USA vs Scandinavia
February 11, 2015 5:36 AM   Subscribe

 
Given that they still, of their own free will, eat Surströmming, I'm gonna say "No."
posted by leotrotsky at 5:54 AM on February 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


the Vikings—a rapey seafaring people

Sometimes it is hard to be proud of my ancestors.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:15 AM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I thought I”d read about Michael Booth’s The Almost Nearly Perfect People (the subject of this article) here at MeFi before, but apparently not. The Guardian ran a piece about it last year (Dark lands: the grim truth behind the ‘Scandinavian miracle’), followed up by another piece compiling various Scandinavians’ responses to it.
posted by misteraitch at 6:24 AM on February 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


Sometimes it is hard to be proud of my ancestors.

To be fair, most other people's ancestors were no better at the time.

The Vikings reportedly did have better hygiene and grooming than other Europeans, though.
posted by acb at 6:24 AM on February 11, 2015 [20 favorites]


I think it's probably a lot easier to achieve social unity when your country consists of 5-10 million people who all share a common background. In the US, for example, it's all too easy for politicians to take a "divide and conquer" approach and get elected simply by making one part of the electorate fear the other part. I think that's largely why we don't have a very good social safety net in the US. Conservative politicians are really good at making white people afraid that they're going to lose their stuff to scary, unspecified "others". See : the myth of the "welfare mom".
posted by evil otto at 6:26 AM on February 11, 2015 [43 favorites]


To be fair, most other people's ancestors were no better at the time.

The Vikings reportedly did have better hygiene and grooming than other Europeans, though.


I mean, sure they were rapists, but look at that braided hair!
posted by leotrotsky at 6:26 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Vikings sailed the world, conquering all, until they got to Ireland, and were never heard from again.

Traditional conquered Irish sounds like "Oh thank the stars you are here, those previous conquerors were bastards, now, you'll be wanting to repair this battlement, and my brother-in-law has worked on those for years. Do you fancy a drink?".
posted by dglynn at 6:26 AM on February 11, 2015 [24 favorites]



The Vikings reportedly did have better hygiene and grooming than other Europeans, though.


I think it was here on Metafilter that someone recently linked some horrified descriptions by early travelers (from the middle east I think, given that they could write and had high standards for cleanliness) of the Vikings' extraordinarily disgusting habits, such as taking turns to blow their noses into a bowl of water and then washing their faces in it, and some of their funeral activities which combined both poor hygiene and rapeyness.

(That said, in other parts of Europe people were probably skipping the face washing altogether, so even using gross water represented an improvement.)
posted by Dip Flash at 6:33 AM on February 11, 2015


Yet a certain hardness of heart rests in the practice of modern American liberalism, too. We have registered our willingness to make the Faustian deal that the Swedes have not. The possibility of having a truly Iranian-American life, or enjoying deep-Appalachian bluegrass, is important to our national variety. And, to let these cultures thrive on their own, we’ve agreed to let some of our people, by our withheld intervention, be thrown under the bus.

Huh. In generic arguments for American laissez faire, this part is traditionally played by entrepreneurship and economic vibrance. The American technique unleashes entrepreneurship and economic vibrance, which, actually, is also why we tolerate the multiculti melting pot and so on. Here, the multiculti melting pot is itself an endgame. By unfettering America from safety-net-ish concerns, we are able to enjoy stuff like... bluegrass, and conceiving ourselves as an Iranian-American. That's an interesting substitution in a time of ossified economic status and explosive inequality.
posted by batfish at 6:34 AM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


(That said, in other parts of Europe people were probably skipping the face washing altogether, so even using gross water represented an improvement.)

At the time, washing more than once a year was probably considered borderline metrosexual.
posted by acb at 6:38 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


That was a very ...confused article.
posted by digitalprimate at 6:50 AM on February 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


"Vikings reportedly did have better hygiene and grooming than other Europeans, though."

Yeah ... they carried their coins by attaching the coins to their armpit hair with wax. Armpit coins negates all other attempts at hygiene. So no.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:54 AM on February 11, 2015 [18 favorites]


The Nordic countries seem to generally support a theory that you can have cultural heterogeneity, or you can have a strong mutual support network and safety net at a national level, but not both. As a model for the US, I don't know if it's particularly instructive. Raising taxes and setting up a lot of public services are the easy part; the hard part is making people willing to pay those taxes or vote for those services, and the really hard part is making them willing to raise taxes or pay for services when those services are largely going to benefit people who don't look like them, speak the same language as them, or perhaps even share many of the same values. The Nordic countries haven't, as far as I can tell, magically solved that problem; they just punted on it.

I'm pretty confident that if you took the parts of the US that have demographics similar to the Nordic countries and made them into little independent nation-states, that you'd have similar levels of services (and probably taxation). Northern New England is the obvious example; heck, given a few more years, Vermont may figure out how to have single-payer without even being a nation-state, which is kind of a trick.

The Nordic countries haven't solved human nature, they just got lucky demographically. (And that's only for values of "lucky" where you like socialized healthcare and fish.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:11 AM on February 11, 2015 [18 favorites]


Sexually slavery, torture, slaughter of innocents, and human sacrifice have been documented across ancient peoples. It's horrifying. I have specifically looked to find documented peaceful communities of...well.. ANYONE's ancestors past--- the Egyptions seem to have done pretty well, even possibly leaning vegetarian for some period of time-- the Jainists win the prize for ideology most peaceful to every possible living being so far as I can tell and the roots of jainist pacifism could go back very far into the past. The buddhists, and sects of hinduism had pacifistic leanings, Zoroaster was said to be a vegetarian--Manichaeism taught extreme pacifism. There are teachings in a lot of these communities that are potentially unethical by harms principles-- cast systems etc-- but I like to hold on to hope that at least there has been good within humans across our species development, and we can help that part of ourselves grow.

When I am extremely horrified by human behavior I do like to remember that Australopithecus was likely mostly vegetarian-- I don't know how violent they were to each other but I feel like that's a start towards less violence?

I do not understand why he would scoff at the benefits he mentioned...."Free health care and higher education, a pension that sustains her pre-retirement life style, a living wage if she loses her job". Patchy? Yeesh. I don't for a minute think they have everything figured out-- I think most cultures and communities have plenty of room to grow in serving human welfare and helping their communities flourish, but those are some pretty great benefits to hand wave away without much discussion!

I actually am sympathetic to the idea that it's hard for any community that is built with hard work of participants is supposed to open their doors to anyone regardless of ideology or willingness to work cohesively with the values that have made that community thrive. I think about it a lot because I'm a fan of trying to create more small scale cohesive communities and being inclusive to everyone-- regardless of ideology or behavior- can be literally dangerous to other community members. Culturally a lot of values and behaviors are taught and part of a persons cultural heritage so where does that put communities on being required to accept behaviors they consider harmful but that are part of someone cultural or religious heritage? It's complicated, and I don't think it's as simple as saying we all just have to accept anyone's belief system or behavior if they join our communities. But I am in favor of finding safe ways to create inclusive communities that can accept new members or help provide sanctuary to refugees etc.
posted by xarnop at 7:12 AM on February 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


I do not understand why he would scoff at the benefits he mentioned...."Free health care and higher education, a pension that sustains her pre-retirement life style, a living wage if she loses her job". Patchy? Yeesh.

