Historical Trust Levels Predict the Current Size of the Welfare State

PublikationArtikel (med peer review)
Andreas Bergh, Christian Bjørnskov, Företagandets villkor, Socialt kapital, Statsvetenskap, Tillit, Välfärd


Despite the fact that large welfare states are vulnerable to free-riding, the idea that universal welfare states lead to higher trust levels in the population has received some attention and support among political scientists recently. This paper argues that the opposite direction of causality is more plausible, i.e. that populations with higher trust levels are more prone to creating and successfully maintaining universal welfare states with high levels of taxation where publicly financed social insurance schemes.

The hypothesis is tested using instrumental variable techniques to infer variations in trust levels that pre-date current welfare states, and then using the variation in historical trust levels to explain the current size and design of the welfare state, and finally comparing the explanatory power of trust to other potential explanatory factors such as left-right ideology and economic openness.

To infer variation about historical trust levels, we use three instruments, all used previously in the trust literature: the grammatical rule allowing pronoun-drop, average temperature in the coldest month and a dummy for constitutional monarchies. Using cross-sectional data for 77 countries, we show that these instruments are valid and that countries with higher historical trust levels have significantly higher public expenditure as a share of GDP and also have more regulatory freedom. This finding is robust to controlling for several other potential explanations of welfare state size.

Related content: Working Paper No. 144

Bergh, A. & Bjørnskov, C. (2011). Historical Trust Levels Predict the Current Size of the Welfare State. Kyklos, 64(1): 1-19.

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Ratio Working Paper No 343: Populism, Liberalism and the Quest for Meaning and Community
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Karlson, N.


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Ratio Working Paper


Liberalism is losing ground, while populist or even authoritarian nationalist regimes are on the rise. This paper argues that the causes of the decline are, at least partly, endogenous, that a narrow focus on economic efficiency and the successful critique of socialism and the welfare state have created an idea vacuum that has opened up for these illiberal tendencies. The conclusion is that a central challenge for liberalism is to offer a comprehensive idea and narrative about meaning and community that is not socialistic, conservative or nationalistic, but distinctly liberal, to counter these developments.

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Öberg, C., & Alexander, A.



Open innovation has rendered increased interest both in practice and research, and has expanded from dyadic transfers of ideas, to ecosystem levels. Knowledge is at the heart of open innovation, and this paper describes and discusses knowledge-transfer linkages for open innovation. It does so based on a literature review. The paper links together open innovation research with general management research to categorise and discuss linkages among parties in terms of their openness and how they relate to knowledge management. Conclusions indicate that openness needs to be considered in different dimensions that also links to different knowledge management outcomes. The paper’s contribution consists of how it connects open innovation research to the general management literature, and how it builds a practical understanding of how linkages between firms can be categorised to aid firms to consider which mechanisms they may choose and why.

A revised perspective on innovation policy for renewal of mature economies – Historical evidence from finance and telecommunications in Sweden 1980–1990
Artikel (med peer review)Publikation
Eriksson, K., Ernkvist, M., Laurell, C., Moodysson, J., Nykvist, R. & Sandström, C.



What is the role of innovation policy for accomplishing renewal of mature industries in Western economies? Drawing upon an unusually rich dataset spanning 9752 digitized archival documents, we categorize and code decisions taken by policymakers on several levels while also mapping and quantifying the strategic activities of both entrant firms and incumbent monopolists over a decade. Our data concerns two empirical cases from Sweden during the time period 1980–1990: the financial sector and the telecommunications sector. In both industries, a combination of technological and institutional upheaval came into motion during this time period which in turn fueled the revitalization of the Swedish economy in the subsequent decades. Our findings show that Swedish policymakers in both cases consistently acted in order to promote the emergence of more competition and de novo entrant firms at the expense of established monopolies. The paper quantifies and documents this process while also highlighting several enabling conditions. In conclusion, the results indicate that successful innovation policy in mature economies is largely a matter of strategically dealing with resourceful vested interest groups, alignment of expectations, and removing resistance to industrial renewal.

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