Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Can the Nordic Model be Transplanted to UK?

I know from personal experience how wonderful life in Nordic countries can be as I was married for many years to a Swedish woman. It really is a gleaming welfare utopia where the streets are clean, services both free and excellent and (in my view)attitudes to older people and children much superior to our own country. The people are friendly and speak excellent English(if they are under 50)and destroy the easy stereotypes of being boring on the one hand or (re females) promiscuous) on the other.

And all this achieved within less than a century from when Sweden was the 'poorhouse of Europe' and one third of its population emigrated to the USA 1900-1910. This is not to deny some of the criticisms are justified. There is a conformity to the country which can seem stultifying- everybody seems to hold the equivalent of Guardian ediotorial opinions; there are inefficiences here and there; and, of course, there are the long winter nights and the six months of snow north of Upsalla. Still, if I had to pick a European country to live in after 'Good old Blighty' it would be Sweden with Denmark a close second.

But I'm doubtful if we could transplant the Nordic model over here. For a fuller argument see here. But the major reasons are, in my view:

1. We have a different historical experience in that we industrialised earlier and developed a stronger middle class which to some extent split the left of centre political potential between Labour and ther Liberals; this let in rightwing rule for most of the 20th century.

2. Sweden's political culture is consensual in that both sides of industry seek to find solutions. Britain's is mired in class and social division which has produced a degree of irreconcilable conflict.

3. Sweden is a small, homogenous country where citizens can genuinely feel part of a 'Peoples' Home'; Britain, again, is a big divided society.

Having said this, there are aspects we can seek to emulate with some confidence. Cameron is keen to copy the 'Free Schools' whereby private schools are funded by taxpayers to educate a community; 900 have been running successfully. Also the Swedish investment in child and pre-school care is admirable and possible to transplant.

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