A while back, Aretae noted that there are basically three models of good governance in the world. Namely the governments of Switzerland, Singapore and Denmark.
(I though it was odd that he listed Denmark, since everyone always cites Sweden as the quintessential Nordic welfare state.)
I’ve been to all of these countries in the last several months so I thought it’d be worth providing some random observance on them in turn (I’m going to use Sweden instead of Denmark, since I spent a bit more time there). I’m not sure they’re as dissimilar as they may at first appear.
I like Switzerland a lot. It’s clean, it’s efficient, it seems safe. Your first impressions of Switzerland will be that it’s easy to get places via public transit, everything is really expensive, and it’s diversity has been way over sold.
Everyone always talks about Swiss society like it’s very diverse – parts are basically German others are basically French while others are basically Italian. It certainly doesn’t feel diverse – even if you spend time in different parts of the country.
People also seem to identify as Swiss. If you take the train through the country, you see lots of Swiss flags. (Similarly, Singapore worked to ensure that the various populations within Singapore identify first with Singapore).
I was once in a Swiss city while they were doing some sort of military or militia training. Seeing normal people run through the streets of a city with big ass guns was pretty cool.
I like Switzerland a lot. If I had to pick one of these places to move, it would probably be Switzerland. Too bad their immigration rules make it almost impossible.
There’s a certain amount of German-ness to both Switzerland and Sweden, so the countries feel rather similar to me.
Your first experience, in Sweden, will be getting ripped off by an immigrant taxi driver if you don’t know how to navigate the taxi system. In good passive aggressive Scandinavian fashion, Stockholm seems to have spent a ton of money on a rail line to get you into the city from the airport quickly so you don’t have to bother with the taxis.
The next thing you’ll notice about Sweden is that it’s super environmentalist. I really can’t stress this point enough. It’s clearly lapsed into state religion territory. Animism is back. It’s hard to explain just how aggressive this religion is – it’s nothing like traveling in the American South or Bible Belt.
Unsurprisingly, the country is not diverse. In the US, it’s hard not to notice concentrations of certain minority groups in certain situations. In Sweden, the general lack of diversity, makes certain things even more apparent. All situations that are uncivilized (taxis ripping you off, places that aren’t quite safe, signs warning about pickpockets, bums, loiterers, etc.) have certain population markers that stick out like a sore thumb. It’s amazing they’re not all HBDers.
Sweden doesn’t seem like a nation in the way that Switzerland does. If you tell a Swede that you haven’t been in their country but you’ve been to Norway, they act as if there’s basically no difference. They do seem to think of Scandinavia (at least, Norway, Sweden and Denmark) as one country (with Finland next in line).
It’ll be interesting to see how the Nordic countries respond to more immigrants. They seem to be starting to understand that their particular version of the welfare state is entirely incompatible with a diverse population. Their problem is that they justify their welfare state on ideological grounds that make it logically impossible to deny immigration.
I’ve written at length about Singapore, so I won’t add much more. By the time you get to your hotel room in Singapore, you know you’re in a very civilized, well-run country. Singapore has gone to great lengths to deal with its diverse population. I don’t believe that diversity is necessarily incompatible with good government, but a diverse population radically changes the type of good government available. Singapore feels the safest of all these places as well, and in all the time I’ve spent there, I’ve never seen a cop.
The first obvious point of comparison is that all three countries have smart populations. Coming up with a well-governed country that has a low IQ population is tough (Botswana?).
Switzerland and Singapore make no bones about having very strict immigration policies. Sweden is less hostile to immigrants, but it has other methods of repelling immigrants – particularly the fact that it’s really expensive and really far north.
All three countries have really sound currencies. These places aren’t cheap.
Among all the non-English speaking countries I’ve been to, these three countries are probably the easiest to travel in, in terms of the average person’s ability to speak English (Singapore is basically English speaking, but I think my point holds).
In general, these countries aren’t diverse, with the exception of Singapore and Singapore goes to great lengths to manage its diversity.
All three countries are generally non-interventionist with respect to foreign policy. On the flip side, they’re not (with the exception of modern Sweden) pacifists. If you like peace, all three are great places to live. If you believe that “violence is never the answer,” you’ll prefer Sweden to the other two countries.
Anyway, those are basically random thoughts put down as they occurred to me. My general point is that there is a lot more common ground across these countries than there might appear to be at first.