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Political Science Economic Conditions

Good Governance Gone Bad

How Nordic Adaptability Leads to Excess

by (author) Darius Ornston

Cornell University Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2018
Economic Conditions, General, Scandinavia
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    Publish Date
    Oct 2018
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    Oct 2018
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If we believe that the small, open economies of Nordic Europe are paragons of good governance, why are they so prone to economic crisis? In Good Governance Gone Bad, Darius Ornston provides evidence that adapting flexibly to rapid, technological change and shifting patterns of economic competition may be a great virtue, but it does not prevent countries from making strikingly poor policy choices and suffering devastating results. Home to three of the "big five" financial crises in the twentieth century, Nordic Europe in the new millennium has witnessed a housing bubble in Denmark, the collapse of the Finnish ICT industry, and the Icelandic financial crisis.

Ornston argues that the reason for these two seemingly contradictory phenomena is one and the same. The dense, cohesive relationships that enable these countries to respond to crisis with radical reform render them vulnerable to policy overshooting and overinvestment. Good Governance Gone Bad tests this argument by examining the rise and decline of heavy industry in postwar Sweden, the emergence and disruption of the Finnish ICT industry, and Iceland's impressive but short-lived reign as a financial powerhouse as well as ten similar and contrasting cases across Europe and North America. Ornston demonstrates how small and large states alike can learn from the Nordic experience, providing a valuable corrective to uncritical praise for the "Nordic model."

About the author

Darius Ornston is Assistant Professor in the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, where he specializes in comparative political economy and innovation policy. He is the author of When Small States Make Big Leaps, and his work has also been published by Comparative Political Studies, Comparative Politics, Governance, Review of Policy Research, Socio-Economic Review, West European Politics, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the OECD, and the World Bank.

Darius Ornston's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Darius Ornston has built on years of comparative political economic studies to provide an ambitious if demanding critical study of the region... [he] has made an important empirical and theoretical contribution."


"Ornston's book is a must-read not only for academics but also for Nordic policy makers, businesspeople, and all institutional actors who are keen to make rapid reforms in the name of innovation and change."

American Journal of Sociology

"Ornston shows how we can recognize this mechanism by a wider pattern of logical entailments, negative as well as positive. The book is carefully designed to reveal that pattern and painstakingly researched to bring it to life."