Robert G. Kaiser is not the first person to report the Finnish economy as No. 1 [Outlook, Aug. 7]. I believe the source of confusion is the World Economic Forum itself.

On its blog and in an announcement last year, the forum clearly declared Finland No. 1.

But the announcement and a link clearly refer to the "Growth Competitiveness Index" only, where Finland is indeed first and the United States second.

However, the full "Global Competitiveness Report 2004-2005," issued last October, rates the United States first and Finland second among 104 nations ranked.

-- Gerald W. Bracey



I was ready to pack my bags for Finland after reading the statistics Robert G. Kaiser provided until I looked up other aspects of Finnish life with a quick Web search. Finland leads the world in suicide for the 25-34 age group (33 per 100,000 citizens); for 35-44 (44 per 100,000); for 45-54 (43.4 per 100,000); and for 55-64 (43.8 per 100,000).

The figures for the same age groups in the United States are 15.3, 15.3, 14.3 and 13.3 suicides per 100,000 people, respectively. The United States typically comes in around 13th place for all age groups worldwide. Maybe there is something to that "pursuit of happiness" business after all.

-- William Smetak



I have been enjoying Robert G. Kaiser's dispatches from Finland and agree with his assessment of it as the best little country in Europe.

But he missed an important item in "The Finnish Report Card."

Since the ranking was first issued in 2002, Reporters Without Borders has placed Finland first among nations for freedom of the press. This No. 1 ranking is shared with several other nations: Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia and Switzerland. The group's evaluators look at not only laws protecting the press but also government efforts to ensure laws are enforced and the media's freedom from self-censorship brought on by governmental or corporate pressures. The United States is tied at No. 22 with Belgium on the list.

This is one more item that Finland should regard with pride on its "report card." It shows where the United States could look for guidance. I tell my friends that if they are looking for realization of American ideals, look at Finland.

-- Laird White