The Nordic 'Paradox'

Richard Stanley

Well-Known Member
The following is the open paragraphs of Eric Levitz article in New York Magazine about the seeming paradox, from the American conservative POV, of the success of the Nordic hybrid economies.

The political success of the US corporate POV, as lead by the corporate wings of both the Republican and Democratic parties, has been to shift the public focus onto what Levitz terms the "second-order effects". While I might quibble about how Levitz has structured these 'effects' I agree with his argument. The political success of the corporate political power has led to the polarization of income inequality, also fueling the parallel political and social hyper-polarization.

As I have mentioned before, research has shown that the Nordic countries rate the highest in terms of overall societal happiness, from top to bottom, while the USA ranks 17th among advanced countries in terms of 'happiness'. Constitutionally, we merely get to "pursue happiness", may only the most Ayn Randy be rewarded. Of course, these Randy ones will forever be beset by the leeches of society trying to take their just rewards from them.

A specter is haunting the American right — the specter of social democracy. The Democratic Party’s top presidential prospects appear to have all forgotten the words “George McGovern,” and remembered American liberals’ long-forsaken ambitions to establish nationalized health insurance, a job guarantee, universal child care, and worker representation on corporate boards. Meanwhile, blue America’s rank-and-file voters are turning red: For the first time in modern history, Democrats approve of “socialism” more than they do “capitalism.” A self-avowed socialist has become one of the most popular politicians in America, while another just knocked off a high-ranking House Democrat. A sizable portion of the American public wants what the Scandinavians are having.

And conservatives are having a hard time figuring out why they shouldn’t.

After all, Americans have never shared the right’s enthusiasm for minimizing the tax burden borne by wealthy individuals, or the labor costs of U.S. corporations. Most have always evinced a preference for prioritizing low poverty rates over low top-marginal tax rates, and high wages over high corporate profits. Historically, conservatives compensated for the unpopularity of their economic agenda’s first-order effects by imploring Americans to look at its second-order ones: Low taxes for the rich, little bargaining power for the worker, and scant social benefits for families might sound bad, at first, but they’re a necessary price for the high rates of economic growth and innovation that only America’s “free enterprise” system can produce. (Oh, and all left-wing economic policies lead, inexorably, to gulags.)

But the last half-century hasn’t been kind to the right’s case. Since the Reagan revolution, America has been steadily lowering taxes on the rich and euthanizing private-sector unions — only to experience much lower rates of growth and innovation than it did at the height of New Deal liberalism. What’s more, the growth that Reaganomics did deliver largely bypassed ordinary workers. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Europe’s social democracies failed to degenerate into totalitarian hellscapes. In fact, the most socialistic economies in the Western world — those of the Nordic countries — managed to put up rates of growth and innovation comparable to America’s, while guaranteeing all of their citizens access to affordable health care, child care, higher education, weeks-long vacations, exceptionally generous unemployment benefits, job training, and in Norway, a modicum of oil wealth. ...