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What Norwegian Socialism Looks Like

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So the big Norway story went live late last week and the response has been pretty overwhelming. There's a lot of great stuff in the comments—and I'll do a few more Norway posts in the coming weeks, but I wanted to address an objection that has appeared in a number of comments and also in this blog post by Kauffman's Tim Kane. Namely, Norway isn't really a good example of socialism:

Now let's step back and question the premise.  Is Norway socialist?  It may be relatively high tax, but it is more capitalist than the U.S. in many respects.  Indeed, most northern European nations are closet free market hubs.  It's the southern countries that are socialist on the freedom index (the Italys, Greeces, Spains, Portugals ... and yes, Frances).

Yes, the brand of socialism in Norway is very different from that in France and Spain, but come on, let's not get carried away here. Norway has universal, socialized health care, a universal socialized pension system, and universal socialized education. There are, as commenters have pointed out, virtually no private schools or private hospitals in the entire country.

If Obama proposed any one of these during his State of the Union Address, more than half of our country would be screaming the S-word and Rick Perry would be preparing articles of secession. There would be talk of how these reforms were going to destroy capitalism as we know it

Oh wait. All that stuff actually happened—in protest of a much, much weaker health care plan than the one in place in Norway.

I bring this up because I think that some people have read this story as a defense of socialism. It is not. The point I was trying to make is not that socialism is a good idea, just that certain policies, particularly progressive taxation—and Norway does have very high taxes—are often derided as being socialistic but may not be inherently bad for entrepreneurship. I'm not saying we should turn our country into France or Greece or even Norway, just that we need not be so religious about our economic policy.

Meanwhile, I'd like to thank DeadMule, a Norwegian who has been on fire in the comments, offering his own two cents (he disagrees with my central argument) while clearing up repeated misconceptions about Norwegian economic policy, most of which were addressed in the article but which angry commentators have been ignoring. Thank you, DeadMule for your civility and for backing me up on the whole fish smell issue.

Last updated: Jan 24, 2011




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