TCS Daily

America: More Like Sweden Than You Thought

By Tim Worstall - August 28, 2006 12:00 AM

One of the joys of my working life is that I get to read papers like "The State of Working America" from the Economic Policy Institute. They are, as you may know, the people who urge that the USA become more like the European countries, most especially the Scandinavian ones. Less income inequality, more leisure time, stronger unions and so on. All good stuff from a particular type of liberal and progressive mindset -- i.e. that society must be managed to produce the outcome that technocrats believe society really desires, rather than an outcome the actual members of society prove they desire by building it.

I will admit that I do find it odd the way that only certain parts of the, say, Swedish, "miracle" are held up as ideas for us to copy. Wouldn't it be interesting if we were urged to adopt some other Swedish policies? Abolish inheritance tax (Sweden doesn't have one), have a pure voucher scheme to pay for the education system (as Sweden does), do not have a national minimum wage (as Sweden does not) and most certainly do not run the health system as a national monolith (as Sweden again does not). But then those policies don't accord with the liberal and progressive ideas in the USA so perhaps their being glossed over is understandable, eh?

As part of their propagandizing, they produce the above cited reports each year. And this time it's being released chapter by chapter in the lead up to Labor Day. I can tell you that policy wonks are breathless with anticipation waiting for each part as it comes out (I myself was most excited to get chapter 8 linked above). For there is the great joy of seeing that what they think they're telling us isn't, in fact, quite what they are telling us.

To start with, they make some adjustments to the usual measures of the income of a nation, the GDP, by adjusting for different price levels. This gives us the so called Purchasing Power Parity numbers (PPP) and the USA is set as being 100 on the scale. Only one of the advanced industrial nations has a greater income per capita, Norway, at 105. Given that Norway gets some 20% of its GDP from pumping oil and gas out from beneath the North Sea and is, thus, almost a petro-state, it would be fair to say that the USA is, in fact, the large country with the highest income per head in the world without depleting its natural capital. Good, so far something we knew already.

We're also told on page 6 that if we look at the average of the countries studied without the USA and compare that to the USA's performance, that income growth rates are higher in the USA. 1.8% to 1.9% in 1989-2000, and 1.1% to 1.3% in 2000-2004. So not only richer but getting even richer faster, as well.


"The U.S. average from 2000 to 2005 was 1.7%, well above the OECD average of 0.7% in real compensation growth. Four countries fared better than the United States, most notably Norway with 2.3% growth. Note also that Germany had negative real compensation growth from 2000-05."

Things are actually looking pretty good for the US economy, then -- wealthier to start with, getting richer faster and productivity growth is also highest in the USA, meaning that this trend is only likely to continue. Looking at all of that it's really rather difficult to see that there's anything wrong with the way things are being managed (or not).

Ah, but, we can always find something nasty in the woodpile. The US has the most unequal distribution of income of all the countries studied. Using the Gini coefficients as our measurement in America it was 0.338 in 1989 and 0.368 in 200, while in Finland on the same dates it was 0.210 and 0.247. Perhaps worth noting that this increasing inequality of income distribution is not exclusive to the US though, it appears to be a more international occurrence than that.

Now if the equality of income distribution is something you worry about this is of course a troubling fact. It is what leads to the statement that while the US might be richer, the poor do worse, that in fact the poor in America are worse off than the poor in Europe. Which leads us to this highly informative little picture.

Now given all the adjustments that have been made to the figures this is actually showing us something very interesting indeed. The use of PPP means that we've adjusted for price differences, by using US median income as our measuring stick we've given ourselves a view of the actual incomes, not just the relative incomes, of the poor and the rich in each country.

How we're supposed to read this is that the USA has a very uneven income distribution, that the poorest 10% only get 39% of the median income, that the richest 10% get 210%. Compare and contrast that with the most egalitarian society amongst those studied, Finland, where the rich get 111% and the poor get 38%. Shown this undoubted fact we are therefore to don sackcloth and ashes, promise to do better and tax the heck out of everybody to rectify this appalling situation.