I totally don't agree with him, but I imagine he's scoffing because it's coming at the price of 72% of one's income (according to the sentence just before). The conservative argument is usually that wealthy people can have all of that consistently plus have money leftover if they weren't paying taxes.
posted by tofu_crouton at 7:18 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


This article is pathetic, one of a number of similar piles of "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" bullshit in recent years that try to convince us that those well-off countries don't have it so great, no way, they lack our American spirit.

Ok, so "almost 8%" of Danes are below the Danish poverty line. In the US as of 2012, it was "more than 16%". I'm going to guess being in poverty in Denmark is not exactly the same experience as it in the US, either.

"Because this is America, we hope for better. But we aren’t hung up on our tendencies to fall short."

Yes, the people who don't experience the pains of that falling short never are, Mr. New Yorker Writer.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:18 AM on February 11, 2015 [47 favorites]


Dip Flash:
The Vikings reportedly did have better hygiene and grooming than other Europeans, though.


I think it was here on Metafilter that someone recently linked some horrified descriptions by early travelers (from the middle east I think, given that they could write and had high standards for cleanliness) of the Vikings' extraordinarily disgusting habits, such as taking turns to blow their noses into a bowl of water and then washing their faces in it, and some of their funeral activities which combined both poor hygiene and rapeyness.

(That said, in other parts of Europe people were probably skipping the face washing altogether, so even using gross water represented an improvement.)
With almost any narrative written by an outside culture, you have two problems:
1. There is an implicit goal of making the others look either inferior, or noble, depending on which kind of example the author wants them to be.
2. Only the most memorable and colorful events are reported.

So, to blend in a modern example, the Vikings are a culture that believes that if they die in a suicide bombing attack they will go straight to heaven. The fact that many of them believe in courtesy towards guests in their home is hardly worth noting, even if it is a very strong cultural belief.

So, maybe one Viking did one of those things, and by FSM it got recorded as "You want to know something disgusting about those savages?"
posted by IAmBroom at 7:19 AM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


The author touches on the my favorite pet golden-goose theory of economics, which is to keep demand high by taxing and redistributing wealth in socially beneficial ways. The problem is that marginal tax rates are not understood by most Americans (who tend to think that the highest tax bracket applies to all of the income).
posted by Brian B. at 7:19 AM on February 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee: Yeah ... they carried their coins by attaching the coins to their armpit hair with wax. Armpit coins negates all other attempts at hygiene. So no.
Wow... You're either going to have to cough up some citations for that ridiculous claim, or go down as the biggest trout that ever bit on a brightly-painted bare hook while a loudspeaker broadcast "FISHOOKS ARE GOOD FOR YOU!" into the water in troutspeak.

Vikings bathed, washed their clothes, and probably ironed their linens. They used religious tolerance with the people they conquered. Their corpses show good dental hygiene. I don't recall anything about magical hair-sticking, heat-impervious wax on luxurious armpit hair, in anything I've read.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:28 AM on February 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


"And, to let these cultures thrive on their own, we’ve agreed to let some of our people, by our withheld intervention, be thrown under the bus. Because this is America, we hope for better. While Nordic people have made the best of what they have, Americans persist in gambling on something better, and yet settling for something worse."

John Oliver's wealth gap episode discusses this crappy phenomenon pretty well.. "It is never to early to start protecting your imaginary lottery earnings"...
posted by xarnop at 7:31 AM on February 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


Dip Flash, you're likely thinking of this scene from the 13th Warrior, based on the Michael Chrichton novel Eaters of the Dead.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:35 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying I doubt the armpit hair thing but I'd definitely like to read about it. I'd love a citation or two!
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 7:37 AM on February 11, 2015


From the article: The Danish word for fair and moderate has origins in the Vikings’ term for passing mead around a fire.

Can someone please elaborate? What is that word and what's the ethymology?

And while we're at it, are the Norwegians really too lazy to peel their own bananas or is that some sort of sexual insinuation that I don't quite get?
posted by sour cream at 7:40 AM on February 11, 2015


Let's not conflate the Norse and the Vikings. Vikings were Norse in origin, but not all Norse were Vikings, least of all the people who never left Scandinavia. Russians are more Viking than Scandinavians are.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:41 AM on February 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty confident that if you took the parts of the US that have demographics similar to the Nordic countries and made them into little independent nation-states, that you'd have similar levels of services (and probably taxation).

It's easy to point to Vermont, but other highly homogeneous states include West Virginia, Kentucky, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Idaho. None of which would welcome a Nordic social-welfare state.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:43 AM on February 11, 2015 [11 favorites]


That was a very ...confused article.

It was definitely a roller coaster ride: "Scandinavians think they're hot shit, but do they have it better than us? A new book says 'No.' Well, actually, it says 'also Yes a little.' But never mind that because the book is actually pretty crummy so ignore what it says...Scandinavians actually have it pretty good and probably better than we do. BUT! Things are starting to get a little worse. Why? The answer may surprise you...."
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:50 AM on February 11, 2015 [17 favorites]


"You're either going to have to cough up some citations for that ridiculous claim"

Dunmore Cave in Ireland (site of an apparent massacre by Vikings in 928) features this factoid prominently in all its associated museum exhibits. I learned about it at the Reginalds Tower Viking museum in Waterford and saw it repeated in several Viking-related exhibits, especially with coins.

Hopefully someone with JSTOR access can find an actual paper (Dunmore Cave is what you want, post 1973) ... I have an appointment in 20 minutes but will see this afternoon if I can find it with my lame non-academic access.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:51 AM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Confused is right. And contrary to popular belief, Scandinavian and Nordic are not interchangeable. (Sorry, am I being that guy? I just would have thought The New Yorker would be all over this pedantic stuff.)

And it seems the only things this guy knows about Finland is that they have a good educational system and they drink a lot. But that's fine...now somebody else can write the article, "Do the Finns really have it all figured out? Spoiler alert: Yes they do."
posted by gueneverey at 8:07 AM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah ... they carried their coins by attaching the coins to their armpit hair with wax.

Holy shit, this is such a good idea.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:15 AM on February 11, 2015 [9 favorites]


From "Capital in the 21st Century" by Piketty:
Several important differences between the European and US trajectories stand out. First, it appears that inequality of wealth in the United States around 1800 was not much higher than in Sweden in 1970-1980... In 1910, capital inequality there was very high, though still markedly lower than in Europe...

