Let’s Go Nordic


From top: cycling in Copenhagen, Denmark; Dan Boyle

Maybe the Little Englanders are right and Brexit does represent an opportunity. For us not them.  With John Bull’s Island shamefully obsessed with a don’t darken our shores attitude to migrants (or just others in general), and with the man-child firmly ensconced in the Oval Office, maybe the real opportunity is ours in Ireland, to distangle our involvement with the Anglo American economic model.

It is only an economic model and a very poor one at that. A model that seeks to pump prime an economy for short term benefit and often to a very shallow extent. It is a model that we have convinced ourselves no longer needs to make things, just as long we can provide appropriate ‘services’.

There are other economic models, better economic models. Models that portray an economy, and its effective management, as a tool of a wider society, and doesn’t see society as an unfortunate adjunct that distracts from the more important entity of the economy.

The Anglo American model needs and encourages inequality to thrive. It’s mantra is low costs/high profits. It produces jobs but many of these jobs are low paying and have little security. It cares little for social protection and not at all for social infrastructure.

As the UK and the US indulge in their mutual insanity, if Ireland were now to take a different turn, it could be of real and lasting value.

If we need an obvious example on how Irish society has become tainted by the Anglo American model, our housing crisis is surely it. Since 2011 our government has stuck limpet like to a belief that you can’t buck the market; that the State should play no role in controlling housing supply or demand.

Perhaps we could begin to adopt a more humane philosophy that is as approximate to us. We should go Nordic.

The naysayers and the knee jerkers will have arguments at their ready. Ireland doesn’t have the oil or the gas reserves of Norway, they will say. That is true, but then neither do the five other Nordic countries.

We no longer have control over our monetary policy, as many Nordic still do, they will counter. That is also true although Finland is also a member of the Eurozone.

The main misgiving is that the Irish, unlike their Nordic counterparts, are less disposed towards paying high levels of personal taxation. This is to distort the effect of the various systems of taxation in these countries.

In Ireland our tax burden is disproportionately shared. In Nordic countries the principle of earn more pay more is not only more readily accepted, the transparency necessary to show how the social dividend is distributed is far more obvious.

The Nordic model is not perfect and is far from idyllic. But it better, so much better than the Anglo American model. In education, health care, crime prevention, immigration and integration, child care and care for the environment, we lag so far behind our Nordic cousins.

If we could marry the Swedish ability of establishing international companies from within its borders; the Norwegian commitment to re-investment; the Danish attachment to renewable energy; the Finnish standards of education; and the Icelandic stoicism to maximising its economy, how much better we could be.

Certainly better than relying on the arrogance and shamelessness of the Anglo American model. It’s time methinks to engage again in our Viking heritage.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

60 thoughts on “Let’s Go Nordic

  1. Yep

    “international companies from with our borders”

    I agree with the sentiment but this is where it falls flat for me. I can’t see a single industry we could become serious players in. Open to even the slightest notion but I can’t see it.

        1. Cian

          If this question was asked 30 years ago – I don’t think anyone would have said airlines.
          Similarly – if asked 30 years ago in Finland – I don’t think anyone would have said that the rubber-boot company (Nokia) would become the leader in mobile phones.

          I would agree it is unlikely that Ireland will have a serious player in any established manufacturing business – but it could in any emerging technology, or in a disrupting technology.

          1. Johnny

            30 years ago,the smartest guys in the country were betting the farm on airlines with GPA,Fitzgerald bet his house,lost,kept it.
            plus ca change….Fine Gael !

        2. Johnny

          Incredible potential in US with “shamrock” products

          “As of 2018, Kerrygold is the second-best-selling branded butter in the U.S. The gold-wrappered import sold nearly 23,000 tons of butter in the U.S. last year, and $1 billion dollars worth in more than 80 markets worldwide. In the less than 20 years since its U.S. launch, it has outsold every brand except Land O’Lakes, which, since it was founded in 1921, enjoyed almost an 80-year head start.“


        3. Yep

          That’s the arena I would be most hopeful for although I’d forgotten about Fyffes. Great reputation and produce high quality foodstuffs.

  2. Andrew

    “With John Bull’s Island shamefully obsessed with a don’t darken our shores attitude to migrants (or just others in general)”
    Good grief!

  3. scottser

    yes dan, we should exploit our ex-pat community over there. sure isn’t bjork o’shaughnessy one of our own? and aren’t they great over here too? sure paddy sigurson looks like he could start for tipp he’s that good with a hurl..

    1. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

      I will bring out an album doing that Sigur Rós nonsense natter (but with a diddley-eye feel to it) as the theme music to our new Nation. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee-ooooooooo weeeeeeeeeeee-ooooooooooooo leithreas ooooooooooooooo amadán ooooooooooo weeeee Neidín
      You know, that kind of thing.

