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HELSINKI, FINLAND - Fifty years ago, Finland was known for little more than the wood pulp from its endless forests. A poverty-stricken land of poorly educated loggers and farmers on the edge of the Arctic Circle, few paid it any attention.
Today, this small Nordic nation boasts a thriving hi-tech economy ranked the most competitive in the world, the best educated citizenry of all the industrialized countries, and a welfare state that has created one of the globe's most egalitarian societies.
Envious policymakers from far and wide are beating a path to Helsinki to learn the secrets of Finland's success.
"We have a saying here," chuckles Stefan Nygard, a university lecturer, as he swings his baby daughter gently, soothing her to sleep. "If you are Finnish, you've won the lottery."
But as the leaders of other European countries desperately seek ways to preserve their expensive systems of social protection in a competitive globalized world, Finland's circumstances and mind-set aren't easily copied. "Finland is an exceptional case Europe," cautions Riisto Erasaari, professor of social policy at Helsinki University. "We are a small homogenous country, heavily state-based, and our social model as a whole is so typically Finnish that it won't travel. But parts of it," - such as the government-funded focus on innovation and education, "are exportable."