For decades, English and American conservatives have
gleefully anticipated the imminent collapse of
Scandinavia. After all, the Scandinavian welfare state,
which largely came into existence around 1935, is an
affront to theories held dear by both libertarian and
traditionalist right wingers. But they have been
Still, Sweden served as a
role model for British Laborites in the late 1940s
and for American liberals in the 1960s. And without the
economic decay and crime waves these Nordic-tested
policies engendered in the English-speaking world, would
modern conservatives have ever made it into power here?
neoconservatism itself was largely a product of the
great New York City crime wave that accompanied Governor
Nelson Rockefeller`s generous increases in
welfare to single mothers. These rendered male
superfluous in poor black and Puerto Rican
neighborhoods – where many of the older relatives of
Jewish intellectuals ran small stores that became
targets for stick-up men.
Today, everyone assumes that Irving Kristol was speaking
metaphorically when he defined neoconservatives as
liberals who had been “mugged by reality.” But being
mugged in the
most literal sense was the
defining event of the 1960s for
more than a few New Yorkers.
Welfare states in ethnically-homogenous countries are
based on the assumption that we`re all one big happy
family and can trust each other not to abuse the system.
Thus you see Swedish mothers dropping their children off
at the daycare center and then driving to another
daycare center where they work all day taking care of
the kids of the mothers who are taking care of their
kids. Of course, this is economically silly. But they at
least trust each other to do what is right by each
other`s children – because they`re all Swedes.
Conversely, Nordic social democracies are particularly
vulnerable to being ripped off by
"refugees" from corrupt, anarchic
every-extended-family-for-itself places such as
Somalia, that Mad Max movie come to life.
Yet no Thatcher or Reagan has arisen in Scandinavia. The
right sometimes wins there by campaigning against
immigration, as it did in
Denmark in 2001. But when – as in the U.S. – the
mainstream right doesn`t have the guts to fight the
election over immigration, the left can still win by
running on the welfare state, as in Sweden last
The Nordic welfare state may not work in theory. But so
far it hasn`t completely broken down in practice.
blog, Richard Poe vigorously objected (here
to what I
wrote two weeks ago on Randall Kennedy and the
continuity of African cultural patterns in the New
World. I`d said:
"Four decades ago, America imported a policy that had
worked reasonably well in Scandinavia for a generation:
paying generous welfare benefits to single mothers. Yet,
within two or three years, illegitimacy and crime rates
among African-Americans were soaring — because they
didn`t respond to the new incentives like Swedes."
Richard says this is happening in Scandinavia too – and
that I should look at cultural changes, rather than
being fixated by what he calls “the serpent`s gaze of
blood and race.”
We really aren`t disagreeing on much. I concur that the
welfare state is slowly sapping the vast stock of social
capital with which Scandinavians began their experiment.
Property crime and absenteeism are way up. No doubt the
welfare system will ultimately be replaced.
Still, the process of social decay has taken a
remarkably longer time there than elsewhere.
was fortunate to receive an email from a VDARE.COM fan,
the heavyweight historian
David Gress, author of the vastly learned 1998
book, From Plato to NATO: the Idea of the West
and Its Opponents. His message explains the
Scandinavian system better than anything I`ve ever read.
He concentrates on the crucial question of the economics
of having a family.
"You`re both right. I grew up in Scandinavia, have
family there, and still visit regularly, and am writing
a political and cultural history of the region, which
will answer ALL your questions. Meanwhile:
"Steve, you`re right in noting that welfare payments to
single mothers have not been as devastating to the
family — the male-female-children nuclear bond — in
Scandinavia as in black urban America. Whether married
or not, most Scandinavian couples stay together and
demonstrate a strong, residually Lutheran, ethic of
commitment and care. However:
"Richard Poe is also right that SOMETHING, whether it be
welfare payments or less tangible cultural and social
developments, has undermined much of the nuclear bond in
Scandinavia as well. As the links he posts note, most
couples in Scandinavia do not marry before their first
child. I`ve heard anecdotal evidence that there is a
"marriage trap" after the second child, so that many of
these unmarried couples marry after child two.
"Looking at welfare payments is too narrow. You have to
go back to the late 1960s, when all Nordic countries
introduced individual taxation and abolished any
financial advantage of marriage. The principle of
individual taxation is both individualist and
collectivist. It`s individualist because it assumes that
each taxpayer is solely responsible for him or herself.
Thus, it explicitly denies and delegitimates the role of
breadwinner. In the new, individualist dispensation, a
woman must not depend on a man for her support. It`s
collectivist, however, because it rests on a vast public
sector offering employment to the many women who used to
be dependent housewives. These women, who by now are
grandmothers, traded their status of dependent on a
husband to that of dependent on government…
"Individual taxation increased the cost of being a
breadwinner by jacking high earning males into
impossible brackets. Given the Nordic taxation burden,
it is anyway impossible for the vast majority of people,
using honest methods, to become high earning by U.S.
standards. So, everyone, male and female, has jobs
paying much the same (Denmark has the lowest
Gini coefficient, i.e. highest equality, of any
labor market in the world)…the absolute requirement is
that both partners work full time (i.e., today, 37
“This makes women feel self-reliant, and, thanks to
extensive day care, does not depress the birth rate as
disastrously as it`s fallen in Spain and Italy. However,
it has dropped below replacement, and no one yet knows
the long-term effects of having 90 per cent of young
children in day care, as has been the case in Denmark
since the mid-1980s.
"Single motherhood is economically attractive in
Scandinavia, as it is not here. Evidence confirms the
common assumption that separation is a recipe for
disaster for most women in the U.S. In Scandinavia, they
maintain their incomes, thanks to their
government-sector jobs, child support, and, if income is
low, housing subsidies. One may say, therefore, that
Nordic women in many cases divorce or leave their
husbands/boyfriends and marry the state instead.
"Therefore, though Scandinavians may be traditionally
and genetically better equipped to resist the corrosive
effect of statism than Africans, they are beginning to
show many of the same traits. For example: children,
especially boys, raised by single mothers, even where
the father is around, suffer more pathologies than
"Given these incentives it`s remarkable that any Nordics
marry at all and stay married, just as it`s remarkable,
given a tax burden of over 60 per cent, that
anyone bothers to work at all. One reason is no
doubt the residual Lutheran work and family ethic. But
how long will that last?"
[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and