The BLOG: Campaign 2016

Five ways Bernie Sanders and liberals misrepresent Scandinavia

These days, liberal politicians such as Bernie Sanders are promising to make us “like Scandinavia.” However, these politicians hypocritically propose policy contrary to the Scandinavian countries, fail to recognize the fundamental differences between our countries, and fail to realize that Scandinavian policy is not bereft of any issues. Here are a list of some of the most egregious examples of liberal/socialist shortsightedness regarding Scandinavia.

1. Scandinavian countries do not have/need a significant military

It seems the days of Viking conquest have come to an end. Not investing too heavily in their military is a luxury Scandinavia and the rest of Western Europe can afford thanks to the protection they get from us through NATO. Under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, NATO members are bound to “collective defense,” whereby an attack on one NATO ally is to be treated as an attack against all NATO allies. In practice, this means if a country like Russia were to assert military force on a country like Sweden, American armed forces are pledged to come to their aid.

Since the Cold War ended, Sweden has drastically cut back on military expenditures. The thinking was that with the Soviet threat gone and the US as the remaining superpower, Europe was safe from war. However in 2008, only 19 years after the Berlin Wall came down, Russia invaded Georgia, a Eurozone country. Six years after that, Russia launched military operations into Ukraine, a non-NATO, European country.

Throughout European history, such acts of continental aggression would have been grounds for an arms race; however, at this point in history, the United States acts to ensure security and maintain order. In 2014, shortly after the Russian surge into Ukraine, a NATO military drill was conducted simulating a Russian attack on southern Sweden. Simulations like this send a message to both our allies and rivals that the might and capability of the US military will stand behind free Europe.

2. In many respects, Scandinavia is more capitalistic than us

Bernie Sanders supports his socialistic policy proposals on the basis of Scandinavia’s economic policies; however, he fails to realize that in many respects, Scandinavia is more capitalistic than the United States. Take for example free trade. As mentioned in an earlier blog of mine, the United States lags behind all of Scandinavia regarding free trade. If Sanders wanted a Nordic-style economy he would need to advocate for more free trade agreements, yet he does exactly the opposite, espousing protectionist views and deriding such agreements.

According to the Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom, Scandinavian countries surpass us in a number of free market indicators including business, investment, and financial freedom. These indicators measure the freedom and ease of starting a business, investing capital, and lack of interference in the financial sector, respectively. If Sanders understood the Scandinavian model, he would advocate for less strenuous regulations, red tape, and interference in these fields, yet he does the opposite.

3. The tax code

Sanders and other liberals advocate for a more progressive tax system, whereby the rich pay more of “their fair share.” Again, they ignore the fact that Scandinavia has a more regressive, flat tax system than we do. In Denmark and Sweden, tax revenue makes up almost twice as much of the GDP than it does in the United States. In order to raise this much revenue, tax policies need to be broad and encompassing. Sanders and other liberals claim we can raise a similar level of tax revenue just from taxing the richest 1 percent of Americans, yet this is not the case in Scandinavia. According to, the threshold at which top marginal income tax applies is about six times less across northern Europe than it is in the United States.

Additionally, Sanders and other liberals want to raise corporate tax rates, yet the top marginal corporate income tax is significantly less across Scandinavia, and more in line with the rest of the developed world. The average top marginal corporate income tax in Scandinavia is 24.5 percent, more akin to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) average of 24.99 percent. Comparatively, our top marginal corporate tax rate is 39.1 percent. If Sanders and liberals truly believed in the Scandinavian model they would cut corporate taxes, yet they suggest the opposite.

Aside from income and corporate taxes, Bernie and other liberals want a drastic increase in capital gains tax, yet according to, the only Nordic country with a significantly higher rate is Denmark. Bernie and other liberals want to raise more revenue from estate tax, wealth earned through inheritance, yet Denmark is the only Nordic country that even has estate taxes.

4. They have significant problems that we don’t have

Scandinavia is not the bastion of equality and opportunity it is built up to be by Bernie Sanders and college juniors returning from studying abroad. Scandinavian policies have led to a number of social issues that we are fortunate to not have. One of the most serious of these social issues is immigration.

Here in the United States, we take it for granted that people can come from all over the world, maintain their cultural customs, be accepted, and achieve success. In Scandinavia, immigrants from foreign lands overwhelmingly fail to assimilate or lead productive lives. What’s more, the leftist “PC” culture in Scandinavia prohibits government from openly and honestly addressing these concerns. This is perhaps a reason why Denmark recently voted in a conservative government and why conservative parties are becoming increasingly popular across Scandinavia and the rest of Europe.

Nobel Laureate in Economics, Milton Friedman, a fan of open immigration policy, once noted that a country could not simultaneously have open borders while being a welfare state. Looking at Scandinavia, his assertions seem to be validated.

According to Swedish economist Tino Sanandaji, an immigrant himself, nearly half of working age immigrants do not work. He states that in spite of accounting for 16 percent of the Swedish population, immigrants make up 42 percent of the long-term unemployed, 58 percent of welfare payments, and 45 percent of children with low test scores. Additionally, immigrants on average earn less than 40 percent of native-born Swedes, and the majority of people charged with murder, rape and robbery are either first- or second-generation immigrants. In fact, since the 1980s, Sweden has had the largest increase in inequality of any country in the OECD.

If Sanders and other liberals want to continue welcoming immigrants in a positive manner and fighting economic inequality, they should view Sweden as a cautionary tale rather than an inspiration.

5. Our role in the world is different from Scandinavia

Our role in the world is different from Scandinavia, Europe, or anyone else. Earlier I discussed how other countries may “mooch” off of our military. I believe this is a good thing that can help maintain peace and stability in a historically violent world. Indeed, our armed forces are not the only thing the world mooches from.

The United States is still the world leader in innovation, which helps fuel economic growth around the globe. A 2012 study from MIT, which examined why the US does not adopt Scandinavian policies, found through using patents per million citizens, that the US is far more innovative than Scandinavia.

The authors argued that Scandinavia can get a “free ride” off of US innovation, and that if the US adopted Scandinavian policy, our level of innovation would falter. They assert that if Scandinavian countries lost the benefit of US innovation, their economies would decline, and thus the Scandinavian model is discredited as a viable option for our country.

It is clear that Bernie Sanders and other liberals fail to understand our role in the world.

Matthew Goldberg is a recent Political Science graduate from UMass-Amherst and lives in Quincy. He can be reached at [email protected]. Like his Facebook page here.