Thursday, December 17, 2020

Dear Kaiser: Come ON.

Received today, email from Kaiser Permanente, from which I have gotten my health care for about 30 years now, and which generally I like very much: a pointer to an article on the Kaiser web site about Scandinavian-style well-being.

5 Scandinavian secrets to a happier, healthier life

Scandinavian winters are dark, cold, and long. Depending on the city, a typical day could have little to no sunshine, freezing temperatures, and lots of snow. Some people might see those conditions as a recipe for seasonal depression. But despite their harsh winters, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland have topped the World Happiness Report — which surveys 156 countries by asking their citizens how happy they are — for several years in a row.

So, what is it that makes Scandinavian people so content? The answer may lie in their approach to life — which contains several feel-good philosophies that promote an overall sense of well-being. Let’s take a look.

The article then lists gokotta (waking up early in the morning to go outside and listen to the birds sing.), hygge (coziness), fika paus (coffee break, but it's a ritual coffee break), friluftsliv (spending time in nature), and lagom (balance).

Now, I have no objection to anyone incorporating nature, coziness, coffee breaks, or balance in their lives. But the reason Scandinavians (and Finns, who will be happy to tell you that they are not Scandinavian) are among the happiest and most content people in the world has more to do with what they have done to create a decent society that provides for its people:

  1. High taxes
  2. Universal health care
  3. High-quality public schools
  4. High-quality, low-cost university education
  5. Universal child care
  6. Lengthy parental leave
  7. Laws that enforce gender equality
  8. Etc.
Sure, happiness is a state of mind, but there's no substitute for having a roof over your head, an income, enough to eat, and health care. We can be as cozy as we want in the United States, but until we actually have a government that levies higher taxes and spends that money on people - rather than the overgrown and enormous military we have - we're not going to have the kind of society that Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland have.

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