Tag: Scandinavia

Let’s Stop Pretending Bernie Sanders Wants to Duplicate Scandinavia


Bernie Sanders supporters are quick to make clear that their guy doesn’t want to turn America into Cuba or Venezuela or the old Soviet Union. By “democratic socialism,” the US senator from Vermont means Scandinavia, more or less. And what’s wrong with that? The Nordic nations are pretty nice. Even President Trump has conceded that Norway produces a quality immigrant.

But does Sanders really want to import Scandinavian “socialism?” He brags that his universal health-care plan eliminates patient cost-sharing. But Scandinavia has it. Sanders wants to raise a lot of revenue through heavy taxes on business and investment. Scandinavia doesn’t. Sanders has a big problem with billionaires. Scandinavia doesn’t. Indeed, as I have written, “The egalitarian Nordic nations have as many billionaires, relatively, as the US and more concentrated wealth, at least as measured by the share of wealth controlled by the top 10 percent.”

I could go on and on, mentioning how the Nordics score highly in the conservative Heritage Foundation’s Economic Freedom Index, especially when it comes to government regulation. They’re also free traders, unlike Sanders, who opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement in the 1990s and its successor agreement today. As a JPMorgan analysis cautioned: “Copy the Nordic model if you like, but understand that it entails a lot of capitalism and pro-business policies, a lot of taxation on middle class spending and wages, minimal reliance on corporate taxation and plenty of co-pays and deductibles in its healthcare system.”

Bernie and I Gotta Tell Ya, the Swedish Way Works! (Part One)


Except I’m talking about the historical Swedish way. Bernie is talking about the modern Swedish fairytale. With Sweden back in the news, here’s Part One of a two part series from Dancing On the Edge of the Widening Gyre. We’ll look a bit at the “immigration and crime” controversy, among other things, in Part Two.

The Swedish system is the vaunted Socialist Third Way, proof that, done right, socialism works. Actually, by Mises’s classical liberal definition, the Swedish Way might more accurately be called fascism that works. That is, much of the Third Way is not state ownership of the means of production but private ownership under state planning and control. Whatever. If you wish to call it socialism, you could make that case. However, if it’s socialism, it’s nice socialism; no gulags, purges, or kangaroo courts. Likewise, if it’s fascism, it’s nice fascism; no death camps, government-sponsored mobs in the streets, or ultranationalism. Call it either. The point is, the Third Way works.

Jonah Goldberg, author of Liberal Fascism, explains that H.G. Wells advocated a nice form of fascism which he called “liberal fascism.” In other words, Wells might be called the father of the Swedish Way. Whether we go with “liberal fascism” or “liberal socialism,” it’s a gentler, kinder, egalitarian, and successful alternative to free markets. So believe democratic socialists, regular socialists, leftists, and progressives throughout the world.

Competitive Capitalism vs. Cuddly Capitalism: Which Is Better?


shutterstock_278463809Europe is a rich, well-educated, orderly place. And many Americans not only like to visit and do business there, but also see it as an aspirational economic model.

Well, not Greece and Italy so much, but certainly the Nordic nations. Many progressive Democrats really have a thing for Scandinavia and its egalitarian social democracies. “I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden, and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people,” Bernie Sanders said during one of his debates with Hillary Clinton. And there are certainly Europeans who agree. For instance, I recently had a long chat with  by Anu Partanen, a New York-based Finnish and American journalist, about her book “The Nordic Theory of Everything.”

In another Q&A, however, my AEI colleague Stan Veuger was skeptical that going Nordic was as easy or efficacious as progressives and Partanen believe. Along the same lines, a 2012 analysis by Daron Acemoglu, James Robinson, and Thierry Verdier argues that even though many countries “may want to be like the Nordics with a more extensive safety net and a more egalitarian structures,” it’s not really possible to have “cuddly” capitalism with America’s more high-pressure, competitive, or “cutthroat” capitalism.  From their research:

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I am of Eastern European descent, so I think I have a pretty good understanding about the systemic flaws of socialism for someone of my age, though I never had to live in it (everyone else in my family did). But I still get lectured to by my peers who don’t have that background on […]

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If You Want Government to Spend Like a Nordic Nation, It Needs to Tax the Middle Class Like One


twenty20_bb96649b-cbf1-4e5f-afd8-e585579301f5_sweden_flag-e1454439423712The WaPo’s Max Ehrenfreund has a great Q&A with sociologist Lane Kenworthy, author of  Social Democratic America — a book I have written about a few times. The following bit gets at the idea that it wouldn’t be just the rich paying for the progressive dream of greatly expanded government, Scandinavian-style:

One difference between these two candidates’ [Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders] platforms and the social-democratic agenda in your book is that both are talking a lot about raising taxes on the rich, while in the Nordic countries, the middle and working classes pay more in taxes, too.

The tax strategy that these countries have tended to pursue is to spread the tax burden around, and in fact, their overall tax systems are pretty much flat. Almost everybody pays roughly the same share of their pre-tax income in taxes. You have a progressive income tax, but that’s offset by regressive payroll taxes, and especially regressive consumption taxes, which are very large in these countries.

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.”

7 Myths About Scandinavia’s Social Democratic ‘Paradise’


hiker-on-mountain-shutterstock-500x293If Scandinavia didn’t exist, the left would have to invent it. Overall, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden are known as nations that combine big government with good economic growth. Low levels of inequality and poverty with high levels of innovation. Social democratic models for America, some Democrats suggest.

But in “Scandinavian Unexceptionalism: Culture, Markets and the Failure of Third-Way Socialism,” Nima Sanandaji argues that all these wonderful qualities of Scandinavian society “predated the development of the welfare state” and that “all these indicators began to deteriorate after the expansion of the Scandinavian welfare states and the increase in taxes necessary to fund it.” Some key points:

1.) Left-leaning pop stars, politicians, journalists, political commentators and academics have long praised Scandinavian countries for their high levels of welfare provision and for their economic and social outcomes. It is, indeed, true that they are successful by most reasonable measures. However, Scandinavia’s success story predated the welfare state. Furthermore, Sweden began to fall behind as the state grew rapidly from the 1960s. Between 1870 and 1936, Sweden enjoyed the highest growth rate in the industrialised world. However, between 1936 and 2008, the growth rate was only 13th out of 28 industrialised nations. Between 1975 and the mid-1990s, Sweden dropped from being the 4th richest nation in the world to the 13th richest nation in the world.

Debating Memes: Silhouette Man


Scandinavian countries are awesome. At least that’s what all of my liberal friends tell me. These countries are virtual socialist utopias of equality and happiness, as well as a model for a progressive America. As one who remembers the meaning of the word utopia (no place), I am innately skeptical of such claims. The left wing meme generation machine ™ does not share my skepticism however, and has created a comic strip of sorts that explains why Americans are stupid for not giving “free” college education to all of our students. Meet Silhouette man.