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10 August 2006

Prout's message for Finland



With much happiness, I will return to Helsinki for a week on August 11 to "launch" the Finnish version of my book "After Capitalism". The following remarks are from the introduction I wrote for the Finnish edition:


Finland has certainly benefited from capitalism. The country made a remarkable transformation from a farm and forest economy to a diversified modern industrial economy, with a per capita income on par with the rest of the European Union. But the truth is that capitalism works well for some people, but not for everyone. The existence of marginalized long-term unemployed in the country is a sign that this is true even in Finland.

According to the Finnish Government Institute for Economic Research (VATT), the top 10 percent of the population owns almost 40 percent of all the property and share capital. Much more economic inequality appears when calculating the wealth of the few thousand millionaires and billionaires, whose holdings are widely spread through nebulous financial networks. Greater tax breaks for the rich means the welfare state is weakening.

During the last 20 years, a large portion of the Finnish economy has been taken over by international investment funds, who own major shares of Nokia and the other large Finnish companies. Why is it that the majority of stores in Helsinki today seem to have American names? The profits they reap are not reinvested in the local community, they are sent to international banks overseas.

Unfortunately capitalism does not work very well for Finland’s beautiful natural environment either. Air pollution from manufacturing and power plants contributes to acid rain. The water is being polluted by industrial wastes and agricultural chemicals. Wildlife is threatened by the loss of virgin forests.

Finnish people experience the psychological side effects of global capitalism. The materialistic, consumer outlook, where everything seems to have a price tag, supports the existential outlook, “I buy, therefore I am!” Yet I believe the Finnish people, like most people in the world, long for true peace, happiness and unconditional love, which are not really satisfied in a consumer culture. Instead, working ever harder just to increase their income, or just to survive, under increasing stress, people experience alienation, loneliness and depression. Tragically, the suicide rate in Finland is the highest among the developed countries according to the World Health Organization. Among males aged 45-54, 50.4 per 100,000 people committed suicide in 2003.

We need something better: a holistic approach that fulfills the physical, mental and spiritual needs of each person. A world where nobody suffers poverty or hunger, where the resources are shared for the welfare of everyone. Where every human being is encouraged to develop their creativity, their talents, the higher dimensions of their being. How to do this is Prout’s vision for a new world.

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