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Regime change in Kiev remains the only just option

Sergey Lavrov is correct to blast the EU’s role in fomenting instability and violence in Ukraine. That being said, the Minsk agreements were dead on arrival and nothing will resuscitate them. Only legal regime change in Kiev can provide a solution.

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The EU was supposed to be the last minute saviour of Ukraine as fascist street-fighters and foreign mercenaries with fresh injections of American money readied a violent coup.

It was on the 20th of February 2014 that the Foreign Ministers of EU member states France, Germany and Poland convened in Kiev to broker a deal that was supposed to bring stability. Instead, it brought about a genocidal war on the people of Donbass who shortly after the coup declared their independence from the young fascist regime in Kiev. The deal also brought wide scale corruption in an already deeply corrupt place as well as total economic collapse that continues to get worse by the day.

Most ominously, the then Polish Foreign Minister who helped broker the deal which the insurgents had no intention of keeping, told representatives of the radicals that if they did not sign the agreement “you’ll all be dead”.

The truth is that the death came and continues to come not from those who opposed the coup but from those who came to power as a result of the coup.

The deal was supposed to insure orderly early elections and constitutional reforms which ironically reversed those made by Viktor Yanukovych. Instead, the agreement merely caused the total collapse of the state as the mob eventually forced Yanukovych to flee to Russia after a temporary and in hindsight eerie pause in the violence.

The hours in the evening of the 20th of February 2014 in which violence temporarily abated have been made up for by three and a half years of violence, turmoil and a humanitarian disaster which has seen the lawless regime in Kiev drop chemical weapons on the people of Donbass, all while the west remains silent.

Today, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov blasted the EU for its role in bringing about the violent coup in Kiev.

He stated,

“The largely-provoked-from-the-outside Ukrainian crisis has become the direct consequence of such shortsighted policy of Washington and Brussels”.

He continued,

“We hope that Germany and France, as partners within the Normandy format, as well as the US who have a special influence on the Kiev establishment, will use their means to change the situation”.

Lavrov went on to define his hopes for Ukraine stating,

“We want to see Ukraine a stable country, where all minorities, including linguistic, religious and ethnic, live freely and exercise rights provided by international convention”.

Alas, while Lavrov articulates the official Russian position clearly, it is a position that is impossible. Ukraine as presently comprised was always a powder keg waiting to explode. The fact that it was the US and EU which ultimately threw the match that caused the explosion is almost inconsequential at this point.

The fact is that Ukraine is an artificial state based on the Bolshevik nationalities policy which itself was based on the mythical idea of a stateless ‘Ukrainian people’, is the more overarching cause of the current crisis.

This reality was explained by The Duran last year in the following piece reproduced in full below: 

“Of the many sad peculiarities surrounding 2014’s coup d’état in Kiev, one of the oddest is that it shows that it is possible to have nationalism without a nation.

As a city and region Kiev has long been at the heart of Russian civilisation. It was there in the 9th century that the first Russian state was declared, and where the spiritual journey for Russian unity began.

This makes recent events all the more sad, and makes the fascist coup which happened in Kiev in 2014 more like a 21stcentury version of the Mongol invasion which in 1240 led to the sack of Kiev, which forced many Russians to move north-east, so that the capital of the Russian people became Moscow.

Thus begins the tale of the Three Russia’s: Great, Little and White.

Whilst Moscow formally established itself as a Tsardom in the 16th century, the western Russian lands were occupied by the then mighty Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. An official policy of Polonisation saw the imposition of Roman Catholicism over Orthodox people.

The infusion of Polish culture led to the development of a dialect which combined elements of the Russian and Polish languages. This dialect was the linguistic precursor to what is now referred to as Ukrainian.

Not all the Russians in the region took this well. One distinct Russian subculture developed partly in reaction.

The Cossacks were people who initially rebelled against Polish-Lithuanian rule, and who gained an increasingly autonomous status known as the Cossack Hetmanate.