But hang on a minute, that's not quite what is being shown. In the USA the poor get 39% of the US median income and in Finland (and Sweden) the poor get 38% of the US median income. It's not worth quibbling over 1% so let's take it as read that the poor in America have exactly the same standard of living as the poor in Finland (and Sweden). Which is really a rather revealing number don't you think? All those punitive tax rates, all that redistribution, that blessed egalitarianism, the flatter distribution of income, leads to a change in the living standards of the poor of precisely ... nothing.

Such may lead us to a conclusion that the EPI probably wouldn't like:

If we accept (as I do) that we do, indeed, need to have a social safety net, and that we have a duty to provide for those incapable or unlucky enough to be unable to do so for themselves, we need to set some level at which such help is offered. The standard of living of the poor in a redistributionist paradise like Finland (or Sweden) seems a fair enough number to use and the USA provides exactly that. Good, the problem's solved. We've provided -- both through the structure of the economy and the various forms of taxation and benefits precisely what we should be -- an acceptable baseline income for the poor. No further redistribution is necessary and we can carry on with the current tax rates and policies which seem, as this report shows, to be increasing US incomes faster than those in other countries and boosting productivity faster as well.

As I said above I'm sure this isn't quite what the EPI actually wanted to tell us. But there it is, from their own report. Which is why I rather enjoy my working life -- sad case that I am -- because I get to read all those reports that really don't tell us what the authors think they are telling us.

Tim Worstall is a TCS Daily contributor living in Europe.



Give me back the Old Deal...
I do not accept the idea that we need to maintain any sort of social safety-net. There are other options for helping the poor that could be much more effective than government action. The concept of a "Mutual Aid Society" died out around the time that FDR started the New Deal. Mutual Aid Societies were organizations built around churches, unions and neighborhoods that were, in essence, poverty insurance. People would contribute a little bit to these societies each month, and would recieve monetary and in-kind assistance in the event of a sudden illness or the loss of a job, etc.

This sort of approach to welfare offers a few major benefits:

1) The people who decide who gets the benefits are the very people who are likely to know the most about the potential beneficiaries' situation. Because these groups are generally organized around churches and neighborhoods, your friends and neighbors are the ones who will be sitting on the board to decide whether or not you deserve a check from the Society each month. These people are going to know if you are actually looking for a job, or sitting around drinking beer every day. The government cannot practically or legally gather as much information about welfare recipients as their fellow churchgoers, union members and neighbors have about them. The people with the most information are able to make decisions, unlike the government, where the only decision is based on whether the form is filled out correctly or not.

2) Building communities. Because Mutual Aid Societies required interaction between lots of people within churches/neighborhoods/unions, etc. they will act as an excellent mechanism to bind together communities. Every time I have lived in a city, I have been thought a little weird by my neighbors because I do crazy things like invite them over for dinner or host barbeques or parties. People in cities are simply not used to getting to know their neighbors. This is a way to go beyond nods in the elevatior or pounding on the wall for them to turn the music down. Mutual Aid Societies can act as the basic organization for a community that can then be used to fix other problems. Crack dealers on the corner? Well, the Mutual Aid Society is a way to get the residents of a neighborhood together to do something about the problem.

3) Gratitude flows in the right direction. Imagine you are on your lunch break, and you have just bought a sandwich. You are about to start eating it when a hungry man asks you if he can have some of your sandwich. Since it is your property and you paid for it, you can say no and be entirely justified. However, you could also say yes and give him some of the sandwich. He will be grateful to you for doing something kind for him. If, on the other hand, a passing man whips out a gun after he asks for some of the sandwich, and demands that you give half to the hungry man, the hungry person will be grateful to the thief, rather than the person who gave over their sandwich.

This fun example is more fully explored in several columns by Dinsesh D'Souza, Larry Elder and Walter E. Williams.

When the government takes our tax money from us and gives it to the poor, to whom are the poor grateful? The government, obviously, and the politicians who voted in their benefits. With a Mutual Aid Society, the gratitude flows in the proper direction. People are grateful to their neighbors/fellow churchgoers/union brothers, etc.

