Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What About Scandinavia?

I probably talk about predominately monarchial Scandinavia less than I think I do (wow, three I’s in the first sentence, how solipsistic of the awesome me). It is not because of any lack of respect for the Scandinavian countries, all but one of which are monarchies (unless you count Iceland) which, I assure you, is not the case. For someone who was enthralled with Viking stories as a boy and who had a very colorful aunt who was fond of telling people, “I’m not a damn Jankee, I’m a Norwegian!” I have always had a soft spot for Norway. The Kingdom of Denmark also holds a special place in my heart, as I think it should with all monarchists, as the oldest monarchy in Europe and for being so comparatively revolution-free. I’m also very fond of Queen Margrethe II, though maybe not for the best reasons. I have long admired Sweden, mostly for the great military leaders it produced in centuries past and even republican Finland earned my respect ever since first learning about the valiant defense they offered against the Red Army in the Winter War. One reason you don’t hear much about Scandinavia is because they tend to all be rather orderly countries. What problems they have tend not to be broadcast around the world, they tend to be neutral and they just don’t rock the boat so to speak.

However, I wanted to take a moment to talk about the monarchies of Scandinavia because there do seem to be some misconceptions about them. Especially in the United States, the Scandinavian countries can be quite divisive. People on the left portray them as being absolutely heaven on earth (ignoring the whole monarchy part) where rich people do not exist, everyone is taken care of, Christianity is dead and everyone embraces multiculturalism thanks to a government program encouraging people to show how un-racist they are by having sex with African immigrants (*and no, that is not a joke, they actually did that). On the other hand, people on the right in America tend to view Scandinavia as resting somewhere around the seventh circle of Hell as a region where people are taxed into state dependency, having all their creativity and ambition purged by an oppressive government and where conformity has created a population of wimps who only take pride in how quickly they are dying out and how efficiently they use the corpses of their loved ones as an environmentally friendly energy source (*and no, that is not a joke, that actually happened). So, who is right? Are the Scandinavian countries a utopia that proves socialism works or simply crowned Marxist republics that must be lying about how happy everyone there is?

The truth is really neither one. The Scandinavian countries are not as wonderful as some people think but nor are they as bad as others seem to think. It is true that they are big believers in wealth redistribution so that there is very little income inequality in the Scandinavian countries. Some think that is good, others think that is bad. Society is not so divided by class in these places but that does go with limits to individual rights because it places limitations on success. It is true that crime is very low in these countries, at least compared to some other parts of the world but it is also true that many crimes go unreported because they are concentrated amongst the immigrant community and the authorities prefer to ignore it for fear of being accused of racism if they arrest someone who is not light complexioned. It is true that the monarchies in these countries are totally or effectively ceremonial, however, it is also true that they are widely popular still and are considered by most to be an integral part of the culture and framework of the country. Their populations are, on the whole, quite conformist in that they do tend to hold the same values and opinions on most things but this is not too different from most of the rest of Europe these days and differing points of view do exist. So, let us take them one at a time:

The Kingdom of Sweden is probably the most often singled out as being a socialist success-story (as if such a thing could exist) and being the most nominal monarchy in the world (I would say at least Andorra has them beat on that front). First of all, it is true that Sweden has a tax rate that is nothing short of punitive and they are very free with the government handouts. However, they are certainly not Cuba or North Korea. Socialism does not work, as has been proven all around the world, but Sweden is not so socialist as some might think. First of all, in the old days before the 1960’s the Kingdom of Sweden was one of the most economically free countries on earth. It had very low taxes, very few but quite common-sense government regulations and it had a booming economy and was a major industrial powerhouse. However, as I have often said, one of the biggest problems with capitalism is that it makes countries rich enough to think they can afford socialism and that is basically what happened in Sweden. They got so rich that people started crying about fairness and income inequality and so they went drastically in the socialist direction and, as a result, economic growth ground to a halt, production plummeted and successful people fled the country. However, because of that, Sweden was almost forced to start moderating and moving back in the opposite direction, at least somewhat so that today, although Sweden has the reputation of being very socialistic and the United States has the reputation of being very capitalistic, the amount of regulation and wealth redistribution in Sweden is not that different from the United States.

