Who is the parade nation after the fall of Germany?

It used to be Sweden. People loved Sweden. Here was a land of excellent public services and generous welfare. Here was a culture without Anglo-American sex neuroses. Name a statistic – female labor force participation – and Sweden did well. Abroad it was not warlike. Instead, it was things like diplomacy and soft power that got all sorts of results for the global commons. Such as? Look, don’t be embarrassed.

Then Sweden lost its halo. Foreign progressives learned that their public services are open to heresies such as private provider and consumer choices. The Tories (booo) examined Goran Persson’s tenure as Finance Minister and Prime Minister as a model for spending cuts in Britain. Bad Sweden. Breakaway Sweden.

And so it became Germany. People loved Germany. Here was an economy that worked for those with a technical rather than just an academic bent. Here was a fair distribution of wealth across regions. And such cheerful politics: the industrialist spoke to the minister, who spoke to the union boss. With less historical practice than Britain or France, the country took in many non-white migrants.

Then Germany lost its halo. It bumped over Ukraine. His strategic assessments – Russian gas as input, China as market – turned sour. The Western world’s secular beatification of Angela Merkel proved premature. In 2020, a book entitled Why the Germans do it better: Notes from a grown-up country. Ah, buddy.

And so the moral crown has passed on. . . Where? For the first time in my politically conscious life, the role of model nation is vacant. At dinner parties from Los Feliz to Georgetown to Hackney, people are bereft. Which country should we toast to passionately and half-informed? Which country shall we enviously compare to our own?

As far as I can tell, the criteria for a model nation are as follows. It cannot have nuclear weapons or a permanent seat on the Security Council. (A role model must embody liberal democracy. To get your hands dirty defending, it’s under the stairs.) There couldn’t have been many non-European colonies. (You can’t praise a nation and undo it all at once.) It can’t be restrictive on immigration. (Otherwise Japan would intervene with a shout.)

What leaves us with what? Australia? There seems to be a sensible balance between market and state. Though liberal Brits sometimes suspect it of unconstructed attitudes toward race, I feel more invisible there than in most parts of continental Europe. His politicians are bitter but ultimately conscientious. Years ago, during a round table discussion with several, I heard them fret over a debt to GDP ratio that most western countries would have to abolish old people, Logan’s run-Style to come down.

But no. The Paragon cannot be English speaking. Too familiar. There is no snob in praising a nation unless it gives it an air of worldliness and urbanity. In that regard, New Zealand, Canada and other Anglophones are out as well.

Where else? Denmark? Its concerns about immigration have sullied some of the liberal luster it once had. Switzerland? Neutrality, that elegant word for dodge, now carries a greater geopolitical stigma. Singapore? Freedom House has still listed it as “partially free.” Norway? The resource advantage is too great. So here is my final offer. Uruguay. It has a large middle class, a welfare state that goes back a long way, and the moral advantage of the doubt that small nations seem to deserve near the big ones. A paradigm from the Global South – as nobody who lives there calls it – would be very 21st century, very au courant.

But despite Uruguay gifting one of European football’s elite forwards after another, Uruguay are struggling to maintain their profile. Montevideo is far removed from the opinion-forming classes of the upper Atlantic. (Whistleblowers on the ground tell me there are no Kooples.) You have to be a political hipster, a reader of the Economist from cover to cover, to follow Uruguay. A true model nation is conquering the midwit, get-the-news-from-Trevor-Noah demographic.

i am defeated The fallen angels of northern Europe are proving difficult to replace. Perhaps the empire of FT readership has a better answer. That, or Sweden will be back in fashion.


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https://www.ft.com/content/1448eab7-fee8-44bc-a6ea-516bc41e543f Who is the parade nation after the fall of Germany?

Adam Bradshaw

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