Does immigration bring Nordic welfare states to the verge of collapse?

They all seem to think so, but I’ve long found this fear puzzling.  These states could solve many of their fiscal problems by either cutting taxes/spending a few percentage points, or by moving to complete dual benefit status (read: non-whites receive less money).  No matter what you think of those ideas, they would stave off fiscal crisis.

The trick is that Americans and many of the Nordics have such different senses of what counts as a major political problem.  For better or worse, we are used to tolerating waste and disorder.  They fall apart if even a single piece of the machinery of government is out of order.  (Similarly, the Japanese are aghast over tiny tears in the fabric of social order.)  So if someone is collecting benefits "who shouldn’t be," it threatens their entire basis of social and legal organization.  I, as a New Jersey-bred American think "too bad, but big deal, what else is new?"

Would it help them to be more like me?  Can they simply overlook these instances of immigrant abuse?  Maybe not.  If they were more like me, they wouldn’t be them in the first place. 

And that is why so many Nordics think their welfare state is in such danger from immigrants.  Often the countries most able to handle problems are — for that same reason — the most worried about those problems.  It is their own vigilance which makes them so vulnerable to exceptions and scattered loose ends.

But if they could be more…um…Hegelian…their future would be brighter.


Comments for this post are closed