4) There will inevitably be kind-hearted people, as well as idiots, who will start charitable institutions to care for those who fall through the cracks. Homeless drunks and drug-addicts will no longer be able to gather government benefits, but might be able to ask churches for help. Maybe a little God and detox will do them some good, or at least get them some mental help. Poverty-stricken individuals who do not join a Society will, in all likelihood, be able to get some aid in the event of an emergency, even if it is not quite so much as they would have recieved by joining one of these Societys.

Get rid of the New Deal, give me back the Old one.

At least you understand
that we are Athicaly bound to provide Aid to those in need if we are able to.

nanny states
Good article and comment about mutual aid societies by publius above. If there were no welfare even some rich guys would donate a lot; wait a minute, I forgot Warren Buffet just added another 35 billion or so to the Gates foundations billions already. I thought the original idea of the States was to have a 'free' place, not a 'equal place' in terms of the forced redistribution of people's property. Too bad they got so far away from it. Re the article, liberals will always point out some points about even more socialistic countries, like Sweden and Cuba, and point to certain things and ignore others. All in all I've never heard of any of those mythical poor people in the states moving away as refugees to places like Sweden, or Cuba, or even England or Canada. The only ones who do that are guys like hollywood flakes like johnny Depp or Madonna. Indeed, I've even heard that the main reason there is no open border between the States and Canada, like Germany and France, etc. is because the canadian govn't is so afraid even way more of their long suffering citizens will move south, than the tens of thousands that already have. Few americans want to live in the socialist nanny state to the north.

Apples and Oranges
I accept the basic principal that a society should be judged by the way it treats poor and weak people. But I suspect that the US comes out very well by this measure because the US opens its arms to so many poor immigrants. I wonder if this skews statistics like income distribution tables. What would these tables show if you took immigration into account? Living in Los Angeles, it seems likely that incomes are low not because of any failure of the US economy, but because of the failures of the economies of primarily Latin American countries. To use the articles terminology, the US provides income security for millions of immigrants. Sooner or later, these immigrants will reach income parity with the rest of the US, but not immediately, and it would not be fair to expect that. How does US immigration compare to the Scandinavian countries? To compare apples and apples, perhaps the relevant comparison would be people born in American of Scandinavian descent with Scandinavians born in Scandinavia

The Rewards of Giving
Is it more rewarding for an individual to "give" freely, or to give to satisfy an "ethical" requirement?

I believe that giving freely (without requirement or social expectation) is the greater personal reward. I further believe that those who create ethical mandates for charity are demeaning Charity itself as well as discouraging its expression.

giving to the poor
Back when Reagan cut the top tax rate from around 70% to aound 35%, liberals predicted that charitable giving would collapse, since people would only get a tax cut half as large.
Instead, charitable giving exploded, as people had more disposbale income to distribute as they saw fit.

How does telling the govt to take someone else's money, and give it to the poor, solve your ethical

Apples, Oranges & Questions.
I accept the basic principal that a society should be judged by the way it treats poor and weak people.

Who's basic principle is this?

What makes it "basic"?

What constitutes poor and weak?

What do you mean by "treats"?

How do you measure "treats"?

Who is "society"?

We like chocolate and blondes too...
So, I guess we are alike...

Help those that help themselves...
I understand people can fall on a hard time. Most of them can get back on their feet quickly. Some need a little bit of help, and then will be fine, if not better.

Then there are those who won't do sh t. I see no reason to help those people. We should give them a certain ammount of time to get back on their feet, then cut them off. No free rides.

Stop! Thief!
I accept no such ethical responsibility on anybody's part, and I totally deny it on the part of the government.

I worked for my money. I performed services for others, in return for which I was given money. Since nobody helped me to generate that income, why does anybody else have a claim on that money or the property I can buy with it?

Well, there are a few legitimate claims. The Armed Forces, police, fire departments, border security, limited environmental reulations, and the court system as a means to resolve disputes are a few examples of government duties that actually increase a countries' well-being.

Much of government is different, it consists of shifting taxpayer dollars to other people who did not earn it. Why does some schlub who dosen't have a job have a claim on money that I earned? Freedom and responsibility are two sides of the same coin, and if he won't provide for himself, then he can starve and enjoy it.

