I recently listened to this audiobook called The Nordic Theory of Everything. This book highlighted various differences between the American lifestyle and the Finnish (or any Nordic country) lifestyle. Having lived in both Finland and the US as an adult, the author is able to describe firsthand how governmental policies, education, outlooks on life affected her and her peers when living in the two countries.
A major principle of what the author calls The Nordic Theory of Love is the idea that the strongest relationships are ones that are free from dependencies. When a relationship between two people has no strings attached, people's actions are driven primarily by love and not by some ulterior motive. People can take comfort knowing that actions are genuine. This principle influences a lot of Nordic government policy, which directly affects how happy, productive, and free the members of these societies are. The Nordic countries provide free/subsidized healthcare for all members of society, regardless of income, age, military involvement, etc. They see healthcare as a fundamental human right, and by giving everyone the same access to quality healthcare, people don't have to worry about getting into large amounts of debt (dependency on loans), joining goverment programs with specific eligibility requirements (dependency on government aid), and being tied to specific jobs for health insurance (dependency on employer). The Nordic countries also provide fantastic parental leave and subsidized day care, all so that raising a child does not come with any additional burden. This removes a family's dependency on one parent to do a majority of child raising and makes the relationship between two parents a bit more equal. This idea permeates throughout the culture, and it was fascinating for the American me to hear [^1].
When this concept was explained in the book, I couldn't help thinking how elegant and applicable this idea was. Freeing people of dependencies is easily explained and provides a nice framework to assess your actions. If you're a business, providing employees lunch frees them from having to spend time and go find lunch. Employees have one less decision to make and one less action to do, allowing them more time to focus on their job. If you're a team in a company, being less reliant on a team means being able to make decisions quicker, do work quicker, etc. The healthiest romantic relationships are ones in which both people have their own independent hobbies, values, friends, beliefs; both people have equal dependencies on each other (relationship breaks down quickly when this equality is no more) or no dependencies. When guided by an easily explained principle, people can easily assess and make decisions since they're all on the same page.
[^1] As I've gotten older and had to do more adult things (paying taxes, choosing healthcare, applying for mortgages, shopping for houses), the capitalistic side of America becomes more and more apparent. While I grew up admiring and believing in the American dream, I can't help thinking that the American dream is way harder than it seems. Achieving the American dream is so much easier and only gets easier when you have resources or opportunities. When you're stuck and barely making ends meet, getting out of that state is nearly impossible.