Now, like the United States, the level of promises made to the people by the government in terms of entitlements is simply not sustainable because these types of socialistic programs depend on an ever increasing number of young workers to pay the tax burden for the sick, the old and the unemployed and the numbers just don’t exist even with Sweden opening its borders to a huge influx of foreigners. These policies cannot carry on indefinitely, the numbers just don’t add up and that will be a big problem in the future. Sweden has never had a huge population, it is simply a country that cannot support one and the native population is practically stagnant while the immigrant population is growing. It’s still not enough to save the future of the welfare state but it does not take a math genius to see that it will ultimately mean that the Swedish population is simply going to be replaced by an ethnically non-Swedish one in the not-too-distant future. It is also true that it is one of the most irreligious countries in the world. However, it is still an officially Christian country, with the Lutheran church as the official state church of Sweden and, of course, it is still a monarchy. The monarch is officially ceremonial with no role in government at all but he does chair the Council of State, opens parliament, appoints the prime minister and all the usual duties so he is at least still able to inform, be informed and give his advice on government matters. He is not totally inconsequential and the majority of the people support the monarchy.

The Kingdom of Norway, the youngest of the Scandinavian countries in terms of its current monarchy, is also a very heavily taxed and heavily regulated country with little income inequality and a generous welfare state. Though, again, it is really not that different from the supposedly hyper-capitalist United States. All of the Scandinavian countries, in fact, have a lower corporate tax rate than the United States so, in a way, they are friendlier to those “evil” big businessmen and corporations than the United States of “Greed is Good” America. What keeps the Norwegian economy in such seemingly good shape in spite of these socialistic policies is the fact that they have a great deal of mineral wealth and I mean, of course, oil. The Norwegian government makes a ton of money from oil and that money is used to fund social welfare programs and so people are going to tell the survey-takers that they are very happy when they get a big oil check from the government on a regular basis. It also helps that they have a very small population in Norway. Like many Middle Eastern countries, when one has huge oil income (in government hands) and a small population (there are far more people -as in several million more- in New York City alone than in the entire Kingdom of Norway), it is easy to have a high standard of living even when the government is wasting money extravagantly.

On the social front, Norway has a higher birth rate than many European countries, but it still is not good, it just is not quite as bad as others. Statistically, Norwegians are still going extinct but they will probably be around to see other European peoples go extinct first. Like Sweden, they are a predominately irreligious country but, again, also still an officially Christian one with the King of Norway titled as the “High Protector of the Church of Norway” which is, of course, Lutheran. However, before one thinks of blaming social ills in Norway on the King because of this, remember that it is not dissimilar from the situation with the Church of England. The King is not a cleric and many of the Lutheran bishops, like so many others in so many other churches, have at times seemed more interested in being relevant and popular than being doctrinally traditional. About 20% of the population are immigrants but their natural growth rate is much higher than that of the native population so, again, it is not difficult to see what those numbers mean for the future of Norway, long-term. Conformity is high but not total and what seems like a population united in shared liberal values can be misleading. The refusal to give a legitimate voice to dissenting views leads to frustration and then violence such as was seen in the mass-shooting of 2011. Many other festering problems are simply being ignored because it would be “politically incorrect” to address them. However, in Norway the King does play a part in government, not being purely ceremonial but more like Britain for example, and Norway has a much greater “independent” streak than many realize. Norway, for example, is a member of the European Economic Area but did not and has not become a member of the European Union and is not a part of the Eurozone which is very much to their credit. So, problems exist, but compared to others, Norway is in a better position to reject bad policies and get back on the right track.