However, the government will not allow me not to help this schlub. If I refuse to pay the portion of my taxes that goes to AFDC, the government will send impolite people in suits to tell me that I cannot choose which government programs to contribute to and which to let shrivel on the vine. Those men will threaten to kidnap and detain me against my will (we call it being arrested) if I do not pay. If I start shooting at these men to stop them from doing so, they will shoot me first.

Government is a protection racket. Nothing more, nothing less. It is only legal because it is the government and not a mafia family doing it.

The money that the government has no claim on, your after-tax dollars, are the only dollars with which you have a choice as to how to spend them. In order to take a moral action, you have to have a choice. The sandwich example is so powerful because it makes this clear. The positive moral aspect comes not from the fact that the poor man gets some sandwich, but from the fact that you CHOOSE to give that poor man the sandwich. When the voters decide that you should not have that choice, they are essentially voting to be compassionate with your money. This is not a moral action on their part, it is armed robbery, using the government as the hired gun.

Luckily for all of us, we live in a Christian country where the values of hard work, as well as giving and sharing are highly regarded. This means that there are a lot of people out there with a lot of money to give to help the less fortunate. However, they should do so because they choose to, not because a majority of the voters demand it at gunpoint.

What people want
Sweden is a democracy. Swedes, and not tcsdaily wingnuts, decide what safety nets and social programs will exist in Sweden.

Swedish kids go to the local public school like American kids do. The difference is that Swedish schools are good because they have adequate funding. Swedes are healthier than Amercans (fly from Stockholm to Tuscon & compare the number of fat people) and have better infrastructure (drive from Stockholm to Arlanda airport then from JFK to Manhattan & compare potholes).

I take your point. I don’t know the latest figures but certainly about three years ago Sweden had a higher percentage of foreign born (5.4% to 4.0%) than the USA.

Also, to everyone else about the requirement to provide a certain minimum for the poor. Whether this is a logical or philosophic truth is one thing and we can all discuss that if we want. It’s most certainly a political reality, one that we won’t be able to change, whatever the answer to the first question.

How many rafts left Florida for Cuba last year?
How many catalogs are there of American mail-order brides who want to move to a really prosperous place like North Korea, as opposed to mail-order brides from socialist and former-socialist countries like Russia?

How many businesses are rushing to invest in Hugo Chavez's Worker's Paradise?

How many of the rich, whiny-liberals who got a massive tax cut from the President's tax bill actually gave all of that money back to the government?

You make quite a few great points, Dietmar. The data seem to bear out everything you said. This article on Americans emigrating to Canada is particularly interesting when you look at the chart that accompanies it...

Swedish Schools
Might the excellence of Swedish schools have anything to do with the fact that they are funded by a pure voucher system?

I stated an Ethical point not a practically.
You are making good points.

No can you argue that it IS ethical to not provide aid when it doesn't harm you.

This is an ethical issue, not pragmatic.

Well said.
You do realize that I never said it should be required by law.

Not what I said
>How does telling the govt to take someone else's money,
>and give it to the poor, solve your ethical.

You are going in a direction I have not intended. I am possing an ethical point. Can it be o.k. to watch some one suffer from a physical injury when you could provide aid with out causing your self harm?

Bad arguement
>I accept no such ethical responsibility on anybody's >part, and I totally deny it on the part of the >government.

There is no way you can be a member of any group, society or country and hold such a philosophy. That is only anarchy.

That's chocolate ON blondes. Yummy!

Not OK
Can it be o.k. to watch some one suffer from a physical injury when you could provide aid with out causing your self harm?

At a simpler level, its not ok, to fail to take reasonable measures to aid a seriously injured person. Failing to do so, in some jurisdictions will cause you to be charged with negligence with the aggravating circumstance of "depraved indifference.

In any case, what does it have to do with the issues raised here.

Typical TCS sleight of hand
Tim, you've been caught red-handed:
"It's not worth quibbling over 1% so let's take it as read that the poor in America have exactly the same standard of living as the poor in Finland (and Sweden)."

