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Northern lights - "If you had to be reborn anywhere in the world, you would want to be a Viking"
The Economist ^ | 02-02-2013 | Adrian Wooldridge

Posted on 02/04/2013 12:44:50 PM PST by WesternCulture

THIRTY YEARS AGO Margaret Thatcher turned Britain into the world’s leading centre of “thinking the unthinkable”. Today that distinction has passed to Sweden. The streets of Stockholm are awash with the blood of sacred cows. The think-tanks are brimful of new ideas. The erstwhile champion of the “third way” is now pursuing a far more interesting brand of politics.

Sweden has reduced public spending as a proportion of GDP from 67% in 1993 to 49% today. It could soon have a smaller state than Britain. It has also cut the top marginal tax rate by 27 percentage points since 1983, to 57%, and scrapped a mare’s nest of taxes on property, gifts, wealth and inheritance. This year it is cutting the corporate-tax rate from 26.3% to 22%.

Sweden has also donned the golden straitjacket of fiscal orthodoxy with its pledge to produce a fiscal surplus over the economic cycle. Its public debt fell from 70% of GDP in 1993 to 37% in 2010, and its budget moved from an 11% deficit to a surplus of 0.3% over the same period. This allowed a country with a small, open economy to recover quickly from the financial storm of 2007-08. Sweden has also put its pension system on a sound foundation, replacing a defined-benefit system with a defined-contribution one and making automatic adjustments for longer life expectancy.

Most daringly, it has introduced a universal system of school vouchers and invited private schools to compete with public ones. Private companies also vie with each other to provide state-funded health services and care for the elderly. Anders Aslund, a Swedish economist who lives in America, hopes that Sweden is pioneering “a new conservative model”; Brian Palmer, an American anthropologist who lives in Sweden, worries that it is turning into “the United States of Swedeamerica”.

There can be no doubt that Sweden’s quiet revolution has brought about a dramatic change in its economic performance. The two decades from 1970 were a period of decline: the country was demoted from being the world’s fourth-richest in 1970 to 14th-richest in 1993, when the average Swede was poorer than the average Briton or Italian. The two decades from 1990 were a period of recovery: GDP growth between 1993 and 2010 averaged 2.7% a year and productivity 2.1% a year, compared with 1.9% and 1% respectively for the main 15 EU countries.

For most of the 20th century Sweden prided itself on offering what Marquis Childs called, in his 1936 book of that title, a “Middle Way” between capitalism and socialism. Global companies such as Volvo and Ericsson generated wealth while enlightened bureaucrats built the Folkhemmet or “People’s Home”. As the decades rolled by, the middle way veered left. The government kept growing: public spending as a share of GDP nearly doubled from 1960 to 1980 and peaked at 67% in 1993. Taxes kept rising. The Social Democrats (who ruled Sweden for 44 uninterrupted years from 1932 to 1976 and for 21 out of the 24 years from 1982 to 2006) kept squeezing business. “The era of neo-capitalism is drawing to an end,” said Olof Palme, the party’s leader, in 1974. “It is some kind of socialism that is the key to the future.”

The other Nordic countries have been moving in the same direction, if more slowly. Denmark has one of the most liberal labour markets in Europe. It also allows parents to send children to private schools at public expense and make up the difference in cost with their own money. Finland is harnessing the skills of venture capitalists and angel investors to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. Oil-rich Norway is a partial exception to this pattern, but even there the government is preparing for its post-oil future.

This is not to say that the Nordics are shredding their old model. They continue to pride themselves on the generosity of their welfare states. About 30% of their labour force works in the public sector, twice the average in the Organisation for Economic Development and Co-operation, a rich-country think-tank. They continue to believe in combining open economies with public investment in human capital. But the new Nordic model begins with the individual rather than the state. It begins with fiscal responsibility rather than pump-priming: all four Nordic countries have AAA ratings and debt loads significantly below the euro-zone average. It begins with choice and competition rather than paternalism and planning. The economic-freedom index of the Fraser Institute, a Canadian think-tank, shows Sweden and Finland catching up with the United States (see chart). The leftward lurch has been reversed: rather than extending the state into the market, the Nordics are extending the market into the state.

Why are the Nordic countries doing this? The obvious answer is that they have reached the limits of big government. “The welfare state we have is excellent in most ways,” says Gunnar Viby Mogensen, a Danish historian. “We only have this little problem. We can’t afford it.” The economic storms that shook all the Nordic countries in the early 1990s provided a foretaste of what would happen if they failed to get their affairs in order.

