Saturday, June 23, 2012
The Nordic Model and Us
A thought that keep recirculating in my mind as I read was the Nordic countries have organized themselves successfully for now in a way that they do not need God. As for us we are becoming ever more godless because the pursuit of money and success do not deserve to be gods. In life you can't do worse than being philistine. It is incredible we have chosen the more vulgar option, and quite oblivious to it. This is the PAP idea of a better life for all? Perhaps only those who competed successfully in ever brutal conditions. But with a grim social situation we also have the occasional triumph of faith and the human spirit which must be rarer than large diamonds in the Nordic states since they live such protected lives.
As I got toward the end of the article, I was truly pissed with our government position. Completely without sense because I can see their objections were basically to preserve the status quo. They conveniently forget that this is exactly what many of us are unhappy with. CSM got the nail on its head when he pressed that people should be the centre of all our policies. Good for country, bad for people is just untenable. So in practice that is what the PAP means by nation before self? What is the nation? The dystopia of an elite with the masses under their feet?
We have been soul searching privately for many years. Since GE 2011 the process have become public. A year later the direction is still not clear. The government is standing its ground and working furiously to salve the pain with massive public housing investment, reinvesting in public transport and stumbling over how to connect better with the people. Substance wise there is no change. After all how can you change, must less negotiate hard truths?
Personally I do not buy the Nordic model. It is unsustainable because you need more working adults to support a growing number of the elderly when the population is not even reproducing itself. The demographics are against them. More important it is nearly impossible to copy. Either you are already there, established and ready when the world was a saner and supportive place with the right history and opportunities, it just can't be done in today hyper competitive environment. As you attempt to restructure, you must temporarily lose competitiveness. It is like you hang up a sign saying your shop is "under renovation". Competitors are more than happy to take over your business while you reform yourself in your cocoon. Well may be Singapore is special because of our huge reserves position and we could get there after expending most of our reserves. Who has the gumption and leadership to lead the nation through such wrenching change? What business will you be in when you emerge? The hardest bit, how do you create that wide moat against competitors which the Nordic countries are enjoying to protect their livelihood especially when we are conjoined to fast moving industries. We have all the wrong skill sets and mindsets to replicate the Nordics here even without considering the geopolitics and economic realities of our position in SE Asia.
No, the Nordic nations and us are on different evolutionary paths. They cannot be like us and we will never be like them. We have to find our own way. We will destroy ourselves trying to be like each other. As usual most economists are unimaginative and they are trying to shoehorn what seems to work now elsewhere into our situation. They confuse rather than enlighten the discussion. I agree with Nassim Taleb that the Nobel Prize should not be awarded for Economics.
What is more practical is enter into a pact with the Nordic people. Those who like our ways can come and live and work here as some happily have. Some of us who prefer their way and can make a contribution to their societies can relocate there, and again some of us already have. For now, this looks like a win-win to me until they face the demographic bomb. But a much tighter even at a distance integration between they and us can only be mutually advantageous as I imagine they would prefer Singaporean immigrants than many of those they are presently admitting. We would like their energetic and entrepreneurial types to set themselves up here to infect us with their ways.
Perhaps as we cross-fertilize the habits and culture between they and us, we can from the bottom up through such chromosomal exchanges confer the pluses of both sides on each other? I think this is a thought worth exploring further. Meanwhile I have more urgent bread and butter issues to look after. I leave it to the people smarter than me to figure this out. I only wish they were more imaginative and think out of the box. Thinking within the box, even enlarging the box hasn't gotten us anywhere near a satisfactory solution. Bear in mind Einstein's advice that new thinking is needed to solve problems created by old thinking.
Posted by PengYou at 4:18 PM