In its cover story this week, The Economist explains why we should all get to know more about the Nordic countries. The main argument is that they have a huge number of lessons in how to run slimmer, smarter government, and in an age of austerity those are lessons we can't afford to ignore.
Here's their rather persuasive pay-off: "The main lesson to learn from the Nordics is not ideological but practical. The state is popular not because it is big but because it works. A Swede pays tax more willingly than a Californian because he gets decent schools and free health care. The Nordics have pushed far-reaching reforms past unions and business lobbies. The proof is there. You can inject market mechanisms into the welfare state to sharpen its performance. You can put entitlement programmes on sound foundations to avoid beggaring future generations. But you need to be willing to root out corruption and vested interests. And you must be ready to abandon tired orthodoxies of the left and right and forage for good ideas across the political spectrum. The world will be studying the Nordic model for years to come."