The Myth of the Scandinavian Model (3)

This weeks’s Newsweek has an article on the merits of the Scandinavian model, with additional pieces on Sweden and Denmark, allowing readers to vote on whether or not “the Swedish socio-economic model is in trouble.” Newsweek thinks it is a rather sexy model, but regular readers of this website know that we do not think the Scandinavian model (this one, not these ones) is pretty.

After reading our analysis, one of our readers, a university professor, provided an explanation for why the Scandinavian model has been in decline since the 1970s. He wrote:

The Scandinavian type of welfare state is more vulnerable to the deterioration of the element of Christian commitment than other regimes, because the latter constituted a more significant part of it. The origin of the Northern welfare state does not lie in a particular political philosophy, but derives from the nationalisation of the churches and all their welfare services in the sixteenth century.

In the Orthodox countries (Russia) the churches had already been integrated into the civil service, but had no welfare services. In England the church was nationalised, but remained totally independent. In the protestant principalities of Germany the welfare services of the churches were taken over by the local authorities (as in France following the French Revolution). What typifies Denmark and Sweden is that from the sixteenth century onwards the churches there continued to provide all their welfare services as part of the royal administration within the royal budget.

Any student of the events surrounding the integration of Finland into the Russian Empire between the time of the Peace of Tilsit (1807, when France allowed Russia to annex Finland from Sweden) and independence (1917), continually encounters legal issues concerning welfare benefits. Did Russia have to take over the Finnish pension obligations from Sweden? Did the Russians have to pay the pensions of the Finns in St. Petersburg and was there no risk that the Russians would start demanding pensions too? Who was to help pay for the failed harvests in the north? What if a Finn who had had a career in St. Petersburg wanted to go to a retirement home in his birthplace? Would the Russians have to pay for that? And would Russian workers not want to have the same welfare services as the Scandinavian churches provided and give the Orthodox church an active role in social reform.

This Christian component, with active state churces, was very strong in the Northern countries until three decades ago. The decline of the Scandinavian model is the result of the decline of the active component of this social model. Those who wish to undermine this Christian component will simply have to accept the weakening of the welfare services.

If this argument is correct, perhaps Ireland and the US are economically in better shape than Europe because they have remained more Christian?

Johan B, I enjoyed and

Johan B,

I enjoyed and agreed with most of your post. However I feel I must pull you up on this.

[i]'Submitted by Johan B on Fri, 2006-01-06 13:54.

In most Christian countries, taxpayers are forced to pay for the Christian Church, even if they are not Christians themselves. A huge majority of the Christians doesn't object to this organised robbery. They prefer to collaborate with socialists in order to support other forms of forced solidarity.'[i]/

With all due respects, this statement is absolute rubbish. Not only do I not think this is true for 'most Christian countries', I can think of no Christian countries where this is true.

All most all contributions are made voluntarily either by donation or to their enterprises (eg Christian Schools), some money from the government is given to groups for charity and the funding of enterprises (especially schools, which actually subsidise state education).

There are some smaller denominations that require a percentage of income be paid to the church, put then again it is choice entirely to be a member of that church.

To say tax payers are forced against their will to fund churches is nonsense. I wish I had the same rights as a consumer with government, as I do with religion.

Examples are not very convincing

For example in the US some of the poorer regions are extremely religous while some of the richer regions are notoriously liberal. I believe the correlation between ethnicity and richess is greater than between faith and prosperity but I am not aware of specific numbers. Should be an interesting statistic though.

Few decades ago, Ireland one of the poorest countries of Europe. It became rich not through large scale conversion to christianity (it was already very catholic) but through well documented economic policy and ample support of the EU which they used very well indeed (must be a first on the Brussels Journal : positive things said about the EU)

When trying to find causality we should also evaluate the other end : some very Christian countries in Africa or Latin America are not performing very well, while non-Christian Asian countries are making money. Again not an indicator of positive correlation let alone causality between economics and christianity.

Lastly, if christianity really makes a nation prosperous, it should be possible to say why. Is it simply God's will, or is there a specific moral component in religious people that make them work better? If you believe the former, there is of course no argument possible because it becomes a point of faith. However I've a feeling you lean more towards the latter explanation. If so, I would be interested to know what provides this unique advantage.