Acting as mercenary fighters for (at various times) the rulers of Poland, Russia and Ottoman Turkey, they were not an easy group to control.

Ultimately in 1654 the Cossacks committed themselves to Russia and against the Poles, beginning the process of reuniting what came to be known as Little Russia to Great Russia.

The new accord between the Cossacks and the Tsardom of Russia was known as the Treaty of Pereyaslav. The full evolution of the former Polish-Lithuanian territories into Little Russia was confirmed by a treaty between Moscow and the Polish and Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Truce of Andrusovo, signed in 1667.

This re-united eastern Slav people brought together with Moscow the territories of Little Russia, corresponding to modern day central Ukraine, and White Russia, corresponding to much of modern Belarus.

Parts of what is today western Ukraine eventually passed to Austria, as Poland lost its empire. In Austria the Slavs speaking a language in part Russian and in part Polish came to be called Ruthenians.

In the later days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire this however changed. The intelligentsia of the Austro-Hungarian Empire actively encouraged – some would say invented – the idea of a distinct national identity for the Ruthenian peasants. So began the concept of ‘Ukrainianism’.

Linguistically, Ukraine is a term which when etymologically analysed, does not directly imply an ethnic group. It merely means ‘on the border’ or ‘borderland’, which is where these people were, the border in question being the one between the Russian and the Austro-Hungarian empires (previously the border between Russia and Poland, and the border of Russia and Poland again during most of the 20th century).

Austria encouraged this movement as part of its long standing policy of keeping the Slavs divided. A pan-Slavic Congress held in Prague (then part of the Austrian empire) in 1848 threatened the integrity of Austria’s empire, and the Hapsburg rulers responded accordingly.

If Vienna behaved predictably, the true originator of today’s conflict, and the man who turned a fraternal and united people into a nationalistic and divided people, was Lenin.

Lenin’s strange sense of geography and his perverse relationship with nationalism have done more to sow the seeds of today’s conflict than the works and deeds of any living politician.

When drawing the internal map of the Soviet Union, The Bolsheviks erased the lines of Tsarist regional units – the gubernias – and replaced them with a vastly more complex system of Soviet republics.

Where the gubernias generally accurately reflected the vast swaths of regional identities across Russia, the Soviet Republics did not, and nowhere was this truer than in the case of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Lenin took the territories of Little Russia and lumped them together with an area called Novorossiya, territory initially captured by Russia from the Ottomans during the Russo-Turkish Wars of 18th century, before becoming the Russian Guberniya of Novorossiya 1764.

This area was never part of the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth, and far more ethnically diverse. Not only were Russian and Turkic peoples there but so were Romanians, Germans, Serbs, European and Eastern Jews, Albanians, Greeks, Ruthenians, Armenians and others.

Interestingly, the ethnic diversity of Novorossiya made integration into the Russian state easier as Russian became the lingua-franca.

These areas correspond to what is today Eastern Ukraine, including not only Donbass but also the regions around Mariupol and Odessa.

Lenin’s geographical error was one of his biggest mistakes, and there was no reason for it. A map after all does not know whether it is communist or tsarist.

But if Lenin’s poor sense of geography was an error, what happened next was tantamount to treason.

Whilst communism is generally seen as antithetical to nationalism, in many ways it was Bolshevism in its early days, which actively encouraged regional nationalisms throughout Russia in order to demonstrate that the Bolsheviks stood up not only for the economically oppressed but for the ethnically disenfranchised as well.

The result was that where defined ethnicities did not exist the communists simply invented them.

Lenin filled the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic with propaganda turning brother against brother. Calling Russia a ‘prison of nations’, filling textbooks with made up history about divisions between Russians and Ukrainians, and forcing a foreign dialect upon people, were all part of Lenin’s plan to weaken the structures of the old Tsarist Russia.

