Wednesday, October 14, 2015

We Get It, You Like The Nordic Social Model

One of the things that came up during the Democratic debate on Tuesday was an exchange over the Nordic social model after Bernie Sanders praised Denmark and Hillary announced that “We are not Denmark."

This provoke yet another round of the “why-I-love-the-Nordic-social-model” from a chorus from a number of left-wing/progressive types.  See Matt Bruenig for a classic example, he has some charts (some of which are pretty dubious) for the definitive case on why Denmark is better than America

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to be emulated about the high taxes/high benefits model that a handful of Scandinavian countries embrace, but it’s pretty annoying to have to listen to these sorts of takes over and over again without any reference to why American (or most of the EU) doesn’t have these model and won’t anytime soon.

The US has a complex federal system, which diffuses power through different levels. This is something Denmark doesn’t have. The US has a very different political spectrum than Denmark as well. That is to say the main struggle in domestic politics is over whether we should dismantle our smaller welfare state (that’s what Republicans want to do) or keep it (like what Hillary wants to do). Moreover larger welfare states correlate pretty strongly with more ethnically and racially homogenous developed societies, something the United States has never been. And yes the US’s socialist movement, which Bruenig is a member, is both incredibly small and hopelessly bad at politics.

In other words Hillary is right “we aren’t Denmark.” And Ireland, Italy, and Bulgaria have different models too.

I guess there should be some room for bringing in ideas with little relevance to actual American politics, but writing yet another article about why the Nordic social model is so great while ignoring the very real reasons why we don’t have it makes nonsense of the actual reasons for what’s actually going on. In other words Bill Clinton signed welfare reform (after vetoing two Republican bills first) because it was supper popular and was passed with big majorities in Congress. Not because of “neoliberalism.”

We get it, you love the Nordic social model. Now how about you move on to what could in actuality changed about American social policy to make the country better. Or run away and hide in academia and talk about how great the Nordic model is in various seminars. Just don't pretend that pining away for some Nordic prince to come and rescue you is a substitute for real political, or policy, analysis. Especially when it's what you do over, over, and over again.

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