“You are asking for a lot of shakeup,” George Stephanopoulos said to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on ABC’s “This Week.” “Is it really possible,” the one-time Bill Clinton aide turned “journalist” asked the candidate, “for someone who calls himself a socialist to be elected president of the United States?”
“Well, so long as we know what democratic socialism is,” Sanders replied. “And if we know that in countries, in Scandinavia, like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, they are very democratic countries, obviously.”
Sanders went on: “The voter turnout is a lot higher than it is in the United States. In those countries, health care is the right of all people. And in those countries, college education, graduate school is free. In those countries, retirement benefits, childcare are stronger than in the United States of America. And in those countries, by and large, government works for ordinary people and the middle class, rather than as is the case right now in our country, for the billionaire class.”
That was what Sanders said on May 3, 2015, shortly after he announced his presidential campaign and when nobody took him seriously. His words underscore the degree to which Sanders believes America should replicate Scandinavian governance.
Sadly, Scandinavia isn’t the utopia Sanders presumes. In Norway, Sweden and Finland, taxes are very high. The highest tax brackets are near 60 percent in Sweden and Finland. But sales taxes are exceptionally high across Scandinavia. And the tax burden transcends the income range. This is a key point that Bernie will always find hard to admit: to pay for the socialist kingdom, all — rich, middle, poor — must sacrifice greatly.
Even then, consider Bernie’s false claim that Scandinavia is happy and fulfilled. In Scandinavia, the cost of entertainment — including beers, wines, and dinners out — is far more expensive than in the United States. This is not an accident, but rather a consequence of high taxes imposed on the citizenry. And I’m not just bringing up alcohol for the hell of it. The fact that going for a beer or glass of wine or cocktail is far more expensive in Scandinavia speaks to a broader truth.
Take the case of the modern generation who live in the digital world more than the real world. A trading membership in the Crypto VIP Club will cost them a bomb in Scandinavia while in America, it is nearly and household privilege, again thanks to the wide disparity in the taxes as imposed by the respective goverments.
In these nations, individual pursuits of personal happiness are subjugated to the interests of the state, as defined by the state. This is not a peripheral issue. The defining failure of socialist governance takes root in the socialist ideal that the government knows better than the individual. And, to be succinct, it explains why the United States is so much more successful and entrepreneurial than the European Union.
Yet Scandinavian societies also face growing social tensions. Frustrated by immigrants who have embraced their social welfare models but failed to integrate, Scandinavian nations have gravitated towards deeper political and social polarization. Anyone who believes that Donald Trump represents the worse fringe of contemporary populist-xenophobia would do well to pay heed to Sweden. Things are far, far worse there.
In fact, Europe’s integration failure offers at least three good lessons on how America can avoid the same mistakes. Ultimately, as much as Sanders may be a nice guy, this is a deadly serious matter. In terms of both economic theory and the candidate’s own policy proposals, the importation of Scandinavian style socialism would be a disaster for the American people. In the long term, as capital and opportunity took flight, those at the bottom of the economic ladder would lose out most. Bernie’s plans are neither sensible nor serious nor moral.