Helsinki: Nordic Exceptionalism?

Nordic conservative liberalism shares basic principles with this political position in other parts of the world: private property, free trade, limited government, and respect for tradition, RNH Academic Director Professor Hannes H. Gissurarson argued at a conference held by Nostos and New Direction in Helsinki on 20 May 2023. But it has some special characteristics, he noted. The three most remarkable Nordic thinkers in this tradition were the Icelandic chronicler Snorri Sturluson who in his history of the Norwegian kings described the conflict between the kings and the farmers who wanted peace and low taxes; the Swedish pastor and politician Anders Chydenius who presented the same arguments for free trade as Adam Smith eleven years later; and the Danish pastor and poet Nikolai F. S. Grundtvig who encouraged the Nordic nations to develop their heritage of self-reliance and freedom of expression and to use their freedom of association to form high schools, farm collectives, independent congregations and other voluntary associations. It was not least the strength of civil society, the third sector between the state and business enterprises, which has created the social cohesion of the Nordic nations which in turn has facilitated their pursuit of prosperity.

Gissurarson added that there was a Nordic model of relations between nations. 1) Peaceful Secession, such as between Norway and Sweden in 1905, between Finland and Russia in 1917 (although that was really because the Russian Bolsheviks were weak at the time so they had to tolerate it), and between Iceland and Denmark in 1918. 2) Border Changes by plebiscites, such as the revision of the German-Danish border in 1920 where one of the three regions of Northern Schleswig voted to become Danish whereas two regions voted to remain German. 3) Autonomy of special regions, such as the self-rule of the Aland Islands, and the Faroe Islands, and Greenland. 4) Political and economic integration without the surrender of sovereignty, such as the cooperation of the Nordic countries in the Nordic Council, and the abolition of passports on the borders of the Nordic countries, and the legal and social integration in each of the Nordic countries of citizens from other Nordic countries.

Other speakers included Norwegian MPs Mahmoud Farahmand and Anna Molberg, Danish MP Mikkel Bjørn Sørensen, Finnish MP and former Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen, and Swedish MP Alexander Christiansson. Sigmundur D. Gunnlaugsson, former Prime Minister of Iceland, gave the closing speech, and Alojz Peterle, former Prime Minister of Slovenia, gave the Gala Dinner Speech.

Gissurarson Slides in Helsinki 20 May 2023

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