        1. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

          Nice. We could do a line for IKEA too, something like what you just said there as the name for a wooden spoon for Irish Stew.

  4. Rob_G

    Dan, I often enjoy your articles, but this one seems a little wistful and not so well-researched

    In Ireland our tax burden is disproportionately shared. In Nordic countries the principle of earn more pay more is not only more readily accepted

    These are old figures, but the top 5% of earners in Ireland pay 55% of all income tax. So while it is true that our tax burden is disproportionately shared, this is to the benefit of lower income earners. If you were ask people on low incomes, who currently pay little or no income tax, to pay Swedish or Finnish rates of income tax, I am sure you would be given short shrift.

    “In education, health care, crime prevention, immigration and integration, child care and care for the environment, we lag so far behind our Nordic cousins.”

    Sweden (for example) has experienced huge problems integrating its immigrant population. Claiming that everything is great in a group of 5 seperate countries is a bit lazy cliché.

    1. Ruffi

      Rob, picking one issue that is problematic (integration) out of many that aren’t and work MUCH better in Sweden than here (childcare, education, healthcare) to defend the Irish system is a bit of a lazy cliche too, no? I agree that of course not everything is perfect in the Nordic countries, but using one thing they don’t do well to discredit the rest doesn’t make sense.

      1. Rob_G

        All of these things are better because they pay a lot more taxes than we do. At the moment, high earners in Ireland pay high marginal rates of income tax, while people on lower incomes pay very little income tax (one in three workers here pay no income tax whatsoever). How do you think these 30% of workers would feel about having 30% of their salaries deducted for these improved services?

        Dan is quite glib about people not minding paying tax to fund better services; water charges of €3 per week almost brought down the government. Irish people want Nordic-levels of services, but are only prepared to pay neo-liberal taxes.

        1. scottser

          the irish water analogy as you see it doesn’t stack up rob. water was already paid for from general taxation and FG wanted to ultimately set it up for privatisation. it’s not that we want to pay neo-liberal style taxes, we just don’t want taxes to fund private enterprise and profiteering.

          1. Rob_G

            “water was already paid for from general taxation …”

            – well, at the time water charges were first floated, water wasn’t paid for from general taxation; we weren’t able to raise enough revenue through taxation to cover expenditure, so water (and everything else) was part for in part by borrowing.

            Anyway, I think your point is tautological: if people were objecting to pay an extra €150 per year for a ‘service’, I would be very surprised if they didn’t object to paying an extra several thousand euro per year to pay for ‘services’. There were plenty of people who objected to paying for, again, a few euro a week for bin charges when the service was provided by the CoCos.

            (the protests of course led in the end to this service being privatised, but that is another story).

    2. qwerty123

      Rob, Dan writes these articles on the back of an envelope after his morning read of the examiner and during his daily constitutional. They are complete dross, with 0 research, don’t take them seriously.

      1. Dan Boyle

        And yet Qwerty I still manage to put more thought and energy into my pieces than you do into your responses….

        1. qwerty123

          Yes, Nordic countries good, Anglo American bad, few false assertions on personal tax in Ireland. Very original. David McWilliams you are not. I’d say you wrote that in 15 mins or less. I hope so anyway…..

        2. Sentient Won

          You write unscientific, unsourced SJW button-pushing balderdash.

          Where were the Greens the night of the bank-bailout Dan?

          Where, in that moment, did you put our money?

          What have you ever achieved in office except the socialisation of private banking debt?

          And you have the gall to call Trump a “man-child’?

          All you ever argue for is higher Taxes but why on earth would we ever trust you with our money?

  5. Frilly Keane

    bloody hate the use of

    it a nails_along_a_blackboard reaction whenever I see it

    1. ahjayzis

      Methinks that’s poetic justice, so.

      Methinks your colloquialisms are chalkynaily to some also, methinks ;)

        1. ahjayzis

          Mayhaps, malfortunately.

          Speaking ownlifefully, I find them doubleplusungood. I’m a bit oldthink about grammar.

          1. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

            Doubleplusungood. I know I should use my mad google skillz but can’t be arsed. Is it from A Clockwork Orange or something?

  6. Sentient Won

    ” man-child firmly ensconced in the Oval Office ”

    Trump has brought an end to the Korean war after 70 years, defeated ISIS, allowed the Gulf States to take the lead in resolving the various crises in the middle east, returned more of Americans own money to Americas via an unprecedented level of tax cuts, restored manufacturing, increased wages, repealed the disastrous Obamacare mandate, made considerable strides to reduce the harm of illegal migration, withdrew from the economically crippling Paris accord AND reduced CO2 emissions despite the fact that he hasn’t even been in office for 18 months yet.

