One of the least charming elements of the new push for democratic socialism by members of the media and the American Left is the utter willingness to ignore context. Take, for example, Elizabeth Bruenig of the Washington Post. Bruenig consistently celebrates the virtues of supposedly socialist Nordic countries:
The Nordic states are most famous for their generous welfare systems: free college, universal health care, long and well-funded parental leave, heavily subsidized child care and much more. . . . The people of the Nordic states have come a long way toward democratizing ownership, dispersing wealth, lowering inequality and placing workers’ lives under their own control — in other words, the socialism of the Nordic states seems pretty close to the kind of socialism that I wrote would satisfy me.
All of these ideas could, Bruenig implies, be transferred overnight to America, making us fair and prosperous.
Obviously, this is untrue. Norway has 5.2 million people; Finland has 5.5 million; Denmark has 5.7 million; Sweden has just under 10 million. This is fewer people than the population of the state of Texas. Wealth creation in Nordic countries long predated the advent of nationalization and socialist enterprise; so did income equality. And state ownership of enterprise in Nordic countries does not mean that those enterprises run along the anti-profit lines that democratic socialists tend to favor; precisely the opposite. It would be more apt to call Nordic ownership of assets a model of state-run capitalism than of socialism per se.
But the most irritating aspect of the Left’s new addiction to Nordic “socialism” is that it causes us to ignore the actual conditions under which Nordic programs flourish — conditions that we would do well to actually mimic. The major advantage held by Nordic countries is a cultural focus on education, law-abiding behavior, and hard work.