...we have been accustomed for several decades now to the fact that the United States is more inegalitarian than Europe and even that many Americans are proud of the fact (often arguing that inequality is a prerequisite of entrepreneurial dynamism and decrying Europe as a sanctuary of Soviet-style egalitarianism). A century ago, however, both the perception and the reality were strictly the opposite: it was obvious to everyone that the New World was by nature less inegalitarian than old Europe, and this difference was also a subject of pride. In the late nineteenth century, in the period known as the Gilded Age, when some US industrialists and financiers (for example John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and J. P. Morgan) accumulated unprecedented wealth, many US observers were alarmed by the thought that the country was losing its pioneering egalitarian spirit. To be sure, that spirit was partly a myth, but it was also partly justified by comparison with the concentration of wealth in Europe. In Part Four we will see that this fear of growing to resemble Europe was part of the reason why the United States in 1910-1920 pioneered a very progressive estate tax on large fortunes, which were deemed to be incompatible with US values, as well as a progressive income tax on incomes thought to be excessive. Perceptions of inequality, redistribution, and national identity changed a great deal over the course of the twentieth century, to put it mildly.
It seems that to a degree, the US and the Nordic countries have switched places. The US used to be more egalitarian than Europe, and is now less egalitarian than Europe. But whichever way round it is, it remains proud of its American Exceptionalism.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:19 AM on February 11, 2015 [18 favorites]


And it seems the only things this guy knows about Finland is that they have a good educational system and they drink a lot.

A friend once told me the story of this group of German educators who went to Finland to find out the reason why Finnish schoolkids consistently tested better than German schoolkids in standardized tests (known as PISA in Europe). So they asked the Fins how they came up with their superior school system. To the Germans' surprise, the answer was that the Finnish schoolsystem was originally modeled on the East German one (you know, where they had communism until 1990 or so) in the 60's or so.
posted by sour cream at 8:21 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


The US used to be more egalitarian than Europe, and is now less egalitarian than Europe. But whichever way round it is, it remains proud of its American Exceptionalism.

Facts don't matter; what's important is feeling superior.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:25 AM on February 11, 2015 [11 favorites]


i'm not going to read this article because i'm afraid it might be traumatic but, from the comments... it's about the superior socialist nationalism of the nordic races?
posted by ennui.bz at 8:29 AM on February 11, 2015


Yeah ... they carried their coins by attaching the coins to their armpit hair with wax.

Holy shit, this is such a good idea.


Well it's a bit less involved than the Necropants method. Altho the dark secret of Scandinavian prosperity may yet be revealed as born from the flayed bozak of a Viking...
posted by FatherDagon at 8:35 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


from the comments... it's about the superior socialist nationalism of the nordic races?

It's about whether or not that superior socialist nationalism is a myth, mostly discussed through the lens of a guy who wrote a book of what they call Euro-exotica.
posted by tofu_crouton at 8:37 AM on February 11, 2015


i'm not going to read this article because i'm afraid it might be traumatic but, from the comments... it's about the superior socialist nationalism of the nordic races?

It proposes that the only reason they are happy and have good health care and education and gender equality and so forth is because they're racist (or, at least, not very diverse). Plus some stereotypical snark about their cultures and mumbling about high taxes.
posted by Foosnark at 8:40 AM on February 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


a guy who wrote a book of what they call Euro-exotica.

euro-exotica, is that like "very special snowflake" or one of those trashy sex shops in european airports?
posted by ennui.bz at 8:41 AM on February 11, 2015


The alleged factoid: Because they did not have clothing with pockets, they attached [coins] with beeswax to the hair in their armpits.

You might need to provide a bit more than just "JSTOR" to go on. I've looked and can't find anything much. I _did_ find fairly plausible looking sources suggesting that, to offset the lack of pockets, vikings used such things as purses and pouches on belts.

I also found this fairly entertaining (and sourced) discussion of viking hygiene. One quote: "It is reported in the chronicle attributed to John of Wallingford that the Danes, thanks to their habit of combing their hair every day, of bathing every Saturday and regularly changing their clothes, were able to undermine the virtue of married women and even seduce the daughters of nobles to be their mistresses." This page also has the quote that I think someone above was looking for, about washing their faces.
posted by advil at 8:42 AM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee: "You're either going to have to cough up some citations for that ridiculous claim"

Dunmore Cave in Ireland (site of an apparent massacre by Vikings in 928) features this factoid prominently in all its associated museum exhibits. I learned about it at the Reginalds Tower Viking museum in Waterford and saw it repeated in several Viking-related exhibits, especially with coins.

Hopefully someone with JSTOR access can find an actual paper (Dunmore Cave is what you want, post 1973) ... I have an appointment in 20 minutes but will see this afternoon if I can find it with my lame non-academic access.
Still massively unconvinced. Your links go to tourist sites, and claim "archaeologists knew" this fact.

That's not evidence; it's one step below hearsay, in fact: it's marketing.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:46 AM on February 11, 2015


"Viking armpit coins." - the subject, of the post
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:48 AM on February 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's definitely a self-selecting group, but the only Scandinavians I know a) all moved to the U.S., b) visit the old country often, and c) say they would never, ever move back.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:50 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


That's not evidence; it's one step below hearsay, in fact: it's marketing.

I agree that cites are useful, but marketing? He isn't selling ass pennies.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 8:50 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I imagine he's scoffing because it's coming at the price of 72% of one's income (according to the sentence just before).

Let's compare apples to apples (if we can) - Let's assume the US version of the couple in the article rents in NYC and owns a small vacation property upstate.
Median salary of an artist: $43230
Median salary of a neurosurgeon: $368,000
Avg federal tax rate (income+payroll) for highest quintile of income: 23.4% (2011)
NYS taxes (combined property, sales, income) for their income level: 10.8% [pdf page 94]
Average student loan burden for BA: approx $30K
Median education debt for BS+MD: $170K
--Total school debt: $200K; assuming a 6% interest rate (mix of federal and private loans), 10 year repayment requires monthly payments of approx $2200 (annual = $26400)
Average daycare 2 children NYC (assume kids are 2 and 4): $28000 (pdf)
Median annual employer-based health insurance family premium: $4200
Median employer portion of health insurance: $12K
Average out of pocket health expenses: $3300
--Total health care costs: $19500
Recommended retirement savings rate: 16.62%
Savings needed to pay for 2 children's college educations: at least $30K/child/year of college = $240K (about $600/child/month given ages, 7% rate of return and 4% education cost inflation) calc

Income: $412K
Loan repayment: 6%
Federal taxes: 23.4%
State taxes: 10.8%
Childcare costs: 6.8%
Health care costs: 4.7%
Retirement savings: 16.62%
College savings: 3.5%
Total "taxes" = 71.82%*
*This doesn't take into account other taxes like fuel and alcohol excise taxes, car registration fees, etc.
posted by melissasaurus at 8:56 AM on February 11, 2015 [46 favorites]


"Viking armpit coins."

Prob'ly bus fare to Valhalla, or some such.
posted by Trochanter at 8:58 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Here's [pdf] a recent discussion of dunmore cave which suggests that it wasn't the site of a massacre at all, but perhaps a burial ground (as apparently there is no evidence of physical violence on any of the human remains). So I'm a little skeptical of the whole tourist narrative.

