Saturday, November 11, 2006

SciAm article on the Socialist State

There was an interesting article on the Scientific American website that was at once remarkably sweeping in generalization and remarkably vague in fact. Thanks go to a socialist Farker that brought it up in an argument. It is available here:

Here is my response:

The problem with the SciAm article (and your conclusion) is that it lumps countries together without telling us what the individual breakdown is. So we have English speaking countries vs. Nordic countries -- what countries scored where? You can't tell, because while the countries are mentioned, their individual scores are not.

In addition, his numbers for purchasing power seem suspicious. Here are the numbers from the CIA "World Factbook" online:

GDP per capita (Purchasing Power Parity)
Sweden: $29,800
Finland: $31,000
Norway: $42,800
Denmark: $34,800

United States: $41,600
United Kingdom: $30,100
Australia: $31,600
Canada: $33,900
New Zealand: $25,300 (slackers)
Ireland: $41,100

Note, I have no clue what "working age wages" would be in comparison, since the brief article didn't mention how he came up with those numbers.

Now, this all looks roughly even, until you realize the U.S. has 300 million people, and the rest of the English-speaking countries have a total of 122 million, which means the average will be a wee bit higher than simply adding the GDP per capita and dividing by 6.

In comparison, the combined population of the Nordic countries mentioned is 24 million, of which the highest-scoring country (Norway) makes up 4.6 million, or 19%. It looks like the average is going to be a bit lower per capita than in the English-speaking countries, unless their definition of "working age" is remarkably different.

(Feel free to check the numbers, I just used the internet and a calculator, and might have mis-typed something somewhere. I will say that this particular article is far from proving the superiority of the Nordic system, and it would be nice to see a breakdown to check his facts.)


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