Even though policies after Lenin’s death sought to control the damage, much of it became engrained.

The Soviet famine of the 1930s was a consequence of Stalin’s policy of forcibly establishing kolkhozy (collective farming). It affected many Soviet republics and the majority of the victims were ethnic Russians. If Lenin’s Soviet map was his lowest ebb, Stalin’s forced collectivisation was his. But in modern Ukrainian textbooks, it is blamed on the Russians and made into a conspiracy by the Russians to starve Ukrainians even though Ukrainians, Russians and others suffered equally. The fact that Stalin was not actually Russian is an irony left unmentioned.

The bitter seeds which Lenin sowed have allowed a narrative of Ukrainian nationalism to spread, and the results are poverty, war, terrorism and suffering in today’s Ukraine.

The fact that many fascists in Ukraine are destroying Lenin monuments is a testament to how poor education can result in devastating consequences.

The truth is that the violence in Ukraine is a product of nationalism without a nation. This adds an element of tragedy to what is actually a deeply unnecessary situation.

Ultimately the only solution is for referenda to be held throughout every region of modern Ukraine, where by people can decide which country best represents their identity and interests.

After all the people of Odessa and Rostov have far more in common with each other than the people of Milan do with those in Palermo.

This would be the only democratic solution. Let the people determine their destiny, not an outdated Bolshevik map which has perversely been co-opted by outright fascists.

The fact that the results of the referenda might surprise many in the West is another matter entirely”.

The feeble Minsk agreements which aim to create a ceasefire in Donbass and pave the way for reconciliation have not only failed but they were almost designed to fail.

States comprised of historically un-complimentary regions torn from various large powers, filled with people who clearly have no ability to live together any longer cannot long be artificially sustained.

This is the very reason why the regime in Kiev is trying so desperately to beg for salvation from the EU and the US. This salvation will doubtless not be forthcoming.

The EU wanted to provoke Russia on its borders and it largely failed. It merely created an unstable fascist state on Europe and Russia’s borderlands that the EU cannot deal with and which Russia refuses to deal with until the regime collapses under its own weight. Russian President Vladimir Putin said as much during the G20 summit in Hamburg.

The US will likely not help the situation under President Trump either. Trump has shown little to no interest in the matter from day one and with new revelations about how the Ukrainian regime actively tried to aid Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Trump will if anything begin to dislike the regime deeply in the coming months.

The EU’s experiment has failed. The US has lost interest in the Frankenstein monster it created under Obama. The only debate now worth having is as follows:

1. Is Russia wise to wait for the regime to collapse under its own weight or

2. Should Russia engage in legal regime change in Kiev.

The justifications for and ways of legally implementing regime change are as follows: 

“The regime in Kiev came to power illegally and governs in a manner that is totally unacceptable.The regime is guilty of mass murder, mass starvation and deprivation and multiple human rights violations.

If there was ever a regime in need of change, this is the one.

Here are the options.

1. The Security Council of the United Nations 

The Russian Federation could and should table a UNSC resolution calling for the immediate withdraw of all troops, mercenaries and terrorists loyal to the Kiev regime from the Donbass region.

Additionally, such a resolution must demand the total restoration of the Russian language to its official position and the end to all ethnic, linguistic, religious and racial discrimination.

Finally, the resolution must demand that all property of the Russian Orthodox Church which has been seized by the Ukrainian regime, must be reinstated with monetary compensation given to the Church.

The Ukrainian regime should be given a maxim of two weeks to comply with these demands or else face a corrective military response which will put an interim government in power.

The only problem with this plan is that the US and its allies would almost certainly use their veto to stop it. This is why other options must be considered.

2. Recognition of the statehood of Donetsk and Lugansk 

If Russia were to recognise the statehood of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, it would then be perfectly possible and legal for Russia to come to the military aid of these countries in helping them to end the fascist Ukrainian war of aggression against them.

