Pekka Himanen maps out road to Finnish success in coming decade
By Teemu Luukka
Professor Pekka Himanen has a clear vision of what should be Finland’s goal: a worthy life.
How this is to be achieved can be found in his “Manuscript for Prosperity”, which he submitted on Wednesday to the leaders of Finnish government parties.
Pekka Himanen also has a clear view on the current state of Finland: the country is in a severe crisis.
Finland does not have much time to waste. “In practice, Finland has one year to choose between the manuscript for prosperity or failure in the present decade”, he writes, making reference to the fact that big decisions need to be included in the government policy programme to be drawn up after the elections next spring.
At the present rate, Finland will be one of a number of European old-people’s homes which flourishing Asians and Americans come to visit in order to marvel at the past.
Finland can get over the crisis by using the formula in the manuscript, which is as follows: improving working careers + taxation with incentives + renovation of welfare services.
This is Himanen’s positive alternative to the formula which is often put forward in Finland: lengthening working careers + raising taxes + cutting welfare services.
The formula put forward by Himanen would make it possible to establish economic growth based on an economy founded on creativity.
The manuscript includes three practical projects supported by two basic pillars which are supposed to guarantee that the country will prosper. (Himanen puts them forward, even though he is afraid that they will distort the main message of his analysis, which comes out only through reading the entire manuscript).
The main projects are a Green Economy of Information and Interaction, Welfare Society Version 2.0, and a Rich multicultural Life.
Project one; Finland must become a front-runner in clean environmental and energy technology. Income from innovations in this field should be tax-free through 2020. The public sector should be emission-free by 2020.
Project two: The most important new task for the welfare state is to invest in exercise and psychological well-being throughout society. Investments into welfare at work should be made tax-free, but taxation of unhealthy foodstuffs should be increased. And here is the toughest challenge: Finland needs to solve the question of prevention and treatment of depression by 2020. According to Himanen, Finland is in a state of emergency because one fifth of the population is not faring well.
Project three: The dignity of life will advance once Finland establishes the preconditions for the new decade to be a decade of arts and the humanities. He would increase subsidies to humanities and the arts by at least five per cent a year throughout the coming ten years. Copyrights would be kept with those who produce the material, and they would be given the right to set up a company for their copyright income. Donations to the arts and sciences should be made tax-free so that “enlightened rulers” and the educated bourgeoisie might become patrons of culture.
Two fundamental pillars are needed to support these projects. Himanen calls them the new culture of work and the new culture of learning. Work culture would be strengthened through better management training, and the culture of learning would be advanced through a 2.0 version of school, and by hiring the best professors to speak at universities during the orientation phase of studies.
“I would like for Finland to get rid of the ‘living is dying’ mentality toward more positive thinking”, Himanen said, explaining the key message of his book at its publication at the House of the Estates on Wednesday.
Himanen said that the weaknesses of the Finns include a tendency toward cynicism, envy, and introversion, while their strengths are equality, appreciation for education, and resilience.
At the publication, Minister of Finance Jyrki Katainen (Nat. Coalition Party) refused to comment on any of the proposals that would decrease taxation or increase spending. “I will only say that let’s implement them all, without a hint of cynicism”, he quipped. “As soon as we have the time”, he added, when asked when this might be.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 11.3.2010
Previously in HS International Edition:
Philosopher Pekka Himanen wants to rewrite "European script" (1.9.2005)
Fear gives Finland wings (30.9.2001)
TEEMU LUUKKA / Helsingin Sanomat