Robert Waldmann has coined a new word (he did it almost a week ago, but hey, I’ve been on vacation):
Nordtopian adj based on the illusion that the Nordic model can and might be adopted elsewhere.
Now this blog has certainly exhibited many telltale signs of Nordophilia (which I guess is why Felix Salmon pointed the Waldmann link out to me), but I don’t think I’m a Nordtopian. That is, I’m dubious (or full of dube, if you prefer) that a political/economic system that has evolved in a few nations of 5-9 million people would translate to a country of 300 million or even 50 million. Tyler Cowen had a fascinating (if far from definitive) post last year exploring some of the reasons why. A sample:
1. Perhaps homogeneity is the advantage, not smallness per se. So a Denmark of 150 million people might work quite well, if only there were 150 million Danes. There aren’t, and if we imagine the Danish population growing they might not stay so homogeneous in nature. Peer effects dissipate or perhaps turn negative at some scale.
I don’t disagree with that. And I don’t know that I could bear living in a land of 150 million Danes. (Hej. Hej. Hej. Hej. Hej. Hej! Hej…) But I keep writing about Denmark and Sweden and the Netherlands (which isn’t Nordic, but does have lots of tall blond people and an excellent pension system) because (a) it amuses me, (b) I like herring, and (c) it seems really silly not to look to other countries to get economic policy ideas. Also, there was so much smug cant spouted about the superiority of the American way of capitalism in the late 1990s (and even since then), that it seems important to point out that there are other ways of capitalism that seem to work just as well as and at times even better than the American version.
Oh, and did I mention that Denmark again topped the Economist Intelligence Unit’s rankings as the best country in the world to do business? (Thanks to Sean Gregory for the tip.) Finland came in second, the U.S. 10th. And one more thing: I learned last week that business guru Clayton Christensen is of mostly Danish ancestry. But I don’t think he’s a Nordtopian.