Thursday, July 28, 2016

Nordic Socialism Isn't the Answer for America

By Nima Sanandaji writing for FEE. Nima Sanandaji is a research fellow at CPS,  and the author of Scandinavian Unexceptionalism available from the Institute of Economic Affairs. Excerpts:
"Will Americans benefit from longer life spans and lower poverty if they adapt Nordic-style welfare models? According to Bernie Sanders, Democrat activists, left-of center intellectuals, and journalists, the answer seems to be yes. However, as I show in my new book Debunking Utopia – Exposing they myth of Nordic socialism, much of this is built upon misconceptions about Nordic societies:
  • Yes, it is true that Nordic societies combine high living standards with large welfare states. However, numerous studies show that the high tax systems significantly impede the living standard in these countries. Nordic countries compensate for large public sectors by having strong working ethics and adapting market-friendly reforms in other fields. The lesson for America certainly isn’t that higher taxes will create more prosperity, but rather the opposite.
  • Nordic societies did not become successful after introducing large welfare states. They were economically and socially uniquely successful already in the mid-20th century, when they combined low taxes and small welfare states with free-market systems.
  • The root of the high levels of equality, the economic prosperity, the high levels of trust and other advantageous social features of the Nordics seem to be a unique culture rather than unique policies. After all, Spain, Italy, and France also have large welfare states, built upon the ideals of democratic socialism. Why doesn’t the American left believe that US society would evolve to resemble Southern Europe after introducing a large welfare state?
  • Over time, the generous welfare states of Nordic nations have created massive welfare dependency, gradually eroding the strong norms of responsibility that undermine the region's success. This, combined with the growth-reducing effects of a large state, explains why Nordic countries have gradually, over the past decades, moved towards less-generous welfare, market reforms, and tax cuts.
  • The combination of open borders, high taxes, and generous welfare systems has been anything but a success in Sweden. The open-border policies that Sweden experimented with in 2015 lead to a massive influx of new arrivals, who are finding it very difficult to integrate in the country. The result is massive social tension and increasing poverty. Countries such as the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and even the UK are much better at integrating the foreign-born in their labor markets.
Lastly, while the idea of Nordic-style democratic socialism is all the rage among the left in the US and other countries, in the Nordic countries themselves social democracy has never been weaker than today. In Denmark, the social democrats themselves have introduced massive market reforms and called for a much slimmer welfare state. In Sweden, the only one of the Nordic countries to currently be led by a center-left government, the Social Democrats are polling their lowest support in modern times."

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