There are two less obvious reasons. The old Nordic model depended on the ability of a cadre of big companies to generate enough money to support the state, but these companies are being slimmed by global competition. The old model also depended on people’s willingness to accept direction from above, but Nordic populations are becoming more demanding.

Small is powerful

The Nordic countries have a collective population of only 26m. Finland is the only one of them that is a member of both the European Union and the euro area. Sweden is in the EU but outside the euro and has a freely floating currency. Denmark, too, is in the EU and outside the euro area but pegs its currency to the euro. Norway has remained outside the EU.

But there are compelling reasons for paying attention to these small countries on the edge of Europe. The first is that they have reached the future first. They are grappling with problems that other countries too will have to deal with in due course, such as what to do when you reach the limits of big government and how to organise society when almost all women work. And the Nordics are coming up with highly innovative solutions that reject the tired orthodoxies of left and right.

The second reason to pay attention is that the new Nordic model is proving strikingly successful. The Nordics dominate indices of competitiveness as well as of well-being. Their high scores in both types of league table mark a big change since the 1980s when welfare took precedence over competitiveness.

The Nordics do particularly well in two areas where competitiveness and welfare can reinforce each other most powerfully: innovation and social inclusion. BCG, as the Boston Consulting Group calls itself, gives all of them high scores on its e-intensity index, which measures the internet’s impact on business and society. Booz & Company, another consultancy, points out that big companies often test-market new products on Nordic consumers because of their willingness to try new things. The Nordic countries led the world in introducing the mobile network in the 1980s and the GSM standard in the 1990s. Today they are ahead in the transition to both e-government and the cashless economy. Locals boast that they pay their taxes by SMS. This correspondent gave up changing sterling into local currencies because everything from taxi rides to cups of coffee can be paid for by card.

The Nordics also have a strong record of drawing on the talents of their entire populations, with the possible exception of their immigrants. They have the world’s highest rates of social mobility: in a comparison of social mobility in eight advanced countries by Jo Blanden, Paul Gregg and Stephen Machin, of the London School of Economics, they occupied the first four places. America and Britain came last. The Nordics also have exceptionally high rates of female labour-force participation: in Denmark not far off as many women go out to work (72%) as men (79%).

This special report will examine the way the Nordic governments are updating their version of capitalism to deal with a more difficult world. It will note that in doing so they have unleashed a huge amount of creativity and become world leaders in reform. Nordic entrepreneurs are feeling their oats in a way not seen since the early 20th century. Nordic writers and artists—and indeed Nordic chefs and game designers—are enjoying a creative renaissance.

The report will also add caveats. The growing diversity of Nordic societies is generating social tensions, most horrifically in Norway, where Anders Breivik killed 77 people in a racially motivated attack in 2011, but also on a more mundane level every day. Sweden is finding it particularly hard to integrate its large population of refugees.

The Nordic model is still a work in progress. The three forces that have obliged the Nordic countries to revamp it—limited resources, rampant globalisation and growing diversity—are gathering momentum. The Nordics will have to continue to upgrade their model, but they will also have to fight to retain what makes it distinctive. Lant Pritchett and Michael Woolcock, of the World Bank, have coined the term “getting to Denmark” to describe successful modernisation. This report will suggest that the trick is not just to get to Denmark; it is to stay there.

The final caveat is about learning from the Nordic example, which other countries are rightly trying to do. Britain, for example, is introducing Swedish-style “free schools”. But transferring such lessons is fraught with problems. The Nordics’ success depends on their long tradition of good government, which emphasises not only honesty and transparency but also consensus and compromise. Learning from Denmark may be as difficult as staying there.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Government
KEYWORDS: britain; denmark; economy; finland; iceland; nordicmodel; norway; scandinavia; sweden; swedishmodel; thatcher; theuk; thevikings; uk; viking; vikings
Sweden has no oil and does not dispose of a giant domestic market like America, Germany, Japan and China.

Neighboring Norway indeed has oil, but this is by no means the only source to Norwegian prosperity.

Today, the Nordic countries are unique among Western countries in the sense that they for decades have displayed solid economic growth, have no problems with national debt (Iceland is an exception but is, without doubt, on the right track - is Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, the UK, France and the US?) and have managed to avoid strikes and unstable governments for a long stretch of years.