If Russia recognised the sovereignty of the Donbass Republics and came to their aid, it is likely that the regime in Kiev would soon collapse without a shot and the freedom and peace of Donbass would be insured for the foreseeable future.

3. Grant Russian Citizenship to all Donbass people and Russians living under the Ukrainian regime 

This should be done anyway. The majority of the people in the historic Novorossiya and Little Russia regions consider themselves to be Russian and by all objective accounts they most certainly are Russian. Thousands have families in the Russian Federation and could be a productive part of the Russian Federation’s workforce.

There is no reason not to give Russian people who speak Russian and have family in Russia instant citizenship. Many other European countries give citizenship to their brethren outside of their borders without any fuss. Some states do this even to people who haven’t lived near Europe for generations. Likewise, Israel gives citizenship to anyone who is Jewish.

There should be zero hurdles for instant citizenship for all Russians outside of Russia, starting with those in historic Russian lands on Russia’s borders.

If hundreds of thousands of Russian passport holders living under the oppressive criminal regime in Kiev are in danger, then it would be within Russia’s remit to militarily intervene to secure their protection and restore their peaceful existence. This happened in 2008 in South Ossetia and Abkhazia when Russian citizens and peacekeepers were threatened with genocide by the regime in Tbilisi. The result was peace and freedom for the people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. No one there has been hurt since.

4. The American example 

For those who think that these measures too easily disregard caution, one needs only to look at America. The United States changes regimes in countries on the other side of the world with impunity. They do so in countries that have no cultural, linguistic let alone ethnic connection to the vast majority of US citizens and they do so in countries where not even a small amount of Americans reside.

America has broken apart the integrity of Serbia by facilitating the unilateral separatism of the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija, a place where not a single American was in any danger for the simple reason that no Americans where there. This was all done without the approval of the United Nations.

The United States invaded Iraq and toppled its government on the basis that it had weapons of mass destruction which it did not have. By contrast Ukraine has used weapons of mass destruction, particularly chemical weapons on the civilians of Donbass and maintains large stocks of chemical weapons as well as nuclear power facilities which are in such poor repair it could cause a massive disaster. Must the world really wait till the flippancy and inadequacy of the Kiev regime causes a nuclear meltdown before a responsible party is put in charge?

Each of the aforementioned plans for Russia to bring an end to the regime in Kiev are less than what America has done in countries with no human rights disaster, no war, no use of weapons of mass destruction and no overriding conflict.

If there was ever a case for 21st century regime change it is in Kiev. The Kiev regime has violated all the acceptable norms of the most rogue failed state and no amount of America or EU money can change this fact.f

What’s more is that unlike in the countries where America militarily intervened, in Ukraine, millions of people would actually welcome Russia as a force of liberation. The people of the region were all living in one state until very recently and many still lament the creation of artificial borders between fraternal peoples.

If put to a referendum, the majority of Ukrainian regions would almost certainly prefer association with Russia than with neo-Nazi elements from the only non-Russian part of the region, Galacia in the west of the current Ukrainian borders.

Why is it that America can destroy nations at will, but Russia cannot help a fraternal Russian people on Russia’s current borders?

The only logical answer is timidity. It is a timidity that shames Russia and hurts millions of Russian people both inside and out of Russia’s current borders”

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“I’m Not A Racist, But I’m A Nationalist”: Why Sweden Faces A Historic Election Upset

Sweden is set to have a political earthquake in September.

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Via Zerohedge


“Trains and hospitals don’t work, but immigration continues,” Roger Mathson, a retired vegetable oil factory worker in Sweden, told Bloomberg on the same day as the violent, coordinated rampage by masked gangs of youths across five Swedish cities.

We noted earlier that Swedish politicians were quick to react with anti-immigrant party ‘Sweden Democrats’ seeing a surge in the polls ahead of the September 9th election.

“I’m not a racist, but I’m a nationalist,” Mathson said. “I don’t like seeing the town square full of Niqab-clad ladies and people fighting with each other.”

