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Megan McArdle

U.S. Can't Import the Scandinavian Model

The enviable growth there is driven by the American economy.
What's Norway's secret? Oh, right.

What's Norway's secret? Oh, right.

Photographer: Kristian Helgesen/Bloomberg

Ah, Scandinavia, Nordic paradise. Nowhere else seems to so easily combine a very progressive welfare state with high levels of growth. It's no surprise, then, that it is the darling of international indices of everything from happiness to prosperity.

In vain do the more libertarian-minded rejoinder that Swedes have the same poverty rate in America as in Sweden, that small homogenous countries are probably better able to support a cradle-to-grave welfare state than large, heterogenous ones, that tiny countries are more likely to generate outlying results than bigger ones (which looks fantastic if you drop the outlying underperformers from your sample), and that however splendid Norway may be, "tiny population nestled atop huge fossil fuel deposits" is probably not a strategy that the U.S. can emulate. What are you gonna believe -- some long-winded explanation, or this simple number that's right in front of your eyes?