The leader of Finland has thrown down a challenge, saying she believes the American Dream is more accessible to residents of northern European countries like hers than it is in the United States.
“I feel that the American Dream can be achieved best in the Nordic countries, where every child, no matter their background or the background of their families, can become anything,” Prime Minister Sanna Marin told The Washington Post.
In fact, the Nordic countries of Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Greenland — otherwise known as places where it gets very, very cold in winter — do have several positive economic and social indicators. By some measurements, these countries are doing better than the United States, and socialist grandpas like Bernie Sanders love to say that America needs more policies like theirs.
Nordic countries, for example, are at the top of a global Social Mobility Index, which measures how people born into all income levels fare in health, education and work. The United States ranks 27th.
The U.S. health care system spends $10,000 a year per person. Finland spends only $4,000 and health care there is paid for by the government. Polls show Finnish residents are largely satisfied with their health care, while only 52 percent of Americans say that.
A comparison of education systems is interesting. Finnish teenagers perform better on standardized tests than their American counterparts. But a larger percentage of Americans have college degrees even though college is free in Finland. Their universities are more selective in admissions because there isn’t enough funding for everyone who wants to attend.
That knocks a rather large hole in the prime minister’s American Dream opinion. A college degree is still the best predictor of financial success. How can every child in Finland “become anything” if there’s not room for everyone who wants to go to college?
Finland’s other positives are a longer life expectancy, less expensive child care, more homeowners and a lower poverty rate. America’s economy has a higher growth rate, a lower unemployment rate and lower taxes. The U.S. also ranks higher on global lists for economic competitiveness and entrepreneurship.
At the end of the day, it would be rude not to commend the Nordic countries for being happy places to live and for providing free education and low-cost medical care. But let’s not sell the American Dream short in the country where it originated.
Not to knock Finland and its neighbors, but how many people from around the world are trying to move there for a fresh start? And despite the many roadblocks that life throws at everyone, plenty of Americans continue to achieve life-changing improvements through creativity, hard work and good luck. The American Dream is alive and well right here at home.
Think about it: If somebody like Kim Kardashian can become rich and famous basically by doing nothing, the sky truly remains the limit for virtually every American.