Or What Is It the Scandinavians Have That We Don’t?By Ann Jones
Water drips from a leaky roof. The heat brings on a “moldy, rancid odor.” A child volunteer is tasked with killing giant roaches. Welcome to the Detroit public school system, which, according to a recent New York Times report, is “run down after years of neglect” and “teetering on the edge of financial collapse.” And yet, last Thursday, this was the closest thing to a “good news” story about Michigan on the front page of that newspaper. A companion piece covered the even more dismal “water crisis in the poverty-stricken, black-majority city of Flint,” a penny-pinching state “austerity” measure turned public health emergency that has left children there with elevated levels of lead in their blood, putting them at risk of lifelong adverse health effects.
Some years ago, I faced up to the futility of reporting true things about America’s disastrous wars and so I left Afghanistan for another remote mountainous country far away. It was the polar opposite of Afghanistan: a peaceful, prosperous land where nearly everybody seemed to enjoy a good life, on the job and in the family.
It’s true that they didn’t work much, not by American standards anyway. In the U.S., full-time salaried workers supposedly laboring 40 hours a week actually average 49, with almost 20% clocking more than 60. These people, on the other hand, worked only about 37 hours a week, when they weren’t away on long paid vacations. At the end of the work day, about four in the afternoon (perhaps three in the summer), they had time to enjoy a hike in the forest or a swim with the kids or a beer with friends -- which helps explain why, unlike so many Americans, they are pleased with their jobs.