Saturday, April 01, 2017

Scandinavian Reframe

A longtime reader who does not comment mentioned it would be useful, as the number of workers supporting the number of non-workers gradually diminishes, for the non-workers to meet with a representative number of workers from time-to-time.  Heck, even assign them:  You three are supporting this one.  Meet weekly. Pretty cumbersome, but one takes the point.

Reading Debunking Utopia by Nima Sanandaji, which I mentioned before, it occurred to me that the Scandinavian countries have had something like this, internally installed, and this makes an enormous difference.  I suspect it only works if it is internal.

College is free, but it is considered to shameful to use that if you don't study, and people will mention it.  Plus, not everyone can get in.

Unemployment is generous, but it is considered shameful not to get work as soon as you can. It's not the least shameful to accept unemployment. It's just expected that everyone pulls together and gets back into making the society go.  Health care is free, but people are almost too reluctant to use up the medical professionals' time when there are others who might need it more. Again, people will verbally reinforce these values when talking about themselves and sometimes pointedly when talking to you.  It's the culture. In important ways, they have higher character than we do.

I think I have read that Americans actually spend more on these things than Scandinavians, but I'm not finding anything like that in my files. Still, I'll bet it's true, or close.  We spend more on health care, just not efficiently. We talk a lot about spending more efficiently on our social safety net, but it's hard to do that without the cooperation of the recipients being honest and efficient themselves. But it's hard to make people be honest and efficient, and work-arounds to "help them make better decisions" are likely to be clumsy and only partly effective.  Pretty obvious when you think about it. It's also worth noting that this takes the discussion even farther away from it being "the poor" who receive things from the government, which is often how the American debate these trends, inaccurately.  "Efficiency" may not be the right way to look at this.

I have said before that this is far easier in a homogeneous society where everyone looks like second-cousins. It's national honor, tribal honor, family honor, personal honor to do these things. Oh, it's also a matter of national honor to say that everything is going great, and this is the best country in the world, and how happy you are.  (So please pay no attention to our alcoholism and suicide rates.) I contend that if Americans had an equally high-trust high-responsibility society, what our government provides would look a lot more like what they do.

And vice versa, as we shall see.

Next, Samandaji's working composite timeline for Scandinavian economies is
1870-1940 - pretty much capitalist
1940-1970 - mild socialism
1970-1990 - full-bore socialism
1990-2010 - "oops, maybe not" returning irregularly to freer markets
2010 - present - Immigration straining even the reduced socialism

A couple of other things he mentions of interest.  The governments disguise important statistics - just as we do here.  Unemployment is higher than they think (estimated 14% since the 1990's), taxes are hidden by being indirect (they believe they pay about 40% - it's actually 60%*).  Women don't actually do all that well in those economies compared to American and Canadian women. They refuse to break down crime rates and school testing according to immigration status - you can be prosecuted for even mentioning those things in unapproved way.

It is unraveling.  Scandinavia is still a really good place to live, and will be for some time. But each generation is using more sick time, more unemployment benefit, and more health care than the one before, and those attitudes are measurable. That has been true even before immigration ramped up. But it is immigration that is exposing the weaknesses.  American conservatives focus on the Middle-eastern groups, and those have certainly greatly increased the violence in these ridiculously non-violent countries. But in the countries themselves there is great concern about "Eastern European beggars" - we would say "gypsies;" and "Criminal Elements" - we would say "Eastern European mafias."  This latter group now has a presence in the Ukranian, Romanian, and Slovak neighborhoods of the major cities.

*I no longer have any idea what this was supposed to be for.

1 comment:

dmoelling said...

In the Midwest there are lots of areas founded by Scandinavian immigrants. Swedes and Norwegians in Minnesota, Danes in Wisconsin and Finns in Upper Michigan. These were mostly lumberjacks and miners (except for some farmers in the southern areas). The whole reason for emigration was the really poor economy back home. Farming was poor so sons when out to fish, seal or work ships (again all really crappy jobs). Only recently has prosperity come to their home countries due to industrialization (much like South Korea). A homogenous industrious group focused on industrial development paid off. Helps to be only a few million people as well.