Skip to comments.The Nordic countries The next supermodel
Posted on 02/04/2013 5:50:35 PM PST by beaversmom
SMALLISH countries are often in the vanguard when it comes to reforming government. In the 1980s Britain was out in the lead, thanks to Thatcherism and privatisation. Tiny Singapore has long been a role model for many reformers. Now the Nordic countries are likely to assume a similar role.
That is partly because the four main NordicsSweden, Denmark, Norway and Finlandare doing rather well. If you had to be reborn anywhere in the world as a person with average talents and income, you would want to be a Viking. The Nordics cluster at the top of league tables of everything from economic competitiveness to social health to happiness. They have avoided both southern Europes economic sclerosis and Americas extreme inequality. Development theorists have taken to calling successful modernisation getting to Denmark. Meanwhile a region that was once synonymous with do-it-yourself furniture and Abba has even become a cultural haven, home to The Killing, Noma and Angry Birds.
As our special report this week explains, some of this is down to lucky timing: the Nordics cleverly managed to have their debt crisis in the 1990s. But the second reason why the Nordic model is in vogue is more interesting. To politicians around the worldespecially in the debt-ridden Westthey offer a blueprint of how to reform the public sector, making the state far more efficient and responsive.
From Pippi Longstocking to private schools
The idea of lean Nordic government will come as a shock both to French leftists who dream of socialist Scandinavia and to American conservatives who fear that Barack Obama is bent on Swedenisation. They are out of date. In the 1970s and 1980s the Nordics were indeed tax-and-spend countries. Swedens public spending reached 67% of GDP in 1993. Astrid Lindgren, the inventor of Pippi Longstocking, was forced to pay more than 100% of her income in taxes. But tax-and-spend did not work: Sweden fell from being the fourth-richest country in the world in 1970 to the 14th in 1993.
Since then the Nordics have changed coursemainly to the right. Governments share of GDP in Sweden, which has dropped by around 18 percentage points, is lower than Frances and could soon be lower than Britains. Taxes have been cut: the corporate rate is 22%, far lower than Americas. The Nordics have focused on balancing the books. While Mr Obama and Congress dither over entitlement reform, Sweden has reformed its pension system (see Free exchange). Its budget deficit is 0.3% of GDP; Americas is 7%.
On public services the Nordics have been similarly pragmatic. So long as public services work, they do not mind who provides them. Denmark and Norway allow private firms to run public hospitals. Sweden has a universal system of school vouchers, with private for-profit schools competing with public schools. Denmark also has vouchersbut ones that you can top up. When it comes to choice, Milton Friedman would be more at home in Stockholm than in Washington, DC.
All Western politicians claim to promote transparency and technology. The Nordics can do so with more justification than most. The performance of all schools and hospitals is measured. Governments are forced to operate in the harsh light of day: Sweden gives everyone access to official records. Politicians are vilified if they get off their bicycles and into official limousines. The home of Skype and Spotify is also a leader in e-government: you can pay your taxes with an SMS message.
This may sound like enhanced Thatcherism, but the Nordics also offer something for the progressive left by proving that it is possible to combine competitive capitalism with a large state: they employ 30% of their workforce in the public sector, compared with an OECD average of 15%. They are stout free-traders who resist the temptation to intervene even to protect iconic companies: Sweden let Saab go bankrupt and Volvo is now owned by Chinas Geely. But they also focus on the long termmost obviously through Norways $600 billion sovereign-wealth fundand they look for ways to temper capitalisms harsher effects. Denmark, for instance, has a system of flexicurity that makes it easier for employers to sack people but provides support and training for the unemployed, and Finland organises venture-capital networks.
The sour part of the smorgasbord
The new Nordic model is not perfect. Public spending as a proportion of GDP in these countries is still higher than this newspaper would like, or indeed than will be sustainable. Their levels of taxation still encourage entrepreneurs to move abroad: London is full of clever young Swedes. Too many peopleespecially immigrantslive off benefits. The pressures that have forced their governments to cut spending, such as growing global competition, will force more change. The Nordics are bloated compared with Singapore, and they have not focused enough on means-testing benefits.
All the same, ever more countries should look to the Nordics. Western countries will hit the limits of big government, as Sweden did. When Angela Merkel worries that the European Union has 7% of the worlds population but half of its social spending, the Nordics are part of the answer. They also show that EU countries can be genuine economic successes. And as the Asians introduce welfare states they too will look to the Nordics: Norway is a particular focus of the Chinese.
The main lesson to learn from the Nordics is not ideological but practical. The state is popular not because it is big but because it works. A Swede pays tax more willingly than a Californian because he gets decent schools and free health care. The Nordics have pushed far-reaching reforms past unions and business lobbies. The proof is there. You can inject market mechanisms into the welfare state to sharpen its performance. You can put entitlement programmes on sound foundations to avoid beggaring future generations. But you need to be willing to root out corruption and vested interests. And you must be ready to abandon tired orthodoxies of the left and right and forage for good ideas across the political spectrum. The world will be studying the Nordic model for years to come.
Oh, I thought this was an article dealing with Sweden’s state sponsored Eugenic program.
>>On public services the Nordics have been similarly pragmatic. So long as public services work, they do not mind who provides them.<<
A gilt cage is still a cage. It sounds like you can be comfortably numb for all your life in these countries. If you want to really succeed, you have to choose your parents well.
