Why Do Scandinavia-obsessed Democrats Want to Turn the US into IKEAmerica?

 

Flags of Scandinavia - Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway.In my new The Week column, I explore the Democrat/left-liberal/obsession with the mini-states of Scandinavia. Strangely there seems to be little concern or humility about the idea of transplanting their egalitarian social democracies to America. As Bernie Sanders said during this week’s Democratic debate: “I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.”

And then there’s this exchange earlier this year with ABC News presenter George Stephanopoulos:

“In countries in Scandinavia like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, they are very democratic countries,” Sanders said. “Voter turnout is a lot higher than it is in the United States. In those countries, health care is the right of all people; college education and graduate school is free; retirement benefits, child care are stronger than the United States of America. In those countries by and large government works for ordinary people and the middle class, rather than, as is the case right now in our country, for the billionaire class.”

“I can hear the Republican attack ad right now,” Stephanopoulos said. “He wants America to look more like Scandinavia.”

“That’s right,” Sanders said. “What’s wrong with that?

In my piece, I point out the role of culture in the region’s success, something that predates the large welfare state expansion. Also, the Nordics have become more market-oriented over the past 20 years. And if I would’ve had another 100-words or so to play with, I would have mentioned how Scandinavia and the rest of the world draft off America’s innovation. In fact, I would have added something very much like this:

Finally, Scandinavia benefits from the very American-style capitalism that Sanders seems to detest. Our economic dynamism generates lots of inequality but also lots of innovation that other nations can import to their benefit. Economists Daron Acemoğlu, James Robinson, and Thierry Verdier suggest countries “may want to be like the Nordics with a more extensive safety net and a more egalitarian structure … [but] it may be precisely the more cut-throat American society, with its extant inequalities, that makes possible the existence of more cuddly Nordic societies.” For instance, the US produces far more billionaire entrepreneurs per millions residents than the Nordics or any large advanced economy. Does Sanders or anyone else fully grasp the interplay of history, culture, and policy is producing America’s deep magic — not to mention Scandinavia’s success? Surely not.

Again, one of my favorite charts, via my “Room to Grow” chapter contribution:

"Room to Grow"

Finally, had I another 100 words or so, I would have touched on the taxation point eloquently made by Kevin Williamson (indeed read the whole thing):

Senator Sanders is not very serious about imitating Denmark. Denmark has a large and expensive welfare state, which Senator Sanders envies. He doesn’t envy the other part of that handshake: Denmark pays for that large and expensive welfare state the only way that you can: with relatively high taxes on the middle class, whose members pay both high income taxes and a value-added tax.

If Senator Sanders were an intellectually honest man, he’d acknowledge forthrightly that the only way to pay for generous benefits for the middle class is to tax the middle class, where most of the income earners are. Instead, he talks about taxing a handful of billionaires to pay for practically everything. Rhetorically, he’s already spent the entire holdings of the billionaire class many times over.

There are 17 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Mate De Inactive
    Mate De
    @MateDe

    High Taxes and oil helps pay for Denmark and Norway’s welfare. Sweden has to be more entreprearial because they don’t have any oil. Also, I wonder when the last time Senator Sanders was actually in any of these Scandanavian countries, they are REALLY expensive. Norway has one of the highest costs of living in the world.

    Also, Denmark and Norway curb immigration, Sweden is in self destruct mode, and if you do immigrate you have to learn the language it’s mandatory. Plus the culture is less inclined to “game the system” there is a higher level of trust.

    • #1
  2. Lazy_Millennial Inactive
    Lazy_Millennial
    @LazyMillennial

    For real fun with any lefties who practice identity politics and idealize the Scandinavian countries, mention that they’re idealizing countries with almost no ethnic minorities.

