Barbados and the Nordic Model
REX NETTLEFORD used to warn Caribbean academics and policymakers of borrowing too much from foreign models. In the later years he was particularly critical of those who bought wholesale from the Marxist-leninist playbook.
Until the 1960s, the decade of Independence, the Caribbean under colonial tutelage was not particularly self-directing. It is therefore not surprising that we have tended to look outside for directives and direction. It was common a few years ago to talk of imitating the Singapore model. Today there is talk about following the so-called Nordic model.
Models of social, political and economic governance are not easily transferable from one polity to another. The mistake among academics is to think that these models are technical models, forgetting that there are essentially socio- cultural paradigms.
The currency of the so-called Nordic Model relates to Mary Hinson’s book The Nordic Model: Scandinavia Since 1945, published in 2008. It refers to, among other things, the universal welfare system that emerged in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden since World War II. This was not peculiar to Scandinavia.
The post-1945 period witnessed the ascendancy of the liberal democratic idea that statutory institutionalised welfare services should be established within the structures of western capitalism. The contention was that contrary to Marxist thought, rigid class structures and the exploitative nature of capitalism could be modified and mollified.
To some extent, it afforded capitalism some degree of moral legitimacy. When the Clement Atleeled Labour government came to power in Britain July 1945, the purpose was to fashion the welfare state as outlined in the Beveridge Report of December 1942. One cornerstone of Labour’s welfare policy was the British National Health Service Act of 1946.
The Nordic countries carried the social safety net policy to its logical conclusion and sustained it systematically over time. The British Labour Party suffered electoral reversals to the Conservatives in 1951 and in the 1970s, culminating in Thatcherite conservatism.
The test of any kind of model is how it actually works. It is not surprising that the Nordic model could be considered an object for imitation. It appears particularly appealing to persons on the left of the ideological spectrum for its relative social equality, evident economic prosperity, social solidarity, its quality of life offerings and a perceived climate of social happiness.
In an age when we are constantly reminded of global distresses, the Scandinavian states rank among the top ten on the World Happiness Report for 2017, with Norway and Denmark ranked at the very top. Ideologies, and the political models they spawn, are not perfect, hence they are always subject to contestation. Even if the ideologies were theoretically perfect, they have to be implemented by flawed human beings.
Critics on the right often question the sustainability of the universal welfare state model, its regime of high taxes and highly regulated social engineering. They complain of tax-and-spend liberals given to pork barrel politics.
It is the maintenance cost and sustainability