Is Sweden set to have its own political earthquake in September, where general elections could end a century of Social Democratic dominance and bring to power a little known (on the world stage), but the now hugely popular nationalist party often dubbed far-right and right-wing populist, called Sweden Democrats?

Sweden, a historically largely homogeneous population of 10 million, took in an astounding 600,000 refugees over the past five years, and after Swedes across various cities looked out their windows Tuesday to see cars exploding, smoke filling the skies, and possibly armed masked men hurling explosives around busy parking lots, it appears they’ve had enough.

Over the past years of their rise as a political force in Swedish politics, the country’s media have routinely labelled the Sweden Democrats as “racists” and “Nazis” due to their seemingly single issue focus of anti-immigration and strong Euroscepticism.

A poll at the start of this week indicated the Sweden Democrats slid back to third place after topping three previous polls as the September election nears; however, Tuesday’s national crisis and what could legitimately be dubbed a serious domestic terror threat is likely to boost their popularity.

Bloomberg’s profile of their leader, Jimmie Akesson, echoes the tone of establishment Swedish media in the way they commonly cast the movement, beginning as follows:

Viking rock music and whole pigs roasting on spits drew thousands of Swedes to a festival hosted by nationalists poised to deliver their country’s biggest political upheaval in a century.

The Sweden Democrats have been led since 2005 by a clean-cut and bespectacled man, Jimmie Akesson. He’s gentrified a party that traces its roots back to the country’s neo-Nazi, white supremacist fringe. Some polls now show the group may become the biggest in Sweden’s parliament after general elections on Sept. 9. Such an outcome would end 100 years of Social Democratic dominance.

The group’s popularity began surging after the 2015 immigration crisis began, which first hit Europe’s southern Mediterranean shores and quickly moved northward as shocking wave after wave of migrants came.

Jimmie Akesson (right). Image source: Getty via Daily Express

Akesson emphasizes something akin to a “Sweden-first” platform which European media often compares to Trump’s “America First”; and the party has long been accused of preaching forced assimilation into Swedish culture to be become a citizen.

Bloomberg’s report surveys opinions at a large political rally held in Akkeson’s hometown of Solvesborg, and some of the statements are sure to be increasingly common sentiment after this week’s coordinated multi-city attack:

At his party’s festival, Akesson revved up the crowd by slamming the establishment’s failures, calling the last two governments the worst in Swedish history. T-shirts calling for a Swexit, or an exit from the EU, were exchanged as bands played nationalist tunes.

Ted Lorentsson, a retiree from the island of Tjorn, said he’s an enthusiastic backer of the Sweden Democrats. “I think they want to improve elderly care, health care, child care,” he said. “Bring back the old Sweden.” But he also acknowledges his view has led to disagreement within his family as his daughter recoils at what she feels is the “Hitler”-like rhetoric.

No doubt, the media and Eurocrats in Brussels will take simple, innocent statements from elderly retirees like “bring back the old Sweden” as nothing short of declaration of a race war, but such views will only solidify after this week.

Another Sweden Democrat supporter, a 60-year old woman who works at a distillery, told Bloomberg, “I think you need to start seeing the whole picture in Sweden and save the original Swedish population,” she said. “I’m not racist, because I’m a realist.”

Sweden’s two biggest parties, the Social Democrats and Moderates, are now feeling the pressure as Swedes increasingly worry about key issues preached by Akesson like immigration, law and order, and health care – seen as under threat by a mass influx of immigrants that the system can’t handle.

Bloomberg explains further:

But even young voters are turning their backs on the establishment. One potential SD supporter is law student Oscar Persson. Though he hasn’t yet decided how he’ll vote, he says it’s time for the mainstream parties to stop treating the Sweden Democrats like a pariah. “This game they are playing now, where the other parties don’t want to talk to them but still want their support, is something I don’t really understand,” he said.

