As much of the world recedes towards popularism and struggles to intermediate political consensus, it’s a good time to remind ourselves why small countries such as Denmark, Netherlands, Singapore, and Switzerland count among the world’s most successful nations.
James Breiding discusses his new book Too Small to Fail how several successful 'small' countries, with populations under twenty million, have made a virtue out of their physical limitations. His research seeks to understand their recipes for achieving better-educated, more egalitarian, and wealthier populations. Breiding discovers common patterns in their success stories and reveals their brilliant policy successes – i.e:
- Why do the Dutch have the best pension funds in the world? How do they make roads out of recycled plastic which are cheaper, last longer, and are environmentally friendly?
- How did the Swiss manage to impose a debt moratorium on parliament – preventing them from obligating future generations and achieving one of the lowest debt levels in the world (as a % of GDP)?
- How does Singapore achieve superior health care outcomes at ¼ of the cost of America?
- How did the Danes replace cars with bicycles in cities in what is now commonly known as Copenhagenisation as part of its journey towards achieving carbon-neutral economic growth?
- The Finnish government just formed is majority women and on average 20 years younger than their counterparts in the US and the UK. As other large nations lurch towards political gerontocracies, why does the Finnish model better reflect the preferences of its citizens and permit them to focus on future issues?
Nations around the world will be ‘stress tested’ from an onslaught of challenging new circumstances very different to anything any of us has ever experienced in the past:
- What will social contracts look like in a world where 100-year lives are no longer a technical possibility but a likelihood? How feasible, for instance, is a health care system when the cost of providing health service to an 80-year-old is 15 times the amount required to treat a 15-year-old?
- How viable is a pension fund system when the ratio of active workers to retirees declines from 4.6 to 1.9over the next generations??
- Do stagnating reproduction rates, especially among well-educated women where the opportunity costs of motherhood are highest, mean a steady influx of immigrants is necessary – exacerbating social complexity?
- How will we make up, let alone change our minds, when social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter impoverish discourse by confirming our own beliefs rather than challenging them?
- And what happens when the global temperature continues to rise unabated?
Too Small to Fail argues these problems are imminent, serious and growing. Nor will they mysteriously go away by themselves. The world is changing fast so the old rules need rewriting. For historic and cultural reasons nations such as America have been uniquely placed to shape and lead the changes the world needs. It has been the key diplomatic anchor and strategic compass for many multinational organizations such as the UN, NATO, WTO, IMF, etc. And while battle cries like ‘America First’ may drum up nationalistic support, how viable will these institutions be without direction, support and consensus of the world’s leading powers. Who will fill the void?
In this spirit, an international think tank S8 has been established to partake as a laboratory to combat these challenges and showcase their policy successes towards resolving them. Its aim is to foster ‘leading and learning by example’.
S8 is admittedly paddling against the stream. It is a reminder that the world is begging for more multilateral collaboration, not less. Because problems shared can’t be solved alone.
Comprised of 8+ delegations from these competitive small nations, the S8 plans to annually bring together leading businesspeople, politicians, and diplomats in a cooperative conference for global improvement.
Our belief is there is no Plan B or 2nd place for the earth we all share and depend on. We’re all in this boat together whether we like it or not. So if it sinks, the next Google, massive tax cut, or new high for the S+P 500 won’t save any of us.