This [JSTOR link] is possibly the one place I could find where armpit coins would be mentioned, but I don't have institutional access to it, so someone else will have to look.
posted by advil at 9:07 AM on February 11, 2015



the Vikings—a rapey seafaring people

Sometimes it is hard to be proud of my ancestors.


Don't worry. That part made them my ancestors too.
posted by ocschwar at 9:14 AM on February 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


Sweat equity! Money pits! Jingle berries!
posted by ian1977 at 9:15 AM on February 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


Thank you Melissasaurus. I've often pondered the eqivalanecy.
posted by marvin at 9:20 AM on February 11, 2015


It's definitely a self-selecting group, but the only Scandinavians I know a) all moved to the U.S., b) visit the old country often, and c) say they would never, ever move back.

I wouldn't underestimate the importance of d) could do so anyway if things really went tits up

Safety is the biggest benefit of socialism.
posted by Zalzidrax at 9:20 AM on February 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's definitely a self-selecting group, but the only Scandinavians I know a) all moved to the U.S., b) visit the old country often, and c) say they would never, ever move back.

I don't know anybody who voted for Nixon!
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:25 AM on February 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't know anybody who voted for Nixon!

Let me introduce you to my father-in-law...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:33 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


OK, I do have institutional access and looked up the article advil referenced. Here's a quote: "In those pocketless days, it seems to have been normal for coins to be carried in the armpit, attached to the body hair by a smear of beeswax for greater security (Dolley 1975)..."

Michael Dolley seems to have been a legitimate academic, to the extent that his papers are held by the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge University.
posted by tractorfeed at 9:47 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's definitely a self-selecting group, but the only Scandinavians I know a) all moved to the U.S., b) visit the old country often, and c) say they would never, ever move back.

Do they say why?
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:48 AM on February 11, 2015


Doofusy article is doofusy, yes. Especially the reflexive tax hate without quantifying what those taxes actually bring you (thanks to melissaurus for doing so).

I think what was meant by "patchy" though is that these services might not cover every case (e.g. I have to pay for dental care out of pocket, it's not part of the health services). To complain about patchy services in comparison to the US messy awful network of entirely incomplete services seems a bit silly, though.

As for me, I've been living in Copenhagen for a few months now, and I have only two complaints- 1) it's too damned dark (you can have as much hygge as you like, I need me a full-spectrum lamp), and 2) everything closes too early. It's a city, what's with all the grocery stores being closed by the time I leave work?

There are also some things about risk and personal responsibility that I think that article gets backwards. E.g. I am an avid indoor rock climber, so I've checked out gyms across the US+Canada. And of course I found a gym here in Denmark (and I've been to one when I was visiting Sweden, too). In the US, and in Canada, every gym has some sort of test or formal introduction you must do in order to show you know how to operate a climbing rope or deal with a bouldering space. Climbing is risky, and the gyms want to mitigate their liability as well as provide instruction.

Here, I came in, said I wanted to buy a pass, and bought a pass. That's it. The gym I go to here is made by the club of people who climb in it. Nobody tested me (but I'm sure if I were doing something stupid in the climbing space, the people around would be happy to show me how to do it right). No one here is worried about the liability undertaken by opening a climbing center, as far as I can tell.

Of course there is also some weirdness around race, esp. with respect to people whose race might indicate they are Muslim. I don't have intelligent statements to make about that, except that every Dane I've met has terrible things to say about the Folkeparti. (But then a majority of Americans I know are somewhat appalled by the Republicans and massively so by the Tea Party, so I probably don't know a representative slice of people).
posted by nat at 9:54 AM on February 11, 2015


Do they say why?

Stated reasons were that there were no jobs with clear advancement paths in their specialized fields.

Later, one of them, after tearing her ACL in a moped accident, explained that, in Denmark, she would've been put on a long waiting list for surgery, because technically, repairing a torn ACL would be considered elective surgery (i.e. you can live without an ACL). Here in the States, she was able to get that surgery more or less immediately.

I have absolutely no idea if her assessment is truly accurate. But that was one of her reasons for never going back.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:56 AM on February 11, 2015


If I had but known that European airports have trashy sex shops, I would have looked for them. Perhaps they're over by the smokers' enclosure?
posted by glasseyes at 9:58 AM on February 11, 2015


How hairy could a Viking's armpits be if he's constantly having to rip wax-covered coins out of them?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:01 AM on February 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


Doofusy article is doofusy, yes. Especially the reflexive tax hate

There seems to be a failure to understand in many of the comments that the article is a review of a book. The book has a certain thesis but the reviewer does not particularly agree with that thesis. This seems to be why some of you think the piece is a "roller coaster" or somehow at odds with itself.

So, for example, on the tax thing, the reviewer points out that the author of the book bangs on about high taxes, but the reviewer clearly thinks the author is failing to take into consideration all the things those taxes provide:
What does she get in return? Free health care and higher education, a pension that sustains her pre-retirement life style, a living wage if she loses her job—that sort of thing.
For the irony-challenged, this is the reviewer saying "hey, idiot author, they may pay high taxes, but look at all the goodies those taxes buy them!"
posted by yoink at 10:05 AM on February 11, 2015 [13 favorites]


other highly homogeneous states include West Virginia, Kentucky, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Idaho. None of which would welcome a Nordic social-welfare state.

I don't know if it's that easy to say; I would agree to a limited extent about the far West states, because population density does seem to be a precondition for traditional European, urbanist socialism.

But there are other programs that are still safety nets that traditionally do appeal, even in rural farmstead/ranch independent-minded places, e.g. price controls or commodity price floors, which are very much Big Government (arguably even redistributive and a form of hidden taxation). So it's all about tailoring the approach. My guess is that in the Independent Republic of Wyoming, you wouldn't have Danish-style income tax redistribution, but you'd pay a lot for beef and dairy products (and they sure as hell wouldn't be importing any), or maybe you'd pay little but they'd be heavily subsidized to ensure high producer prices, and there'd probably be really high property taxes on non-agricultural land, double if owned by someone from out of state (and triple if owned by a Californian; quadruple if they drive a BMW). That's redistributive taxation, just without the stuff that makes people who've spent four generations hating "socialism" start cleaning their guns.

Utah is kind of an interesting example in that the LDS church has a huge social safety-net aspect, and pays for this (and everything else) with what's effectively a "flat tax" of 10% gross income—maybe not progressive by Scandinavian standards, but when's the last time you've seen a bunch of Republicans voluntarily vote themselves a ten percent tax increase, with no exemptions or trickery? As it turns out, even really conservative people will pay up, if they know that the money is going back into a community that they define as their own. That last part is the key. Once you have circumscribed a group that people view as their own, turning them into socialists is just marketing.

