Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Debunking Utopia

I almost put Dubunking Utopia: Exposing the myth of Nordic socialism by Nima Sanandaji (he has a more academic economist brother Tino Sanandaji) aside after reading the Introduction. Not telling me anything new here...cliched anti-Scandinavianism from the right...overlooking some key points... Then too it is published by World Net Daily, a source I don't outright reject but do hold at arm's length.

I'm glad I pushed on. It tells me some new things, but functions better as a reference book.  Sanandaji is actually in favor of a lot of social-welfare interventions by governments, and thinks we do have some things to learn from the Scandinavian countries.  But he is also very alert to differences in culture between those countries and the rest of the world and supplies good evidence that their successes are not all the result of safety-net changes since 1960. Much that I have read over the years or learned in discussion but can no longer put a source to is nicely footnoted here.

He does not believe that Nordic socialism can be installed in America with entire success.  He suggests that America, along with the rest of the Anglosphere and some European countries, went down the same social-welfare roads as Scandinavia after the Great Depression, but these were abandoned or modified in America because they didn't work as well here.  They didn't work that well in Italy or Greece, either, but they pressed on, with disastrous results.  In contrast, Switzerland, Korea, Singapore, and Japan did little of it and turned out fine.

Sanandaji looks at a different timeline. Many countries have higher life-expectancies and better infant mortality rates than does America. But the gaps were even greater before 1960. Scandinavian countries are small, homogeneous, high-trust, work-ethic, social capital countries. They are among the wealthiest countries in the world now, but this was even more true in 1960, when they started this social-welfare overdrive.  Secondly, they have moved away from that model consistently since around 1990. They are increasingly market driven (including such areas as school choice), especially when dealing with outsiders. Bernie Sanders likely wouldn't get elected in Sweden, contra Marco Rubio. Those are center-right governments now.

In fact, Scandinavia-Americans have prospered more here than back in Scandinavia, which is especially impressive given that it was mostly the poorest who traveled here. Which I also keep in mind when people praise their economies.  Prosperity is a little easier when your poor people move out, and deciding that socialism is great a little later makes that easier still.  And there is that dey word homogeneous that keeps popping up everywhere.  Hmmm.

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