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 They are out of date.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.
These countries are POLICE STATES, run by some of the craziest politicians since the 1930s. They’re unwavering commitment to multiculturalism has led to a vocal desire to wipe out the native populations.
The people of Sweden have zero freedom beyond the right to have sex with whoever, whenever, which is what they call ‘liberty’. Homeschooling has been banned to force children through government run indoctrination. F*ck the Nordic governments. They are no more model societies than Zimbabwe and China, cages where people live robotic lives, never pursuing any dreams, and never questioning the new gods, politicians, as their culture is erased by rampant third world immigration.
Here are some crazy quotes from the corrupt trash that runs Sweden.
We must be open and tolerant towards Islam and Muslims because when we become a minority, they will be so towards us.
A concerted effort that aims at educating Swedes that immigrants are a blessing to their country must be pursued,
If two equally qualified persons apply for a job at a workplace with few immigrants, the one called Muhammad should get the job .It should be considered an asset to have an ethnic background different from the Swedish one.
Or how about Sweden’s commitment to counteract traditional gender patterns and gender roles?
These people are demonic, and should be in mental institutions, or brought up in the court of human rights for state-sponsored child abuse.
You make many good points, but at the same time Denmark has a language, borders and culture debate in their mainstream media that would make Michael Savage happy (and of course, no similar debate would ever see daylight in America). Mainstream Danish debate about immigration and islam is more akin to what you find here on freerepublic than what you will ever see in the American msn.
Norway seems to be following suit.
I am Norwegian. ¨
Please don’t mistake the Nobel committee with the Norwegian people, or for that matter the subdued average Swede to their elitist bureaucrats.
The Progress Party seems to be in a good position to win the next elections here along with our mainstream conservatives. The Progress Party is Thatcherite and Reaganite conservatives:
Among the Progs: A peek at the conservatives and libertarians of Norway
A Norwegian Thatcher? (Who admires Sarah Palin)
It should be no surprise that these so-called nation-states are trying out practices in their governments that are comparable to the better run average US states.
I have to admit that I am a long time suscriber to the Econimist and generally appreciate their reporting.
Though, I agree this fixation on the Nordic countries as some sort of magical solution is off.
Besides, imho, the Economist fails to bring up the main things that has made the Nordic model work - A very homogenic culture with extreme levels of trust compared to most other societies.
And, as many people bring up, the liberals combined with large immigration levels have been doing their best to destroy this cultural state.
Precisely what I noticed...
That’s why I got into this thread!
This is bait and switch!
That’s why I got into this thread!
This is bait and switch!
If it is any comfort, your thoughts about Sweden are shared by most Danes and Norwegians.
Sweden is to us a very scary example. Their population is extremly subdued, but get anyone of them to drink some Absolut and their true feelings will come out. Never in public though, as that could cost you, your career, or at worst you and your families very life.
Funnily enough in our PC world, that was enough for our PM to take a stand in his new years speech this year.
This saami girl was attacked and set on fire just before christmas by an immigrant gang
btw. “so called nation states”.
most of the lutefisk in the world is produced in minnesota and then exported!
They’re simply conveniently misplaced hunks of the Swedish Empire. They’ll be making a comeback someday ~ don’t count ‘em out yet.
It is. I became very passionate about this after reading the heartbreaking story of a Swedish father who had tried to homeschool his child. His son was taken from him, and was then brainwashed against his father so he refused to see him ever again.
Liberty has been completely eradicated in Europe, and they’re doing it here. As angry as I get when I hear the crap that comes out of our government every single day, I am blessed to not live in Europe, and my heart really does go out to those who are awake on the continent. The young members of Generation Identitaire. Geert Wilders. Several others. I love European culture. I’ve traveled there, and I love the rich history the continent has, but it is being obliterated by the EU and the leftist tyrants, just as so much Chinese culture was destroyed by Mao.
Evil is a word thrown around too much in today’s world, but these people are evil. As you say, people’s careers and lives have been destroyed if they dare to speak out, and many have actually lost their lives.
It's so typical of the Norse to allow foreigners to trample on the Sa'ami and their rights.
You missed my point dear muawiyah,
It was the fact that it was a Saami girl that was racially attacked that brought the issue all the way up to our Prime Ministers “state of the Union” speech.
“Normal” Norwegian girls have been attacked and raped for decades now with nary a response.
It’s good to be saami I guess. :/
The Fabian Socialist cheerleaders at the Economist cannot quite bring themselves to support free market capitalism. No, they are still desperately searching for the Third Way, which is a form of soft fascism presently called “social market economy”. This term is defined in the Treaty of Lisbon as the economic system of the EU. But liberty, no, people might make choices we don’t approve of.
The reduction in the size of the State as a percent of the national economy is not a “new supermodel”. It is tried and true: the bigger the government, the less growth the economy can have.
The Laffer Curve is true, even if it leads people to the wrong conclusion. That is, it even leads conservatives to propose moving tax rates to provide the optimum tax revenues for government. However, this gives the biggest sustainable government which is the best way to destroy liberty ever invented. No, the Laffer Curve should show us how low tax rates can go and still produce enough revenues to fund the absolute minimum size of government consistent with maximum personal liberty. Just like the Founding Fathers already knew. So much for irrelevant dead white men.
But true enough it is a racial difference.
Some decade or other they'll have a fimbul winter and all the muzzies will leave ~ or maybe they'll die. There's a good reason Scandinavia never did have a pocket population here and there made up of Middle Easterners.
Not a FReeper seesion passes that I do not learn something from you, Mu! But as a fellow American patriot, I think it might be better to hold off on information like this. If Obama finds out that lutefisk can be blamed on the US, the next thing you know, The Third World chin-waggers over at the UN will pick up on it, and John Kerry will spend millions traveling the globe apologizing for it. Then the Vegans, then PETA will be on our case.
However, in exchange for this delicious delicacy, I think the Norvegians ought to be selling us oil at $20/barrel. It's the least they could do.
80 percent of the USA wants a gilt cage. And it is this cage that government wants to deliver.