The problem is when you try to extend the economic envelope further than the 'community horizon' that people self-identify with; that's when you start to get a lot of resistance. Nobody, as far as I can tell, has really solved that particular problem. Societies where there is a perceived community that is the same as the boundaries of the nation-state are in an enviable place, because they have both the means (the nation-state political/economic apparatus) and the desire (feeling of mutual solidarity, or at least lack of disgust/otherness) to act in mutually beneficial ways. In other states1 where that is not the case, you are faced with the choice of either reducing the scope of mutual-benefit programmes to correspond to extant communities (e.g. the LDS church solution), or trying to expand individuals' definition of community outwards to encompass the entire state by eliminating distinctions that lead to schism (e.g. US pre-multiculturalist WASPy "melting pot" approach, strong nationalism). Or you do neither, and you get tolerance of other cultures within your own state without a lot of conformance pressure, but at the cost there basically being no desire to pay for 'other people's problems'.

1: For clarity, I mean the general definition of 'state' here, not 'US State'.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:11 AM on February 11, 2015 [15 favorites]


From the article: The Danish word for fair and moderate has origins in the Vikings’ term for passing mead around a fire.
Can someone please elaborate? What is that word and what's the ethymology?

Perhaps they mean the Swedish word “lagom”?
posted by acb at 10:21 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


is there any credence to the idea of a European country with relatively low populations benefiting greatly from intergenerational wealth derived from the colonial period? I remember reading somewhere that the Danish and Swedish had India Trading Companies that exceeded the tea imports of the British East India trade along with the colonies selling their colonial gains to other colonial powers before they were considered 'lost causes' due to revolutionary forces (ie economic loss). with a lower population and higher amount of reinvestment in infrastructure and agriculture in order to remain financially competitive, you end up flattening income inequality (vs the USA, which had large amount of land and a very difficult time setting up a large, centralized regulatory body that could provide the sort of directed modernization)

dunno though, just a thought
posted by saucy_knave at 10:24 AM on February 11, 2015


tractorfeed: OK, I do have institutional access and looked up the article advil referenced. Here's a quote: "In those pocketless days, it seems to have been normal for coins to be carried in the armpit, attached to the body hair by a smear of beeswax for greater security (Dolley 1975)..."

Michael Dolley seems to have been a legitimate academic, to the extent that his papers are held by the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge University.
Alright, I'll stand corrected.

I still think it's horseshit, but it appears to have been academically accepted horseshit in 1975. Mind you, I attended a presentation at the Kalamazoo Medieval Conference circa 2004-5 where the presenter bought whole-hog into the completely discredited, obviously untenable idea that people used spices in the Middle Ages to cover the taste of rotted meat (in much the same way that people today use $100-an-ounce black truffles to make their daily meals of rat poison more enjoyable). (Not only is the whole idea laughably untenable, the myth has been tracked back to a single author in the 1950s or so.)

So, it's horseshit backed by "experts".
posted by IAmBroom at 10:32 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


a lungful of dragon: I agree that cites are useful, but marketing? He isn't selling ass pennies.
Claims made by tourist boards are marketing. They are selling visits to their city. That's their job; "in 940 AD some 44 people died here in a cave, and we don't know why, or even who they were" just doesn't bring'em in like it used to.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:35 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


So, it's horseshit backed by "experts".

Jesus, dude, I don't understand why you even care about this enough to keep moving the goalposts on it.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 10:37 AM on February 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


So, it's horseshit backed by "experts".

Here's an obit for Michael Dolley. He was clearly an enormously distinguished scholar--indeed, one of the major figures in his field throughout his career. He might be completely wrong about the armpit hair coins thing (I know nothing about the field), but it seems to be going a little far to scoff at him as a bogus "expert" based on nothing but your personal sense of incredulity about this practice.
posted by yoink at 10:41 AM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Obviously this Viking Armpit Coin Dilemma (band name!) needs to be tested experimentally. Can we get a volunteer to stick wads of beeswax into their armpits, see how many quarters will stick, and how many are still there at the end of the day? For science.
posted by Foosnark at 10:43 AM on February 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


Little-known fact: Scandinavian social democracy works because the obscure Norse practice of sticking money in your armpits using beeswax has continued in the region to this very day, leading to greater personal frugality and a Euro made of special beeswax-and-body-odor-resistant material. The recent "sanitary" agitation against the practice is the reason the system doesn't work as well as it used to.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:45 AM on February 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'd volunteer, but that's already how I carry my credit cards.
posted by yoink at 10:45 AM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Seems like a good way to encourage saving. Making a withdrawal can't have been pleasant.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:47 AM on February 11, 2015


Making a withdrawal can't have been pleasant.

It's a little known fact that this is the origin of our common "liquidity" metaphors in financial matters. The more "liquid" the wax, the more freely you spend. The Viking economy would crash during winter, of course, when everyone's assets were "frozen." This, naturally, was what lay behind their raids; it was only by heading to warmer climes that they could restart their economies.
posted by yoink at 10:51 AM on February 11, 2015 [25 favorites]


And while we're at it, are the Norwegians really too lazy to peel their own bananas or is that some sort of sexual insinuation that I don't quite get?

Here's the story (via Google Translate): in February 2011 the TV documenary "Uppdrag Granskning" on Sweden's SVT had a story about some Swedes working at the Sunda food processing factory in Oslo, peeling bananas to make Banos brand sandwich spread. This story became front page news in Sweden. "Uppdrag Granskning" could have presented a story about Swedish hipsters producing semi-artisanal vegan sandwich spread from hand peeled bananas, and making more money on this than whatever they did back in Sweden. SVT and the rest of the Swedish press chose a different angle.
posted by iviken at 10:58 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Here's an obit for Michael Dolley. He was clearly an enormously distinguished scholar--indeed, one of the major figures in his field throughout his career. He might be completely wrong about the armpit hair coins thing (I know nothing about the field), but it seems to be going a little far to scoff at him as a bogus "expert" based on nothing but your personal sense of incredulity about this practice.

Just to derail the derail's derail -- though it is relevant to the discussion in its own funny little way -- there is a bit of a grave-dancing portion in that obit that is hilarious, and I feel must be exhibited in its full glory:
When his ideas were challenged, Dolley had an unhappy tendency to react polemically, both in conversation and in subsequent writings, particularly if in his opinion the challenger, however distinguished, had insufficient knowledge of the series in question or its historical setting. This inhibited rational discussion and, in later years, when his general health was declining and the problem was becoming increasingly serious, it tended also to deter the promulgation of dissenting opinions, so giving the impression that on some topics his views were more widely accepted than was in fact the case. Frustration over some perceived action (or inaction) of a friend or colleague could also exacerbate him beyond reason. Thus his years in the rather introspective environment of the Coin Room cannot have been comfortable for his professional colleagues. At all events, after he left the Museum in 1963 to take up a lecturership in medieval history at the Queen's University of Belfast, he did not obtain during vacations the help and co-operation from the Coin Room that his scholarship taken on its own would have justified. This caused him much mortification. More importantly, it also put back until after his death any prospect of a sylloge fascicule covering the late Anglo-Saxon coins in the National Collection.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:05 AM on February 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


Frustration over some perceived action (or inaction) of a friend or colleague could also exacerbate him beyond reason.

