View Full Version : The Almost Nearly Perfect People, by Michael Booth

June Pelo
13-03-15, 17:03
Michael Booth lives in Denmark and had grown suspicious of the "almost exclusively adulatory coverage of all things Scandinavian" in the world's media. He visited each of the five lands; he talked with historians, political figures, journalists and common folk, and he found much that justifies the good press. In his book he writes about Finland's wife-throwing competition; he considers what oil wealth means for the Norwegians; what the effects of the 2008 economic collapse meant for the Icelanders, and how "the core principles of Lutheranism -- parsimony, modesty, disapproval of individualism or elitism -- still define the manner in which the Danes behave toward one another and view the rest of the world.

He wrote that "Finland has a school system that is the envy of other lands, a competitive economy and a reputation as one of the least corrupt people in the world. They are dependable and courteous, but also aggravatingly taciturn. They have the highest murder rate in western Europe and are famously binge drinkers, as well as enthusiastic suicidalists."

He salutes the Swedes' school system, their economic and gender equality and their harmonious middle-way consensus politics. Its neighbors like to taunt "Big Brother" Sweden as "a stiff, humorless, rule-obsessed, and dull crowd." Booth writes: "But it's still Scandinavia. It is still the enviably rich, peaceful, harmonious, and progressive place it has long been. When faced with the happiest, most trusting, and successful people on the planet, one's natural instinct is to try to find fault." And he admits he has done that. "Put it down to envy, if that helps."

Chuck Haga, Minneapolis Star-Tribune