A Finnish journalist, now a naturalized American citizen, asks Americans to draw on elements of the Nordic way of life to nurture a fairer, happier, more secure, and less stressful society for themselves and their children.
Though laced with anecdotes from Partanen’s own story, Nordic Theory is meticulously researched. It offers a clear, informative, fact-filled survey of the differences between American and Nordic child care, health care, education, eldercare and taxation arrangements. It could be a game-changer in national conversations about the roles that governments should play in their citizens’ lives.
Perhaps it goes without saying that this is not the story America usually tells itself about immigrants ... Partanen is good at blending the individual stories of her friends into the cold, hard facts of national statistics. Nevertheless, after a while, even a Canadian like me starts to feel frustrated when Partanen lists all the benefits she derived from her Finnish taxes ... Partanen has much to say about what the Nordic countries have to offer, but remarkably little to say about how Americans can achieve this kind of glory for themselves ... Partanen is a careful, judicious writer and she makes a careful, judicious case. But I doubt any American not already sympathetic to her argument will be persuaded.
Some of the most compelling parts of Partanen’s book illustrate how what many Americans consider to be the ultimate indicator of liberty – the freedom from burdensome government – is actually a trap ... There is no history in Partanen’s book, no acknowledgement that millions of Americans who right now are struggling to remake the country along the lines of Nordic societies and failing because of systemic and institutional hurdles. The Nordic Theory of Everything is an earnest, breezy book by a well intentioned writer. But its ignorance about the limited possibilities of change in America makes it as frustrating and flimsy as a piece of unassembled Ikea furniture.