Tuesday, March 31, 2015


From capitalist innovation to social equity indexes,  from security to happiness indexes,  by all accounts Scandinavian countries are setting the bar for the rest of the world. What  factors can we examine?

Politically: Their form of government is proportional representation (PR), not as most other countries, majority rule democracy. They focus on transparency, rigorous scrutiny, which means less cronyism and corruption by elites. Some countries have 30% quotas of women in parliament, but all have around 50% women representatives at all levels of government. This ensures a focus on policies of health and education, which are traditional interests of women.  Government is trusted.
Economic and Social Rights. The focus on rights is shared equally between political/civil rights and economic/social rights (look up these terms in the Political Economy glossary in my classes). Both sets of rights are considered indivisible. In other words, as Martin Luther King said, what is the point of voting if you can't afford the bus fare to the voting booths? Economic rights ensure a shift via the taxation base, of wealth to the poor and a robust social welfare program. The private sector is robust.

Culturally. The Nordic countries have a strong historical culture of democracy and also, capitalist innovation. They legalized human rights such as freedom of the press before anyone else - in the late 18th century. They have a tradition of independent farmers and seafarers. They didn't go through a highly militarized  feudal period.
Some of their policies that prioritize family life  and education include: Universal free education including university. Up to one year paid maternity and paternity leave, and universal day care, recognizing the fact that both parents work. Separate taxation of spouses which allows spouses  to be  more independent financially. There are high levels of security.

Population: Are Scandinavian countries successful because of their small populations? There are smaller populations that Sweden that have higher levels of poverty.  Iceland has one of the smallest populations in the world (pop. 300, 000 approx) , but experienced a major economic crisis in 2008 after its banks were privatized and deregulated. Its recovery through nationalization of its main bank, is a success story.

On the other hand, these countries have high levels of consumption of alcohol and anti depressants -- due to the long winters and lack of sun? Norway has huge wealth, but it's mainly due to its dependence on its oil production, which makes it vulnerable. Students end up in debt, because they, not their parents, are expected to pay for living expenses.

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