At VoxEU , three Finnish economists respond to a recent paper in which the authors assert that "cuddly capitalist" countries like Finland and other Nordic economies, "free ride" off of "cut-throat" capitalist countries like the U.S. Not surprisingly, Niku Määttänen , Mika Maliranta , and Vesa Vihriälä see a different picture. First, they take issue with the idea that the U.S. economy is more innovative: As Acemoglu et al. (2012a, 2012b) stress, innovation requires risk-taking. In a very innovative economy, one would therefore expect to find intensive job creation and job destruction, as firms that are successful in innovative activities expand rapidly while others are forced to exit the market. The available data do not suggest that the US economy is unambiguously more dynamic than the Nordic economies (Bassanini and Marianna 2009, OECD 2004). In Denmark, worker reallocation is more intensive, and in Finland almost as intensive as in the US (Table 1). Moreover, time series from the US indicate a marked decline in job and worker flows since the late 1990s (Davis et al. 2012), whereas – at least in Finland – both flows have stayed intensive (Ilmakunnas and Maliranta 2011). The authors go on to challenge the assumption that there is less dynamism in Nordic countries like Finland, and make the case that these are actually highly innovative economies in which entrepreneurs are encouraged to take risks for some of the same reasons they might be described as "cuddly" countries: One explanation for Nordic good performance might be that they are better in mobilising human resources. While hours per capita are higher in the US, a larger share of the working age population is employed in the Nordics owing to more inclusive educational, social and employment policies. This may imply that talents are harvested better for gainful economic activity. A second explanation could be the rather determined public policies to promote innovation. A third explanation might be that the economic incentives for innovation in the Nordics, while weaker than in the US, are not miserable after all, at least not across the board. For instance, all Nordic countries have introduced dual income taxation, according to which capital incomes are taxed at a flat rate. This helps in motivating entrepreneurs, despite quite progressive taxes on earned income. Sweden has recently encouraged wealth accumulation by abolishing wealth and inheritance taxes altogether. A well-designed safety net may also work to promote risk-taking. In particular, unemployment insurance may help risk-taking entrepreneurs by making it is easier for them to hire workers (see Acemoglu and Shimer 2000). Read Are the Nordic countries really less innovative than the U.S.? here .
Filed under: innovation, entrepreneurship, vox, global business, VoxEU, sweden, risk, finland, inequality, Denmark, high risk and innovation, Darren Acemoglu, Niku Määttänen, Mika Maliranta, Vesa Vihriälä, cuddly capitalism