The Myth of ‘Nordic Socialism’

For this week’s installment of my pushback against the rising tide of Socialism in America, I would like to expose the popular myth that socialism works in Nordic countries. This is a favorite point made by Bernie Sanders, who allegedly wants to make us just a little more like Denmark or Sweden. Well, if that’s the case, it certainly won’t happen by following his Socialist agenda!

Here’s from an article titled, “Ten Facts You Need to Know about the Nordic Socialist Myth” by Donald Kendal (www.stoppingsocialism.com).

When confronted with facts about the failed history of Socialism, advocates tend to fall back on a common refrain – “that wasn’t real socialism.” They will inevitably follow up by saying they support the “Nordic” model of socialism, sometimes called “Democratic Socialism.”

Bernie Sanders, for example, brings up Nordic countries frequently when defending socialism. “When I talk about democratic socialism, I’m not looking at Venezuela. I’m not looking at Cuba. I’m looking at countries like Denmark and Sweden,” he said.

Socialists and progressives alike paint Sweden and other Nordic countries as borderline utopias and proof that their reimagining of society works well.”*

But, as the article points out, not only are Sweden and Denmark not socialist countries, Denmark is actually economically more free than the United States!

“The Heritage Foundation produces an annual report titled the ‘Index of Economic Freedom.’ This report ranks countries based on several metrics, including “Business Freedom,” “Labor Freedom,” “Property Rights,” and “Trade Freedom.” In Heritage’s 2020 rankings, Denmark came in 8th place among all nations. Sweden came in 22nd. Norway came in a respectable 28th. All three of these countries ended up in the “Mostly Free” category. (For comparison, the United States ranked below Denmark, in 17th place.)”*

The inconvenient truth is that there’s almost no similarity between these country’s governments and Bernie Sander’s Marxist form of socialism. In fact, they’re moving further away from their former experimentations with this failed idealogy. Not to mention, none of these Nordic countries even have minimum wage laws!

Here’s a great supplemental video that’s quite eye-opening on how Sweden is NOT a socialist success. We could learn a lot from Sweden, but not as Bernie supposes. Quite the opposite!

Okay, so here’s the list of ten facts from the article that Bernie Sanders doesn’t want you to know about so-called “Nordic Socialism”:

  1. Denmark, Norway, and Sweden are not socialist nations (Sweden did try a form of socialism in the 1970’s-1980’s, but that was an abject failure.)
  2. Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes are not better off than most Americans.
  3. In Sweden, as well as in Denmark and Norway, ALL citizens pay high tax rates (that includes the poor!)
  4. ‘Nordic Socialist’ countries have low corporate tax rates.
  5. ‘Free college’ is not really that ‘free.’ (70% of Swedish students take out school loans).
  6. Nordic countries have similar college enrollment rates despite ‘free’ tuition.
  7. Nordic countries are moving away from their socialist past, not toward it.
  8. Sweden embraces school choice (which forces public schools to compete).
  9. Norway benefits (hugely) from fossil fuels. (I highly doubt they would embrace AOC’s Green New Deal that seeks to eliminate fossel fuels!)
  10. Some ‘Nordic Socialist’ countries are now moving toward privatizing parts of their health care systems.

You can read the article here (or watch video below) for the detailed explanations and data behind these ten facts. But, sorry, Bernie, when you and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez extol the virtues of socialism, you are talking about Venezuela, certainly not Sweden, Demark, or Norway!

The truth is, there really are no “Socialist” countries in Western Europe. The only difference is, they may offer more government benefits than the U.S. does. But it takes free-market capitalism and innovation to sustain their programs (at the cost of a very high tax rate paid by everyone, not just the wealthy).

As it’s been said, the greatest enemy of socialism is reality.

