The following paragraphs are excerpts of an excellent article written by Anu Partanen in the March 16, 2016 issue of The Atlantic which explains the realities behind “Nordic-style social programs” and how so many Americans, including current political big-wigs, are getting it wrong. Don’t let the politicos sell you their claptrap!
(All emphases is mine.)
“Bernie Sanders is hanging on, still pushing his vision of a Nordic-like socialist utopia for America, and his supporters love him for it. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, is chalking up victories by sounding more sensible. “We are not Denmark,” she said in the first Democratic debate, pointing instead to America’s strengths as a land of freedom for entrepreneurs and businesses. Commentators repeat endlessly the mantra that Sanders’s Nordic-style policies might sound nice, but they’d never work in the U.S. The upshot is that Sanders, and his supporters, are being treated a bit like children—good-hearted, but hopelessly naive. That’s probably how Nordic people seem to many Americans, too.
BUT THIS VISION OF HOMOGENOUS, ALTRUISTIC NORDIC LANDS IS MOSTLY A FANTASY. The choices Nordic countries have made have little to do with altruism or kinship. Rather, Nordic people have made their decisions out of self-interest. Nordic nations offer their citizens—all of their citizens, but especially the middle class—high-quality services that save people a lot of money, time, and trouble. This is what Americans fail to understand: My taxes in Finland were used to pay for top-notch services for me.
Here are some of the things I personally got in return for my taxes:
- nearly a full year of paid parental leave for each child (plus a smaller monthly payment for an additional two years, were I or the father of my child to choose to stay at home with our child longer)
- affordable high-quality day care for my kids, one of the world’s best public K-12 education systems
- free college
- free graduate school
- nearly free world-class health care delivered through a pretty decent universal network
- a full year of partially paid disability leave
As far as I was concerned, it was a great deal. And it was equally beneficial for others. From a Nordic perspective, nothing Bernie Sanders is proposing is the least bit crazy—pretty much all Nordic countries have had policies like these in place for years.
….THE TRUTH IS THAT FREE-MARKET CAPITALISM AND UNIVERSAL SOCIAL POLICIES GO WELL TOGETHER—this isn’t about big government, it’s about smart government. I suspect that despite Hillary Clinton’s efforts to distance herself from Sanders, she probably knows this. After all, Clinton is also endorsing policies that sound an awful lot like what the Nordics have done: paid family leave, better public schools, and affordable day care, health care and college for all.
…supporters of not only Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, but also of Donald Trump, are worried about exactly the kinds of problems that universal social policies can help solve: worsening income inequality, shrinking opportunity, the decline of the middle class, and the survival of the ordinary family in the face of globalization. What America needs right now, desperately, isn’t to keep fighting the socialist bogeymen of the past, but to see the future—at least one presidential candidate should show them that.”