Hey, you try keeping an even temper when you have to rip out a bunch of armpit hairs every time you put a sixpence in the office honesty-box for a cup of tea!

(It's enough to make anyone a beserker.)
posted by yoink at 11:11 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


other highly homogeneous states include West Virginia, Kentucky, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Idaho. None of which would welcome a Nordic social-welfare state.

I dunno about homogeneity in Kentucky. We apparently had enough immigrants in the mid-19th century to spark anti-Catholic riots. And, as is the case in every former slave state, we have a quite significant African-American population.
posted by jackbishop at 11:13 AM on February 11, 2015


Q. Hwaet stynketh wearser thanne a Vyking?
A. A Vyking, his erse.
posted by Segundus at 11:31 AM on February 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


And, as is the case in every former slave state, we have a quite significant African-American population.

You'd think so, but actually, Kentucky's only 7.8% Black, which is well below the national average of 12.6%, placing it 25th in the union overall, behind New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Indiana, Nevada, and Oklahoma, and just barely ahead of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Kansas, and Wisconsin.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:38 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I dunno about homogeneity in Kentucky. We apparently had enough immigrants in the mid-19th century to spark anti-Catholic riots. And, as is the case in every former slave state, we have a quite significant African-American population.

I was just using percent anglo for US states. Kentucky is about 90% anglo. Its black population isn't actually very high at 8% (compare to 7% in MA).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:40 AM on February 11, 2015


also btw, fwiw:
  • The Nordic triangle? - "Here's an interesting frame for the difference between America, Germany, and Sweden: every society has a different relationship to 'the triangle formed by reverence for the Family, the State and the Individual.' "
  • How far does the radius of trust extend? - "The innovation of this paper is to compare micro trust measures with macro trust measures and see where there are big differences. Not surprisingly, the most trusting coutries, such as Sweden, Norway, and Switzerland, score high on both the micro and macro measures of trust."
  • Is Sweden an economically overrated country? - "I now must nominate Sweden and Norway for this honor. Both are wonderful countries, and in absolute terms very likely to remain strong performers. But I think a good deal of that old Nordic magic is slipping away, and this has become more evident in the last few years."
  • Stop the Scandimania: Nordic nations aren't the utopias they're made out to be - "Picking blueberries, outhouses, a year off if you have a baby — even if you don't have a baby, just a year off. Your family around constantly. Lagom — not too much, not too little. I mean, they're doing it right over here."
  • Denmark is an agricultural superpower - "In 2011 farm products made up 20% of its goods exports. The value of food exports grew from €4 billion ($5.5 billion) in 2001 to €16.1 billion in 2011. The government expects it to rise by a further €6.7 billion by 2020. Why, in a post-industrial economy, is the food industry still thriving? Much of the answer lies in a cluster in the central region of the country. Policymakers everywhere are obsessed by creating their own Silicon Valleys. But Denmark's example suggests that the logic of clustering can be applied as well to ancient industries as to new ones. In central Denmark just as in California, innovation is in the air, improving productivity is a way of life, and the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts. Entrepreneurs see the future in meat and milk."
previously...
  • Education and Finland - "It's almost unheard of for a child to show up hungry or homeless. Finland provides three years of maternity leave and subsidized day care to parents, and preschool for all 5-year-olds, where the emphasis is on play and socializing. In addition, the state subsidizes parents, paying them around 150 euros per month for every child until he or she turns 17. Ninety-seven percent of 6-year-olds attend public preschool, where children begin some academics. Schools provide food, medical care, counseling and taxi service if needed. Stu­dent health care is free."
  • In Norway, Start-ups Say Ja to Socialism - "We venture to the very heart of the hell that is Scandinavian socialism—and find out that it's not so bad. Pricey, yes, but a good place to start and run a company. What exactly does that suggest about the link between taxes and entrepreneurship?"
  • Organised labour: Unions, Inc. - "Some unions, however, are adapting. Scandinavian ones start with an advantage; as in some other European countries, they administer unemployment insurance. But they also shun the confrontational approach of unions in places such as America. Mr Jarvklo's thriving outfit, IF Metall, is one such example: its success comes from 'caring deeply about Scania's competitiveness', he declares. Indeed, 67.7% of Swedish workers belonged to a union in 2011 (the same figure as in 1970)—one of the highest levels in the OECD. Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson, president of the blue-collar labour organisation, LO, is confident that it will rise in the coming years. He also plans to bring together Sweden's businesses and unions to reaffirm their commitment to co-operate, known as the Saltsjobaden Agreement, on its 75th anniversary this year."
  • Theoretical Egalitarians - "Most favored a wealth distribution resembling that in... Sweden."
  • More punk, less hell - "An extraordinary political experiment took place in Iceland: anarchists governed the capital city of Reykjavik for four years – and the amateurs achieved some astonishing successes."
  • The Complete Sagas of Icelanders: Including 49 Tales - "In their attention to the actions of individuals within social networks, and the working through of their consequences, the Icelandic sagas are important precursors of the modern novel. They directly influenced many writers, among them Walter Scott and J.R.R. Tolkien. The sagas are also a valuable source of information about medieval Iceland, a subject of interest to more than medievalists. One of its notable features is that it had a sophisticated legal system but no executive government, which makes it a magnet for political theorists — if you search the web for information on medieval Iceland, you'll find a running fight between the libertarians and anarchists over who can best claim it as an exemplum."[*]
posted by kliuless at 11:42 AM on February 11, 2015 [18 favorites]


At first I was really sorry I joked about the random Viking armpit coin factoid from my vacation 12 years ago, but now I'm pretty sure I'm going to mention Viking armpit coins in EVERY thread that's even tangentially Viking-related because I have been LOLing for the last 20 minutes reading you people all riffing on it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:09 PM on February 11, 2015 [11 favorites]


There's something about awful weather, racial homogeneity and restrictive immigration policies that really makes Socialism work.
posted by Renoroc at 12:15 PM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


My kids are going to be so puzzled when it's chocolate coin hunt time this Christmas, I can't wait to see their surprised little faces.
posted by reynir at 12:18 PM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


That was a very ...confused article.
In misteraitch's 'responses' link, most of the writers called it humor.

"It is difficult to take the author's criticisms seriously, bearing in mind that he comes from a country still reliant on a Victorian plumbing system. At least in Denmark, Booth can take a warm shower whenever he wants."
posted by MtDewd at 12:35 PM on February 11, 2015


Education and Finland

Here's the part where I point out that the entire school-age population of Finland is actually about the same size as the attendance rolls of the New York City Department of Education.

No, I'm not kidding. Get thee to Wikipedia and compare.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:46 PM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I heard that Scandinavian dinosaurs attached feathers to their armpits with prehistoric bees-wax.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:49 PM on February 11, 2015


strangely stunted trees: Jesus, dude, I don't understand why you even care about this enough to keep moving the goalposts on it.
I admitted I was wrong; not sure how that's "moving the goalposts". So, eyebrows wasn't taken in by lame advertising gimmicks; he believed in something a respected (if cantankerous) expert stated as fact.

