While the right points to Venezuela, Cuba, the defunct Soviet Union and other failed or failing socialist/communist regimes, the left dismisses those failures as poor examples of “real” socialism, pointing instead to several Nordic nations — Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden — as illustrative of the the “democratic socialism” they want to impose on the United States.
There’s just one problem with that: Those nations aren’t really “socialist,” at least not in the way that most Americans who came of age during the Cold War would view it.
That may come as a shock to folks like independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose was singled out Monday by a man who knows those countries well — Carl Bildt, who served for four years as prime minister of Sweden and later served as the nation’s minister of foreign affairs for another eight.
Bernie Sanders was lucky to be able to get to the Soviet Union in 1988 and praise all its stunning socialist achievements before the entire system and empire collapsed under the weight of its own spectacular failures. pic.twitter.com/bENmwVKi0g
— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) February 25, 2019
Bildt, in reference to old videos of Sanders praising Soviet-style socialism after visits to Nicaragua and Russia in the 1980s, tweeted, “Bernie Sanders was lucky to be able to get to the Soviet Union in 1988 and praise all its stunning socialist achievements before the entire system and empire collapsed under the weight of its own spectacular failures.”
Ouch. Indeed, The Washington Post’s fact-checker, Glenn Kessler, noted in a tweet of his own that Bildt’s remark constituted “quite a burn” of the leftist senator, in that it came from the former leader of a nation that Sanders often points to as being an example of “socialist” success.
— Glenn Kessler (@GlennKesslerWP) February 25, 2019
Jeffrey Dorfman, an economics professor at the University of Georgia, published an article in Forbes in July 2018 that more thoroughly took to task wanna-be socialists like Sanders by showing that the Nordic nations often cited by leftists as examples of successful socialism aren’t really socialist.
“It is certainly true that Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark are notable economic successes,” Dorfman wrote. “What is false is that these countries are particularly socialist.”
True socialism involves a centralized government exerting control or maintaining ownership of businesses or entire industries, which is often confused with nation-states that levy high taxes to provide funding for a plethora of social and welfare programs.
The Nordic nations listed by Dorfman fall into the latter category.
“Regardless of the perception, in reality the Nordic countries practice mostly free market economics paired with high taxes exchanged for generous government entitlement programs,” Dorfman explained.
In other words, not true socialism.
The professor pointed out that the Nordic nations only began offering these welfare programs after their economies had flourished under capitalism, meaning the capitalistic wealth provided the means to fund the benefits, rather than the benefits creating the wealth and prosperity and societal economic security that leftist want to emulate.
Furthermore, Dorfman noted that the economic prosperity of the Nordic nations came about not because of governmental interference in the economy, but rather a hands-off approach to the market. Indeed, the only areas where the Nordic nations might be considered somewhat socialist are government-subsidized health care and education (though it is worth noting that the government vouchers can be used by Swedish parents to send their children to any school they desire, including public, charter or private school).
The Nordic nations are actually ranked quite high in terms of economic freedom for their respective populations, as those nations really don’t interfere with the free market much — certainly not to the extent that truly socialist governments (or a President Bernie Sanders) would.
Dorfman concluded that the leftists who espouse the virtues of “democratic socialism” in the Nordic nations are confused.
“Perhaps a better name for what the Nordic countries practice would be compassionate capitalism,” he wrote.
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