    • #2
  3. Jordan Wiegand Inactive
    Jordan Wiegand
    @Jordan

    Mate De:High Taxes and oil helps pay for Denmark and Norway’s welfare. Sweden has to be more entreprearial because they don’t have any oil. Also, I wonder when the last time Senator Sanders was actually in any of these Scandanavian countries, they are REALLY expensive. Norway has one of the highest costs of living in the world.

    Also, Denmark and Norway curb immigration, Sweden is in self destruct mode, and if you do immigrate you have to learn the language it’s mandatory. Plus the culture is less inclined to “game the system” there is a higher level of trust.

    Yeah I wonder if the Scandinavian nations are going to be so touted after they start really tightening their immigration policies, perhaps eventually towards outright repatriation.

    • #3
  4. ToryWarWriter Thatcher
    ToryWarWriter
    @ToryWarWriter

    They also benefit from the fact the USA basically guarantees there national security.  There defense departments are next to Zero.

    • #4
  5. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    When one compares a European country to the United States, whether it is a Scandinavian country or France or Germany, one should remember that that country has a United States out there, a United States to help protect it, to buy its goods and services at high margins, to send innovations its way etc. The point is this: the United States does not have “a United States out there”, and therefore any attempt by the United States to emulate such a European country is blind and destined to fail.

    • #5
  6. V the K Member
    V the K
    @VtheK

    I think they actually want to turn the USA into Venezuela, but Scandinavia sounds better. Call it marketing/bait and switch or whatever.

    • #6
  7. Amy Schley Moderator
    Amy Schley
    @AmySchley

    Mate De: Also, I wonder when the last time Senator Sanders was actually in any of these Scandanavian countries, they are REALLY expensive. Norway has one of the highest costs of living in the world.

    I point this out to my liberal friends occasionally — think about why Sweden’s most famous business focuses on selling cheap furniture for tiny apartments.

    • #7
  8. John Penfold Member
    John Penfold
    @IWalton

    Any parent with more than one child of different ages and sexes knows that public goods, collective goods, such as a TV program or film must be decentralized or a decision imposed.  Their tastes differ.  Imagine a country of 300 million of the most diverse children on earth trying to agree on any public good.  Remember a public good is output that is jointly consumed and exclusion is not possible or not practical.   Our democrats want to maximize the conversion of private goods into public goods.  The result is fractious disputes and inaction or the imposition of the parents solution, dictatorship.  They ask why we can’t get along.  It’s simple, we’re different, we’re numerous and we want different things, which free exchange in market places allows and which socialism does not.  Denmark is homogeneous enough, small enough that they can provide a lot centrally, but even they allow most goods to be exchanged in the global market place.   Democrats can’t even get their minds around this simple thought.

    • #8
  9. Freesmith Inactive
    Freesmith
    @Freesmith

    Lazy_Millennial,

    No, if you really want to have fun with your leftie friends you should point out that Scandinavia is almost all white – just like Vermont.

    Remember, lefties are all anti-racists, which actually means anti-white.

    • #9
  10. Robert Dammers Thatcher
    Robert Dammers
    @RobertDammers

    Do they have any idea how radical the Swedish government’s approach to corporate welfare is?  When told that Saab would go bust without government intervention the reaction was “so what”?  In terms of the commercial economy, Sweden is more American than America.  They then tax incomes heavily, and redistribute through benefits and the provision of state services – including education provided through vouchers.

    The blogger Tim Worstall loves to comment that the Guardian columnists who constantly argue that we (the UK) should be more like Sweden have no conception of what Sweden is actually like. Very market oriented, but highly redistributive.  They’d have a seizure if they knew.

