Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Problem with the Scandinavian Model

The Problem with the Scandinavian Model

People respond to incentives. In a tiny, homogeneous country, group norms can take the place of monetary rewards. If you identify strongly with your neighbours then you care if they shun you. But the US is 50 times larger than Finland and very heterogeneous -- people here don't care much about what their neighbours think because 1) their neighbours are not neccessarily much like them and 2) they keep changing. In this kind of soceity group norms simply will not work. The fact that social norms play a significant role in the success of welfare states also point to these systems' weakness. As soon as the populations of these historically homogenous countries turn heterogenous due to immigration, the social norms soon become fractured between rival communities. Immigrants from radically different backgrounds were not supposed to be part of this closed system. Native citizens begin to see immigrants as a threat to this originally happy balance.

It cannot pay to work

It is hardly worth getting out of bed and going to work for many Danes, if the financial rewards of working are your most important criteria. Approximately 130,000 Danes earn 50 kroners a day more going to work than if they stayed at home and received social security cash benefits. The statistics come from the Treasury department, which is to revise a governmental agreement, "Back to Work", in the autumn. The Chancellor said that this would be a central point of discussion in the forthcoming revision of state cash benefits, and trade union unemployment subsidies.

An Immigrant's Tale

The interpreter also told us that Sweden is a country where the government will put a check into your mailbox each month if you don't work. She explained that there was no reason to get a job. Although my mother got several jobs, we concluded that this really didn't improve our family's economy. During the sixteen years we have been in Sweden, my mother has in total worked less than one year. The work ethic has dramatically fallen in Sweden. More and more people are finding ways of living off government as an alternative to working. Between 20 and 25 percent of the working age population does not work. Between 1997 and 2003 the number of people who were on sick leave increased by more than 200,000, a dramatic number for a small country such as Sweden. What can you expect in a country where 9 out of 10 females who are living off sick leave would have less money in their pockets if they went back to their jobs?

Skype founder slams "lazy" Swedes

Niklas Zennström, the Swede who made headlines last week for selling his Skype internet telephony company to Ebay in a multi-billion dollar deal, has slammed Sweden's high taxes and job protection and has laid into his fellow countrymen for being lazy. “Maybe this doesn’t work too well when the rest of the world is working hard,” he says. One reason for the shortage of successful IT companies is Swedes themselves: “People don’t work very hard in Sweden. They go home at five, and take the whole summer off work.” “If you go to China people work all day and try to create great things – they are much hungrier,” he says. Zennström, who left Sweden in the mid-nineties, also launched a barely veiled attack on the Swedish government. He slammed the Swedish business climate and wants reductions in bureaucracy, less job protection and lower taxes.

One million Swedes on benefit

Norwegian social benefits highest in Europe

Norway provides its citizens with the highest social security benefits of any country in Europe. This is shown by figures from the European statistics office Eurostat. The social benefits grants to Norwegians averaged 11,755 Euro in 2002, equal to NOK 93,200. This was NOK 37,700 higher than in Iceland, NOK 36,900 higher than in Finland, 19,200 higher than in Sweden and 12,300 higher than in Denmark. Compared with EU nations outside Scandinavia, the differences are even higher: According to Eurostat, the social benefits in Norway cost NOK 48,000 per citizen more than in Italy.


At September 20, 2005 4:11 PM, Blogger wilpuri said...

Fjordman, this is a bit off topic, but I couldn't think of a better way to contact you. There has been a programme on Finnish television about islamic extremists in the town of Turku with possible [probable] connections to Mullah Krekar and Islamic extremists in other countries. I haven't found anything on the net in English on it, but if you want to put it up, I could translate it for you if you give me some time.
Here is the script in Finnish. http://www.yle.fi/mot/af050919/kasikirjoitus.htm

At September 20, 2005 7:50 PM, Blogger Zach said...

"social norms play a significant role in the success of welfare states also point to these systems' weakness. As soon as the populations of these historically homogenous countries turn heterogenous due to immigration, the social norms soon become fractured between rival communities."

This is a very important point which is too often forgotten. I hope however that many of my fellow Americans in their zeal against socialism will not be too inclined towards foolish gloating. The other extreme is not good either, specifically where each man is a mercenary, loyal only to the extend that the system pays him. We have gotten pretty good at laughing at Europe's failures at integrating minorities while ignoring the extent to which our own "success" at integration has rested largely on economic re-allocation, an always forward moving economy, minimizing resource conflicts between groups, etc. (In other words, we have developed a form of reverse-socialism, where instead of redistribution being acceptable because we all tolerate each other, it is rather because redistribution is the price we pay for tolerance between groups)

I believe there has to be a moderate, healthy middle where economic incentives pull people forward, but where people are still capable of maintaining social order, group norms and domestic tranquility in the absence of redistribution.

At September 20, 2005 9:59 PM, Blogger CDR Salamander said...

Sometime after I retire, remind me to tell you about the huge difference between working on a NATO/OTAN staff and a US staff......it works out to about 8-10 hrs a week.

At September 20, 2005 10:52 PM, Blogger Fjordman said...

Wilpuri: Thanks for the offer, maybe next time :-)

At September 21, 2005 12:37 AM, Blogger heather said...

One million Swedes on benefits?

.."there has been a significant shift in who is receiving those benefits, with the fastest-rising group of claimants being 25-35 year olds taking early retirement."

A 25 year old taking early retirement? From what? Don't you actually have to work for a period of time first? If the demographics of Sweden are similar to the US, the tax base will rapdily shrink in the near future. Who is going to foot the bill for this then?

At September 21, 2005 1:00 AM, Blogger TheKaffir said...

Milton Friedman said it best! You can't blame someone for collecting welfare when that gives them more benefits than working!

Swedes are not any lazier than any other group of workers. The system in Sweden provides incentives to be lazy! The Swedes and the immigrant community there are just responding to incentives. Why worry about being productive when you can sit on your ass, watch television all day and be rewarded. Or you can just go to prayer 5 times, have 4 wives and let the state support you if you are a Muslim. If you work hard, they just tax you more. So the response of people is not to do anything productive.

At September 21, 2005 3:12 AM, Blogger nouille said...

These benefits are exactly why so many muslims go to Scandanavia in the first place.

At September 22, 2005 1:26 AM, Blogger RobertinArabia said...

Half of Swedish police trainees are women
The autumn term at the Swedish National Police Academy has begun and more women than ever before are are starting their training to be police officers. This year, 44% of the new intake are female.

A total of 384 students have begun this year's police programme. 192 are at the National Police Academy in Solna and the remainder are at universities in Umeå and Växjö, according to the newspaper Svensk Polis.

The highest proportion is in Växjö, where, for the first time, women outnumber the men on the police training programme: 53% of students there are female.

"We've had a steady increase in the number applying to the police course," said Marie Andersson, who is the head of recruitment at the National Police Board.

"In January 2002, 3,300 applied, of which 34% were women. In August this year, the applications had almost doubled and the number of women had increased to 36%."

People with ethnic and cultural backgrounds other than Swedish are also turning to the force for a career. In August this year, these accounted for 15% of applications, compared to 13% in 2002. The rise is thought to be down to high profile ad campaigns directed at minority groups.

But while the National Police Board is happy with its progress in increasing the representation of minorities, Marie Andersson acknowledged that this is just a start.

"With the choice we have, I think we're succeeding, but it's the long term influence that counts. Our big challenge is to take these groups all the way," she said.

TT/The Local


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