That doesn't mean that I'm going to buy into this weirdo story. And I care enough because medieval historical research is a passion in my life, and I am sick and tired of all the nonsense that has been published by historians in the past.

Seriously: the only thing dark about those ages was the Victorian's attitude toward them.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:05 PM on February 11, 2015


Here's the part where I point out that the entire school-age population of Finland is actually about the same size as the attendance rolls of the New York City Department of Education.

Here's the part where I point out that Finland's nominal GDP is about one fifth that of New York City and ask you what the point is you're trying to make.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:22 PM on February 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


Oh boy, sleep! That's where I carry my coins in my armpit!
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:37 PM on February 11, 2015 [11 favorites]


Here's the part where I point out that Finland's nominal GDP is about one fifth that of New York City and ask you what the point is you're trying to make.

That it's difficult to make comparisons when the relative scales are so different. New York may have more money, but there is such a thing as a diseconomy of scale.

Or perhaps you're just being deliberately obtuse and trollish here?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:53 PM on February 11, 2015


That it's difficult to make comparisons when the relative scales are so different.

It certainly would be if they were.

So did you have a point?
posted by Sys Rq at 2:03 PM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sys Rq, I believe Cool Papa Bell is pointing out that you can't simply compare Finland to NYC because of the difference in the scale between those two.

Scale introduces problems and challenges that are completely unique. I agree with Cool Pap Bell here. One of the main issues overlooked in this article, and in other comparisons I've read, is scale. Most human created systems just don't end up scaling well. I think as a problem domain, the challenges of managing scale are just beginning to be looked at.
posted by herda05 at 2:37 PM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


That doesn't mean that I'm going to buy into this weirdo story. And I care enough because medieval historical research is a passion in my life, and I am sick and tired of all the nonsense that has been published by historians in the past.

It would be interesting to know what Dolley actually said (I don't have a way of getting those papers). I did track down some other pretty detailed descriptions of viking-era hoards (1, 2 see p. 53, both PDF) and there's no direct mention of armpit coins; in fact the currency seems rather diverse (including some that were worn as rings or arm-rings). But I can see some things that might lead one to armpit coins, including the occasional perforated coin, and bits of wax sometimes found in hoards.

Or, maybe, this grounds out in some contemporary description.
posted by advil at 2:59 PM on February 11, 2015


I believe Cool Papa Bell is pointing out that you can't simply compare Finland to NYC because of the difference in the scale between those two.

If that is what he is attempting to point out, starting out by comparing Finland to New York City was perhaps not a great rhetorical choice.

I don't believe that was what he was attempting to point out, though. I believe he was attempting to point out (as explicitly as possible while still being frustratingly coy) that you can't compare the entire United States to Finland because of the difference in the scale between those two, and that it would be more fair to compare Finland to New York City alone, where the scale is more equal.

And my response is to agree. Yes! New York City and Finland are more equal in scale. Much more. So much so that a direct comparison is fair to do. And NYC still loses, despite having a much larger economy. It's worth asking why that is.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:05 PM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Started reading this thread and started thinking about Vikings. Then about Lagertha, Ragnar, Floki, and Athelstan. About baby goats and betrayal. Next Thursday night can not come fast enough now.
posted by Ber at 3:17 PM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


a guy who wrote a book of what they call Euro-exotica.

Eurosploitation
posted by thelonius at 3:58 PM on February 11, 2015


Underarm farting that jangles!
posted by clavdivs at 5:02 PM on February 11, 2015


I don't understand the Finland/NYC comparison either. It's not like the US doesn't have big open spaces populated with little but white people, moose, and pine trees. If you combine Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, you get just about 1/2 a Finland in terms of population (3.29 vs. 5.44 mil), area (52,358 vs. 130,666 sq. mi.), and GDP (129.9 vs. 267.3 billion USD). ME/NH/VT schools rank among the top in the US, while Finland's schools are among the best in the world. And Finland does it without the backing (financial or otherwise) of the US government.
posted by gueneverey at 5:10 PM on February 11, 2015


From the article: The Danish word for fair and moderate has origins in the Vikings’ term for passing mead around a fire.

Can someone please elaborate? What is that word and what's the ethymology?

Perhaps they mean the Swedish word “lagom”?

Hmm...this?
posted by The Zeroth Law at 5:17 PM on February 11, 2015


they carried their coins by attaching the coins to their armpit hair with wax

Maybe it's just me, but a culture that often carries its money in small porous cloth pouches very near the crotch and/or buttocks probably doesn't have a lot of room to talk.
posted by flug at 5:22 PM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


That doesn't mean that I'm going to buy into this weirdo story. And I care enough because medieval historical research is a passion in my life, and I am sick and tired of all the nonsense that has been published by historians in the past.

OK, so where's your countering evidence? Waving your arms, shouting "DO NOT BELIEVE" and muttering about Victorians doesn't count for shit. Either put up or shut up- show me evidence.
posted by happyroach at 5:28 PM on February 11, 2015


(Bleh, do we need to argue about Viking armpit hair here?)

The OP and the discussion on it are interesting, thanks! I hear a certain amount of grousing from Scandinavians as well, but then who doesn't grouse? They seem positive overall. I still find myself occasionally checking out the immigration pages and wondering if I could really deal with that much dark and cold in the winter...
posted by Drexen at 5:49 PM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Someone needs to get the Mythbusters guys on this whole Viking armpit thing. I don't see how it is practically feasible: the wax, while maybe not melting*, would be too soft to hold coins wouldn't it?

Also something something Viking bankers.

* melting point of beeswax is 62C, armpit temperature 37C, weight of Viking coins from 1.35 to 1.6g.
posted by um at 6:09 PM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Viking bankers had one hell of an early withdrawal penalty.
posted by clavdivs at 6:15 PM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


00:05:00 In addition to the bones, coins and jewelry from across the ancient world were found deep inside the cave, fueling even more speculation.
00:05:09 Most vikings brought their coins and other belongings with them everywhere, even into battle.
00:05:14 To keep their hands free at all times, they pressed the coins into the hair of their chests or armpits with wax.
00:05:20 But during vicious hand-to-hand combat or slaughters like this one, their body heat sometimes melted the wax, and the coins were lost.
00:05:28 Another more recent find suggests a different story
posted by clavdivs at 6:27 PM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah but according to that transcript Vikings also offered a great deal on car insurance I'm not sure what I believe anymore.
posted by um at 7:18 PM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


At a Norwegian uncle's funeral, circa 1950, he was buried with a U.S. silver dollar in each armpit. We, his niece and I, used to fantasize grave robbing to retrieve the silver dollars.
There is no one left in the family to seek information from.
posted by notreally at 7:27 PM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


LOVED this article - because wow, does Scandinavia ever get a lot of love from people who have never actually been there. And 100+ comments of mostly Viking jokes, forgive me if I missed a few comments or am repeating what's already been said...