Please explain the difference between standard of living and percent of median income. What's that? They are not the same thing? Right.

Figure 8D shows the relative income distribution among poor and rich households. It says NOTHING about standard of living. In Finland (and Sweden), the poor have access to health care and a number of other social benefits not provided to the poor in the U.S. If the graph accounted for the total value of services provided, it would look much different. Either way, the EPI data do not support the claim you made in the article about comparative standard of living among the poor. Not even close.

But of course, as you admitted, you concluded that the EPI report was wrong before you even read it. Your entire piece was about looking for a good angle to snipe from. This is not economics reporting, it is hackery.

I swear TCS has the poorest standards on the web. You should be ashamed calling yourselves conservatives.

Well if that is true.
Then one can at least resonable under stand how thing a like a welfair state has been created.

I personaly am on the fence, but this athical arguement can quite easly be extrapolated to things like socalized medicine.

I would like to say that perhaps we could develop a system where a group of people all agree to share the care needs of the whole group. But then you run into the ethical issue of not caring for someone outside of the group.

So anon anon. This is a very strong argument for socialized medicine. The only way to argue against it is to deny the Athical argument that we are bound to care for oneonother. Mosti mportantly even when we do not want to do so.

2 great tastes that taste great together.

Swedes are drunker than Americans, by far. They're also far lazier than Americans, working barely 180 days per year. Finally, those great Swedish schools produce a lousy product, given the high (circa 25%) unemployment rate among the 16-25 year-old cohort.

Swedes: Drunk, lazy and unemployed, but still as well off as America's working poor, who can afford none of these vices. So according to Karl Marx, who's best off, LiberalGoodman?

Fair? Can't be fair without the whole picture.
In Sweden, the County Councils run the public health care system. As a result, there are embarassing differences in the level and quality of care Swedes get, depending on where they live. Stories abound, such as about the kid with two bad ears whose County Council will only pay for him to get one fixed, citing obviously rational bureaucratic reasons why its decision is right and just. And having lived in Sweden for six years, I learned firsthand that one's best assurance of good health is staying healthy and avoiding the public health care system, which to me exhibited signs of the institutional, who-gives-a-damn-anyway-our-jobs-are-ironclad erosion every public system experiences.

How do we compare this situation reliably with the American one? We can't, not without taking ideological advantage of editorial license, that is. Which is what I see you doing as well, faircritic.

No Connection
The situation which I described where one might be charged with a crime of negligence due to depraved indifference would be applicable where the individual "in trouble" was in grave physical (life threatening) danger and incapable of rendering self aid in a temporary situation. Aditionally, the requirements on the assisting party would derive from their ability to provide physical aid without jeopardy to themself (selves).

Welfare situations are not logical antecedents, in that the assistance is financial, durable, not physical, physical danger is not generally involved, and there are differences.

I love these left-wing pseudonyms-"fair critic"? Try "Uninformed Crank".
In Finland (and Sweden), the poor have access to health care and a number of other social benefits not provided to the poor in the U.S.

I spend several years performing audits of healthcare organizations and providers who had MEDICARE contracts-which is government provided healthcare for the poor. erhaps you've heard of it? Can't be a fair critic if you aren't informed.

By the way TCS is more libertarian in its outlook than conservative, in any case they make no claim to be any part of the political spectrum, so they can't be 'ashamed calling yourselves conservatives' when THEY DON'T

not likely
I haven't lived in Sweden for several years but I've never heard of a voucher system there. There one "private" school, Chalmers University, which still is essentially state supported, though it makes more of it's decisions autonomously.

The US "voucher" system, in which parents get tax money that amounts to 20% to 60% of private school tuition in order to send their kids to segregated schools that deny evolution, would not be recognized in Sweden.

No ethics required, only self interest
I'm no expert on Ayn Rand, but altruistic behaviour is in my best interest and in yours.
Forced altruism (welfare) is not in anyone's best interest.
So if it is my best interest to be altruistic, am I being selfish by helping others?
If so, then selfish behavior is in everone's best interest?