    How much did you get done in 18 months in office Dan?

    Oh, and Sweden? Now famous for its urban no-go zones thanks to a disastrous migration policy.

    1. ahjayzis

      I actually live in one of London’s no-go zones you’ll have read about on the Daily Stormer or FascismToday – the Caliphate of Tower Hamlets.

      I’d highly recommend it. More Muslamics, I say!

      1. Sentient Won

        You’ve just undercut Dan’s argument about how Nordic societies are better than Anglo societies.

        Meanwhile, in Sweden…

        “It’s widely known that gang members are mainly first- and second-generation immigrants, and problems are rampant in what police euphemistically refer to as ‘vulnerable areas’. Thus the gang wars serve as a constant reminder of Sweden’s failed migration and integration policies. This is a problem for the government (and even the opposition) in a country that prides itself on being a ‘humanitarian superpower’. And yet politicians, in government and opposition, seem particularly concerned that violence in immigrant suburbs is a PR problem, a threat to the image of Sweden, and that the remedy is spin.”


        1. ahjayzis

          And no, I’ve said no-go zones are weaponised lies from fash scum.

          The poverty in TH is a real issue that exists. But it’s not down to the muslim community or the gypsies or the Jews, babes x

          1. Sentient Won

            Deny, Deny, Deny… is that your solution to everything?

            And then deliberately and needlessly conflate ‘right wing’ with fascism even though fascism is a left wing ideology.

            Even the lefty BBC and Politico have recognised the problems.



            But no. You’ve got a link from Snopes so everybody else is posting ‘bullshit’.

          2. ahjayzis

            “even though fascism is a left wing ideology.”

            Sorry for intimating that you’re fash.

            You’re just a regular complete idiot.


          3. Sentient Won

            Ever hear of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party?

            The world’s most famous fascists.

            You lefty’s don’t care about truth though. All you care about is insulting those who stand up to your nonsense,

          4. ahjayzis

            Babes, you’re making a fool of yourself.

            I’m not going to insult everyone else by explaining why they called themselves that.

            Educate yourself or be a laughing stock for the rest of your life at best. (At worst people will just avoid a poisonous racist troll)

          5. Sentient Won

            And now I’m racist all of a sudden. Why?

            Cos I called out your ignorance.

            You’ve just proved my point about lefty’s.

      2. qwerty123

        Tower hamlets has some nice areas and not so nice, used to live there meself. Wapping, loved it, Bow, hated it.

          1. qwerty123

            I’d say it has changed since I was there, 3 years ago. When roman road opened a wine shop I knew it was now “up and coming”. Lord Tredegar is a decent boozer around there.

          2. ahjayzis

            Roman road has the best Vape shops in the east end :p

            More of a Morgan Arms kind of guy anyway. Small auld world!

          3. qwerty123

            Ever go to the palm tree? Down by the canal. Unique, even by the most dumpiest of London pub standards. Great place to have a few outside on a sunny day. I was probably harsh in saying I hated Bow, it has its charms. Plus Victoria park is the best park I have ever been in, why can’t Dublin do parks like that?

          4. qwerty123

            Please do, an original east London family run pub who still live there. Characters, the lot of them :-) The son is half cut most of the time!!!

  7. Bull Duggan

    I tried this time.
    I really tried.
    Like, sat down determined to see the thing right through to the end.
    But as ever I couldn’t get beyond Mr Boyle’s first paragraph before boredom and an overwhelming desire to kill myself set in.

  8. Joe Small

    Dan, interesting viewpoint but it takes decades to shift from one economic model to another without causing enormous social upheaval. Also, the Nordic model is based on strong cultural biases there that may be absent here. For instance, I’ve often heard people say we should adopt the German apprenticeship model in Ireland but that’s easier said than done. No amount of legislation can bring about a cultural change, at least in a democracy.

    1. Cian

      True – but we (as a nation) need to strive toward something. And at the moment it seems to be the Anglo American economic model.

      It is a conversation worth having – how do we perceive ourselves and how where should we be going.

      1. Frilly Keane

        but Anglo Yank is what most Paddies identify with
        and are most connected with
        we all have UK ‘Merica connections

        shur isn’t Dan himself a Yank

  9. Junkface

    Ireland will never go the way of Nordic models because we are so culturally different. We are completely influenced by US and UK lifestyles. Nordic countries are not. Nordic countries are happier to pay higher taxes because the money is spent well, or more progressively on improving life/work balance for everyone. Nordic countries have far less history with corruption, Ireland does not. Would Irish people be happy to pay more tax? Hell no!! Our tax money is routinely wasted on quangos, dodgey politicians with massive pensions and general corruption.

    1. qwerty123

      This. And now FG are going back on their promise to cut taxes. So they are now completely useless with no reason to vote for at all.

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