Finland Is a Laughably Bad Policy Model for Vermont

By David Flemming

In the recent VT Digger article “Imagining a Vermont that functions more like Finland,” Anu Partanen argues that the United States- and by extension Vermont- should follow Finland’s lead in public policy. Partanen’s book “The Nordic Theory of Everything” might just be one public policy publication among thousands, but she has gotten the attention of some rather high profile Vermonters. Partanen will appear in a panel discussion with Lt. Governor David Zuckerman on Friday.

Partanen claims “nordic countries are in many ways free-market, but at the same time they’ve taken universal social policies to serve everyone.” Far from promoting free-market policies, Finland’s policies severely restrict individuals from making even the most mundane of decisions.

Start with the hospitality industry. Imagine that one day Vermont legislators woke up and discussed making Vermont into a Finlandish utopia.

Legislator 1: “Ice cream and chocolate is unhealthy.”

Legislator 2: “Why don’t we tax them, since Finland did so as recently as 2016?”

Legislator 1: “But that would hurt an awful lot of Vermont businesses, like Lake Champlain Chocolates and Ben & Jerry’s.”

Legislator 2: “Oh well. Vermont consumers will just have to make do with prune filled tarts, a traditional Finnish desert.”

And the legislation wouldn’t stop at sugary substances.

Finland has a state monopoly on beer that has alcohol content greater than 4.7%. If Vermont were to impose a similar restriction on craft beer entrepreneurs, that would outlaw 99 out of the top 100 beers brewed in Vermont, including the world-renowned Heady Topper. Only the Greensboro, Vermont farmhouse ale “Flora” would escape this beer busting, because its alcohol content is 4.00%.

All of these sugar and alcohol policies help explain why Finland was ranked #1 out of 28 countries on the Institute of Economic Affairs’ Nanny State Index, which highlights the “worst places in the European Union to eat, drink, smoke and vape.” Vermont may have problems, but we can be thankful that we live in a state that doesn’t lack for places of merriment.

Since it would be difficult for Vermonters to stomach Finland’s draconian consumption laws, perhaps Vermonters push the US to adopt Finnish fiscal policies? Partanen claims Finland is a “clear road map for dealing with growing inequality,” but Finland may actually impose far more taxes on the middle and lower classes to pay for their government programs. In 2014, the bottom 95% of American income earners paid 40% of all income taxes. In 2015, the bottom 96% of Finnish income earners paid 73% of income taxes. The average Finnish worker actually paid a larger percentage of their income taxes than the average American worker did in 2016.

Finally, Finland ranked 58th out of 63 counties in a survey that explored “cultural variation in empathy and rank countries based on how likely their residents were to show compassion and appreciate the views of others.” The US ranked #7.

Vermonters have the sweets, the hops and the ability to put ourselves in the shoes of others. Perhaps Finland can learn from us.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

H. Brooke Paige October 26, 2017 at 5:33 pm

Vermont is already the Nanny State in America, yet it appears we have a way to go in order to meet the utopian level set by Finland – let’s hope the Liberals and Progressives don’t get us there anytime soon !


Marion Clegg October 28, 2017 at 12:46 pm

How much longer is it going to be before the Republican Party starts to wake up! Vermont’s government should be conservative Republicans and not liberal Republicans. This state should have a conservative Republican Governor AND Lieut. Governor with its Congress on the conservative side too! What have we had for people moving into this state? I question this when I look at the votes Bernie Sanders got to get to where he is today. A Socialist ~ NO WAY!


James Gregory October 28, 2017 at 2:19 pm

There is one statistic that matches up well for Vermont and Finland, and it is the elephant in the room that everyone can see but no one dares to mention. And that is, the lack of racial and ethnic diversity in Finland and Vermont. They are basically homogeneous populations. In Finland, 99.4% of the population is Caucasian (Finn and Swede). Vermont does a little better, with 94.6% of the population listed as “white only” in the 2016 US Census Bureau estimates. Of the 5.4% non-white populace in Vermont, 1.3% are of African descent. The next time Bernie Sanders starts babbling about “diversity”, someone should tell him to go home and start with his own state.


Meredith Angwin October 29, 2017 at 4:09 pm

I don’t know why people are taking this book so seriously. A book with the reverse premise (how Finland could become more like the U.S.) would be considered very narrow-minded and chauvinistic.


William Hays October 30, 2017 at 2:19 am

Not laughable. Did you ever check the tax rates in good-old Sauomi? Heaven, for Bernie-poo. Oy, vey!


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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.

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