Pethokoukis

Charles Murray on social democracy, the Nordic Way, and human flourishing

The WaPo’s Dylan Matthews has a great Q&A with social scientist Lane Kenworthy, whose new book, Social Democratic America, I have read and written a bit about. The headline to the piece, “This sociologist has a plan to make America more like Sweden,” gets it about right. Lots more social spending and lots more taxes. Hello, VAT.

As a counter, here is Charles Murray in Coming Apart on the delights of the Nordic Way and the rest of social democratic Europe:

010913murrayReminds me of what my pastor said about the Bible story, in Genesis, where Adam is naming all the animals: See, right from the start God knew Man needed a job.

Follow James Pethokoukis on Twitter at @JimPethokoukis, and AEIdeas at @AEIdeas.

8 thoughts on “Charles Murray on social democracy, the Nordic Way, and human flourishing

  1. Funny, my experience with everyone from Sweden here
    (mostly here on business) is just the opposite, they do everything imaginable to avoid the reppresive taxes and governmnt control. None of them think that childern are a burden that the government must help with and if people think they are a burden I would suggest that they not have any!

  2. Murray’s view that an immigration-driven multicultural Scandinavia will lose its mellow misses a significant point. Scandinavian society is and was harmonious historically; American society never was. (While it might have appeared so in Norman Rockwell paintings, those weren’t black faces around the Thanksgiving table.) We had riots. The Danes have an education system that produces world-class upward mobility. We go to war over entitlements and immigration. The pragmatic Danes are preparing for an aging population.

    In cooperation, I am afraid the standard is Danish exceptionalism. I am not sure we can can there from here. But we should be talking about it because aspiration is our cultural glue, an if aspiration ever went away….

      • Kinda hard to make any statistical case on crimes as underreported as rape. (60 percent are not reported in the US according to RAINN, a woman’s advocacy group.) Swedes simply may be more likely to report assaults. We know that Sweden is very big on gender equality. It criminalized marital rape in 1966; it was among the first to charge johns with a sex crime, but not prostitutes. In short. Maybe. Maybe not.

        Near as I can tell, the Muslim connection is anti-immigrant hysteria inside the country and nativist propanganda outside. The story Juandos links, for example, says nothing about Muslims, or Mooselimbs for that matter. (Google’s Chrome browser has a translate function. “Muslim” in Swedish is Muslim mostly, also Muselman or Mohammedan, so feel free to verify that the original Swedish is ethnically clean.) Cite a Swedish govt. report and I’ll happily admit error.

        • Anyhoo, my reference was Denmark, which Juandos’ story says has one tenth the sexual assault complaints of Sweden. Denmark’s population is 4 percent muslim, 10 percent in Copenhagen.

  3. Since the Clinton-era tech crash in 2000, the only US job categories to significantly expand are in health care. Globalization and automation are combining to leave a steadily-increasing fraction of the population unable to earn enough to sustain their families.

    As China’s ongoing double-digit wage increases gradually level the playing field, globalization’s influence is likely to fade.

    However, unless you think that somehow we can sustainably increase worker productivity faster than we increase robot productivity, that trend is unlikely to reverse. Unless we turn to large-scale wage subsidies (starting with payroll tax cuts/abolition) we face a time when many people will not do much work during their lifetimes. Already, extended adolescence and early retirement mean that perhaps a majority will spend less than half their lives with a paycheck even without these other influences.

    Look at the occupations now coming under attack. Manual labor, but by no means only manual labor is dying. Robots pick grapes! Robots drive trucks and taxis! Robots deliver packages! Robots diagnose illness! Robots evaluate x-rays! Robots flip burgers and make mochaccinos!

    The issue isn’t the “equality” meme of the season. It’s the effective end of work as the basis of our culture.
    I.e., the centrality of work in American society is ending. What will replace the work=dignity, self-sufficiency=self-work equations?

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