative relational outcomes. However, philosophers, theologians and social theorists have generally leaned towards the idea that we have evolved or been created to flourish in communities or in social contracts, which we usually think of as requiring some sense of interdependence. Does this stand up under the scrutiny that NTOE offers?
As always, you can listen to this podcast on Soundcloud; we also encourage you to become part of the conversation by posting thoughts on this page or on our Facebook page. Meanwhile, here are some links that will further your search for truth on this subject.      

For Generous Parental Leave and Great Schools, Move to Finland (New York Times Review)
The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life
An Interview with Anu Partaken
How Do American and Nordic Societies Differ? – An Interview with Anu Partanen

The Swedish Theory Of Love (a film that played in the Nordic Film Festival this year)
A review from The Swede Life In Toronta, written by a Filipino who married a Swede
Sorry, liberals, Scandinavian countries aren’t utopias 
Dark lands: the grim truth behind the 'Scandinavian miracle'
In what ways is Norway a better or worse place to live than the U.S., in your opinion?


Popular Posts