Thursday, November 10, 2011

That Swedish Model Again

No, still no girl.  Just commentary on the article from the Finnish free-market think tank trying to show that the supposed socialist success of the Swedish economic model is not what it seems. Briefly, the economic success was greatest during the least-socialist periods, and the sustained production during the more socialist periods is more attributable to the work ethic and other cultural factors, which may be evaporating because of immigration.

I half-knew much of this, but it did correct a few misimpressions of mine.  It identified trends and eras far more exactly than I have in my own estimations.  I would like to throw in a few more kicks at the Swedes, however.  Not because they do things badly, but because they give themselves credit for their success for the wrong reasons, leading to moral self-congratulation they don't entirely deserve.

Plus, observations of a general nature.

Cultural unity, or social capital, or those other fine-sounding phrases that come up when talking about what wonderful, generous people those NW Europeans, especially the Scandinavians are, sharing and helping neighbors, and leaving no child behind.  It has another name when it goes bad: fascism.  The German (and Italian, and Spanish, and Austrian, and junior versions in even the Allied countries) idea was if we all pull together...

That's what fascism means, after all. Fasces, little sticks, bound together into an unbreakable handle for a weapon.  When all the sticks stay together they are powerful.  But if some sticks start pulling away, the group is weakened and...we have to do something to stop that.  Sweden has been a homogeneous culture, where everyone is a fifth cousin, and very good a sharing with each other on that basis.  Recently, not so much.  Swedes don't like talking about Malmo, for example. 

WWII was not a good one to stay out of, frankly.  I think it is a reasonable strategy for any nation to try and stay out of expensive, deadly conflicts.  I do see that there is some high moral ground there of not fighting.  But it has its limits.  Some things really do have to be opposed; some friends really do need to count on you. The main American exponent of that type of non-involvement, up to and including not entering WWII, is Pat Buchanan.  Not who one usually associates with Swedes, but there perhaps is a considerable similarity of outlook.  Pat, at least, is fairly open in his idea of favoring our own, and the less grandiose moral approach that implies.

It is sometimes noted off-handedly that these pacifistic Scandinavians are quite a contrast from their Viking ancestors.  I am not so sure.  Vikings have this warlike reputation because of their raiding of the English coast. We speak English and are culturally descended from Great Britain.  Yet we didn't have much war with them.  It was raiding, by and large, followed by moving in and farming.  Along the Atlantic coasts and Russian rivers, it was trading, enforced by bands of aggressive sailors.  A fairly small fraction of the population, frankly - even a gentle nation should be able to find enough rowdies and nutcases to man a few dozen ships and engage in a little piracy.  Most of the Scandinavians stayed home on their own farms, perhaps moving somewhere Scottish after the place had been pacified a little.

Compared to just about every other tribe in the world, that's not really "warlike," is it?  More like a peaceful trading nation with really good Special Forces when needed.

Back to the 20th C.  Allowing your intelligence agency to become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the German SS, then having lots of money left over to sink into Volvo and SAAB when everyone else is broke may be clever, but it's not laudable.

Nor is it especially high-minded to start discovering socialism right after the poorest 20% (approximately) of your population up-stakes and heads for the US and Canada.

Of course, it should be noted that the Swedes have taken a big capitalist turn since the 1990's, and perhaps we should be emulating them more at this point.


Gringo said...

Nor is it especially high-minded to start discovering socialism right after the poorest 20% (approximately) of your population up-stakes and heads for the US and Canada.

Classic. A stiletto of a remark.

Though not all Swedish emigrants were necessarily poor. I knew some Swedish Americans with a surname that began with "Von." Maybe they were poor aristocrats.

Which reminds me of Milton Friedman's response to lower poverty rates in Scandinavians compared to the US: "Scandinavians in the US have a pretty low poverty rate, also."

Swedish holier-than-thou attitudes during the Vietnam War lost a lot of credibility when one realized Swedish iron fed the German war machine in WW2.

I met a fair amount of Swedish tourists in Latin America in the '70s. Most were pretty amiable, with the exception of the occasional Communist.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

They are amiable, though not spontaneously so. They barely speak to strangers.

A sweet, gentle people - with faults they refuse to acknowledge.