This post was written by Connor Balough
Bernie Sanders has single-handedly brought the term “democratic socialism” into the contemporary American political lexicon and shaken millions of Millennials out of their apathy towards politics. Suddenly, Americans are continuously referencing Scandinavia as the “socialist utopia” that outperforms America in all aspects.
A common misconception is that the Nordic countries became socially and economically successful by introducing universal welfare states funded by high taxes. In fact, their economic and social success had already materialized during a period when these countries combined a small public sector with free-market policies. The welfare state was introduced afterward. That the Nordic countries are so successful is due to an exceptional culture that emphasizes social cohesion, hard work, and individual responsibility. Today, in contrast, Nordic countries stand out as having high-tax models. Denmark, for example, has the highest tax rate among developed nations. But in 1960, the tax rate in the country was merely 25 percent of GDP, lower than the 27 percent rate in the U.S. at the time. In Sweden, the rate was 29 percent, only slightly higher than in the U.S. In fact, much of Nordic prosperity evolved between the time that a capitalist model was introduced in this part of the world during the late 19th century and the mid 20th century – during the free-market era.
n 1960, well before large welfare states had been created in Nordic countries, Swedes lived 3.2 years longer than Americans, while Norwegians lived 3.8 years longer and Danes 2.4 years longer. Today, after the Nordic countries have introduced universal health care, the difference has shrunk to 2.9 years in Sweden, 2.6 years in Norway, and 1.5 years in Denmark. The differences in life span have actually shrunk as Nordic countries moved from a small public sector to a democratic-socialist model with universal health coverage. Moreover, the longest average life spans among Nordic peoples are found in Iceland — the small Nordic cousin that has the most distinctly Nordic culture, but also the most limited welfare system. It is equally interesting to look at Nordic Americans, a group that combines the Nordic success culture with U.S.-style capitalism. It was mainly the impoverished people in the Nordic countries who sailed across the Atlantic to found new lives. And yet, as I write in my book, Danish Americans today have fully 55 percent higher living standard than Danes. Similarly, Swedish Americans have a 53 percent higher living standard than Swedes. The gap is even greater, 59 percent, between Finnish Americans and Finns. Even though Norwegian Americans lack the oil wealth of Norway, they have a 3 percent higher living standard than their cousins overseas. Perhaps even more astonishing is that Nordic Americans are more socially successful than their cousins in Scandinavia. They have much lower high-school-dropout rates, much lower unemployment rates, and even slightly lower poverty rates. Similarly, immigrants to the Nordic countries fare worse than those to the U.S. with regard to employment, self-reported health, and the school results of their children. In short: What the American Left admires about the Nordic countries clearly has less to do with their social-democratic welfare states than with the exceptional culture in these historically Protestant societies.
Today though, Swedish emigration is reaching record levels. Last year, 51,237 Swedes left the country. It is more than the peak reached in the late 1800s when there was an agriculture crisis in Sweden.
And America is the most popular destination, again.
– The proportion of emigrants in relation to the Swedish population as a whole is not as great as in the 1800s. But the fact remains. Sweden is also today a country of emigration, says Maria Solevid, a political scientist at the University of Gothenburg, to SVT.
There may also be a large number of Swedes leaving the country who are not registered, according to Maria Solevid.
Many who are away longer than one year, forget or neglect to notify the Tax Authority despite being obliged to do so.
The organization Swedes in the world, shows in a new study that more than 660,000 Swedes now live in another country. That is seven percent of the population.
The most common country for Swedes to settle in is the United States, where 150,000 Swedes have moved to. The second most popular country is the UK, followed by Spain and Norway, all of which are home to about 90,000 Swedes.
In the study, people who have been living abroad for at least six months per year are counted as emigrated Swedes. The study includes the years 2014-2015.
The underlying reasons for the large and sudden emigration of swedes, are as usual not touched in the report.
Here is the list of the 21 countries that are home to the largest number of ‘fleeing’ Swedes.
United States: 150,000
United Arab Emirates: 4,000
SO WHAT ABOUT DENMARK?
For the nordic socialist models, , the needle is always pointing to places like Denmark. Everything they most fervently hope for here has already happened there.
