Sweden is one of the world’s best places to live, according to a variety of measures. It ranked third (behind Finland and Switzerland) in Newsweek’s 2010 list of the world’s best countries; MSN Money includes it among the world’s most prosperous nations, with the world’s second-highest annual investment in research and development; the World Economic Forum ranks it as the world’s most networked economy; according to the BBC, its people enjoy high life expectancy, low unemployment, and advanced social welfare protections (e.g., the world’s best paid parental leave); it is one of the world’s safest places to live, and one of the world’s most creative countries; MSN considers it the world’s best country for women; it is tenth on the UN’s Human Development Rankings; and the OECD reportedly ranks it as the world’s most generous donor nation.
Few countries can be very much like the United States — and, in a number of the foregoing rankings, the U.S. did worse than Sweden anyway. For one thing, no other country enjoys America’s economic dominance. But many countries could aspire to something like the Swedish model. Such countries surely cannot find it easy to copy that model, however, else more of them would have done so by now.
What seems to be needed is a way of bringing struggling nations around to the Swedish model. It is unlikely that such a process could succeed through superimposition of an alien approach upon a very different existing government and society. When McDonald’s enters a new neighborhood, it does not typically rehabilitate an existing structure. Rather, it builds a new operation from the ground up. A comparable governmental franchising arrangement — call it Sweden™ — would presumably find it advantageous to begin within a special reserved area. In one country, that area might be a geographical space; in another, it might be a region in cyberspace. There is even the possibility that it could be a space within government — say, the judiciary — when it is not feasible to replace the government entirely.
The concept is, in other words, that an adaptable Swedish model of good government-society relations, shaped with input from its competitors (e.g., Switzerland, Singapore, Finland, New Zealand, and perhaps also countries like Ghana and Botswana), might someday be outfitted and/or packaged in such a way as to be operational right out of the box. The optimal number of social and medical workers, security personnel, and educators arrives, physically or virtually, with the requisite hardware and infrastructure, and the terraforming begins.
Such an effort could be a real mess in some situations. Experience may eventually provide insight into circumstances that would be especially conducive to a successful franchise. For example, it is possible that the governmental component of Sweden™ could be implemented relatively swiftly in a case like Libya, where warfare has swept out the previous government and left a power vacuum. In this sense, the Sweden™ proposal amounts to an enhancement of a previous suggestion.
The world benefits when troubled nations are made stable and successful. Troubled nations are typically unable to bootstrap themselves. It would seem better to have a preconceived arrangement for imposition of (to the extent possible) a culturally neutral remake — a Sweden™ franchise — and better still to prefigure any such imposition with a low-key but pervasive apparatus to anticipate and respond to severe adversities within a given country.
Intervention into nations has not generally been welcome. Even as late as the American entry into and exit from Iraq, outsiders have not been seen as, and too often have not been, a force for good. Libya constituted a half-step toward a more targeted and restrained concept of intervention. It is possible to imagine a day when, like modern medical care for the individual person, international intervention evolves into experienced, well-funded, highly effective treatment for entire nations. Something resembling Sweden™ seems necessary to bring that day to dawn.
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Tags: foreign, good government, intervention, Libya, military, Singapore, social, Sweden, welfare
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