In a comment to my blog of yesterday (“Socialists and Democrats . . . “) Ghassan Karam asks me whimsically whether I’m advocating that the “Royal family of Saudi Arabia should not try to spread the wealth but keep the hundreds of billions of dollars each year for its 3000 members”. The short answer to that is No.
A slightly longer answer is that the Saudi royal family is barely a step up from Bedouin tribalism, but now (because of oil) has the resources to try and short-circuit what the rest of us had to go through — primitive manual agriculture and primitive manual industrialisation — in order to arrive at a new highly-automated “post-industrialism” (for want of a better term) that is now dawning. As you might expect, the Saudi royal family are even more confused how to get there than the rest of us.
As to the more serious criticism concerning the Scandinavian countries, they have the advantage of having very much smaller populations than most of the rest of the advanced countries so their state welfare systems are much more transparent and thus more efficient than ours (less corruption at the top, less free-loading at the bottom) and, for the same reason, they could tolerate a far higher level of personal taxation than other advanced countries. They could more easily see how it was being spent.
Note, however, that all of the Scandinavian countries are now lowering their unsustainable state welfare spending and that, because their governments have been “nicer” than ours in recent decades they are now being assailed by the growth of much “nastier” right-inclined new political parties than ours in the middle band of Europe (SNP and UKIP, in this country) or the left-inclined new protest parties of southern Europe.