Challenging Nordic Myths | Newgeography.com
Is the Utopia the Nordic social welfare state, or the predecessor Nordic trading state?!
The Nordic countries were free traders until about 1970, when then used their national wealth to build massive social safety nets, they are now significantly reducing these safety nets because they are too elaborate, and reduce personal responsibility too much. This will continue. They are also composed of a homogenous peoples with a strong work ethic, strong cultural ties, and a strong sense of national duty. None of these make their systems applicable to a large non-homogeneously peopled nation like the US.
"Debunking Utopia – Exposing the myth of Nordic socialism, my new book, details the situation. Many people seem to forget that Nordic countries have not always had large welfare states. During the latter half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, these places were shining examples of small government systems that combined open trade policies with free labor markets and a dynamic market system.
Today, Denmark, for example, stands out as having the highest tax rate among developed nations. But in 1960 the tax rate in the country was merely 25 per cent, lower than 27 percent in the US at the time. In Sweden, the rate was 29 percent, only slightly higher than the US.
During this time, the Nordic countries had already developed equal income distributions, long life spans, low child mortality rates, and high levels of prosperity. The reason is simple. In order to survive the harsh Nordic climate, the people in this part of the world adapted a rigorous work ethic. The Protestant norms of hard work and individual responsibility combined with a system that emphasized protection of private property, limited government and openness to global markets. Income equality grew and poverty was pushed back, thanks to the wealth creating force of markets."
We simply do not understand what happened in the Nordic countries, or their history.
"In late 2015, a PBS story entitled "What Can The US Learn From Denmark?" stated, “Danes were excited this week to see their calm and prosperous country thrust into the spotlight of the U.S. presidential race when Democratic hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton sparred over whether there’s something Americans can learn from Denmark’s social model.” The story continued, “Danes get free or heavily subsidized health care” and “compensation when they’re unemployed, out sick from work or on parental leave,” adding that they have longer life spans than Americans.
Now, all these statements are certainly true. The only problem is that the story gives the impression that these facts are directly related. Danes have universal healthcare and government compensation when sick. Correspondingly, they live longer than Americans. So, for the US to raise its life expectancy rates, perhaps a Danish model should be adapted? After all, what kind of heartless monster would oppose policies that increase life spans?
Well, as it turns out, Danes lived 2.4 years longer than Americans in 1960 — when Denmark had lower taxes than the US. Today, the difference has shrunk to 1.5 years. Denmark no longer ranks among the top ten countries in the world in terms of lifespan.
Iceland, the Nordic country with the smallest welfare state, has far surpassed Denmark and the other Nordic countries in terms of life span."
Well, that certainly delaminates the argument! It is not the welfare state but the predecessor trading state with low taxation, and reliance on self determination, and personal responsibility. Who knew?!
"Iceland, the Nordic country with the smallest welfare state, has far surpassed Denmark and the other Nordic countries in terms of life span. The explanation for this success is clearly not a large welfare state. Nor is it that the Icelandic people inhabit a pleasant country. Iceland is cold and dark. It has large, barren, volcanic fields which look much like the fictional Mordor of Lord of the Rings. But the Icelandic people enjoy going out in nature. Also, they eat a healthy diet based to a large extent on fish. The lesson is quite simple: Nordic culture, rather than Nordic-style social democracy, explain the social successes in this part of the world.
The American Left has an idealized, and fully unrealistic, vision of social democracy; a belief that if the US adapts a large welfare state it will magically succeed in this way. There is little if any merit to this viewpoint. Today, Nordic-Americans actually outstrip their cousins in the Nordics both in prosperity and social outcomes.
If we look at another broad measure of social success, child mortality, again we find that yes, Nordic countries indeed do have among the lowest levels in the world. But this too was already the case when these countries had small public sectors. As Sweden, Denmark and Norway introduced large welfare states, if anything they fell somewhat in global ranking. Iceland, on the other hand, climbed the ranking.
The conclusion is clear: Nordic social success pre-dates the modern welfare state, and was if anything more pronounced during the small-government era. Perhaps equally interesting is that while Nordic-style democratic socialism is all the rage among Leftist ideologues in the US, the same policies are to a large degree rejected by the people of the Nordic countries themselves."
Stop already! You will have my neighbors here in Portlandia crying! They do not want reality, or truth, they want to feel good about themselves, and plumping for the welfare state is the easy way to do it. You are just making their lives more difficult, and by extension miserable!
"While Denmark does have high taxes and generous welfare policies, today even the Danish Social Democratic Party acknowledges that these policies are slowly eroding responsibility norms, trapping people in welfare dependency and reducing the level of prosperity."
There can be no doubt that the Nordic countries are not going back to an economy completely free of social safety net, it should be clear that they are not attempting to build it out further. Instead, they are beginning to take actions which combine a social safety net with more personal responsibility. They frequently are tying policies like K-12 education to more personal responsibility, by providing parents with vouches. They are further eliminating pension, and reforming their versions of Social Security to include personal accounts. All things that would cause the Democrats to infarct.
It seems the sweet spot in social policy requires strong personal responsibility with some, albeit minimal, state safety net spending. I also believe that it requires the ownership society where individuals actually own the money in their "safety net," and invest that money in ownership of stocks, bonds, and other valuable assets.
The book is here (mine is in the mail):
Debunking Utopia: Exposing the Myth of Nordic Socialism Paperback by Nima Sanandaji