America's Left Is Falling in Love With Scandinavian Socialism. So Why Are Scandinavians Moving Right?

As Bernie Sanders surges among leftist intelligentsia – an oxymoron if ever there was one – a new worship for Denmark has fallen upon the nation. During the last Democratic debate, Sanders name-checked Denmark as a beautiful example of a socialist utopia. Now, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has written glowingly of Denmark as a model for the United States in the pages of The New York Times. “Danes get a lot of things right, and in doing so refute just about everything US conservatives say about economics,” says Krugman. “And we can also learn a lot from the things Denmark has gotten wrong.”

Krugman praises Denmark’s welfare state, which he says is “beyond the wildest dreams of American liberals,” with universal health care, free college education, and magical day care. The tax rates, Krugman acknowledges, are confiscatory: 60.3 percent, plus a 25 percent national sales tax; the government grabs half of all income in the country. Krugman says that only top income-earners pay 60 percent, but that would include everyone earning more than $60,000.

But, says Krugman, it’s utopia: “[A]dults in their prime working years are substantially more likely to be employed in Denmark than they are in America…Denmark ranks at or near the top on international comparisons of ‘life satisfaction.’” And, says Krugman, the model is workable elsewhere, including France, where workers “roughly match US productivity, and are more likely than Americans to be employed during their prime working years.”

The American left is on the wrong side of history. Even as they continue to praise the socialism of Scandinavia and Europe more broadly, those countries skew to the right in an attempt to avoid disaster.

Krugman concludes: “Taxes and benefits just aren’t the job killers right-wing legend asserts.”

Except that they are. Because half way through his column, Krugman finally acknowledges that “Denmark’s 5.5 percent decline in real GDP per capita since 2007 is comparable to the declines in debt-crisis countries like Portugal or Spain, even though Denmark has never lost the confidence of investors.” The problem, however, is not Denmark’s socialism, says Krugman: it’s their conservatism! If the Danes had just not taken austerity measures and kept pumping their currency, all would have been well! Krugman uses Sweden as an example of a nation with a higher growth rate thanks to their lack of austerity.

As always, the theory of Marxism is never to blame for the failure of Marxism. And Denmark is yet another example of how socialism can hamstring an economy. Krugman himself realizes in another post that “part of the answer [to the Danish stagnation] may be high levels of household debt.”

Jeff Jacoby of The Boston Globe has a far better explanation for Scandinavia’s economic growth and stagnation than Krugman. Sweden, Krugman’s favorite democratic socialist nation, grew in the mid-20th century, then stagnated in the 1960s and 1970s:

Sweden’s world-beating growth rate dried up. In 1975, it had been the fourth-wealthiest nation on earth (as measured by GDP per capita); by 1993, it had dropped to 14th. By then, Swedes had begun to regard their experiment with socialism as, in Sanandaji’s phrase, “a colossal failure.”….Scandinavia’s quality of life didn’t spring from leftist policies. It survived them.

And, as The Daily Wire pointed out regarding Denmark:

The most recent election saw a major victory by a center-right coalition, as the right-wing, strongly anti-immigration Danish People’s Party has surged ahead, becoming the second-biggest party in the country. The results: the government is doing everything it can to dissuade "refugees" from trying to enter the country, including slashing benefits by half.

By the way, Denmark and Sweden aren’t the only countries moving to the right. In France, the same holds true: Marion Marechal-Le Pen, granddaughter of far-right anti-immigrant politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, is about to win a December local election. The National Front could win in six regions, including Nord-Pas-de-Calais, where Marion’s aunt, Marine, is leading in the polls.

The American left is on the wrong side of history. Even as they continue to praise the socialism of Scandinavia and Europe more broadly, those countries skew to the right in an attempt to avoid disaster.

Correction: This article original mentioned Switzerland in this context. This, of course, was mistaken -- Switzerland, one of the few growing countries in Europe, has low tax rates for the continent, and citizens pay a low percentage of their income in taxes overall.


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