Is Nordic Success Just Oil?

Has oil money funded all Nordic welfare services, economic prosperity and social development?

Erik Engheim
8 min readApr 25, 2022


INTERNATIONAL media will often write various excited or positive stories about Nordic countries:

These stories are reflected in various rankings and statistics such as the UN Human Development Index or world happiness report which tend to show Nordic countries capturing most of the top spots.

While us Nordics are naturally flattered by a lot of the positive rankings, I cannot say that somehow “winning” these kinds of development indexes is important to me. To me it seems more important if we can shine some light on what kinds of choices a society can make to make a happier and healthier population. Many people around the world are looking for a path for their country.

Through history one has tended to look at the big powerful countries. But should countries such as the US, Russia or China necessarily be role models for everybody else to follow?

There may be lessons to learn from a variety of smaller countries. Just to be clear I don’t think one should limit oneself to Nordic countries for inspiration. There are good ideas to be found in other relatively small countries such as Ireland, Singapore, Netherlands, Switzerland and Estonia as well.

The Nordic Model? Sorry, I could not resist being silly. These are Norwegian Folkedrakt clothes.

The Threat of the Nordic Model to Conservatism

There are those who are not thrilled to see the Nordic model as a source of inspiration. Instead they see the Nordic way as a threat to their ideological beliefs. Having discussed these topics with various people over many years I see some clear trends…



Erik Engheim

Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.