Historical, cultural and institutional attributes influenced Scandinavian political choices for social insurance institutions and welfare policies at the time of the Bismarckian ‘conception’ of national social insurance on a grand scale in the 1880s. Although not realised at the time, the modern European welfare state was born. This idea of national social insurance dawned on European countries at different stages of social and economic development and political institution-building, and the basis for ‘four social Europes’was laid. 1 In Norway, the concept of a ‘people’s insurance’ was coined in political debates already at the beginning of the twentieth century, and soon Swedish social democrats adopted the term a ‘people’s home’ to market the vision of the welfare society to be developed. The terms embody an inclusiveness that characterises the Scandinavian welfare states to this day. More than elsewhere in Europe ‘peasants were carriers of freedom and equality’ in Scandinavia. 2 The combination of relatively egalitarian preindustrial social structures and homogenous (and small) populations in terms of language, religion and culture, was conducive to the gradual development of comprehensive, principally tax-financed, redistributive and universal social and welfare policies. That the state came to be the prime welfare provider can probably be attributed to the observation that no major competing welfare provider existed. The secular state did not have to relate to a supra-national church with its separate institutions for education and health services. Thanks to the Lutheran Reformation during the first half of the 1500s, church and state bureaucracies were fused under the mantle of the state. ‘The market’ was not much of an alternative for social insurance in Scandinavia when the German idea quickly spread northwards in the 1880s, 3 and the ‘civil society’ of voluntary non-governmental organisations was of limited scope. For historical reasons, the role of the state is seen as legitimate, perhaps more so than elsewhere in Europe. Scandinavian societies are more ‘state-friendly’; indeed, ‘state’ and ‘society’ are sometimes used to mean the same thing. 4