A Robber Baron from Saarijärvi

For some it’s a crime – for others it’s an inspiration

Last week the mayor of the small village of Saarijärvi in Central Finland cheered on farm and forest workers as they proceeded to rob grocery stores in neighboring towns and villages. After filling up carts, they left without paying and unloaded the food at a shelter for poor people in Jyväskylä. A few of the looters have since been arrested, though not Mayor Jussi Nieminen, who told YLE-News that he waited outside during the raids.

The point was to draw attention to “people who don’t have enough to eat,” part of Mr. Nieminen’s decades-long struggle against free markets, capitalism, private property, etc.

The reason Mr. Nieminen didn’t start by robbing his own village’s supermarkets is that Saarijärvi doesn’t have any. Mr. Nieminen, who has been mayor since 1979, runs the town as a farming collective, complete with public housing for 15 Euros per month and mandatory wage equality. It offers low-paid job guarantees at its agro-cooperatives, on communal land expropriated from an aristocrat in the 1990s. Since then, there’s been little private property to speak of in Saarijärvi. Another trademark of the back-wood communism of the village is ‘participatory budgeting’ – a process where all villagers decide on investments and expenditures. Mr. Nieminen fancies himself a “Robin Hood” for his grocery store antics, but he’s not much more than a robber baron in the truest sense.

Mr. Nieminen is right about one thing: Finland can’t go on as it is. But instead of replacing capitalism with crude communist ideologies, the first step will be replacing politicians like him.