A matter of fertility

I think religious people are more inclined to invest in the future, i.e. in their progeny.
Other faiths (Islam) also favour demographic growth, but Christianity emphasizes the importance of private property, too. This combination of family values and private property explains its success.
Demographic decline, which is all too often the consequence of a loss of religiosity, will lead to economic decline. "Red" American will soon be economically more prosperous than "blue" America. If Ireland had not been religious, it would not have the young population it has today. It is its people, rather than EU subsidies, that explain Ireland's economic performance today (though I do concede that Socialism can destroy the benefits of a religious population (as we have seen in Poland). If Poland had not suffered Communism for half a century, it would today be Europe's economic powerhouse.

Demographic determination

I think you place too much value on demographic growth as a driver for economic prosperity. In fact, most of our welfare can be attributed to much higher productivity per capita, not to more capitas.

China is a good example as a country with a very active non-procreation policy. It is booming economically because its population is converting from subsistence farming to only marginally more productive jobs (textile, manufacturing, ..)
The same is happening with India where sons and daughters of farmers are manning call centers and doing data entry. Also jobs with barely more added value than farming, but look how their economy is performing.

What those countries have in common is the way how they increase the value added by each worker, not how they increase the number of workers. On the contrary, one will be hard pressed to find two countries which differ even more in procreation policy than China and India.

Regarding blue vs red America. I'd first like to see some birth rates of the red America that is getting richer than blue America. I believe most of those are becoming the ordinary suburbian family with more cars than kids. But I concede I have no hard numbers.

Also note that the US still is near an historic all time low fertility rate, despite ample migration from Hispanics which generally have a larger number of children. West-European immigration is starting to shift from muslims to East Europeans which have small families. Once you exclude first generation immigrants I am not convinced the US has a wildly different demographic evolution.

I also take issue with your assertion that christianity emphasizes private property. Yes there are some Christians who do. But I could just as well point to prominent Catholics in Latin America which have a very collectivist interpretation of their faith. In fact I do not need to go very far to hear prominent church leaders in Belgium emphasize solidarity rather than private property. From where I stand they are the rule and you are the exception...

In fact, the very first solidarity tax I payed in my short life was not a secular one imposed by a gay minister but by a very catholic organisation named 'Broederlijk Delen'. And refusal was not an option so, in retrospect, it really was a tax. Well, as if a 12 year old could withstand the brainwashing from the priest-teacher urging us to make every member of our extended family pay the tax as well by 'sponsoring' us in a walking marathon.

Poverty and simplicity

I completely agree with Bart Vanhauwaert. There is indeed no correlation between demographic growth and prosperity. Neither is there a direct correlation between Christianity and respect for private property. In most Christian countries, taxpayers are forced to pay for the Christian Church, even if they are not Christians themselves. A huge majority of the Christians doesn't object to this organised robbery. They prefer to collaborate with socialists in order to support other forms of forced solidarity.

And what about capitalism and technological progress?
In a pre-Christmas sermon, pope Benedict warned that rampant commercialization is polluting the true, religious meaning of Christmas. He reminded people that: "The manger helps us contemplate the mystery of the love of God which revealed itself in poverty and simplicity".
In his Christmas sermon, the pope said that "The men and women in our technological age risk becoming victims of their own intellectual and technical achievements, ending up in spiritual barrenness and emptiness of heart". See Brendan O'Neill's article An unholy marriage.

0'Neill argues that this viewpoint is new and inspired by the secular society. I think it is the other way round. The secular anti-consumerists have replaced their belief in an omnipotent God with the belief in an omnipotent state. Used to follow orders from above, they just want to live on as they did before: in poverty and simplicity.

Religion probably has its

Religion probably has its merits, the question is if they are the main driving force on the demographic scene.

I'm rather inclined to say that demography in Europe is failing because of a lack of true wealth. Children cost money whilst people have grown accustomed to certain ways of life...such as going on holidays abroad.
Taxes take away income; if the people receives a barely 'minimum' wage that enable them to pay for their accustomed lives (lifestyle) then they would be less inclined to suffer additional costs (Children); perhaps at a latter stage in life.