Finally, we have the Kingdom of Denmark, most venerable of the monarchies of the Old World. Here again, I think many people have many misconceptions about Denmark simply because these countries are often lumped together as being part of a uniform, leftist, socialistic, egalitarian Scandinavia which is an over-simplification. The Kingdom of Denmark, for example, is a member of the European Union but is not a member of the Eurozone and still uses the Danish krone as its official currency. It is a typical tax and spend country but it may surprise a great many people to know that on two of the major indexes for measuring economic freedom, the Kingdom of Denmark was ranked higher than that supposed champion of free market capitalism the United States of America. Who would have guessed that? It certainly is not the reputation Denmark has and yet, it is true; Denmark is basically a more economically free country than America. This is due almost entirely to the level of government regulation of the economy. Compared to America, Denmark has a very low level of government regulations while it does have a punitive tax rate and a very generous welfare state. So, the basic difference is that it is actually easier to go out and make money in Denmark than in the United States but, on the other hand, the government will take more of it away from you to give to your unemployed neighbor. As in the other Scandinavian countries, this government generosity with other people’s money attracts many immigrants and while some of that can be regulated, immigration among EU-member states of course cannot so there is a demographic problem similar to that in Norway and Sweden. What is being paid out or is promised to be paid out, compared to what can possibly be taken in by the state just cannot be sustained long-term in Denmark or any of these other countries as things stand.

As elsewhere, the level of irreligion in Denmark is quite high but it is an officially Christian country, no separation of church and state but with freedom of religion. Like the others, it is very egalitarian but I think many would be surprised by how traditional the Danish monarchy remains. Until the middle of the Twentieth Century it had probably the most old fashioned and strict court protocol of any monarchy in Europe and even today, traditional ceremony and protocol are maintained by the Danish court to a degree probably present nowhere else in Europe. The Queen is enthusiastically supported by the people with a roughly 90% approval rating and she retains considerable authority. She presides at meetings and her views are taken seriously. She can even issue laws on her own in an emergency according to clause 23 of the Danish constitution. Some may be surprised that the Danish monarch has a much more free hand than many of her fellow sovereigns. The Queen writes her own speeches and her public messages are much less regulated by the government than in, for example, Great Britain. She is not mere window-dressing and while she certainly shares the overall values of most of her people, she does not bend to fashionable trends either. When people criticized her smoking habit, she told them to butt out; when activists condemned her for wearing fur, she told them to go climb a tree and when multiculturalism led to violence over Danish cartoons the Queen was the only head of state to single out the culprits by name and say that they had to be confronted even if it meant to, “run the risk of having unflattering labels placed on us because there are some things for which we should display no tolerance”. If I haven’t said so lately, I think the Queen of Denmark is awesome.

And that, is the overall situation in the monarchies of Scandinavia. Honestly, they are not all that different from the supposedly so much more capitalistic United States when it comes to taxation and wealth redistribution. In truth, most First World countries have adopted fairly similar models of a mixture of socialism and capitalism with governments simply arguing over the degree to which they allow people to keep what they earn. Sweden used to be very economically free, went far to the left, living off the wealth accumulated in the past and since that well ran dry has been moving ever so slightly more to the right in economic terms. Norway is doing pretty good thanks to few people, lots of oil and telling the EU, “no thanks” and Denmark has low regulations, a rather grand monarchy and recently put out a sign saying “Seek asylum elsewhere”. They all have problems to be sure and the basic economic model used by all three (and so many more) is simply not possible to continue in the long-term. However, they still have the tools to correct and rebuild and the monarchies in these countries provide something important, socially and economically even in the cases where they are reduced to only a ceremonial status and that is a sense of unity and stability. Monarchists say that a lot and republicans tend to dismiss it but anyone who follows the stock markets of the world can tell you that the simple perception of stability by people can make a huge difference. Even communist Chinese state-run CCTV once made this point, asking an expert why Japan, with its rapid turnover of governments, does not scare away investment like many other countries do with similar political instability. The expert replied that a big part of it was His Majesty the Emperor who, even while having no part in politics, provides a sense of stability just by being there. Even symbols can be very important and if you don’t believe me, try burning the Stars & Stripes in middle America or wearing a t-shirt with the Dalai Lama on it in downtown Peking. The Scandinavian countries have their problems and they have their positive aspects and their monarchies are definitely positives.