Until 2008, you could succeed in the USA with average talent and intelligence but a lot of drive. Now, I don’t think so.
Yet he ignored the 600 pound Gorilla in the room, the Nords fund their socialism experiment with the North Sea Oil fields and the Sweeds with chocolate...
Taxation in Norway is extreme and the social bennies are great, till the oil runs out. But the cost of living is insane, a hotdog in a gas station runs 6 bucks, and it is the cheapest food in town.
Norway is a great socialist experiment, till they run out of oil. Then like all socialistic schemes, when the money runs out, it will inevitably collapse destroying the Society.
I have spent some time in Norway, love it and the people. Just get tired of all the “Obama is going to teach you how to be good socialists” cocktail talk.
To ignore the vast funds pouring into Norway from the State run North Seal Oil sales to make socialism look good is duplicitous at best.
Not only that, but the Nordic peoples may well have been the progenitors of ancient Greek civilization. Felice Vinci, in his seminal and well researched “The Baltic Origins of Homer’s Epic Tales”, hypothesizes that the scene of Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey” transpired in the Baltic Sea before the proto-Vikings pulled up stakes due to a global cooling period that rendered their lands uninhabitable. They then invaded the Middle East by two routes- overland via the Volga and Dneiper rivers and by sea in their long boats which were recorded by the ancient Egyptians as the “Peoples of the Sea”, an enigmatic and massive history changing migration for which archaeologists have few explanations for. The book is a fascinating read and anyone of Scandinavian descent will have their notion of “roots” re-engineered” into the position of being the wellsprings of Western Civilization. More here:
Sweden and Finland does not have oil. Denmark has some natural gas resources, but negligeble compared to Norway.
And, the Economist talks about how Sweden has learnt from “some” of its socialistic mistakes.
Well okay then, where are the Nordic supermodels?
Article fails to discuss, or ignores for politically correct reasons, the violent crime epidemic in Nordic countries, i.e. Sweden.
Sweden’s rapes are double Britains and four times France’s or Germany’s.
Sweden is now experiencing the results of multiculturalism and and its facilitating of Islamization.
“According to a new study from the Crime Prevention Council, Brå, it is four times more likely that a known rapist is born abroad, compared to persons born in Sweden. Resident aliens from Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia dominate the group of rape suspects. According to these statistics, almost half of all perpetrators are immigrants.
...statistics from Swedens National Council for Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet) show that the number of reported paedophile rapes against children is on the rise. The figures have nearly doubled in the last ten years: 467 rapes against children under the age of 15 were reported in 2004 compared with 258 in 1995.
According to a new study from the Crime Prevention Council, Brå, it is four times more likely that a known rapist is born abroad, compared to persons born in Sweden. Resident aliens from Islamic republics of Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia dominate the group of rape suspects.
1) 2001: According to these statistics, almost half of all perpetrators are immigrants.
2) In Norway and Denmark, we know that non-Western immigrants, which frequently means Muslims, are grossly overrepresented on rape statistics.
3) The numbers in Denmark were the same (2001), and even higher in the city of Copenhagen with three out of four rape charges.
3) In 2011 the rape statistics had skyrocketed and were now fully dominated by immigrants, mainly Muslims. Authorities in Oslo, Norway, reported that immigrants were responsible for 100% of all rapes in the capital, while 90% of these were committed by Muslim immigrants.
Sweden has a larger immigrant, including Muslim, population than any other country in northern Europe. The numbers there are likely to be at least as bad as with its Scandinavian neighbors.
Yeah, not good news on that front. Maybe Sweden will wise up in that area too...hopefully before it’s too late.
Sweden has a population just a bit greater than Long Island, New York, and Norway about half that. To compare the United States, with it’s ethnically diverse population of 310 million, vastly larger physical size and economy, with a couple of largely racially homogeneous and sparsely habited forested strips of land, with comparatively miniscule centrally planned economies is laughable on the face of it.
Or the hordes of Muslim gang-rapists and other violent criminals making life miserable in their big cities. Or the police forces' seeming inability to arrest anyone darker than your average Viking? OK, OK, they seem to be recovering some economic common sense. But in every other regard, Scandinavians are so politically correct and far left they make Barbara Streisand look like Maggie Thatcher
What the Swedes and Norwegians need is for some hardheaded Swedish Americans and Norwegian Americans to hightail it back there and set a few things straight. On the way, they might drop off a few more Euro-Americans to do the same for Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal.
Before we all go Viking-gaga, let's stop and remember that these are the people that gave the Soetoro Kid the Nobel Peace Prize when he had been in office about 16 minutes, and think Al Gore is a great scientist. Steady men. Lutefisk poisoning can sneak up on anyone.
Carefully omitting the gorilla is a calculated lie. Shame on them. No integrity these days. Why would I buy a magazine that that reports what they think I need to hear, instead of simply reporting what IS.
Economist my eye, more like Anti-Economist.
Looks like Finland too :(
Muslim Immigration Transforms Finland
Norway is a great socialist experiment, till they run out of oil.
most obviously through Norways $600 billion sovereign-wealth fund...
Norway is still pumping money into that fund which will be around producing income for that small country long after the oil is gone.