But what is the real secret behind this Nordic success? What could other governments learn from that of a country like Sweden?

Perhaps it's as simple as this:

- Avoid any measure that will increase national debt - Do whatever you can to downsize government influence over the economy - Stimulate education, research and entrepreneurship without employing hordes of bureaucrats (contrary to what most European nations have been doing for decades) - Let the organizations of employers and the worker unions settle their own disagreements without government intervention (this is not the case in America; Sweden has no government regulated minimum wages, America does)

1 posted on 02/04/2013 12:44:57 PM PST by WesternCulture
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To: WesternCulture

Related:

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21571136-politicians-both-right-and-left-could-learn-nordic-countries-next-supermodel


2 posted on 02/04/2013 12:47:39 PM PST by WesternCulture
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To: WesternCulture

The intelligence and character of a country’s people is also a major factor, which seems to be ignored in this otherwise interesting article. Exporting this model to a low average IQ country would be predictably unworkable.


3 posted on 02/04/2013 1:01:12 PM PST by OldNewYork (Biden '13. Impeach now.)
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To: WesternCulture

Sure you would. You’d be born into a land that has the second highest reported rape rate in the world, after South Africa. It’s not Vikings that are doing the raping.

You’d be born into a land where 16% of the babies are born to “non-Western” parents.

You’d be born into a land so flourishing that there’s a welcome mat out for immigrants who have over 50% unemployment and welfare dependency.

You’d be born into a land where there are no-go areas for blue-eyed people like you, unless perhaps you really were a-Viking, sword and battle-ax in hand.


4 posted on 02/04/2013 1:03:30 PM PST by heartwood
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To: OldNewYork

As has been pointed out by others, Swedes in America are pretty darn prosperous. I would not be surprised if they are on average better off than those who stayed in the Old Country.


5 posted on 02/04/2013 1:11:24 PM PST by Sherman Logan
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To: OldNewYork
“The intelligence and character of a country’s people is also a major factor, which seems to be ignored in this otherwise interesting article. Exporting this model to a low average IQ country would be predictably unworkable.”

- Guess you're right.

However, the average level of intelligence concerning China, Gabon and India is comparatively low, yet these nations sure enjoy high GDP growth rates.

But what about character?

Maybe economic growth, on a wider scale like that of a whole nation, has more to do with certain traits involving economic sense and the “room” provided for individuality in that very society?

Take Ingvar Kamprad, founder and sole owner of IKEA. Early in his life, he got rather convinced that an academic career was out of the question in his case. Later on, in an interview, he claimed he probably would fail to impress if performing an IQ-test.

To me, this tells the story of a very original person, a gifted businessman who doesn't mind cutting his losses, is stubborn enough to follow his own mind and wholeheartedly devotes himself to one mission in life; doing what he is good at.

Still, entrepreneurs like Ingvar Kamprad, Bill Gates, Lars Magnus Ericsson (founder of Swedish telecom giant Ericsson) and Henry Ford are in need of a surrounding environment that welcomes business initiatives in order to launch fruitful business initiatives.

In this area most national governments have a lot to learn.

6 posted on 02/04/2013 1:35:29 PM PST by WesternCulture
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To: heartwood

My Grandma always said I was so dark because I was “a black Norwegian”. She claimed that the Vikings captured many dark, gypsy Princesses on their raids and brought them home to Norway for wives. My Dad said he thought that maybe those Vikings had captured some African Princesses. That would explain my coloring and my desire to hunt lions.


7 posted on 02/04/2013 1:35:48 PM PST by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: Sherman Logan
“As has been pointed out by others, Swedes in America are pretty darn prosperous. I would not be surprised if they are on average better off than those who stayed in the Old Country”

- Neither would I. Swedes and Scandinavians in general are, evidently, good at doing business.

Especially during the early phase of mass-emmigration from Sweden around the mid 19th century, there was little opportunity for gifted businessmen back in the old country. Sweden's economy might have exploded with growth from around 1870, but since America remained a far richer country at least until the outbreak of WWII, people continued to emigrate to USA from Sweden.

