The Paradox of the Utopian Microstates

Since the end of World War Two, a very select group of very fortunate European micro states have been held up as a model for the rest of the world to emulate. There is a high degree of unanimity as to which states qualify for the exalted status of earthly garden paradise.

The usual suspects are the Scandinavian nations of Norway, Sweden and Denmark plus Switzerland. capitalforbusiness With Finland and Iceland usually granted honorable mention. Overall, it is a very short list when you consider that there are 195 nations on the earth.

The first thing that hits you is that all these nations have a very small population. They all have a population of less than ten million. Why are they all so small?

The answer is that a population of less than ten million as we will make clear is the iron-core requirement for earthly garden paradise status.

Sweden 9 million
Switzerland 7 million
Denmark 5 million
Finland 5 million
Norway 4 million
Iceland 300,000

This averages out to a princely average population of about five million. This is considerably smaller than New York City.

The next requirement for divine status is a homogeneous population without an alienated minority group. All the above countries meet this requirement. It is surprising how few nations do not have an alienated minority group. Do not underestimate how few nations there are without a minority group and how costly this condition is. Social-strife is deadly to national prosperity and advancement. Examples that come to mind are the US riots in the 60s and the recent riots in France. Israel and the Kurds in Turkey and elsewhere in the Middle East are other examples.

It helps to be Lutheran. It is interesting to note that with the exception of Switzerland all the above nations are overwhelmingly Lutheran. One of my closest friends is a Norwegian atheist who keeps claiming that he is a Lutheran. What he means by this is that even though Scandinavians may be atheists the impact of the relentlessly moralistic Lutheran religion has seeped through the whole of Scandinavian culture. I also keep hearing this from other Scandinavians.

The cumulative impact of the above factors; of a very small and homogeneous population coupled with a culture of very high morality results in a bureaucracy of exceptionally high honesty, integrity and efficiency. Every additional layer of bureaucracy costs the world in added costs,increased corruption and reduced efficiency. The small populations of the micro states insures that they will have the fewest layers of bureaucracy and their small size allows the sun to shine through the bureaucracy like a powerful searchlight eliminating graft and corruption in a manner that is impossible in states with populations above ten million. The combination of these factors results in the venerated Utopian micro state with a very high standard of living.


6) Norway $57,500
10) United States $48,000
15) Iceland $42,600
19) Switzerland $40,900
22) Sweden $39,600
25) Denmark $38,900
27) Finland $38,400

Certain caveats are in order about the above list. First to a considerable extent, Norway’s number six position is based on its North Sea oil bonanza, which is now in decline. Iceland is currently undergoing a horrific financial crisis, which will probably effect its position.

The astute reader has probably noticed that Singapore is not on this list. It is not on this list because it is not an object of veneration. Only European micro states are objects of veneration. However, it certainly has the credentials of the exalted micro states. It is ranked ninth in the world with a population of four million people who are almost 100% Chinese and has a GDP per capita of $52,000. Everyone who reports on Singapore comments on the extreme honesty and integrity of its bureaucracy.

Contrast this with China’s far from corruption free bureaucracy and its GDP per capita of $6,100 and world ranking of 132.

I submit to the reader that it would be impossible for China to ever convert itself into a Goliath-sized Singapore. No matter how hard it tried or how sincere its efforts. It would fail.

Liechtenstein is the top ranked nation with a GDP per capita of $118,000.

It is telling that of the top ranked 17 nations, the only one with a population above ten million is tenth ranked United States.

The paradox of the Utopian micro states of Europe is that you must have a population of less than ten million.

Fail that test and you never get in to their exclusive club. Thus it can never be a model for the rest of us.


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