After writing about the dogs breakfast which is the British Economy and Government policies over the past couple couple of days..I thought I would cheer myself at looking instead at some lovely glossy pin ups,and have thus spent a pleasurable evening looking at some very gorgeous Scandinavian models..Phwoar!! Hot stuff in a Cold Climate!
Actually, these models have been from Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Sweden,and although they are all in their own ways Individually different, they all share the same basic shape. Collectively these models merge into what is known as Scandinavian or Nordic Socialism. It is not quite Socialism as we would recognise it, but rather a hybrid of Socialism and Free Market economics. In fact it endeavours to make the best of both worlds, and seems to have been working on the whole quite nicely thank you! Even for the likes of Iceland,which as we all know went into the grubber, when their Banks imploded. But unlike us, and everywhere else, they did the unthinkable, they let the Banks fail and they prosecuted the Bankers as criminals!
We have heard much talk about the EU recently, mostly as a Unionist smokescreen, but actually Iceland possibly argues the case for remaining out of the EU, for had Iceland been part of the EU when the Markets collapsed, would they have been able to have had the autonomy to do as they did? Would they instead be in a worse condition than Greece,and struggling like Ireland to overcome it’s difficulties bound by inflexible European rules?
We don’t know, but what we can say is that British Westminster politicians suddenly don’t want to talk about Iceland any more, and you wont hear much in the media either! I wonder why?
Actually I don’t wonder why, for I know exactly why they don’t want to know about Iceland.
I will quote from Bloomberg here to give you the picture.
“Iceland has turned in a pretty impressive performance. It has repaid International Monetary Fund rescue loans ahead of schedule. Growth this year will be about 2.5 percent, better than most developed economies. Unemployment has fallen by half. In February, Fitch Ratings restored the country’s investment-grade status, approvingly citing its “unorthodox crisis policy response.”
(Same Ratings Agency is talking about removing the UKs AAA rating for poor performance)
“A deficit that reached 13.5 percent of gross domestic product in 2009 fell to 2.3 percent last year. The IMF predicts Iceland will have a primary surplus (excluding interest on debt) of 1.5 percent this year. ”
So Iceland is well on the road to recovery, and indeed is in growth this year, something the British Government would dearly love to say. In fact the UNs Human Development Index places Icelands standard of living for its people way higher the UKs.
It is worth reading the full article to see how Iceland have achieved this, but it s also interesting to note how Iceland have done the almost complete polar opposite of what the UK has done in almost every respect!
I deliberately chose Iceland as my starting off point for examining this model, as they were the worst case scenario. It is somewhat Ironic that even the worst case scenario has a better standard of living than the UK.
In the UN HDI report for 2011, you might note some interesting statistics.
In terms of standard of living we see Norway topping the World,and the other Scandinavian countries all near the top for the best countries to live in.
The Top 20 are as follows
1. Norway (5,054,000)
4. United States
5. New Zealand(pop.4,448,000)
7. Ireland (pop.4,588,000)
13. Hong Kong, China (SAR)
14.Iceland (pop. 320,000)
15. Korea (Republic of)
What? No Uk? Surely some mistake!
And what is this? These basket Cases of Iceland and Ireland are in there! Ireland at 7, and Iceland at 14 in the world. It surely can’t be right,can it? After all the UK is a bastion of fiscal probity,and didn’t Gordon Brown Save the World??
But almost more incredibly, from what we keep getting told, we are too small to be successful! Yet here we have amongst the most successful countries in the world, 4 smaller than us in population in the top 10, and we are certainly significantly larger than Iceland, with Icelands resources being limited to Aluminium and Fishing.. And there is no sign of the UK, because the UK is down contesting 28th spot with Greece!
And yet..despite all this evidence, the British Government and It’s acolytes keep telling us that we cannot be successful,we are too wee and too poor, and lack resources! Many of these countries in the top twenty would bite your hand off for half of what we have.
But what stands out from this table is that there are 5 Nordic Countries in the top 20. Norway may beat us on Oil sources by a bit, but otherwise we have a lot more other resources that they do not. Such as our Whisky Industry,and being European and world leaders in other fields. The other Nordic Countries don’t have as much resources as us…So what it it that they are doing, that the British Government does not?
Lets have a look at this sexy Scandinavian Model.
“the Scandinavian Welfare Model – a system of laws and principles in Sweden, Norway and Denmark that many argue has perfected a society’s balance between government intervention and the free market, resulting in the greatest amount of happiness. ”
“The government is responsible for all welfare, or social, services. This includes:
• Free universal health care (something the US seems utterly afraid of)
• Free education to the end of university and living assistance for students
• Ensuring a high minimum standard of living for all its citizens relating to housing, food and security
Healthcare and education especially are considered to be at the core of a successful society.”
So at the very basics of this system, we see the very structures British Governments have been gradually dismantling. With the increasing privatisation of the English and Welsh NHS taking place just now, The hike in Student Fees in England and Wales,which has seen a significant drop in those going to University already down there. Whilst the current attacks on the Welfare State and cutting of Benefits are making even larger numbers of the populace in dire straits.
“A priority is the protection and empowering of socially excluded and vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, disabled, poor and immigrants. As it is often vulnerable groups that get involved in crime, their crimes rates are also enviably low.”