So: Why does no one seem particularly interested in visiting Denmark? (“Honey, on our European trip, I want to see Tuscany, Paris, Berlin and . . . Jutland!”) Visitors say Danes are joyless to be around. Denmark suffers from high rates of alcoholism. In its use of antidepressants it ranks fourth in the world. (Its fellow Nordics the Icelanders are in front by a wide margin.) Some 5 percent of Danish men have had sex with an animal. Denmark’s productivity is in decline, its workers put in only 28 hours a week, and everybody you meet seems to have a government job. Oh, and as The Telegraph put it, it’s “the cancer capital of the world.”
In addition to paying enormous taxes — the total bill is 58 percent to 72 percent of income — Danes have to pay more for just about everything. Books are a luxury item. Their equivalent of the George Washington Bridge costs $45 to cross. Health care is free — which means you pay in time instead of money. Services are distributed only after endless stays in waiting rooms. (The author brought his son to an E.R. complaining of a foreign substance that had temporarily blinded him in one eye and was turned away, told he had to make an appointment.) Pharmacies are a state-run monopoly, which means getting an aspirin is like a trip to the DMV.
The suicide rate is 50 percent higher than in the US and more than double the UK rate. Party guests, even at upscale gatherings, report that, around 11:30 at night, things often take a fighty turn.
To reverse the damages done by the socialist era of Scandinavia During the past few decades, the Nordic countries have gradually been reforming their social systems. Taxes have been cut to stimulate work, public benefits have been limited in order to reduce welfare dependency, pension savings have been partially privatized, for-profit forces have been allowed in the welfare sector, and state monopolies have been opened up to the market. In short, the universal-welfare-state model is being liberalized. Even the social-democratic parties themselves realize the need for change.
Sweden thought better of liberal economics too: When its welfare state became unsustainable (something savvy Danes are just starting to say), it went on a privatization spree and cut government spending from 67 percent of GDP to less than half. In the wake of the global financial crisis, it chose austerity, eliminating its budget deficit (it now runs a slight surplus).
Scandinavia as a whole is becoming less and less Socialist, to try and combat the damages brought from their “utopia” eras. They’re actually more Capitalist than the US in some aspects now, having introduced many reforms to stimulate a near negative economic growth rate for decades. While US Socialists call for a $15 an hour mininum wage, You will find no such government-imposed floors on labor in Sweden, Norway, or Denmark. Instead, minimum wages are decided by collective-bargaining agreements between unions and employers; they typically vary on an occupational or industrial basis. Union-imposed wages lock out the least skilled and do their own damage to an economy, but such a decentralized system is still arguably a much better way of doing things than having the central government set a one-size fits all wage policy that covers every occupation nationwide.
In a move that would be considered radically pro-capitalist by young Americans who #FeelTheBern, Sweden adopted a universal school choice system in the the last few years that is nearly identical to the system proposed by libertarian economist Milton Friedman his 1955 essay, “The Role of Government in Education.”
In practice, the Swedish system involves local governments allowing families to use public funds, in the form of vouchers, to finance their child’s education at a private school, including schools run by the dreaded for-profit corporation.
The Danes apparently have also grown weary of Sen. Bernie Sanders insulting their country. Denmark is not a socialist nation, says its prime minister. It has a “market economy.”
Sanders, the Democratic presidential candidate who calls himself a socialist, has used Denmark as the example of the socialist utopia he wants to create in America. During the Democrats’ first debate last month, he said “we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.”
While appearing in New Hampshire in September, Sanders said that he had “talked to a guy from Denmark” who told him that in Denmark, “it is very hard to become very, very rich, but it’s pretty hard to be very, very poor.”
“And that makes a lot of sense to me.”
So because something makes sense to him, he has the right to force that system on people who don’t want it? Isn’t that what he’s saying?
But we digress. This is about Danes being offending by Sanders using the word “socialist” to describe their form of government. And who can blame them, especially when the free world has had enough of national socialists and Soviet socialists and North Korean socialists and Cuban socialists?
While speaking at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, the center-right Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said he was aware “that some people in the U.S. associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism.”
“Therefore,” he said, “I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy.”
Rasmussen acknowledged that “the Nordic model is an expanded welfare state which provides a high level of security to its citizens,” but he also noted that it is “a successful market economy with much freedom to pursue your dreams and live your life as you wish.”
Why is socialism a failure?