Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Wrestling With The Swedish Model

The Swedish model in action*

This evening Tyler attended a debate on the welfare state, at the excellent Economic Research Council. Live on stage we had Lord Anthony "Third Way" Giddens, Peter Lilley, Peter Oborne, and John "Big Issue" Bird.

That John Bird though, eh? He's a character straight out of Dickens, telling us how his family are mainly third generation benefits dependent scum, welfare has emasculated the working class, and the state has destroyed social mobility. He spoke with real passion and made a big impression.

The two Peters said pretty well what you'd expect. Which left Lord G.

He was very eloquent, explaining how any modern civilised society needs to spend A Lot of money on welfare. But how the welfare state as we've known it, is way past its sell-by date. He had four suggestions for what he calls the the social investment state:

  1. Welfare needs to become more preventative - we need a more interventionist state
  2. We need to break the middle class stranglehold on the best bits- eg Giddens favours school entry lotteries
  3. Welfare should be decentralised- eg the NHS needs to be broken up
  4. Diversity is good- we need to nurture multiculturalism through integration... or was it integration through multiculturalism...

And Giddens really lusts after that Swedish model. You could see it in his eyes. Yes, she's a bit underendowed in the population department (only 15% of the UK pop), but her decentralised competing schools and healthcare systems are magnificent. She's as rich as us, but so much more civilised.

Clearly Tyler disagrees with Giddens on many things, but it's very interesting how we all now agree about choice and competition in public services.

Just one small question - how we get the politicos to do it?

PS OK, another small question - if Sweden is so great, just why is its suicide rate so much higher than ours? According to the World Health Organisation, Sweden's suicide rate is about twice ours. And also, if Sweden is so great, how come all those bright Swedish MBAs come to work in London?

* The Swedish model in question being a new H0-scale Swedish model railway layout (located in the UK), called "Ekenäs".

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