Jon Stewart once stated “Democrats- you know, for their thing, it’s always they love this country- they just somehow wish it were a different country. You know, Democrats are always like- you know, America’s the greatest country in the world. Have you seen Finland’s health care system? You get back rubs at work. You’re surrounded by sandwiches.” Iceland has no specific rule about sandwiches (we checked), however lets take a look at a few of the things that we might be able to learned from our Nordic neighbors.
10. Licensed Cohabitation
Iceland has a division between ‘single’ and ‘married’ called ‘confirmed cohabitation’. Once a couple enters into an agreement of confirmed cohabitation, they are able to apply for taxes as a married couple and are afforded protection by law against the other party moving out or shirking obligations. A confirmed cohabitation can be annulled but the cohabitation would supercede any type of rental or mortgage agreement, In short, if you are living together you are obligated to that person financially whether you are married or not. Regardless of what you may think of the practice of cohabitation, there should at least be general agreement that one partner should not be able to simply leave a living agreement without some sort of penalty or ‘no strings attached.’ Confirmed cohabitation is an intermediate larval state between dating and marriage but it does afford protections to both partners.
9. Icelanders Do Not Price Themselves Out Of Jobs
To Americans, the following facts will sound horrific. Iceland does not have a minimum wage. Icelanders are paid statistically less than Americans in comparable jobs. The Icelander work week is typically between 45-49 hours per week. In America, this should bring up visions of children working in coal mines with poor teeth. What do Icelanders think of their work system? They are among the happiest workers in the world. Icelandic workplaces stress a culture of individuals working towards a common goal. Also statistically, you are much more likely to be employed in Iceland (even during a worldwide recession) than during the United States. Workplaces in Iceland also stress an individual’s family even above their own productivity.
8. A Culture Of Non-Violence
It is perfectly legal to own a gun in Iceland. The gun must be licensed, registered, and purchased from a legal gun dealer. That does not change the fact that Iceland allows gun ownership. However, there does not appear to be a culture of violence or a defined gun culture in Iceland. As such, there were only four total homicides by guns in Iceland in the year 2009. That statistic is pretty consistent in the last three decades. There are gun collectors in Iceland who own hundreds of guns. However, Iceland remains one of the safest countries in the world to live. Police do check on gun owners to make sure that the guns are stored properly.
7. Pre-Natal Care Is A Stressed Public Service
Iceland has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world . Prenatal care is free of charge to Icelandic women who have had legal residency for over six months. There is also no charge for the birth itself. After the birth, nurses will visit the new mother and baby at their homes for up to six weeks after the birth. Maternity leave in Iceland is up to nine months for both the father and mother. The maternity leave is paid at 100 percent of the salary. At risk pregnancies in Iceland tend to be identified very early in the process. As such, there is literally no reason for the expectant mother not to take full advantage of a family friendly policy which encourages having the healthiest babies possible.
6. Icelanders Statistically Live Longer
Icelandic men have a life expectancy of nearly 80 years and Icelandic women have a life expectancy of nearly 83 years. The life expectancy in Iceland is at or the top of world statistics every year. The reasons for this include the fact that the aforementioned infant mortality rate is very low. Infant mortality will dramatically bring down a countries life expectancy. There is also the subject of geography. Iceland is a primarily seafaring country which depends on its fishing industry for both economical and dietary sustenance. As in Japan, countries who have a diet primarily supported by white meat in fish also enjoy statistically longer life spans. Therefore, just living in Iceland as well living like the Icelanders can improve your life expectancy by about four years on average.
5. Iceland Legislated The Matter Of Abortion
In 1975, abortion was made legal in Iceland with a law passed by their legislature rather by a court decision. As such, abortion is actually far more restricted than it is in the United States. Except in cases of the health of the mother (which is identified early in the process), abortions are not legal after the first four weeks of pregnancy. In addition, an application process is required for an abortion. Abortions are not provided on demand. An abortion can be approved due to family circumstances. If the family is unable to support a child, then an abortion can be approved. Iceland does not have an instance where the mother can simply arbitrarily decide to terminate a pregnancy. Abortions performed outside of the Icelandic health care system are punishable by five to seven years in prison for the provider. The result? Statistically a women is half as likely to have an abortion in Iceland as they are in the United States. This is despite Iceland’s reputation for liberalism as well as socialism.
4. Iceland Did Not Bail Out Banks
In 2008, Iceland allowed its three largest banks to fold after defaulting on 85 billion dollars worth of loans. Iceland protected the amount which citizens deposited in those banks. Iceland then used money which could have gone to bailing out banks to further protect its social programs. Iceland did later use money to protect mortgage lending firms. However, Iceland was also able to affect one of the quickest recoveries economically in the European Union. The United States and most of the industrialized world took a completely opposite tact to the Great Recession.
3. Citizens Attempted To Indict George H. W. Bush As A War Criminal
In 2006, while George H. W. Bush (or Bush Sr.) was on a fishing trip in Iceland, citizens attempted to have him indicted as a war criminal. Bush was not arrested and Icelandic newspapers reported that Bush caught nine salmon while on the trip. The point here is not whether you believe that George H. W. Bush committed war crimes in the Panama and Iraq in the late 1980s and early 1990s. That is certainly a matter up for debate. The point is that the citizens believed at the time they could indict a foreign dignitary. Imagine if the President of China came to the United States and citizens believed that he could be arrested for human rights violations and detained, the point is not that they believed he was a war criminal. The point is that they felt the empowerment to act on their convictions. That is something that is needed more of in the United States.
2. Elves Feelings Are Taken Into Account Before Building Projects
They are called Huldufolk. The name derives from huldu- which means hidden as well a folk which of course means people. In short, there is a lot of belief in Iceland in what we would call Elves. Yes, elves. Icelanders have taken the Elves feelings into account in everything from road construction projects to petitioning NATO not to fly jets over traditional Huldufolk lands. On the surface, acts in accordance with the protection of lands belonging to Elves going back to the time of Middle Earth may seem ridiculous, however look at the underlying positive here. The government hires mystics to clear a building projects with Elves. This means that the government respects the belief system of its people no matter what it might seem like to the rest of the world. Ideally, this is no different than having a shaman bless a burial ground or having a Catholic priest declare a house free of demonic spirits. The belief system itself is irrelevant. Whether you are honoring elvish territory or giving respect to where an Angel addressed a crowd, the world is better off when a government shows a healthy respect for the beliefs of its populace and the sacred importance of lands.
1. Most Power Is Provided By Reusable Fuels
Energy self sufficiency is analogous to having a successful running game by a football team. The point is not the running back. The point is that every single player on the team makes a commitment to run the ball and run the ball successfully. Running backs and wide receivers commit to block downfield. Everyone has to contribute to the success of one thing. Iceland has committed to reusable bio and hydro based fuels. The result is two fold. First, Iceland is the leader in energy self sufficiency. Second, Iceland is statistically more likely to use fuel than even Americans. That is correct. A typical Icelander will actually use more fuel in a given day than an American. The logic seems counter intuitive but when you are confident in the source, there is a lesser need for conservation of that source. That is something Americans should seriously consider.
*Editor’s Note: The picture for #3 has been corrected to the proper Bush. My apologies.