Akesson has managed to entice voters from both sides of the political spectrum with a message of more welfare, lower taxes and savings based on immigration cuts.

With many Swedes now saying immigration has “gone too far” and as this week’s events have once again thrust the issue before both a national and global audience, the next round of polling will mostly like put Sweden’s conservative-right movements on top

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The Turkish Emerging Market Timebomb

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s populist economic policies have finally caught up to him.

The Duran

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Authored by Jim O’Neill, originally on Project Syndicate:


As the Turkish lira continues to depreciate against the dollar, fears of a classic emerging-market crisis have come to the fore. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s populist economic policies have finally caught up to him, and sooner or later, he will have to make nice with his country’s traditional Western allies.

Turkey’s falling currency and deteriorating financial conditions lend credence, at least for some people, to the notion that “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” I suspect that many Western policymakers, in particular, are not entirely unhappy about Turkey’s plight.

To veteran economic observers, Turkey’s troubles are almost a textbook case of an emerging-market flop. It is August, after all, and back in the 1990s, one could barely go a single year without some kind of financial crisis striking in the dog days of summer.

But more to the point, Turkey has a large, persistent current-account deficit, and a belligerent leader who does not realize – or refuses to acknowledge – that his populist economic policies are unsustainable. Moreover, Turkey has become increasingly dependent on overseas investors (and probably some wealthy domestic investors, too).

Given these slowly gestating factors, markets have long assumed that Turkey was headed for a currency crisis. In fact, such worries were widespread as far back as the fall of 2013, when I was in Istanbul interviewing business and financial leaders for a BBC Radio series on emerging economies. At that time, markets were beginning to fear that monetary-policy normalization and an end to quantitative easing in the United States would have dire consequences globally. The Turkish lira has been flirting with disaster ever since.

Now that the crisis has finally come to pass, it is Turkey’s population that will bear the brunt of it. The country must drastically tighten its domestic monetary policy, curtail foreign borrowing, and prepare for the likelihood of a full-blown economic recession, during which time domestic saving will slowly have to be rebuilt.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s leadership will both complicate matters and give Turkey some leverage. Erdoğan has  constitutional powers, reducing those of the parliament, and undercutting the independence of monetary and fiscal policymaking. And to top it off, he seems to be reveling in an escalating feud with US President Donald Trump’s administration over Turkey’s imprisonment of an American pastor and purchase of a Russian S-400 missile-defense system.

This is a dangerous brew for the leader of an emerging economy to imbibe, particularly when the United States itself has embarked on a Ronald Reagan-style fiscal expansion that has pushed the US Federal Reserve to raise interest rates faster than it would have otherwise. Given the unlikelihood of some external source of funding emerging, Erdoğan will eventually have to back down on some of his unorthodox policies. My guess is that we’ll see a return to a more conventional monetary policy, and possibly a new fiscal-policy framework.

As for Turkey’s leverage in the current crisis, it is worth remembering that the country has a large and youthful population, and thus the potential to grow into a much larger economy in the future. It also enjoys a privileged geographic position at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia, which means that many major players have a stake in ensuring its stability. Indeed, many Europeans still hold out hope that Turkey will embrace Western-style capitalism, despite the damage that Erdoğan has done to the country’s European Union accession bid.

Among the regional powers, Russia is sometimes mentioned as a potential savior for Turkey. There is no doubt that Russian President Vladimir Putin would love to use Turkey’s crisis to pull it even further away from its NATO allies. But Erdoğan and his advisers would be deeply mistaken to think that Russia can fill Turkey’s financial void. A Kremlin intervention would do little for Turkey, and would likely exacerbate Russia’s own .

The other two potential patrons are Qatar and, of course, China. But while Qatar, one of Turkey’s closest Gulf allies, could provide financial aid, it does not ultimately have the wherewithal to pull Turkey out of its crisis singlehandedly.

