Editor Note: Mike and Diana Lacey joined the UFI team during the final week of the Commission on the Status of Women. Mike gives some insights on his UN experience.
Anyone familiar with the culture of European countries will enjoy the joke about European heaven and hell.
It is told that in heaven, the Germans are the engineers, the French are the lovers, the British are the politicians and the Italians are the chefs.
In hell, the Italians are the engineers, the French are the politicians, the Germans are the lovers, and the British are the chefs.
After a couple of days in attendance at the United Nations Conference on the Status of Women, it was obvious that the Swedes and the Canadians wish to be included in the joke. Never mind that Canada is not physically located in Europe, this group would blithely deny that too.
My wife, Diana, and I attended a UN side event titled “Financing for Gender Equality: Taxes, Budgeting, and Recessions in Comparative and Global Contexts.” The event was sponsored by the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (Queen’s University).
As the meeting “progressed,” I went from feelings of frustration, to anger, to horror, to indifference, to humor. You see, we were being sold the idea that Sweden is an economic utopia. Likened to the bumblebee, which, according to engineers (Germans or Italians, I don’t know), is not supposed to fly, the Swedish economy thrives, according to them, despite the highest tax rates and social spending in Europe. The climax of this presentation was a slide actually titled “Utopia Exists.”
What felt heinous to us was the outright socialism being espoused/propagated by the three presenters, and apparently accepted by the audience of around forty people. Some points they tried to hammer home were:
The two income models represented in the world are:
1) The Breadwinner Model
2) The Dual-Earner Model.
The Breadwinner model is the traditional model where one member (usually the husband) of the household is engaged in some activity (work, career, profession) to bring home money for the family. The problem with this model, according to this panel, is that “taxable capacity” only lies in the working spouse, who has an income to tax. This obviously leaves the at-home spouse at an economic disadvantage, according to their doctrine. To compensate, governments offer tax-credits and household tax-deductions to bring equity to the spouse who is not employed. Given as examples for this “antiquated” structure were the USA, Spain, Germany and Japan.
The more enlightened Nordic countries espouse the Dual-Earner Model. There, government mandated “leaves of absence” for child care allow for each partner in a household to hold full-time employment. Children then become “wards of the state.” This allows for “gender equality,” giving both man and woman income, which they defined as being a better form of social welfare.
These months-long leaves of absence require or allow both partners in a household to take staggered leaves (3 months each and then another 3 months for one or the other) until a child is ready for day-care, whereupon both earners go back to their employment and the child is taken care of by the state.
The great dilemma of this model is always that where the money is, there too, is the control. Isn’t it a danger that if the government pays each spouse for the babysitting of their own child, wouldn’t the government soon mandate things that might be reprehensible to the family? Who provides the nurturing, love, attention and comfort? Do you want your child raised by the equivalent of a DMV[Dept. of Motor Vehicle] clerk?
Additionally, women who do stay home to tend children are allocated an income by the state to equalize their taxing capacity and influence with their working brethren. This utopian program is funded by taxing working men at a higher rate!
Questioning the Swedish Utopia
During the question and answer part of the presentation, Diana made a comment to the panel that we live in the state of New Mexico that has one of the largest social welfare programs (school lunches to 75% of children, latch-key programs, etc.) AND that our state is considered one of, if not the worst state in which to raise children. She asked, “If there is little or no correlation to social spending and social well-being of children and families in New Mexico, why should we believe “The Swedish Model” would bring different results?
Since most of the audience was sympathetic to the message being delivered, you could hear a pin drop when Diana asked her question. Then you could see the blood levels rise among the members of the panel. They tersely answered her question as if she were an apostate.
The greatest irony occurred when one of the women associated with the sponsor rose and asked a question. In broken English, since she apparently spoke French, she asked how groups such as theirs in Sweden were funded. A look of anxiety appeared on the other Canadian’s faces as the French-speaking associate stated that their group did not have enough money to pay their telephone bill recently. The panel hurriedly switched topics and went on.
After the meeting, I asked the French-speaking woman why the telephone bill was difficult to pay. Since there had been a transitional government recently, she said their funding had completely dried up. I wondered what it took to “sponsor” this UN Side Event! Apparently only a socialist agenda.
Another very earnest member of their group came after the meeting to try and convince Diana of the wisdom of the Swedish Model. This earnest student-aid type associate continued to try to proselyte Diana to their cause. Diana came up with an interesting metaphor.
Throughout the CSW conference, including in this side event, were references to the terrible practice of human trafficking throughout the world. That issue is a worthy issue we must continue to discuss and fight, and Sweden is apparently noteworthy in their control and banishment of the sex trafficking trade. Because of the constant references to the terminology of sex-trafficking and prostitution, the terms “pimp and john” were regularly spoken and used.
So here was Diana’s analogy.
Since the Canadian sponsors of this event were insolvent, and since they were absolving womanhood of needing a man, both financially and socially, they had replaced their “men” with an indifferent government. It sounds harsh, but the analogy is true, Diana told the woman that the government was The Swedish Model’s Pimp. This women’s group was being used to push socialism, with little or no reward, and left destitute, desiring the largesse of the highest-taxed country in Europe, but receiving peanuts.
The simple vision of capitalism.
If you provide a good or service valuable to the population you serve (in this case women), in capitalism, the capital flows to you without compulsory means. Since half the population of Canada is female, this group could probably pay their phone bill, and a lot more, if they sold a valuable product about which women, or anybody, cared. This somewhat crass view of a capitalist is that this message does not sell; therefore I wasted my time listening to a socialist rally!
When we asked, during the conference, why people are not flocking to Sweden, given this economic utopia, the moderator said that we in the United States “are an island” we are being insulated from the “Good News” of social and economic well-being. I am not kidding. .. With a straight face, she said that the United States government “keeps us ignorant by not publicizing these well-known facts.” Who knew?
Also, endemic to this discussion, were constant negative references to micro finance. It later struck home, that if a group wishes to espouse government, taxes, and large scale socialism; micro finance, which is the third-world way to start banking and business, would be anathema. In fact, what good socialist is going to wish any independence, however small, upon potential subjects/socialists. It just stuns me that people really believe this way.
So, to add our two wannabe participants in the Euro joke: in heaven, the Swedes are the models, and the Canadians are the economists. In hell, the Swedes are the economists and the Canadians are the models.
So, as a post-script to the European joke, in heaven, the models are Swedish. In hell, the Economic model is Swedish…..
Eh, it still doesn’t work.