ADDENDUM VIDEO INTERVIEW: “Debunking The Many Myths of Sweden | Aron Flam & Henrik Jönsson | INTERNATIONAL | Rubin Report

* All emphasis added.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 40 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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20 Responses to The Myth of ‘Nordic Socialism’

  1. Citizen Tom says:

    This is something I have been thinking about writing. Glad you did it.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yeah, I’ve been wanting to talk about this for awhile, too. I get so tired of hearing this pipedream parroted by young people who really know nothing about socialism, its awful history, or how the Nordic countries actually govern themselves. They just hear Bernie promise them free college and they think he’s cool. Talk about being duped! It’s pretty tragic, actually.

  2. jim- says:

    There is some comfort in the safety nets of Nordic socialism, But… I have a dear friend from Norway and there is a term they use, Janteloven. It is an assumed civic responsibility to assimilate properly. But it has come at a cost. It more often than not promotes an attitude of why bother?
    She had a couple of great ideas and I told her she should start a little business. Her reply was “why”. That would mean taking risk. Even though she admittedly dislikes Janteloven, she relies on it with apathy about her own dreams. The general population is flat, dreamless, apathetic, content without being happy, if that makes sense. To be happy she just lowers her expectations. Relegated to a flat life. She is a big time Jesus believer (I even edited her book) but that doesn’t seem to help her situation.

    • Mel Wild says:

      That’s interesting, Jim. You’re right about the appeal of comfort their safety nets would have, without investigating further. But it’s revealing about the reaction of your friend to Janteloven. I think that was also the point that Johan Norberg was making that their system in Sweden was deincentivizing innovation so they had to move away from it and more toward free-market capitalism while keeping as many safety nets in place as possible (of course, at the cost of high taxes for everyone, rich or poor).

      Our government handing out all kinds of money and providing endless unemployment benefits in the U.S. during the pandemic has created similar problems here and businesses are having a hard time finding people who want to go out and work.

      I’m personally not against safety nets, per se, but the only way they work is if they are tied to some positive incentive, which is not at all happening in the U.S. because politicians use handouts to buy votes.

      Btw, just to clarify, the term, “Nordic socialism” was used as a misnomer (in quotes), which is the point of the article and what Norberg makes about Sweden in that video, that they are not socialist countries.

  3. Citizen Tom says:

    Reblogged this on Citizen Tom and commented:
    Mel Wild wrote a post that I have been thinking about writing, but I never got around to writing. So, here is a reblog.
    Is what Mel wrote exactly what I would have written? Not exactly. Mel is not Tom, fortunately for him.
    My skepticism of everyone and everything is probably greater than most. So, for example, I look at those ten facts from the article that Bernie Sanders doesn’t want you to know about so-called “Nordic Socialism” (read Mel’s post), and I don’t think some of those facts belong in the list.
    3. In Sweden, as well as in Denmark and Norway, ALL citizens pay high tax rates (that includes the poor!)
    In a Socialist state, the object of those in power is to control the people as much as possible. To control the people, those in power first seek to control the wealth of the people. Those in charge only pay lip service to this creed.

    From each according to his ability; to each according to his need. — Karl Marx

    Socialism is a big lie. Hence, point 3 goes against those who say the Nordic states are not Socialistic in character. High taxes maximize control of the people’s wealth. Socialist tyrants live to enslave everyone. Slavery is a 100% taxation rate.
    5. Free college’ is not really that ‘free.’ (70% of Swedish students take out school loans).
    Whether or not 70% of Swedish students take out loans is immaterial. The issue is whether or not the colleges are state owned and operated. Once the government controls their financing, the government controls the colleges.
    The problem with Socialism is that ultimately the government runs absolutely anything and everything. In a fully developed Socialist state we don’t have any rights because we don’t have any choices.
    9. Norway benefits (hugely) from fossil fuels. (I highly doubt they would embrace AOC’s Green New Deal that seeks to eliminate fossel fuels!)
    What does this point prove? Well, it doesn’t show that Norway is not a Socialist State. Any Socialist state would be quite happy to have a sovereign wealth fund (see Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) Definition (investopedia.com)). The fact that Norway created the fund from its oil trade is not relevant.
    The Green New Deal is not Socialism, and it is not required for Socialism. The Green New Deal is just an excuse for embracing Socialism. The amazing thing about the Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global is that the government still has not squandered away the money into the pockets of crooked people.
    Bottom Line
    Is “Nordic Socialism” real? That is, are Sweden, Norway, and Denmark really as Socialistic as Bernie Sanders would have us believe? No. What are the most important points in Mel Wild’s post? 