I've been to Sweden more than a few times. My wife is Swedish. It's a nice place, but I wouldn't want to live there. I wouldn't fit in. It's a very homogeneous and conformist culture, almost similar to Japan or South Korea in that respect. People are generally not openly racist but my wife tells me it is difficult to get a job if you don't have a Scandinavian name. The far-right anti-immigrant party got 13% of the votes in the last election.

Put it this way, if I were born a Swede and grew up in that culture, it would be a good place to live and raise a family. Sweden is a good country for Swedes in the same way Japan is a good country for a Japanese.
posted by pravit at 8:26 PM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]




OP here. I found the article interesting because living in South Africa with all it's social and economic problems makes the Scandinavian countries look utterly Utopian.
I posted it here because I wanted the other sides of the story and boy, did MeFi deliver... and then some (armpit wax wallets!) :)
posted by 00dimitri00 at 12:15 AM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


So, eyebrows wasn't taken in by lame advertising gimmicks; he believed in something a respected (if cantankerous) expert stated as fact.

Eyebrows McGee is female.
posted by KathrynT at 12:30 AM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


I have been LOLing for the last 20 minutes reading you people all riffing on it.

Really? I've been kinda bored by the massive derail and jejune parade of jokes that followed it and feel like they've dominated more than half a thread about something not at all related and actually very interesting (not blaming you; how were you to know?).
posted by smoke at 1:34 AM on February 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


I've seen the story of the coin carriage method but with honey. Which frankly is much better serving as it then does as a deoderant.

Not too sure about the increased threat from bees however.
posted by longbaugh at 1:35 AM on February 12, 2015


For me the crux of this thesis is pithily rebutted by the Icelandic academic in response to Booth's Guardian piece: On all lists measuring quality of life, the Nordics tower over the UK. - and the US, of course.

Anything else in relation to that seems a bit plaintive, really. The idea that you have have to trade heterogeneity up for the welfare is one relying heavily on anecdote, with nary a puff of research to support it. Certainly, there has been research comparing changing attitudes (esp in Sweden) with cultural diversification - but there's a whole lot of other ingredients in that soup that rarely get the same attention and could well be just as influential.

Booth's reluctance to focus on per capita figures when they will clearly undermine his thesis is a bit of a giveaway, as is his ellipsis on international comparisons that don't suit.
posted by smoke at 1:52 AM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


The Law of Jante

It's interesting to see how something that started as a Danish satirical story about small-town life grew into an essentialist explanation of the Nordic countries' culture. Though these days one often sees “Jante law” mentioned by libertarian fedora-bros and the like, in the context of “hurf durf socialism amirite”, or occasionally complaints about being unable to pick up Scandinavian women through negging because Jante-law socialism has killed the inequality that breeds game; which makes me suspect that the term has drifted away from its etymology mutated into a libertarian/right-wing/neoreactionary trope with barely any more veracity than Chako Paul City.
posted by acb at 6:00 AM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


happyroach: OK, so where's your countering evidence? Waving your arms, shouting "DO NOT BELIEVE" and muttering about Victorians doesn't count for shit. Either put up or shut up- show me evidence.
I don't have to explain "dark matter" to believe that it isn't due to some ridiculous story about first couple of humans sharing an apple, wildly extrapolated into an explanation.

Besides, if I waved my arms I'd drop all my lunch money.

OP: You're welcome! ;)
posted by IAmBroom at 6:58 AM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Does "it" mean fish preservation via fermentation? Then, yes.
posted by snottydick at 8:20 AM on February 12, 2015


Really? I've been kinda bored by the massive derail and jejune parade of jokes that followed it and feel like they've dominated more than half a thread about something not at all related and actually very interesting (not blaming you; how were you to know?).

I normally hate cries of "derail!" but this time I nearly made an exception.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:03 AM on February 12, 2015


I thought it was boring & dumb as hell as well, but who could have expected such a persistently aggro reaction to an obscure factoid
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:22 AM on February 12, 2015


The idea that you have have to trade heterogeneity up for the welfare is one relying heavily on anecdote, with nary a puff of research to support it.

It has the same problem as a lot of hypotheses in the social and political sciences, which is that it's not directly testable. However, there seem to be a shortage of counterexamples that would invalidate it. I don't think it's so easily hand-waved away just because it leads to some unpleasant (but not especially surprising) conclusions about how people interact.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:29 AM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah but according to that transcript Vikings also offered a great deal on car insurance I'm not sure what I believe anymore.

Heh. Yeah. I wouldn't be surprised if that were actually part of the "documentary" and not a commercial. It's the History Channel. Not exactly known for hewing to pure fact.

00:01:44 , the vikings from dublin came here and killed 1,000 people.

See? Considering Dunmore Cave is in Ballyfoyle, encircled by tributaries of the River Nore, it seems a lot more likely the Vikings (or a single armpit's worth of their coins, anyway) came from Waterford, the massive Viking city at the mouth of said river. It's possible they'd have travelled twice as far, mostly overland, from Dublin, only to do the same in reverse hauling all their plunder, but that doesn't seem particularly likely.

And that nice round figure of one thousand dead? It comes from a single document, The Annals of the Four Masters, compiled in the 17th Century, some seven hundred years after the event is said to have taken place, purportedly copied from records going all the way back to the Great Flood. Surprise: All those original contemporary records have mysteriously vanished. If only Noah had used acid-free paper!

The story of Dunmore Cave is all conjecture and confirmation bias. The place is a tourist trap with a vested interest in appearing to be interesting. The discovery of a handful of Viking coins there is easily explained by the simple fact that Ballyfoyle is nearly exactly the geographic centre of 10th-Century Viking Ireland. The discovery of medieval bones at the bottom of a dark, steep, slippery cave is explained by the fact that it is a dark, steep, slippery cave. If this is where we're getting all our information about the Vikings making change with underarm farts, I've half a mind to let the topic rest.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:26 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


sour cream: "From the article: The Danish word for fair and moderate has origins in the Vikings’ term for passing mead around a fire.

Can someone please elaborate? What is that word and what's the ethymology?
"
I'm Danish and I have no idea what they're talking about. I would say rimelig which we apparently have from Swedish who has is from Medieval French who has it from Old German.
posted by brokkr at 2:20 AM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


From the article: The Danish word for fair and moderate has origins in the Vikings’ term for passing mead around a fire.

Can someone please elaborate? What is that word and what's the ethymology?


"Median": noun, from Danish "to pass mead"?

It would make intro stats a lot more fun, at least.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:20 AM on February 13, 2015


The Danish word for fair and moderate has origins in the Vikings’ term for passing mead around a fire.

I'm pretty sure they mean the Swedish word "lagom", where lag can mean team or group and om can mean around. Lagom would refer to drinking only so much mead that everyone could have some as a goblet was passed around a table. This is a popular piece of folk etymology, but it's incorrect.

Lag can also mean law or rule and om used to be a fairly generic suffix that could mean something like pertaining to. These got put together to form lagom, so the literal english translation is pretty close to "with moderation".
posted by Herr Zebrurka at 2:10 PM on February 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


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