Friday, June 11, 2010

O Scandinavia

Canada is a great country in many ways, but it could be greater. What a Canadian thing to say, so modest and so nice, shyly acknowledging that we kick butt, but admitting that we're not perfect and like a lot of people, we could use improvement.

Canada generally looks great because it's compared to its neighbours in the South, being the US and Mexico. But while it's easy for us to be great on our own continent, we should take a long good look at some other happier countries and see how good we are then.

One look at the happiest countries to live in will show you that Denmark, Sweden and Norway have us beat. Their high tax rate is balanced by a high satisfaction rate with social services and free education. Their sense of civic duty is solid at a higher than 90% voter turnout for their elections. And although Canada is a pretty accepting group of people, we're light years away from the openness of these countries to their gay and lesbian communities.

That's a lot of clear thinking from a country that gets very little sunshine.

On the other hand, Canada is plagued with a crippled health system, voter apathy, sky high university tuition rates and a re-opened debate on abortion and same-sex marriages that many of us considered closed. Taxpayer's money is regularly mismanaged by frivolity or corruption and infighting from Canada's political parties have made the government ineffectual.

The concept is pretty simple: if a government takes care of its people, its people will be interested in government and not mind paying high taxes because their standard of living is vastly improved by the things that the government provides. If the government benefits from a good amount of tax dollars that are responsibly managed to improve the quality of lives for their citizens, they will be entrusted to keep governing. Everyone stays happy for a long time.

This doesn't mean that a socialist economy works everywhere. Offering too many services can backfire if the tax base fails to keep up with the peoples' demands. Such is the case with France, where abuse of services is rampant and unemployment rates are high. As well, too much state intervention can lead to dependence and a weak economy. And businesses must be able to thrive, even within a socialist context.

But you only need to look at Norway, Finland, Denmark and Sweden to know that this is all possible with the right balance. Sure, these countries do have their own problems and may lack the glitz and glamour of a rich elite who drive ridiculous cars. But they're a remarkable success story of how social responsibility can ultimately lead to a happy state.

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