I react pragmatically. Where the market works, I'm for that. Where the government is necessary, I'm for that. I'm deeply suspicious of somebody who says, "I'm in favor of privatization," or, "I'm deeply in favor of public ownership." I'm in favor of whatever works in the particular case.”
- John Kenneth Galbraith in “Booknotes interview” (1994)
I am proud to be a Finn. I am extremely proud of our 'socialized' health care. I am immensely proud of the fact that nobody in Finland needs to go hungry for any longer period of time. I am proud of our schools, day-care-centers, theaters, motorways and sports arenas. However, most of all I am proud of the Finnish men and women who pay for all this without too much whining.
Deep down they perhaps understand that getting a bit bigger house or a bit more expensive car or vacation in a little more far-away country with the money they now pay in taxes will not make them much happier than they are now.
They just might have realized that a well-working and safe society is an asset of which they can be immensely proud of. They can even feel a well-earned superiority when they compare themselves and their country to people and nations who are not prepared to make similar contributions for common good. However, these selfish people do so often end up living in many ways more dysfunctional and much less safe societies than less selfish people like the Finns now are.
According to Arthur Schopenhauer "The cheapest form of pride is national pride". However, in this case Finns (and other Scandinavians) really have a good reason to be proud of their nation and most of all of their fellow citizens.
I can just salute people who willingly pool their resources to build a better society to all members of their nation, and not just for the lucky ones, who have been born to the right family in the right place.
By pooling our resources in the form of taxation, we can do wonderful things that an individual can only dream of. We can take care of the disabled, the old and mentally ill. We can build roads, harbors, we can build schools, day-care centers and theaters. We can defend our society from outside threats and build a society that is based on common law that is similar to all.
With taxation we can lessen the ills of capitalism, where the owners of the capital will always benefit more than the people who will do the actual work for them. With taxation we can make this necessary evil a lesser evil.
Taxation is best seen as a form of insurance. With taxation we make sure that we have day-care and schools, when we decide to have children of our own, we have roads ready-made when we buy a car, and we have a hospital ready for us when we become ill.
Ideas of cutting down taxation drastically are normally harbored by unimaginative and often well-to-do, strong and healthy people. They just cannot imagine themselves as feeble old people, dying from exotic diseases or having six children to feed and fend after their wife has left them. Normally they come from well-to-do -families where hunger is just a word that they have seen in books.
This essay is a response to the prevailing ethos and zeitgeist of letting it all go with the markets and running down the society. This is my private opinion that I have harbored in my mind for many years now, when I have gotten to know more and more of how things work in other societies than my own. There are undoubtedly hundreds of individual things that are better in other countries, but I am speaking of a general nature of a society here.
At this point, I must make it clear to my foreign readers that Finland has never been a socialist country. However the western democratic socialism has had great influence in our society via the influential Social Democratic Party. The "socialistic medicine" mentioned in the first paragraph also has nothing to do with real socialism. It means only that society does provide health care-services equally for all Finnish people. However, there is also private sector in health care available for those who are willing to pay to bypass the queues in the public sector
As I see it instead of privatization, the solution is to make public sector more productive and efficient. The private sector will always add their own profit margin to the cost of a service, but an institution in a public sector need not to generate a profit as ALL private enterprises need to do.
In the future people will look back at this current privatization-craze with amazement. By then we will have realized that some things are just not suitable to be handled by private enterprises, if the goal is to ensure availability and a certain level of quality of service to all people and not just for the well-to-do.
There just is no sense in having two pairs of railways side-by-side, and if there is not, there will not be real competition. Then only the profit margins will just be added to the current expenses. Prices will normally go up, and services down, as a private company will always have the best of shareholders as its only real goal and the services they do provide are just means to achieve that goal.
We have seen this already in many cases in Finland when communities have bought medical services from private sources. They will in the long run not save anything, as the prices will be with time hoisted to a level where the operation is profitable. The savings that were once calculated from privatization so often just evaporate to the thin air, from where they, in fact, originated in the first place.
Libertarian economists are a group of people in their own class. They normally use just a few economical factors to look at social issues, but they bypass many others, which just might be much more relevant to the real users of the services. They try actively to forget the fact that some service is cheaper to produce by a private enterprise does not say anything about its effectiveness and most of all social aspects of the service.
Libertarian economists just tend to bypass the issues of fairness and social equality and even justice. They just so often get completely carried away by their passion to make economics the only relevant factor in society.
Libertarianism is a political worldview that aims to change things at a level of a whole society. However, one just can't implement society-wide and drastic changes without forcing in also those members of the society who don't like the idea. Libertarianism is about stripping government and all social control to a bare minimum.
However, in the world of colossal multinational corporations a strong labor movement and strong states are the only forces that can offer any kind of opposition to these immensely powerful forces of capitalist greed. A minimal caretaker government would let them have absolute reign and that is a ultra-capitalist nightmare for me.
On the other hand, I just love to have good roads, working system of health-care, free schools that make it possible to also poor people to advance in a society. I love cheap day-care, nursing homes for the elderly, affordable theater-tickets, swimming halls etc.
I don't mind at all paying one third or even half of my income to achieve a society where a long sickness does not destroy your whole family's economy, I don't mind paying for a society where I can rest assured that the best available specialist specialists will try to cure me.
I have paid a lot of taxes during the last 30 years. However, as my ongoing cancer-treatment hopefully will drag for a long time, I will get all this money back and even perhaps win some. Of course, not all people will get this benefit of pay-back, but that is the nature of all insurance-policies; you can pay your fire-insurance for decades. However, in the end you are happy that you don't need it.
I will defend the right of Libertarians to propagate their policies freely in a free society. One just must be free to propagate freely even any complete idiocy in a democracy if you do it peacefully. However, it is never possible to build a fully libertarian society in a larger scale in the real world without forcing other people into it. This is the case with all Utopian schemes.
The big question is if the society in which I and my family do live in could become a libertarian ultra-capitalist nightmare if Libertarians would ever take it over. However, I don't really believe that a whole existing community would ever want even try to experience utter inequality, lack of care, tremendous social insecurity and most of all the lack of public services just to further Libertarian ideals.