A happy society? What makes that happen? Where is the good model?

Some dimensions to bring about the conditions

I lived through an amazing transformation in Finland during the 90s. It did require a good level of consensus but it was helped by a crisis.

In the early 90s companies, like Nokia, and the whole country went into shock when overnight a major business partner Soviet Union was lost. It was crisis time. No better time for change. Why wait though…..looming crisis is enough. Luckily Nokia had already taken steps to broaden the market space and then had a very open mind to new potential revenue generators. A confluence of factors came together to build a very solid foundation for a global position.

The country had to tighten its collective belt to overcome the situation. Finland was lucky to have a couple of very strong, articulate, knowledgeable and teflonlike politicians who did not waver from a strong message of suffer now and benefit later. Esko Aho as prime minister and Iiro Viinanen as finance minister. Those were tough times. One can look at the numbers and believe that it was bad politics. The thing is that it was during that crisis time that Finland established the means for growth and repositioning.

That’s just a bit on where Finland came from and some of the tough decisions that led it to where it is today.

Finland rates high in education, innovation, and many other dimensions. During a talk some seven years ago I spoke to an innovation audience a little bit about Finland and Nokia and I mentioned a time magazine cover which alluded to something [gotta check what it was exactly] about how poorly Finland faired in the music industry or was it the opposite that there was some band that was recognized? Don’t remember but the point is that I said I think that if Finland wins in the Eurovision song contest then we know that this one country adulation has gone a step too far. Well you know what happened last year. I was trying to suggest to this Australian audience that maybe it was time to take that ‘adulation spot’….hmmm not quite yet.

Finland is still doing well in many ways. A welfare state. I think we ‘the people’ tend to want to hold onto our levels of service and improve but there are times when the old ways of upholding just aren’t enough. There aren’t enough little tax payers to pay for the needs of this ageing society of ours. This part we all know.

Foundations for longevity in services our societies need

Craig – a futurist colleague – talked about a model which incorporates the not for profit sector in well thought out services, with support from the government. This sounds like something that will end up with continuity and good foundations.

Not expecting problems to be solved for us but creating solutions which are viable otherwise. Not easy. I digress here….

We go from one extreme to the other….looking for a balance

The pendulum swing. I don’t think any country has a good model. I think we’d need to get the dogmatic positions out of the conversation first and then I think we could get to talk about the true society of wellbeing and ‘happiness’ for many. Turn down the dial on greed, yet some of it is necessary. Might this be a societal attitude thing? I think so. If we judge too much greed as not a great way to be in this society then the societal pressure is on. [I know, I am such a heretic]. Conscious capitalism, capital reward politics, blue capitalism.

Eradicating poverty….will that do it?
Just heard Ray Kurzweil talk today and he points out that so much has been done to poverty in the last 20 years and plenty more in the next 10. As he says: “We will not be struggling with the same things we struggle today”.

Cindy – another futurist colleague – asked about something I’d mentioned in a chat about how the support mechanisms or relative ease in a society can kill initiative and motivation….inviting¬† apathy, which I think is rather complex. Need to ponder on it some more.

We know we must have equity in what and how we do so that we are motivated to advance the society, business and community. There are, in the world, other drivers for this than money but money does give us a sense of security and comfort. As we approach the voting season again we have to listen to politicians promises – at least now there is a sense of doing the job, which is to make those things happen which the ‘free market’ cannot get its ‘interests’ around in a decent manner [health care systems in almost any country and education and transportation models etc].

I think most of the dimensions of what is needed to advance ‘happiness’ are well known if we gather the global insights on this. The difficulty in combining the elements of driving an economic virtuous circle and societal virtuous circle. People have different values and so the dials are set differently depending on where you come from, what you’ve learnt from that [left of center and right of center and so what does that actually mean]…then we do these little adjustments in amongst the pendulum swings.

I guess it is like everything in life. There is a bit of give and take. How much of this am I willing to give up for more of that? Like privacy for example. Nordics don’t worry about national cards, never have really, the Australians are paranoid about it. I don’t know what it is that everyone has got to hide here, they all seem rather nice people. In today’s legal frameworks though I don’t blame anyone being a bit paranoid of what could happen. digressing again…

I would think that a society like Norway or the Nordics where the differentials in salaries are not exorbitant the willingness to agree to common agendas in various ways in easier to achieve. This differential got a bit larger over the last 10 years but they are still reasonable and tax percentages over that same time have gone down for all too, at least in Finland.

Yes I do think that the Nordics went a little far with some of the social security benefits at one point but those have been under scrutiny for years. I say too far due to the impact on motivation and also the affordability. I do feel for the generation which is now on pension. I don’t know how this works elsewhere exactly but in Finland when a spouse dies the widow who might not have had independent income enough [or it was not counted towards a pension until laws were changed on this] will get half of the state pension and that I feel is outrageous. If you earned a pension by paying your taxes [enormous at the time] then either the spouse should get the lot or at least 2/3 as living alone does not cut your costs to half. Oh and btw way the state pensions are not indexed either.

One model – many variants – with slightly altered dials for some choices for people in this world….????

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