Trust, Social Capital and the Scandinavian Welfare State

Trust, Social Capital and the Scandinavian Welfare State

Explaining the Flight of the Bumblebee

Gunnar L.H. Svendsen and Gert T. Svendsen

Denmark exemplifies the puzzle of socio-economic success in Scandinavia. Populations are thriving despite the world’s highest levels of tax and generous social benefits. Denmark would appear to be a land of paradise for free-riders and those who want ‘money for nothing’. However, the national personality is characterized both by cooperation in everyday life and the numerous ‘hard-riders’ who make extraordinary contributions. Applying Bourdieuconomics, the authors focus on contemporary case studies to explain how social capital and trust are used to counteract free-riding and enable the flight of the Scandinavian welfare state ‘bumblebee’.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Gunnar L.H. Svendsen and Gert T. Svendsen

Subjects: economics and finance, evolutionary economics, public choice theory, politics and public policy, public choice, public policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, sociology and sociological theory, welfare states

Extract

All the members of human society stand in need of each other’s assistance, and are likewise exposed to mutual injuries. Where the necessary assistance is reciprocally afforded from love, from gratitude, from friendship, and esteem, the society flourishes and is happy. All the different members of it are bound together by the agreeable bands of love and affection, and are, as it were, drawn to one common center of mutual good offices. For a long time, it was an empirical puzzle for entomologists how bumblebees could fly. They seemed to be too heavy and their wings too small. A similar conundrum applies to the Scandinavian welfare states of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark, which are all weighed down by heavy public expenses. Here, something akin to the mysterious flight of the bumblebee can be observed too. These four Scandinavian welfare states are among the most successful countries in the world, situated at the top of the list of GDP per capita, and have been so for decades. Examples abound of the Scandinavian welfare states being highlighted as exceptional, in terms not just of strict economic performance but also of a wide range of other areas such as social trust, happiness, non-corruption, research output, use of internet and so on (Sørensen 2012, 2014).