Scandinavian Models Look Great, But…

“The lesson from Scandinavia is that mass immigration of people with a higher rate of welfare dependency jeopardizes the welfare system. The federal government is already encouraging Americans to go on food stamps and is expanding welfare spending. To additionally grant amnesty to eleven million illegal immigrants who have a higher rate of welfare dependency (per the CIS study) is unsustainable without taxing other citizens, including the middle class, at a higher rate to finance the growing welfare state.”

Liberals have long pointed to Scandinavian countries as model societies. The liberal refrain was if, but only if, America adopted the Scandinavian Model (a high-tax, high-spend welfare state also known as the Nordic Model) could Americans enjoy the benefits that made Scandinavian life nearly ideal. Whether government redistributionist policies or the Nordic people themselves created exceptionally livable communities is debatable. What is not debatable, however, is that Denmark, Sweden, and Norway have routinely topped, and continue to top, lists of the world’s most prosperous nations and the world’s happiest people. Even Shakespeare would be impressed with the state of Denmark.

Despite continuing to dominate livability surveys, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for the Vikings’ descendants the past twenty years. The early 90s financial crisis strained Scandinavian welfare states. The utopian model could no longer be financed. In order to continue their profligate spending the Scandinavian states would need to increase taxes to rates unpalatable to their citizens. Instead, Scandinavian governments tweaked the model. Public spending shrunk considerably, privatization rose precipitously. The Economist dubbed the shift Scandinavia’s “Next Super Model”:

In the 1970s and 1980s the Nordics were indeed tax-and-spend countries. Sweden’s public spending reached 67% of GDP in 1993. Astrid Lindgren, the inventor of Pippi Longstocking, was forced to pay more than 100% of her income in taxes. But tax-and-spend did not work: Sweden fell from being the fourth-richest country in the world in 1970 to the 14th in 1993.


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