America Needs to Steal Back the Nordic Model

At this stage in his presidency, President Obama has become something of an amateur comedian. He only has a few months left in the White House, so every state occasion has become an opportunity for him to crack a few jokes, even though most of them end up being pretty corny.

Case in point: Friday night’s Nordic State Dinner, where the president saved his best dad jokes for a riff about how nice life is in countries like Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.

I think it’s safe to say that President Obama won’t be tearing up the New York comedy circuit anytime soon.

But here’s the thing: the president wasn’t making this stuff up. His jokes were corny, but they were also accurate.

Life IS nice in the Nordic countries -- like really, really, really nice.

The five Nordic nations (Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland), rank at or near the top of almost every single OECD human development index, and their citizens consistently poll among top ten happiest in the world.

These countries aren’t perfect, and do have their problems, especially with anti-immigrant nationalists, but they’re about as good as it gets, at least in this world.

So what’s the secret to their success? Why is life SO nice in the Nordic nations?

Democratic socialism, of course!

In countries like Norway, basic services such as healthcare, childcare, and education are all free.

The economy, meanwhile, is heavily regulated to keep corporate greed in check, and unions make up as much as 70 percent of the workforce, guaranteeing livable salaries and sensible working hours for most.

Taxes, naturally, are high, but that’s a payoff the Nordic people are willing to make, Oh yeah, and their businesses are doing just fine, thank you very much.

There’s a myth out that there big government is bad for business, but democratic socialist Denmark, democratic socialist Sweden, democratic socialist Norway, and democratic socialist Sweden are all in the top 10 of Forbes Magazine’s ranking of the best countries to do business in.

Denmark is number 1, Norway is number 3, Sweden is number 5, and Finland is number 6.

The “Nordic Model,” if that’s what you want to call it, is a success no matter what way you look at it, and we’d do well to adopt it here in America. After all, it’s what FDR would have wanted.

You see, the ironic thing about the “Nordic Model” is that it’s really the “Roosevelt Model.” It’s the realization of his plan for a society that guaranteed economic security for all.

That plan was first unveiled in the 1944 State of the Union Address. In that speech, FDR argued that the original Bill of Rights didn’t go far enough to protect people from the problems of the modern world.

A “Second Bill of Rights,” he said, was now necessary, to protect people from economic as well as political tyranny. President Roosevelt then went on outline each and every one of these new rights.

FDR’s dream of a society based on these rights has never been fully realized here in America.

We have Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, but thanks to Republicans, not much more than that.

FDR’s dream has, however, been realized in Scandinavia and the other Nordic countries.

As my friend the great comedian Dick Gregory once said, “If something’s good, people will steal it.”

That’s exactly what the Nordic countries did with FDR’s Second Bill of Rights: They stole it.

And who can blame them? It works.

Well, it’s time for us to follow their lead. It’s time for us to return to our roots and bring the Nordic model back to its rightful home: the United States of America.

It’s time to make FDR’s dream a reality.


Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 8 years 5 weeks ago

Don't think americans want that democratic socialism stuff

Communism is dead and gone but they are confused about all this semantical stuff

Dystopia appears the preference

The lobster likes the boiling water that will kill it

dr818dr's picture
dr818dr 8 years 5 weeks ago


I've been to every one of those countries with the exception of Iceland. I agree they are wonderful places to live and have even thought about moving to one after I retire. That said, I don't feel they are anti-immigrant. They are anti-Muslim immigrant and for good reason. One of the reasons these countries function so well is because religion is an afterthought and although they have great social programs they are not abused. The truth is the truth.

cccccttttt 8 years 5 weeks ago

One key point Tom is missing.

What works at small scale does not necessarily work

at large scale.

Greatly admire democratic socialism model

for an indiviidual state. whose citizens chose it.