It doesnt explain why the migrant community is having a demographic boom, perhaps their lifestyle requires less spenditures regardless if they live off welfare.
On the other hand, some might play it smart...the more kids you have the greater the cost and the more costs you can deduct & write up on your taxform; If I'm not mistaken?
Some say this also explains a higher demographic boom for the migrant community.
There is the factor 'If it is Allah's will' and the 'Muslim Woomb being their WMD'.

Wasnt there a Swedish policy to increase birthrates that was slain by the EU ?

Brigands, I'm a Marxist!

Of course I’m not, but I needed a catchy title. ;-)

But Marx made a very good point when he claimed that the “superstructure” like morals, values, opinions and even religious beliefs are determined by the “infrastructure” which are economics, (class) interests, markets, production fundamentals and relations. Marx (I mean Karl and not Groucho) is one of the most misquoted and misunderstood philosophers of the late 19-th century. If he had lived today, his analysis would probably be totally different. My bet is that he would be a libertarian ;-).

Now why do Muslim immigrants have more children than we do, the local dhimmies? You could argue that they do it for Allah, to conquer the big bad West by their wombs. That’s much too far-fetched, as well as the idea of Mr. Belien that the West should retaliate by converting back to Christianity in a Clovisian way.

I have this idea that you never visited a Moroccan home in Flanders. Well I did. They all have satellite dishes and they only watch Moroccan or Arab TV stations. An odd bright mind might watch Al-Jazeerah once in a while. Now that’s really boring, especially as these women are not allowed to wander out in the big bad Western world by their husbands to show off and to do some window-shopping.

So confined at home, they just prefer to have children as a hobby, to keep them busy. And the husband, well, he goes out and he has to “suffer” the sight all those lightly dressed white liberated “whores” he can’t touch (if he’s decent; his sons have less scruples, they just rape them). So the husband comes home horny all over, and the rest is history. Don’t blame Allah; He’s just a convenient excuse.

Let’s add a bit of Freud to Marx now. Mr. Belien implies that Christian women reproduce more than their secular counterparts because their Lord said: “Be Fruitful and Multiply”. And when a Christian economy is better off, that’s because the Lord said: “Don’t put your light under a bushel but on a candle-stick” as well as to invest your money in a profitable way as in the Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30.

Did it occur to anybody that people have sex because it’s fun, not to please any God? But of course, if you can fantasize about a God that instructs you to do so, that must even feel better. [Muhammad (PUB) even invented the polgamy rule to sooteh His own excessive lust.] But it’s not sufficient a motive. Homo Sapiens reproduced for 5 million years without Christianity. Maybe the dark boring prehistoric caves without TV and Internet are to blame for that?

Several years ago, I read an

Several years ago, I read an article on inland China. Chinese officials were trying to get the Islamic tribeswomen - mostly nomadic, to reduce the size of their families and participate in women's educational programs, start businesses, etc. The reason the women gave for refusing birth control was "A baby is Allah's will."

The women they could convince, the article cited 1 woman who took the money from her 'birth-control bribe' and bought a sewing machine and was very happy with her decision, could devote increased educational resources per child, but even successful examples in their own areas could not or did not convince the other women to participate.

{Persons in inland China are usually not Han Chinese and are rarely held to the 1 child policy brtually enforced in the coastal areas and major cities.}

Not Christianity.

"If this argument is correct, perhaps Ireland and the US are economically in better shape than Europe because they have remained more Christian?"

No, that isn't what your reader said. He said that the incorporation of the Church charity infrastructure and "business model" into the official welfare state makes the Scandinavian model special. So it can't be applied to other European regions. As far as I can see, actually, the Scandinavian model doesn't or didn't apply a proper separation between Church and State. That's exactly what we Muslims blame for.

Loss of Christianity

Not Christianity? But it is!

As Mark Steyn writes in this month's New Criterion, reprinted in today's Wall Street Journal (a must read): Europe no longer procreates because the secularists have won, condemning us all to death with their abortion, euthanasia and gay rights. Enjoy it. You have exactly one decade to do so before Muhammad will fill the vacuum that Christ has left.