It is an invariable rule of revolutions, from the collapse of communism in Russia to the overthrow of the Tunisian dictatorship, that someone declares they want their liberated country to follow the Swedish or Nordic model of development. By this they mean an affluent and egalitarian utopia.
Amid the grinding recession in Europe, the Nordic model is having a new lease of life: the countries of northern Europe are faring better than the southern tier. In our cover story Alyson JK Bailes, a diplomat turned professor who has lived and worked in Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland, shares her decades of experience.
She concludes that there is no magic economic formula. Rather, the Nordic countries have a precious ability to learn from their mistakes and adapt the model to changing circumstances. For those tempted to go and live in the land of Wallander, Andrew Brown (page 14) offers some hard-bitten advice.
Instead of trying to forecast the future, as is traditional in December, we analyse (page 20) the events of 2012 which the experts failed to predict, from the recession in Europe to the apotheosis of K-pop.
One thing is certain about 2013: the word cyber will not go away. William Hague, Foreign Secretary, writes on page 35 of the efforts Britain is making to deny criminal hackers safe havens around the world.
The week-long Gaza war showed that conflicts are now being fought in duelling Twitter feeds. One man who is prepared for the digital future is the British Ambassador in Beirut. Tom Fletcher has swapped his bicorne hat for a smart phone. On page 43 he reveals himself as a ‘The Naked Diplomat’.