Again a polar opposite of approach. The British Governments have been disempowering society,and causing social exclusion, the vulnerable are more vulnerable than ever before now, which will in turn cause a myriad of even greater Societal problems!
“Another key objective is to maximise participation in the workforce. People are more highly skilled and better placed to work due to the free health and education and a minimum standard of housing.
Paid maternity leave is generous, and affordable childcare services are provided. This is so women are more freely able to return to work if they wish.
As a result, and despite critics’ claims that assistance is a disincentive to work, unemployment is among the lowest in the world.
All this is provided, or subsidised, by the government. Obviously all these services must be paid for and this is achieved through its unique tax structure.”
“In Denmark the top personal income tax rate is 63%. In Sweden it is 59% and in Norway it is 47%.
The corporate tax rates, however, are similar or lower than those in other countries to encourage business.
The theory that has succeeded in practice
The idea behind the high top personal tax rate is wealth redistribution to stop the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer – the common curse of the free market.
The idea is that the wealthy can, and should, pay a much higher proportion of their income in tax to help grow the middle class. As most economists will agree, it is a healthy and wealthy middle class that makes a better society.
And many economists and psychologists believe that a wealthy person doesn’t get proportionately happier the more money they earn.
They argue it is the human instinct of greed and selfishness that drives the distaste for paying more tax, rather than a decrease in happiness.
The theory goes that by making the less fortunate wealthier, there are more people able to buy goods and services, increasing the opportunity for businesses to do well.
As a result, the system has sent Finland and the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden and Denmark to the top of almost every ‘good’ list and the bottom of every ‘bad’ list.
These ‘good’ lists include the Human Development Index, GDP per capita, gender equality, life expectancy, foreign aid per capita, and renewable energy.
The ‘bad’ lists include unemployment, crime, poverty, infant mortality and corruption.
It all contributes to having among the highest standard of living in the world and is indicative of how the Scandinavians are perfecting their all-round perfection.”
In effect, instead of allowing outrageous Tax loopholes, where the wealthiest people and the Biggest companies can avoid paying tax, in many cases costing the Country billions of pounds. The likes of Starbucks, Vodaphone and the rest would have to pay their fair share.
Instead of ending the tax rate of 10% for the poorest as Gordon Brown did, and Cutting Taxes to 45% for the richest, that this mob have been doing,and refusing to deal with many other disgraceful Financial shenanigans.They should have been weighting heavier on the very richest,and providing incentives for the poorest, to bring them back into productivity.
When we hear the likes of Johann Lamont and Labour in Scotland,calling for an end to Universal Benefits,while proclaiming the Tory Mantra of ending Something for Nothing,and the Likes of a Labour run Council in Glasgow,only yesterday calling for the end of free prescriptions. Then we should really fear, because we are seeing the destruction and erosion of Scottish community and social values. The cancer which is bringing the UK to it’s knees is spreading into Scotland. Controlled and run by Westminster and London Bankers.
Over the years, the political parties in these countries, whether right or left wing, have all agreed to the fundamental principles of the model and contributed to its development.
Therefore, instead of being considered a socialist ideology, the Scandinavian welfare model is a national ideology on how the government can best provide for its citizens.
The parties’ differences lie in how best to tweak the model depending on their specific beliefs and the economic conditions at the time.
Each country has its own specific group of rules within the model, but they all act as supports for each other.
As they are culturally and linguistically linked (apart from Finland) they have ensured that one Scandinavian country can’t lure the best and brightest people across the border with lower taxes.
Essentially, if you want to live in a Scandinavian country with all its benefits, you have to play by the rules.
Criticisms and challenges
Some critics argue that such high taxation restricts individual freedom and the opportunity to become wealthy.
And although there are still many wealthy people in these countries, they would certainly have more wealth under the Anglo-Saxon (English, US) model.
Other criticisms include the belief that this model could not work in societies with large populations, and that all the benefits relating to sick leave and maternity leave make for a less productive workforce.
One of the challenges they face is how to compete in the globalised economy and labour market while maintaining extensive welfare services.
Nevertheless, the Scandinavian model continues to prosper and serve its people well. While at times they still face the same social and economic problems as other countries, the scale is always less severe.
And as other countries reflect on their mistakes over the past few years, they may finally start to acknowledge the successful methods of the quiet achievers to the north. ”
Whilst an Independent Scotland may not follow the Scandinavian model in it’s entirety, there is much in it, which most Scots would consider to be of shared values.
There are many other things that we can learn from our Nordic neighbours, as there would undoubtedly be for them to learn from us, once we have become Independent.
Scotland in my opinion has always held strong Social values, but there has also been a culture of Learning and Entrepreneurial spirit in the Scots too.
And it is this we must start thinking about now. How to ensure the Societal Cohesion and growth that a quasi socialist model provides but also provide the scope for business growth and enterprise to work alongside, making not just successful and enterprising business, but generation also of Social wealth and a more affluent society as a whole.
We should also be looking very closely at how we allow ourselves to be governed, the British model is Class ridden and non representative. We need to be able to ensure a Constitution which allows ordinary citizens more access to participating in the seat of Government,and an ending put to the type of entrenched party politics which has beset us.
There are many more things we should be considering, instead of being sidetracked away from looking at the possibilities and potential opportunities that we could and should have in an Independent Scotland,and it is long past time that we set about discussing what our aspirations are for our Country.