I found this incredibly interesting article which links the current good economy in Scandinavia all the way back to the Vikings. No, we do not still live off the gold and silver stolen from churches and monasteries by hordes of Vikings back in the days. The reason for our current high GNP is apparently the fact that we trust each other. Others would call it our being so blond and naive.
All the way back to the Viking age Scandinavians have trusted one another. The Vikings from Denmark and Norway would go on well planned attacks on England, Scotland and Ireland with over 50 longships with no central power controlling them. They all came from different places and all trusted one another to keep to their agreements and risk their lives on the attacks.
The Vikings would also send goods far away – from Denmark to Iceland or from Gotland and far down the Volga river – and not expect payment until the boats came back months later. They trusted the recipient to pay the the goods.
Scandinavians in the USA
From 1170 they used a group of peers instead of police officers and detectives. If there was no proof or evidence the accused could have 12 (in more serious cases 36) of his peers stand up for him and declare that he could never have done the crime he was accused of and the accused would go free. That kind of justice would take a special kind of trust in your fellow man.
Apparently they`ve also tested (and don`t ask me how) how much Americans with different ancestry trust one another and Scandinavian-Americans came right up there on the top as the people who truly trust one another (and no, I do not want to buy some land in the swamps 😉 ). This means, according to the article, that Scandinavians trusted one another even 150 years ago – given that this was the time most Scandinavians left their mother country and settled across the Atlantic.
Trust is important in the welfare state we have today. If we didn`t trust the state to spend the money we pay through our taxes well, we would never have accepted the highest tax level in the world. And if we didn`t trust our neighbors not to take advantage of that welfare system, we would not have built it.
Apparently, economists also think that trust is the main reason for our current financial success in a world of financial crisis. We have progress because we trust each other enough to start businesses with them.
Blond and stupid?
I believe trust is an important factor in our society today but I think it`s taking it a bit far that the Vikings are used as one of the reasons for our current wealth. After all, we haven`t been rich since the Vikings explored the world. There`s been hunger and poverty in Scandinavia as there has been in most countries in the world. But since I love everything Viking, I`ll buy the theory even if I don`t believe in it 🙂
What did stick with me was whether the trust Scandinavians apparently have had in their fellow human beings throughout the centuries is the reason why blonds are considered naive and stupid? After all we`re often pretty blond – and we trust people. And the rest of the world seems to think that trust is pretty dumb.