Tuesday, May 3, 2005


What are the Scandinavian countries doing right?

According to Freedom House (PDF), Finland has the most press freedom. The countries with the most press freedom are:
  1. Finland
  2. Iceland
  3. Sweden
  4. Denmark
  5. Norway
The top five spots belong to the five Scandinavian countries.

According to this MSNBC story discussing the 2005 Mothers Index (PDF) compiled by Save the Children USA, Sweden is the best place to be a mother. Here are the top rankings:
  1. Sweden
  2. Denmark
  3. Finland
  4. Austria
  5. Germany
  6. Netherlands
  7. Norway
(Iceland isn't listed in the index).

This Forbes story discusses the World Economic Forum's 2004-2005 ranking of economic competitiveness. Look who's number 1! Here are the rankings
  1. Finland
  2. United States
  3. Sweden
  4. Taiwan
  5. Denmark
  6. Norway
  7. Singapore
  8. Switzerland
  9. Japan
  10. Iceland
Wow. The one report where the Scandinavian countries don't fare so well is the Fraser Institute's (Canada's answer to the Cato Institute) ranking of economic freedom. Here's how the Scandinavian countries fare there:
  • Finland - 11
  • Denmark - 14
  • Iceland - 14
  • Sweden - 22
  • Norway - 36
For the record, the United States was tied for 3rd.

Ahhh, but of course, this isn't the only ranking of economic freedom. Here, a Copenhagen "Chamber of Commerce like group touts Denmark ranking as the 8th best country for economic freedom in the 2004 Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom. Here are the rankings of that study:
  1. Hong Kong
  2. Singapore
  3. New Zealand
  4. Luxembourg
  5. Ireland
  6. Estonia
  7. United Kingdom
  8. Denmark
  9. Switzerland
  10. United States
  11. Australia
  12. Sweden
  13. Chile
  14. Cyprus
  15. Finland
  16. Canada
  17. Iceland
Norway ranked 28th, which was still better than Taiwan (34) and Japan (38).

Will Wilkinson, in an oh-so-hip "Caeser's Bath" post, listed "Anti-Swedenism" as one of the things that annoys him:
Conservatives and libertarians seem to have an irrational disdain for Sweden, as if it could slide into full-on Juche flesh-eating collectivism at any moment. They crave and horde bad news about the Swedish economy or the travails of the Swedish welfare state. Why? Because Sweden is a fairly rich, happy, stable, and quite free nation with a gigantic welfare state. And we don't want to be more like Sweden, and we resent the fact that it works as well as it does. But I think it is quite possible to make the argument that we shouldn't be more like Sweden without feeling the need to argue that Sweden is a disaster.
With all this data, I have to agree.

In brief, I think the Scandinavian countries have things so well off because:
  1. They can feed off of technical innovation provided by the U.S., Hong Kong, China, Japan, etc.
  2. They have an almost completely homogenous culture; everybody already gets along because everybody already looks the same.
  3. They have a relatively small population. Socialism works great for families, but horribly for big countries. Maybe for small countries like those in Scandinavia, quasi-socialism (the only thing that makes them more socialistic than us is their nationalized health care, but we're almost there) isn't so bad. Especially when you have such excellent press freedom to ensure that government is run efficiently.
UPDATE: For comments, see the original blog post here.

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