This kind of thinking is what can transform the world.
It is a treat for me to come across this interesting post share on Facebook by Vijay Anand who I personally may not know, but am sharing it with joy!
I have a friend who lives in Finland and works in the education space – she works in the government department that skills immigrants, so that they become productive and assimilate into the society.
During one of our conversations, she mentioned about how in a lot of Scandinavian countries all public transport is free  – you can hop into any bus, and go anywhere and even the trains are free. In Finland, you can also study whatever you want – go to school, college, go get a PhD for free – if you want.
I went “hmmm” in my usual, “I am not sure how this works” thought process. And remarked “I guess that works in a socialistic society”
What followed was insightful.
She asked me what I thought was the most important asset in a society. Honestly, that caught me by surprise. Our economy is measured (and GDP seems to be the holy measure) by movement of money, and hence companies?
She remarked, “Well, its People. It should be, isnt it? – atleast in the 21st century”. Her point was that the days of “companies” being valuable is a outdated model. Natural resources, companies being valuable, made sense for the industrial era, not really for the knowledge economy era.
She said, “Most democracies, even so called capitalistic democracies see people as a liability – a bunch that needs to be taken care of. So education is seen as a cost, healthcare is seen as a cost, but in Finland the model is that people are assets”
Her example : If you charge people a “fee” in college, they will pay a one time fee. And because of financial difficulties, they might not even pursue further education. Whose loss is it, she asked? I guessed, it was the individuals. “Nope, cause if someone who has the potential to be a PhD scientist ends up being a librarian because they couldn’t afford to study, it is the loss to the country – in more practical terms, the govt losses 30% of a much higher revenue that they could have made. Instead they have a citizen who hasn’t reached the full potential but still continues to consume the same amount of resources – might even add to the burden.”
If one looks at each individual that way – that everyone has a potential and if the govt helps them achieve the best version of themselves, then for a lifetime (say 40 odd years) they get 30% of everything he/she makes.
How does the free bus and trains work, I asked. If you remove traffic and remove headaches, employees reach offices faster. Companies get employees who aren’t half drained by the time they reach office. The more productive the workforce is, and the more profitable the company is, the government benefits from both – more tax money. A scientist who is able to do his/her best work creates assets for the country.
When people are the assets, the system starts as early as the mother being pregnant itself, to ensure that care is provided to deliver a healthy baby, and when the baby is born, the formative years are provided for to ensure nutrition and a healthy mental faculty, and periodic tests to map out the trajectory of every individual and set them on that path.
“So really Finland is very capitalistic, she said. What the societal model is, is that we value human beings and every human being as an asset. Whereas most “capitalistic” societies see them as liabilities and spend most of the money on welfare schemes and burdening the middle class.”
The role of the government should be to enable its citizens / institutions / companies to be the best version of themselves and get the heck out of the way.
0. This idea is simple but radical. It took a few months for me to digest it. Give it time. I know the first reaction you might have will be similar to mine – cynical. But it makes sense.
1. India having a bigger population actually makes this even more attractive. People are assets. The more of that you have, the more you win.
2. This is fundamentally flipping the economy on the head. Today there are a few companies that create value (GDP) that is divided by the population. This model empowers individuals that Population x productivity = GDP
3. 90% of a country like India today lives off of 12,000 Rs per month. 5% of the country pays taxes that supports the rest of the country and the aspirations of infrastructure building. That is simply not sustainable.
4. This seems to be one of the few ways to not just get India to the 5trillion economy (as a bi product and not the goal) and beyond. In a day and age where civil liberties violation and environmental abuse will and should not be tolerated, this model paves a way. Most countries that are developed today got there through slavery or burning through the environment, which is a option we dont/cant have.
5. Getting ready for the knowledge economy, not only will get us into the world stage, but will get us far ahead in terms of the future – with being a young country, that is a service to future generations we cannot ignore. As they say, “skate to where the puck is going, not to where it is.”