Scandinavian socialism is less real than Santa Claus
If you believe that a large man in a red suit can fly around the world on a sleigh guided by reindeer and deliver presents to billions of homes on Christmas Eve, then you should also believe in Scandinavian socialism. In other words, the Nordic countries' proclivity for socialism is about as real as Santa Claus living at the North Pole with his army of toy-making elves.
Even though prominent politicians such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) would like you to believe that the Scandinavian countries are socialist utopias, the exact opposite is actually true.
In "Debunking the Scandinavian Socialism Myth: An Evaluation of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden," a new Policy Brief from The Heartland Institute, the case could not be clearer that these three nations are not socialistic. In fact, in several ways, these three countries are more free-market than the United States. For example, the United States ranks lower than Denmark, Norway, and Sweden in terms of business freedom, according to The Heritage Foundation's 2019 Index of Economic Freedom. This is not the only area in which the Nordic nations outscored the United States.
In Denmark, there is no national minimum wage, federal jobs guarantee, or universal income. In recent years, the Danes have also cut government regulations and instituted ample private property protections.
Big budget deficits and abundant government spending tend to go hand in hand with socialistic governments; however, Denmark's budget deficits are minimal, and its outstanding government debt is a pittance compared to the United States'. Once again, Denmark is not socialist.
Like Denmark, Norway ranks higher than the United States in business freedom, private property rights, and government integrity — along with several more significant indicators. Norway also outpaced the United States in "ease of doing business," according to the World Bank.
One should also be well aware that Norway's economy is dependent on massive fossil fuel exports, something Bernie and his merry band of socialists vehemently oppose. In fact, Norway has a whopping $1 trillion in a sovereign wealth fund (the largest in the world) from its expansive oil exports. Norway's extensive oil exports also pay for the nation's social safety net. Unlike the United States, Norway (and its Nordic neighbors) has government budget surpluses — yet another element antithetical to socialism, courtesy of the free market–loving Norwegians.
Despite Bernie's talking points, Sweden is also far from a socialist utopia. Sweden, in accord with Denmark and Norway, has minimal regulations, strongly protects private property rights, has a thriving school choice program, and is an incubator for entrepreneurship. Sweden's public debt is also miniscule, and the country runs budget surpluses annually.
Sweden, like Denmark and Norway, surely seems less than a socialist nirvana than Bernie and friends would have you believe.
However, there is one giant thing that Bernie gets spot-on when it comes to his adoration of the Scandinavian nations. All of these countries have extremely broad-based, high tax rates that all citizens — from the very poor to the richest of the rich — pay.
Yes, Bernie's love for so-called Scandinavian socialism is accurate on one aspect: all three nations soak all of their citizens with sky-high taxes. In fact, counter to Bernie's rhetoric, the United States has a far more progressive tax system than any of the Nordic nations.
Put another way, the most successful and productive citizens in the United States pay a huge amount of the tax burden, while the middle and lower classes are spared the wrath of the taxman. In Scandinavia, this is not the case. Every single Scandinavian, no matter what, pays a huge sum to the national government. This is how these nations afford universal health care and the like.
In the United States, the Scandinavian tax structure is a non-starter. It will never be accepted by the middle and lower classes, ever.
This is where the rubber meets the road. If, somehow, Bernie or Ocasio-Cortez became president someday, their socialist proposals would be completely shunned by the very people they claim to help because those people, not the so-called billionaires, would be footing the bill for their outrageous and insane socialist policies.
This is why I am confident socialism has about as good a chance of coming to the United States as Santa Claus has of coming down my chimney this Christmas.
Chris Talgo (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an editor at The Heartland Institute.