But model breaks down if applied to 50 states

many of whom hate the idea.


bobbler's picture
bobbler 8 years 5 weeks ago

America voted against happiness (with Bernie losing the primaries to Hillary). The hundred percent success of all those countries, is the logical result of democratic socialism. The dysfunctional system of Unregulated capitalism, is why the board game of monopoly was invented (to try to teach children how pure profit is like a pyramid scheme, and everybody gets screwed).

Suzann Fulbright's picture
Suzann Fulbright 8 years 5 weeks ago

What a load of crap. Americans are sick and tired of coddling the rich. It is high time the media and our government reflect that fact.

Suzann Fulbright's picture
Suzann Fulbright 8 years 5 weeks ago

Perhaps that would make BIRTH CONTROL a good idea? If expanding the population justifies slavery then what justifies expanding the population? Economic growth policy, corporatization, the notion of unlimited growth are FAILED policies. It does not good to pretend we have democracy when the ECONOMY is not democratized. Sorry, I am just not buying your crap and selling the idea that we have no control over our breeding and therefore size and capacity for a rational and democratic society.

mjolnir's picture
mjolnir 8 years 5 weeks ago

A 'click through' from your link directs us here to get more thurough coverage:

"The picture isn’t as bright for the U.S., which slides four spots to No. 22. It continues a six-year descent since 2009 when the U.S. ranked second overall. The U.S. is the financial capital of the world and its largest economy at $17.4 trillion (China is second at $10.4 trillion), but it scores poorly on monetary freedom and bureaucracy/red tape. More than 150 new major regulations have been added since 2009 at a cost of $70 billion, according to the Heritage Foundation."

During the midst of a World wide economic downturn the Dems, through the Obama "Imperial Presidency", added 'tons' of new burdensome regulations.

Legend 8 years 5 weeks ago

I think that Obama is excellent at dropping sarcastic truthful one liners. People got more info from the Daily Show and Colbert then they ever got from Fox.

grandpa_Dave's picture
grandpa_Dave 8 years 4 weeks ago

Thom - I wish you would not say FREE, as in "basic services such as healthcare, childcare, and education are all free." It isn't true. There are costs (salaries, buildings, infrastructure, ..), and in those countries, the costs are covered by taxes (income, sales, estate, etc.). Hence, the public pays for them, and the benefits redound to the public good. "Public" could includes people and companies. You already know all this, but I fear that the word "free" can ignite resentment in people from the right wing, as another welfare give-away.

Bernie Sanders has the same problem using the word, free. For example, he says that college tuition should be free. I would rather he said that college tuition should be fully funded by public funds. And the justification is straightforward, because the benefits ultimately come to the entire country.

DHBranski's picture
DHBranski 8 years 4 weeks ago

Silly. America soundly rejected the whole democratic socialist notion. We did try a measure of it, from FDR to Reagan. We had implemented policies and programs that reduced poverty and actually took the country to its height of wealth and productivity. It wasn't utopia, still a work in progress, but was much better. Still, we realized that we could not tolerate living with the anxiety that someone, somewhere, was getting a crumb more they deserved.

Democrat Bill Clinton ended actual welfare, and still had time to begin similarly "reforming" Social Security, working to root out those elements of democratic socialism. The Clinton wing in Congress continued to whittle away at Social Security. Democrats kicked off 2015 with agreeing to virtually end food stamps top the elderly poor and the disabled (cut monthly allotments from roughly $115 down to $10), and everyone seems fine with this. For years, liberals have waved the banner for the middle class. The media indicate that the worst-off people can be today, in this land of wealth and opportunity, is minimum wage workers, with incomes roughly double our former welfare aid. Hurray, no more poverty! And if this is true, what would be the logic of changing anything? Stay the course!

DHBranski's picture
DHBranski 8 years 4 weeks ago

Not so incidentally, even though our liberal bourgeoisie avoid this issue, these successful Nordic nations each have a welfare system. Yes, democratic socialism does, indeed, include a welfare system. Americans want more for the middle class, and want assurances that nothing will trickle down.

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