  1. "Even communist Chinese state-run CCTV once made this point, asking an expert why Japan, with its rapid turnover of governments, does not scare away investment like many other countries do with similar political instability. The expert replied that a big part of it was His Majesty the Emperor who, even while having no part in politics, provides a sense of stability just by being there."

    Do you have a link to this statement? It will be useful for an article I'm writing.

    While not a whole lot of academic research has compared monarchies with republics one that I found made the argument that while economic growth and small reforms were handled by each government type about the same, large reforms tended to be handled poorly by republics. You can check out the paper here: http://polsci.ku.dk/arbejdspapirer/2008/ap_2008_02.pdf

    1. Afraid not, I just happened to see it on TV. It was on the show "Dialogue", that's about the best I can do.

  2. "a government program encouraging people to show how un-racist they are by having sex with African immigrants"

    Is this for real? Which country did this?

  3. And so the so-called far right becomes the only hope of survival for the european whites.

  4. Hello,
    a few notes: the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Sweden was split from the realm in year 2000 and all churches (and other religious denominations) now have the same legal status. (The king is by law however, forced to remain Lutheran if he wishes to remain king; the same for his heirs if they wish to keep their status, see Torekovskompromissen.) This means that people are no longer automatically registered as members of the Lutheran church when they are born or are registered as citizens, in the realm. Additionally, that any church or religious convent may recieve aid from the government with taxation.

    As a Catholic reader from Sweden, it should be noted that while a nation secular, the Catholic faith is the fastest growing faith in the country (next to Islam) and however an immigrant church, most in it are ethnic Swedes. Perhaps interesting, the community of ethnic Swedes are, suprisingly, of the so called 'traditional' movement. For example, is the seminary for of the only diocese we have here, full. Out of circa 100,000 Catholics there are 12 seminarians. Compare with Vienna, 1,300,000 Catholics: 8 seminarians.

    Have a good day.

  5. Hi, MM.

    I´ve been gladly reading your blog, especially the economic success of monarchies. I was impressed by something that still bewilders me, and since I´m not so good in economic language, I wish you or someone here could explain me something.

    I notice that monarchial economic success is a trend in very small countries, like Monaco, Cayman Islands, Andorra, etc. I am Lebanese residing in Venezuela but soon moving to Lebanon, and I have been reading about how corrupt my homeland is. Lebanon has a tradition of laissez-faire environment, yet it really suffers from oligarch corruption. For example, Lebanon has been long dealing with electricity cuts because the government apparently hasn´t been able to invest in solving the electricity problem. But it dowsn´t stop here; there are companies like Sakr Group, who provide energy generators, who seem to be kind of racketers and use its influence to speculate and stop the government from solving the electricity problem si he keeps selling his damn generators, which maintenance sometimes costs even more than electric service. How do such small nations deal with these kinds of problems? I guess the very freedom of investment stimulates the competence necessary to stop Big Corporations from owning the whole market in one service or another.

    Btw, if you could do some minuscule research on Lebanese aristocracy, I think it would be awesome. Hope when I´m there I could do some good work and maybe help if you are interested.
    Waiting for your opinion on all that I said. Stay counter-revolutionary,

  6. I am a Swede. I had to leave Sweden. Not as an overtaxed property owner, but because some handouts come in the unpleasant guises of psychiatry and "plustiruskor" - the latter meaning social workers, especially when intrusive.

    I am a monarchist, but I would rather want to find a Republic free from this or less infested with this than Sweden, than have my Sweden, a monarchy, true enough, but infested with that.

    "Not all that socialist" depends on what dimension. If you mean a company can be large and private, yes, that is true. If you mean someone who might subsist on the dole gets a choice even of begging instead of dependance, if he stays in Sweden, I am afraid not.

  7. However, it is still an officially Christian country, with the Lutheran church as the official state church of Sweden and, of course, it is still a monarchy.

    Latter part correct.

    BUT state church system, except for a test act like requirement on reigning monarch, is gone since 2000. Indeed, when the Baptism of Olof Skötkonung was celebrated by a memorial ceremony, Catholics and Orthodox, either of which are closer to the religion adopted by Olof than the Lutherans, could have at least equal prominence.


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