As for China, though it will not want to waste the opportunity to increase its influence vis-à-vis Turkey, it is not the country’s style to step into such a volatile situation, much less assume responsibility for solving the problem. The more likely outcome – as we are seeing in Greece – is that China will unleash its companies to pursue investment opportunities after the dust settles.

That means that Turkey’s economic salvation lies with its conventional Western allies: the US and the EU (particularly France and Germany). On August 13, a White House spokesperson confirmed that the Trump administration is watching the financial-market response to Turkey’s crisis “very closely.” The last thing that Trump wants is a crumbling world economy and a massive dollar rally, which could derail his domestic economic ambitions. So a classic Trump “trade” is probably there for Erdoğan, if he is willing to come to the negotiating table.

Likewise, some of Europe’s biggest and most fragile banks have significant exposure to Turkey. Combine that with the ongoing political crisis over migration, and you have a recipe for deeper destabilization within the EU. I, for one, cannot imagine that European leaders will sit by and do nothing while Turkey implodes on their border.

Despite his escalating rhetoric, Erdoğan may soon find that he has little choice but to abandon his isolationist and antagonistic policies of the last few years. If he does, many investors may look back next year and wish that they had snapped up a few lira when they had the chance.

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Why Scandinavia Isn’t Exceptional

Scandinavia is entirely unexceptional.

The Duran

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Authored by Per Bylund via The Mises Institute:


[From the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics.]

The Scandinavian countries, and primary among them Sweden, are commonly referred to as anomalies or inspirations, depending on one’s political point of view. The reason is that the countries do not appear to fit the general pattern: they are enormously successful whereas they “shouldn’t” be. Indeed, Scandinavians enjoy very high living standards despite having very large, progressive welfare states for which they pay the world’s highest taxes.

As a result, a large and growing literature, both propagandist and scholarly, has emerged that tries to identify the reasons for this Scandinavian exceptionalism—especially as pertains to their welfare states. I have myself contributed to this literature1 and have previously reviewed others’ contributions to it in this journal.2 But what has been missing is a summary analysis that is accessible to non-scholars. It was therefore a delight to read Nima Sanandaji’s Scandinavian Unexceptionalism: Culture, Markets, and the Failure of Third-Way Socialism, published by British Institute for Economic Affairs.

Dr. Sanandaji is a political-economy analyst and writer, well known in both Sweden and Europe, and as expected does an excellent job summarizing the state of scholarship. He also uses examples and quotes from articles published in Scandinavian news media to illustrate the narrative. The result is a short and informative but easy to read answer to both how and why the Scandinavian welfare states seem to work so well.

The short book provides the reader with insight into Scandinavian culture, an explanation of the causes of the nations’ exceptional rise from poverty, an overview of their recent political-economic history, the distinct structure and evolution of the Scandinavian welfare state, the origins of their egalitarianism and gender equality, and the effect of immigration. I will briefly touch on three of these areas.

First, Sanandaji makes clear that the rosy story of the Scandinavian welfare state, as it is usually told, is at best incomplete. The Scandinavian countries were among the European continent’s poorest by the end of the 19th century and were largely unaffected by the industrialization that had started centuries earlier in the United Kingdom. A combination of classical liberal reform and the adoption of industrialized production created a century-long “golden age,” as Bergh (2014) denotes the period approximately 1870–1970 in Sweden, of economic growth and rapidly rising standards of living.

This growth was partly also made possible by a distinct Scandinavian culture, which is characterized by the “[h]igh levels of trust, a strong work ethic and social cohesion [that] are the perfect starting point for successful economies” (p. 7). As Sanandaji points out, the market-aligned virtues of Scandinavian culture also explain the limited impact of the welfare state as it was erected and ballooned in the 1930s and beyond. Cultural change takes time, and thus old values lag in the face of political change. So it took time for the Scandinavian virtues to give way to the destructive incentives of the welfare state.