8 posted on 02/04/2013 1:47:04 PM PST by WesternCulture
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To: WesternCulture; 1234; A knight without armor; AIM-54; Allan; american colleen; AndyPH; anguish; ...
Ping to the Swedish Ping List.
9 posted on 02/04/2013 1:58:50 PM PST by Charles Henrickson (Swedish Ping List master)
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To: blueunicorn6

“She claimed that the Vikings captured many dark, gypsy Princesses on their raids and brought them home to Norway for wives.”

- An amusing story, but I really wonder if it has much to do with actual history.

My impression is that black hair is more common among Norwegians than among Swedes, Finns and Danes. But why?

Swedish Vikings did a lot of journeys eastwards and southwards (mainly to countries today known as Russia, the Ukraine and Turkey), in other words to places were we find a lot of people with black hair. The Norwegian Vikings mostly went westwards.


10 posted on 02/04/2013 2:01:40 PM PST by WesternCulture
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To: WesternCulture

Yes, the Norwegians went West. My great, great, great Grandfather roamed the prairies of New York with two, forty five caliber Herring strapped to his sides. He was known as THE LONE LUTEFISKER.


11 posted on 02/04/2013 2:36:05 PM PST by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: blueunicorn6

“HI HO HERRING AWAY!”


12 posted on 02/04/2013 2:37:08 PM PST by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: WesternCulture
My impression is that black hair is more common among Norwegians than among Swedes, Finns and Danes.

These days, there are a lot of dark-haired Norwegians, Swedes and Danes with names like Muhammad and Ahmad.

13 posted on 02/04/2013 2:41:33 PM PST by Fiji Hill (Io Triumphe!)
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To: blueunicorn6

“My great, great, great Grandfather roamed the prairies of New York with two, forty five caliber Herring strapped to his sides”

- No offence, but was he, by any chance, the inventor of LSD?


14 posted on 02/04/2013 2:47:03 PM PST by WesternCulture
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To: WesternCulture

Oh, you’ve heard of him.


15 posted on 02/04/2013 2:52:51 PM PST by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: WesternCulture; blueunicorn6
“She claimed that the Vikings captured many dark, gypsy Princesses on their raids and brought them home to Norway for wives.”

- An amusing story, but I really wonder if it has much to do with actual history.


During their greatest period of conquest and exploration the vikings did indeed reach as far west as North American, the Mediterranean Sea and their influences as far East as Russia.

The name 'Rus' is of viking origins.

There have been discoveries of red haired Caucasians mummies in Northern China.

Now whether or not that proves blueunicorn6 is of "dark, gypsy Princesses" or of other "black Mediterranean ancestors" is unknown but it is plausible as these different peoples did interact...
16 posted on 02/04/2013 2:57:52 PM PST by RedMonqey ("Gun-free zones" equal "Target-rich environment.")
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To: blueunicorn6
Yes, the Norwegians went West. My great, great, great Grandfather roamed the prairies of New York with two, forty five caliber Herring strapped to his sides. He was known as THE LONE LUTEFISKER.

Lutefisk......Now, there is a traditional dish that I do not understand. Having been in its presence, just once, my nostrils still burn and a gag reflex is induced by the mere recollection. I guess you acquire the taste during childhood......

17 posted on 02/04/2013 3:02:57 PM PST by RobertClark ("May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won't" - George S. Patton)
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To: blueunicorn6
Yes, the Norwegians went West. My great, great, great Grandfather roamed the prairies of New York with two, forty five caliber Herring strapped to his sides. He was known as THE LONE LUTEFISKER.

Lutefisk......Now, there is a traditional dish that I do not understand. Having been in its presence, just once, my nostrils still burn and a gag reflex is induced by the mere recollection. I guess you acquire the taste during childhood......

18 posted on 02/04/2013 3:03:15 PM PST by RobertClark ("May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won't" - George S. Patton)
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To: RedMonqey

Skin and hair color isn’t important from an intellectual standpoint. But it still plays a role in politics, although in a negative manner, namely in the way that people belonging to the Caucasian race - the whites - today are encouraged to express their apologies for having discovered and developed the World.


19 posted on 02/04/2013 3:13:54 PM PST by WesternCulture
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To: RobertClark

What’s the problem with people who can’t deal with sill, lutefisk, sushi, sashimi, gravlax etc?

Visit some other corner of the World besides your local KFC once in your lifetime.


20 posted on 02/04/2013 3:19:11 PM PST by WesternCulture
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To: WesternCulture

Tack!


