For reasons unknown to me or to Mark Thoma, The Economist blogger doesn't seem to be willing to engage me directly in the interpretation of the following graph from this post:
My original comment on this graph was: 'These are countries whose per-capita incomes are greater than the OECD average. The point here is that there's no trade-off between high levels of national income and high levels of social spending.'
Now, it seems obvious enough - to me, at least - that
- The Nordic countries are rich, and
- The Nordic countries spend lots more on social programs than do Canada or the US.
I could have left it at that, I suppose, but I also wanted to illustrate the range of variation of the horizontal axis. To my mind, the variation in the GDP per capita numbers says more about the vagaries of cross-country GDP data than it does about comparing living standards: the countries plotted in the graph are rich, and that's pretty much all you need to know.
The interesting question is *how* the Nordic countries accomplish this feat, and that's what the post was about.