One more thing ...
The median income - Sweden - end of 1990's: $26,800(0.38)/12 = $849 per month. Now, factor in 25% VAT on most consumer goods and 6% to 12% on food & necessities, 175% excise on fossil fuels, 175% on booze (consumption is harmful to society), and you get a low income that won't go very far.

The median income - USA - end of 1990's: $39,400(0.39)/12 = $1,281 per month. Now, factor in the host of federal, state and local poverty benefits American economists refuse to take into account together with charitable contributions and the typically low sales and excise duties imposed at the cash register in the 50 states, and America's poor are better off. That is, if they were to decide for themselves based on their usual standard of measurement - money in the hand.

I'd love to do an experiment: Take 100 poor American guys and pay each a $10,000 lump sum if they live under exactly the same conditions as the Swedish poor do for one full year. Only then would we know for sure who's better off.

Foreign Invaders
"A sobering realization is beginning to spread that the Swedish system cannot be easily adapted to a society in which a seventh of the working-age population is foreign-born."

"Malmø, Sweden. The police now publicly admit what many Scandinavians have known for a long time: They no longer control the situation in the nations's third largest city. It is effectively ruled by violent gangs of Muslim immigrants. Some of the Muslims have lived in the area of Rosengård, Malmø, for twenty years, and still don't know how to read or write Swedish. Ambulance personnel are attacked by stones or weapons, and refuse to help anybody in the area without police escort. The immigrants also spit at them when they come to help. Recently, an Albanian youth was stabbed by an Arab, and was left bleeding to death on the ground while the ambulance waited for the police to arrive. The police themselves hesitate to enter parts of their own city unless they have several patrols, and need to have guards to watch their cars, otherwise they will be vandalized. "Something drastic has to be done, or much more blood will be spilled" says one of the locals.",50

Logic chopping.
Harm is anything that cause physical or mental pain. Its not fair to limit this argument by the extreem example. All or nothing. All else is pretty much hypocracy.

Uhmm pretty clear realy.

Even if one has a cut on thier finger you are bound by ethics to give a bandaid if you have one and are not going to use it in the emidiat future.

Now if you both have a cut at the same time.

The whole picture is in the report
roberbennett, I made no attempt to take "ideological advantage of editorial license." My comment was aimed squarely at the author's misrepresentation of the EPI data. I narrowed my criticism down to the one sentence where the sleight of hand occurs. (To anyone with passing knowledge of ecomonics, the author made a glaring error.) Having made my case, I amplified the point to make a normative statement about the low quality of writing here at TCS.

If you want to take issue with that normative statement, by all means do. My point was that TCS, through articles like this one, does a poor job of making the conservative case.

But you seem to say that we can't make comparisons between America and other countries without ideology getting in the way. That's a pretty strong statement.

Chapter 8 of the EPI report is all about making that comparison. It's titled, "International Comparisons." I think it does a decent job of looking at many different dimensions of the problem, including differences in income, unemployment, purchasing power, and life expectancy. The section at the end on health care is especially revealing. Ideology exists not in the raw data itself, but in how you read the data and in what corrective policy (if any) should be made.

There are plenty of opportunities for ideological debate after reading the EPI report ( Unfortunately, Tim Worstall did not pick one. In the best case, he was a little ignorant and facing a deadline. In the worst case, he was telling a bald-faced lie.

You can say income inequality is good or bad, that national health care is good or bad, or that the U.S. having the highest infant mortality rate is good or bad (figure 8K in the report). But you cannot say that the U.S. poor have the same standard of living as the Swedish poor-- because that is not supported by the facts in Chapter 8.

Of course forced altruism is evil.
Am I arguing that? If so then I am willing to be forgiven.

So if it is my best interest to be altruistic, am I being selfish by helping others?

Hu? Ahhhh I don't know what to say. To be altruistic is to not be selfish. So how can be both? How can a table by red and blue at the same time? Is that your point?

If so, then selfish behavior is in everone's best interest?

Again explain your self beter. I am honistly a little lost.

superheater, Medicare is no match for the health care provided in Sweden. You can read an overview here:

I'm quite familiar with Medicare. A family member of mine is a primary health care provider who deals every day with Medicare's very selective coverage of ICD-9 diagnosis codes.