21 posted on 02/04/2013 3:40:58 PM PST by Bartholomew Roberts
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To: WesternCulture
Visit some other corner of the World besides your local KFC once in your lifetime.

I don't visit KFCs or any other fast food establishments, thank you. Having worked abroad for many years (8 countries, to be exact), there is a wide spectrum of cuisine to which I have exposed my curiosity. A comment about lutefisk bringing about a smart a@#ed remark from you is rather amusing. Go back to your trailer and take a nap.

22 posted on 02/04/2013 3:56:49 PM PST by RobertClark ("May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won't" - George S. Patton)
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To: RobertClark
“A comment about lutefisk bringing about a smart a@#ed remark from you is rather amusing.”

- I sure hope so. I wasn’t offended and I, furthermore, didn’t mean no harm, but for some reason people in the US seem to prefer KFC over seafood. Perhaps frutti di mare is too expensive, I don’t know. Anyhow, in Sweden we don’t have KFC.

“Go back to your trailer and take a nap.”

Trailer parks is another thing we don’t have in Sweden.

23 posted on 02/05/2013 12:48:17 AM PST by WesternCulture
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To: Bartholomew Roberts

“Tack”

- Det var så lite så/You’re welcome. Trevligt att höra av dig igen/Nice to hear from you again.

Hälsningar från Västkusten (i gamla Sverige)/Greetings from the West Coast (of old Sweden)!


24 posted on 02/05/2013 12:55:13 AM PST by WesternCulture
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To: Fiji Hill
“These days, there are a lot of dark-haired Norwegians, Swedes and Danes with names like Muhammad and Ahmad.”

- They’re not Norwegians, Swedes and Danes. They don’t belong here. It’s not like the case with Mexicans in California who were there before the white Anglo-Saxon protestants arrived.

25 posted on 02/05/2013 1:05:21 AM PST by WesternCulture
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To: WesternCulture

“However, the average level of intelligence concerning China, Gabon and India is comparatively low, yet these nations sure enjoy high GDP growth rates.”

How sustainable are those growth rates, assuming reliability of the statistics? Also, especially in the case of Gabon, how much of a factor in those rates are foreign companies from Europe or from countries founded by Europeans?


26 posted on 02/05/2013 12:40:49 PM PST by OldNewYork (Biden '13. Impeach now.)
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To: WesternCulture
An amusing story, but I really wonder if it has much to do with actual history.

Some say the Black Irish have ancestors who were shipwrecked Spaniards, who managed to swim ashore, e.g., when the Spanish Armada was destroyed in Elizabethan times.

Don't know if any Spanish galleons ever foundered off the coast of Norway.

Varsågod.

27 posted on 02/06/2013 3:58:50 PM PST by shhrubbery! (NIH!)
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To: WesternCulture

You still in Gothenburg? I used to live near Haga. At the corner of Gotabergsgatan and Storgatan.

Now in Naples, Florida and Cincinnati, Ohio.

Planning a summer visit to G-borg to look for a summer home in Eriksberg. You didn’t like my other choices for a home!

I’ll Freepmail you in advance and buy you dinner at Fond!

If you go to the Opera House, ask for Peter Hansson. Past Volvo VP of Sweden and now chef of the Goteborg Opera. A friend of ours.


28 posted on 02/06/2013 4:53:41 PM PST by Bartholomew Roberts
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To: RobertClark

No, I don’t think so. “Lutefisk” is more or less tasteless. You were probably exposed to the fermented herring that is popular along the coast of northern Sweden. I use to say that I have eaten it twice in one go - first and last time.

Still, there is a reason behind it. The northern part of the Baltic has very low salinity, it is more or less freshwater. Thus, salt was expensive and frequently when people tried to store herring they had to use as little salt as possible, often too little. The result was that the fish was not properly conserved but started fermenting in the jar but poor as the people were they could not afford to throw away food and had to make the best of it.

It then became a tradition and is now mostly a cultural marker. Still, some claim to like it. They are welcome to it, we have better cuisine. Like the Swedish version of sushi, cured salmon. You should try my version... :-)


29 posted on 02/07/2013 1:10:57 PM PST by Mentat
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To: WesternCulture
Just another one of WesternCulture's 'America Sucks! Europe is Better!' threads. Thread #11.
30 posted on 09/11/2014 10:04:44 PM PDT by CodeToad (Romney is a raisin cookie looking for chocolate chip cookie votes.)
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