My One Foray into Politics…

…still looks like my usual observation of culture. I’ve been very curious as to what it’s like to live in Bernie Sanders’ lauded Scandinavia dream. And while I’m tempted to write my observations for each country and what I have read about them, from personal accounts of defectors to those who love their countries dearly, I’d like to rather cut to the chase.

The United States already has a system like the the lauded Scandinavian countries. We (as is in the US along with these countries) all have social safety nets propped up by the bulwark of capitalism. Those Bernie supporters who hate capitalism won’t appreciate this, but it’s true. However, obviously, the Nordic countries have gone a lot farther down the road of erecting safety nets; by comparison, US citizens end up as the riskier sort of circus performers for many aspects of their lives.

That’s terrible, isn’t it? That depends on who you talk to. The problem with comparing us to them is that we are a giant country that could be broken up into several smaller countries, and we are made up of just about every culture in the world. By comparison, Nordic countries are mostly still mono cultures, despite the recent influx of immigration. Mono cultures tend to have shared values. One value of these cold northern countries that makes their system work is conformity. When I was reading about Finland, I was mildly appalled at the descriptions. According to some Finlandians’ own stories, they are a people who look down on entrepreneurs who try to get ahead. Their tax rate is so high for the wealthy that most people end up at the same level. Thus, ambition doesn’t mean much. Why work hard and be inventive when there’s no incentive to do so? Finland is a particularly extreme case, where the people do not even value happiness as a culture, but aspects of this same conformity will be found in all countries with successful (this is subjective; many do not deem their systems successful) social safety nets.

These countries have much smaller populations than we have. It’s a lot easier to bend a small conformist population to to a collective authoritarian will. The United States is, as I already stated, filled with a very diverse population. Going down the road to a complete social welfare system has been rocky at best for us. Our system is surprisingly filled with ironies. E.g., we tend to tax our corporations and the very wealthy more than Nordic countries on average, if you combine state and federal taxes. They hit the slightly above middle incomes harder, while levying very high sales taxes. Americans have fought the system we have; Trump lowering the federal corporate tax rate was welcomed by many and decried by those who saw it as their conformist system declining. Well, to be honest, they won’t admit that we already have the same system Bernie waxes poetic over. All they can see is the corporate graft. But so can everybody else. True American capitalists don’t want to be under a corporatocracy anymore than those calling themselves Bernie-style democratic socialists.

Americans aren’t going to completely conform, except by force. That’s the sad part. And if we do end up buckling, it will be a complete nightmare due to the size of our population, and the distance between the coasts. Already, our bureaucracy botches almost everything. Why do the Bernie-ites think it will get better as it gets bigger? It makes no sense to me. Look at what happened with national ID cards once they came in and imagine that on a grander revolving scale. It’s downright frightening in nature.

But…but…all civilized countries do great with their safety nets. Sure, they do. With small populations, conformity, and a lot of dirty little secrets that aren’t that secret. Dissecting those would take a whole new post. Maybe three posts. But what I mean is little secrets like Sweden’s university students carrying the biggest load is student debt in the world…even though their tuition is free.

If you want some good facts and particulars, you can read this post from the tax foundation. This shows you how each country supports its system (it does not include Finland, which does have a slightly different culture, albeit they are so close to Sweden that Swedish is one of their official languages. That’s why I included it.)

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2 comments

  1. Nordic countries don’t value getting ahead, but they do value working hard. For cultural reasons. This is also true in Germany, where the tradition is that when it’s time to work, you work like you mean it. No surfing the Internet or chatting with co-workers when you’re on the clock. Work time is for work.

    Germany also, by the way, has strong social safety nets, stronger than the USA, paid for by capitalism.

    The biggest problem with applying Saunders vision here is that Americans overall do NOT have a “just because” work culture. With certain exceptions, most Americans work to get ahead of others, to improve their lives, and hard workers in the USA have always been motivated by the desire to improve their lot. It’s been true ever since the country from the beginning gave away formerly-Native-American-land-for-farming (because the original inhabitants died from disease or were pushed off their lands). People went to get that homestead and work it because they wanted better lives for themselves or their children than they’d had for themselves. Not because “work, that’s what we do.”

    I think Americans with Nordic or Germanic safety nets would work a lot less than we do now. Which would be, you know, BAD. (Though some aspects of the safety net we have could be made more efficient and provide more effective help for the same money–because many of our social programs aren’t very well designed.)

    Saunders though is not exactly a realist about what America is and isn’t and of course would be a resounding failure in getting legislation passed should he ever make it into the Oval Office…

    1. Sorry, Travis. I read your comment and appreciated it but forgot to respond. I’m not sure about the working hard bit, or at least I’m not sure they work harder than Americans. I agree they work when they’re supposed to. My grandfather was like that–first generation Swedish. He was perfectly willing to take a vacation, drink beer, and watch TV at the appropriate time, too.

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