I've read a mix of conservative and libertarian views on TCS. I know those two groups really hate being confused with each other, so I apologize if my comment offended you somehow.

A better way of saying that in my comment would have been that with articles like this one, TCS should be ashamed of calling itself ANYTHING. This article doesn't reflect values of conservatives, liberals, libertarians, or anyone else. It reflects poor journalism. Thus, my critique was not of libertarian values but of an egregious misrepresentation of the data.

"Fair"critic sleight of hand....
Hey, Fair: Ever hear of Medicaid? How about Food stamps? Hear about the "Earned Income" credit? Social Security Disability? Did you know that most hospitals cannot turn away the poor from emergency rooms just because they don't pay?

The claim that the poor Swedes have benefits not provided to the U.S. poor just doesn't wash.


LG still isn't reading the articles
The author never mentioned what people wanted. He never talked about whether or not Americans should have any say in the social system Swedes vote for themselves.

He just pointed out that our system does as good a job at providing income to the poor as does the Swedish system.

As to your claim that the reason the Swedish schools do a better job is because they are better funded, fails on the rocks of reality. There is absolutely no correlation between funding levels and school quality. If there were, the Washington D.C. schools would be turning out the world's best students, instead of the world's worst.

LG prefers fantasy to reality
That Swedish schools use a voucher system, and has for years is well known.

The voucher plans in the US typically pay more than the average private tuition for their area.

The comment about evolution is just LG's way of proving to one and all how ignorant and bigoted he really is.

income statistics don't include welfare here in the US either.

Good stuff; the truth hurts
Insight: Swedes really do tend to believe that their "social model" is not only the world's best, but also the one mankind is fated to adopt once he progresses beyond his current average brutishness. Indeed, the Swedish society's superhuman superiority was so self-evident that Swedes never expected their immigrants to become so turned off by it, or even worse, not to adopt it wholesale and wholeheartedly. Sadly, Swedes still can't figure out why what's going on in places like Rinkeby and Rosengård is happening or how to fix it because they still can't see around the huge blindspot their mythical social superiority imposes.

I told them many times that like the Tango, it takes two to assimilate. "What? And give up our social superiority," they'd say. "All that humanistic progress? Become less than a moral superpower? Never!"

So if any of you Swedes (the blond, blue-eyed type) living in Rosengård read this, don't hold your breath counting on your government to swoop in and bring law, order and civilisation back to your neighborhood. Why would it, given that your neighborhood is already the most civilised mankind has to offer?

Don't get me wrong
In theory these are great ideas, but when your in bed with a squeeze bottle of chocolate, it ain't all its cracked up to be.

I will stick with the blond.

Did you misread my comment?
Read this and compare it with Medicare:

My main point was not that the U.S. poor have no assistance. It was that the graph in the report, figure 8D, does not represent those services. And further, that social services are a large part of one's standard of living.

I would be interested in seeing a tally of the total value of social services provided in different countries. I don't have time to google for that but I'm sure a little research would be fruitful. Short of having that data, I think it's fair to say that the common wisdom is that the social safety net in Sweden far exceeds anything in the U.S.

But this is all besides the point. Tim made a blatantly wrong assumption, that share of median income is the same thing as standard of living. Here it is again:

"It's not worth quibbling over 1% so let's take it as read that the poor in America have exactly the same standard of living as the poor in Finland (and Sweden)."

Why are you attacking me for pointing out this basic flaw in the article?

I can claim to not be a buthead.
But I am sure you think I am.

TCH is in political spectrium for sure. You simply are building an argument to win at any cost with rhetoric. Where are they DEFINATLY on the conservitive side.

Try wikipedia? For a "central" point of view.

That's my point exactly. Income statistics do not include a whole slew of things. That's why they are not the same as the amorphous term, "Standard of Living."

If you look at the health care section of the report starting on page 30, it looks like the U.S. is way behind. How much do stats like infant mortality, total expediture, life expectancy, and untreated illnesses figure in to the term Standard of Living?

The fact is that standard of living is not objective.

Why does Tim Worstall obscure this fact?