    The Nordic nations have relatively free economic systems.
    The Nordic nations are backing away from Socialism.
    Sweden has adopted a School Choice model.

    The greatest danger posed by Socialism is that it gives the government the power to dominate information. Socialism is not about sharing the wealth. Socialism is about enticing and then forcing the people to conform to the will of the state. That is why any Socialist state puts itself in control of the information we receive and the thoughts we are permitted to express. Ignorant people are the most easily controlled. We cannot oppose what we don’t understand and cannot even talk about.  Today we see tyrants trying to gain such control through what we call the “cancel culture.” 
    In a fully formed Communist state — what Bernie Sanders’ Socialism actually looks like — either 10-15% of our population would be in gulags where they would be worked to death or the economy would have completely collapsed and large numbers would be starving. This is the fearful end of the path where Socialism leads. That is why Sanders points to “Nordic Socialism”, to hide from us the experience of nations like Russia, China, Cambodia and Venezuela. 

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks for the re-blog, Tom, and for the exensive commentary and pushback. I think what Kendal is saying in the article with the Ten Facts is that Nordic countries aren’t the utopian democratic socialist governments that Bernie wants us to believe they are. Socialism in government, in practical application, is usually incremental. There has never been a 100% Socialist country, which would be out-and-out Communism. The Soviet Union was probably the closest, perhaps North Korea. But the point Kendal makes is that these Nordic countries are incrementally moving away from socialist programs because the programs were abject failures. Denmark is actually more free enterprise than we are (8th vs. 17th, respectively). So, Bernie Sanders argument for Nordic socialism is not a legitimate one.

      We totally agree on what Bernie Sanders’ Socialism would look like. We’re seeing a small taste of it now with the woke radical left. They make things like math and science “racist” which actually is racist against minorities because it keeps them from learning the skills to have a viable career in these fields. They want to keep them ignorant peasants and rule over them as the elite class (neo-feudalism). I may talk more about that in another post.

      But Bernie’s and AOC’s model is Venezuela, not Denmark or Sweden. And Venezuela finished second-to-LAST on the economic freedom scale (only North Korea was worse). They already want gulags for all Trump supporters, and that will also include evangelicals because they would be considered dissidents, so it’s not a stretch to think this is the nightmare scenario we would have to look forward to.

      • Citizen Tom says:

        @Mel Wild

        Nothing I disagree with there.

        I will just add a little to this.

        They already want gulags for all Trump supporters, and that will also include evangelicals because they would be considered dissidents, so it’s not a stretch to think this is the nightmare scenario we would have to look forward to.

        I understand why pastors are reluctant to get into politics, but it becoming irresponsible. I know many of them can see what is coming, but they still do nothing.

        Is politics devisive? Yes. Is the objective of the church to save souls, not good government government? Yes. Nevertheless, Jesus called upon us to be salt and light. Since one of the major ways human beings interact is through government, Christians have duty to promote good government.

        Does that mean pastors should tell us who to vote for? No, but they should encourage the members of their church to become informed and vote. And most don’t even do that.

        In fact, whereas Liberal churches are more likely to encourage members to irresponsiblly vote for Liberal causes, Conservative Christian churches generally do NOTHING. That means that instead of being represented by those among their number who would offer salt and light, Christian pastors are largely represented by the most corrupt among their numbers.

        • Mel Wild says:

          @ Tom.