    • #10
  11. Mate De Inactive
    Mate De
    @MateDe

    I work for a Danish headquartered company and work closely with our Danish colleagues. They are really wonderful people and it is a very nice country but most Americans wouldn’t last one week there. Tell all your iPhone, Amazon prime and any other consumer good that Americans take for granted, loving millennials and tell them this about Denmark. You CANT buy something online from a foreign country and have it shipped to you in Denmark. Customs will intercept the package, figure out the value of what it in it and send you a tax bill for over $120 of the value. Ok want to buy jeans from the Gap, some new shoes from Zappos, NOPE you’ll have to pay over twice as much for them. Plus these millennial a don’t like their metadata looked at by the government could you imagine the government going through your Amazon delivery. We can’t mail it to them either. The only way to get it to them is to bring it over in our suitcase and take the tags off so it looks like our stuff. Seriously this is how we bring them their new iPhones, Levi’s, whatever we have to smuggle it in like drug mules. So ask millennial a, Still want America to be like Denmark? with a 30% VAT on top of a 60% income tax?

    • #11
  12. Joseph Eagar Member
    Joseph Eagar
    @JosephEagar

    I’m sure Bernie Sanders is just itching to replace the Wagner Act with German labor law, institute formal  tri-party talks, and transition to an economy run by temp labor.

    • #12
  13. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    Does this sound right? What the Danes and Swedes chose is something the progressives want to impose.

    • #13
  14. V the K Member
    V the K
    @VtheK

    The author of this piece is also an open-borders advocate. So, while he frets about liberal Democrats turning the USA into Scandinavia, he is totes on board with importing millions of exactly the kind of voters that will turn it into Venezuela.

    • #14
  15. BalticSnowTiger Inactive
    BalticSnowTiger
    @BalticSnowTiger

    James – Just for the sake of good order, Finland is not part of Scandinavia. Its heritage, language, culture is completely unrelated. Whilst it has ‘enjoyed’ a Swedish minority descendent from the Swedish kingdom’s past reign it really does not belong. Finland may have succumbed to various silly stale ideas not dissimilar to its neighbouring Scandinavian, socialist seeming countries with their utterly despicable high concentration of wealth, property and power (the Swedish chimera of equal rights), but it is an utterly different, harder, strange and unrelentingly socially conservative country.

    It also is home to the only people known to unapologetically barbecue fish whilst outdoors in t-shirts at -5 degrees celsius.

    • #15
  16. BalticSnowTiger Inactive
    BalticSnowTiger
    @BalticSnowTiger

    Mate De:…. You CANT buy something online from a foreign country and have it shipped to you in Denmark. Customs will intercept the package, figure out the value of what it in it and send you a tax bill for over $120 of the value. … we have to smuggle it in like drug mules. … Still want America to be like Denmark? with a 30% VAT on top of a 60% income tax?

    Whilst I agree with your disgust of their overall high taxation of income, property, and consumption (to finance the most radical of all Scandinavian states and its social mandates, because they do not have oil and gas like their loathed Norwegian cousins) Danes who need to buy goods online can purchase them from Amazon.de or any other online shop domiciled and paying taxes within the EU-27.

    Your complaint is about purchases from outside of the EU. Customs and levies are applied to any and all online purchases made from those wonderful aggregators legally domiciled in the U.S. as any another non EU-27 country. By the way, this same applies in reverse order. Notably, Chines manufactured, California designed iPhones do reach Europe the regular way, too, and can be purchased. Danes who want a good deal, normally take the car and drive a few kilometres across the border to Germany, say Flensburg, Niebüll, Husum, or even Hamburg to buy gadgets at competitive prices from the largest consumer market in Europe.

    • #16
  17. Mate De Inactive
    Mate De
    @MateDe

    Ahhhhh so THAT is it. Seriously when I go to Copenhagen I have to smuggle in all this stuff because obviously it is MUCH cheaper here in the states. But I didn’t know they could get it there ok thank you Baltic Snow tiger. You should see our office when we announce that one of us going to Denmark we get flooded with boxes from Amazon and other sites. But it NEVER happens in reverse, except for that Matador candy (it’s addicting). Overall I still think my assessment was correct in that most Americans would not tolerate not being able to have the vast amount of choices for consumer goods and the crazy high tax rates.

    • #17

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.