It is clear to see that Tim Worstall took a short cut in reasoning. He leaped from comparing shares of median income to comparing standard of living, bypassing a number of hurdles that any legitimate author would need to meet with persuasive arguement.

Yet none of the bright commenters here care to take up that point? Why is that?

Yes, Disingenuous
Well, if you think Sweden's healthcare is so grand, by all means, go there. Afterall, ANYTHING a government puts on their website, is to be believed without the slightest concern for veracity.

As for Medicare's "selective coverage" of ICD-9 codes, every provider I ever dealt with wanted a blank check and made our lives hell, (especially with their illegible handwriting) so pardon me if I'm not all that sympathetic.
But then again, I think medicine needs to be shaken up, stripped of medical society cartels and reintroducing consumer sovereignty, first by repealing Sec. 106 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Then again you didn't say that you didn't like U.S. Healthcare for the poor, you asserted it didn't exist.

The article isn't perfect, but neither was your post, especially with its moralizing tone and blantant inaccuracies.

The entire picture is not in the report
"But you cannot say that the U.S. poor have the same standard of living as the Swedish poor-- because that is not supported by the facts in Chapter 8."

Really? Have you ever lived in both Sweden and the US, faircritic? I have. Better yet, being knowledgeable in economics, tax, law, and political science, I can tell you that all of these factor into one's standard of living, as does one's capacity to fit in socially and one's moral character. So much so, in fact, that the whitewashed economic statistics the report cites can't even begin to provide agreeable measures for living standards beyond immediate cash-in-hand, which is the only living standard measure that the poor in any country seem to apply. Indeed, it's the only measure that appeals to common sense, which is more common among the poor than among any cadre of academic economists.

This is why working economists like Tim Worstall reject nonsensical living standard measurement regimes such as the UN Human Development Index in favor of cash-in-hand criteria in determining why Sweden's poor, who struggle by on less than $900 a month under one of the world's heaviest tax regimes are actually worse off than America's poor households, who after all receipts typically cruise by on about $18,000 a month in a low-tax society that can't resist throwing freebies at them, like basic health care.

"(To anyone with passing knowledge of economics, the author made a glaring error.) Having made my case, I amplified the point to make a normative statement about the low quality of writing here at TCS."

Now, having demonstrated my passing knowledge of economics and Tim Worstall's controversial leap of faith in the power of cash money as the best living standard measure, I'm amazed you fail to acknowledge your own apparent beliefs, specifically, which measures of living standards best account for how the poor measure their own conditions. Could this be because you so obviously know what's better for the poor (and people, generally) than they do?

Indeed, I fear I sense in your post, as I do in so many other posts scribbled by those who seem to be suffering under the ungainly bulk of left-wing ideas, the reek of intellectual superiority. You may, however, want to tone that down when posting to me, for I love to puncture inflated egos.

Claim Denied
The contention wasn't what you think about TCS, "fair critic" says that TCS "should be ashamed to call itself conservative", since it doesn't call itself anything, that's just an error.

Spectrum, not spectrium
definitely, not definatly
conservative,not conservitive

I make my share of typos, but dude your spelling screams butthead.

the whole story
the point of this chapter...not the analysis of one to show that the U.S. may benefit from examining other economic systems. the fact that the U.S.-- compared to 19 other wealthy/developed countries--has the highest poverty rate, lowest life expectancy, highest infant mortality rate and over 46+ million without health insurance even as the U.S. spends more on health care in terms of percentage of GDP or spending per capita are just a few examples that should be scrutinized.

Time for retraction: Straight from the horse's mouth
On page 25 of the report, right under the graph:

"To the extent that these countries provide more social and economic support to their citizens than the United States, these numbers provide a somewhat incomplete comparison regarding the living standards of low-income people."

I wonder if this squares with what Tim "Not a journalist" Worstall wrote?

"It's not worth quibbling over 1% so let's take it as read that the poor in America have exactly the same standard of living as the poor in Finland (and Sweden)."

Exactly the same! Wow!

Did he even read the report?

Can anyone at TCS stand by this article?

I think it's time for a retraction.

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