          All of this reminds me of Deitrich Bonhoeffer, who was a Christian leader in Germany in the 1930s, who was one of the few voices warning against Hitler and the Nazis. Most of the church thought they should just comply with his increasing demands, live and let live, and even that Hitler was actually doing good things for the German people. They were all terribly wrong, and the world paid a horrible price for their complacency. Not that our current government is as genocidal and pathologically evil as Hitler, but I feel like it’s the same kind of danger in the U.S. with the current neo-Marxist socialism so readly embraced by the younger generations. The ideology is just as insideously evil and will destroy our culture if we do nothing. The church leaders who stayed out of it will suffer the consequences when they get arrested for being a dissodent to the prevailing woke mob. Actually, everyone–liberal or conservative–will suffer.

          My personal political position that I’m not necessarily for Republicans or Democrats. There are some on Republican side that are just as much a part of the Swamp as Democrats. I’m for freedom, because a free society is the best society for all people. My opposition isn’t even against liberals, it’s against ideologies and worldviews that bring bondage and make hell on earth. Neo-Marxism, and all of its socialist offshoots, always eventually brings its own special “hell on earth” for everyone under its spell. You would think we would’ve learned after 100 years of failure and tyranny, but apparently we haven’t.

  4. boudicaus says:

    Reblogged this on boudica.us and commented:
    H/T Citizen Tom

  5. I lived in Canada 19 years. Our “free health care” was not free. (1) We paid 50% of our income in taxes. (2) Doctors only work 2 or 3 days a week because that’s all the gov’t will pay them and they see no reason to work more for free. (3) Of course, there is a doctor shortage; they’re leaving Canada. (4) The hospitals shut down completely periodically because the gov’t doesn’t have enough money to pay all the workers, utilities, etc. (5) They are told that Americans die because, if they have a medical emergency and don’t have insurance, hospitals turn them away. I told Canadians until I was blue in the face that was not true. They said I was wrong and they were right. Actually, the cost of health insurance is a lot cheaper than the high taxes. An annual income of $60,000 would be taxed $30,000 which is nearly $3,000 per month in taxes. (6) Oh, and my husband needed a heart-valve replacement in February. They did not get to him until September.
    By then he was walking baby steps, he was so weak. He could not have lived another month. Canadians who can afford it go to the US to pay cash for treatment so they won’t die.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks for the testimony, Katheryn. This is what’s so deceptive about any time the government talks about “free” stuff. There is always a cost and it’s usually higher for less efficient (or non-existent) services than when done through private industry. And it’s not just that it’s actually more expense, as you pointed out, but politicians use it keep their power by buying votes with freebies. This is why Socialism, in any form, never works like advertized.

  6. SLIMJIM says:

    Love the details where you show the details of their economy isn’t what is popularly believed; I admit I only have heard rebuttals against this view only within the last year. So its neat to read your post

  7. marmoewp says:

    When reading an article I like to do a sanity check with easily verifiable data. The first easily verifiable claim that caught my eye was Kendal’s claim “[…] Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes find themselves […] suffering from generally higher unemployment rates.”

    Judge for yourself.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Not sure what your point is, marmoewp. What does your “sanity check” on Nordic unemployment have to do with Nordic countries not being socialist governments? Actually, I would think they would generally have lower unemployment than the U.S. since they have no minimum wage. But I suppose you could contest that one minor, irrelevant point that Kendal made.

      • marmoewp says:

        The point is that Denmark and Norway have a lower unemployment rate than the US, in contrast to what the author claims. I like to check, whether or not authors convey the truth (they may rely on bad sources) on the easily verifiable data, to get an idea about the overall trustworthiness.

        Unemployment rate was simply the first and only point I looked at.

        BTW, if you look at employment rate, it is higher in all three Nordic countries than in the US.

        • Mel Wild says:

          That’s strange. Why was the unemployment rate the only thing you looked at when it has almost nothing to do with whether or not they are socialist countries?

  8. Pingback: THE TOP TEN REASONS TO BE A DEMOCRAT, NOT! — PART 1 – Citizen Tom

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