It should also be noted, though Sanandaji fails to make this point clearly, that after the welfare state was established, and during its several decades of expansion, it’s growth rate tended to be lower than that of the overall economy. The increasing burden was therefore, in relative terms, marginal. That is, until the radical 1960s and 1970s when Scandinavian governments, and the Swedish government in particular, adopted very expansionist welfare policies. (This political shift is analyzed in detail in, e.g., Bergh.)3

Sanandaji also presents interesting data with respect to Scandinavian gender equality. His discussion begins with the internationally enviable women’s labor market participation rate in Scandinavian countries, and especially Sweden. The background, however, is that Sweden’s government had adopted a radical agenda for population control formulated by Gunnar and Alva Myrdal (yes, the same Gunnar Myrdal who shared the 1974 economics prize with Hayek). The gist of this reform was to enforce a shared responsibility between parents and “the community” for children’s upbringing. By raising taxes on income while offering government-run daycare services, families were incentivized (if not “forced,” economically speaking) to secure two full-time incomes.

Interestingly, while this indeed rapidly increased women’s participation in the labor market, Sanandaji notes that “few women in the Nordic nations reach the position of business leaders, and even fewer manage to climb to the very top positions of directors and chief executives” (p. 102). Part of the reason is that jobs that women typically choose, including education and healthcare, are monopolized in the vast public sectors. As a result, women at trapped in careers where employers do not compete for their competence and many leadership positions are political.

This development is indirectly illustrated in a terrifying statistic from Sweden’s labor market: “Between 1950 and 2000, the Swedish population grew from seven to almost nine million. But astonishingly the net job creation in the private sector was close to zero” (p. 33).

Finally, Sanandaji addresses the issue of immigration and shows that the Scandinavian nations were exceptionally good at integration, with greater labor participation for immigrants than other Western nations, prior to the radicalization of the welfare state. Thereafter, due to rigid labor regulations and vast welfare benefits, immigrants were more or less kept out of Scandinavian job markets.

The literature identifies two potential explanations. First, the anti-business and job-protection policies practically exclude anyone with a lack of work experience, highly sought-after skills, or those with lacking proficiency in the language or limited network. This keeps immigrants as well as young people unemployed (the very high youth unemployment rates in Scandinavia illustrate this problem). Second, the promises of the universal welfare state tend to attract people who are less interested in working their way to the top and thus have a lacking work ethic.

This explains the recent problems in Scandinavia with respect to immigration, which is essentially an integration and policy problem — not a foreign-people problem.

Overall, Sanandaji’s book provides plenty of insights and a coherent explanation for the rise of the Scandinavian nations and their welfare states. Their impressive standard of living is a free-market story, which is rooted in an economically sound culture. This culture also supported the welfare state, until decades of destructive incentives eroded the nations’ sound values. The welfare state, after its radicalization, was soon crushed under its own weight, and Scandinavia has since undergone vast free-market reforms that again have contributed to economic growth and prosperity.

Considering the full story, Sanandaji summarizes the example of the Northern European welfare states simply and bluntly: “Scandinavia is entirely unexceptional.”

  • 1.Bylund, Per L. 2010. “The Modern Welfare State: Leading the Way on the Road to Serfdom.” In Thomas E. Woods, ed., Back on the Road to Serfdom: The Resurgence of Statism. Wilmington, Del.: ISI Books.
  • 2.2015. “Book Review: Sweden and the Revival of the Capitalist Welfare State by Andreas Bergh,” Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics 18, no. 1: 75–81.
  • 3.Bergh, Andreas. 2014. Sweden and the Revival of the Capitalist Welfare State. Cheltenham, U.K.: Edward Elgar.

Per Bylund is assistant professor of entrepreneurship & Records-Johnston Professor of Free Enterprise in the School of Entrepreneurship at Oklahoma State University. Website: PerBylund.com.

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