Scandinavian Socialism Could Never Work In the US

Garrett Summers | United States

Socialists often point towards the Scandinavian countries for evidence that a socialist system is a way to prosperity for the US. (Never mind that the Prime Minister of Denmark pushed back on this sentiment during Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the White House) There are two chief differences between these countries and the US that socialists refuse to admit. The population size and the lack of defense spending in these countries.

The largest Scandinavian country is Sweden with less than 10 million inhabitants (or about 3% of the US population). This is less than the population of Los Angeles County. Scandinavian countries’ population size alone makes it much easier to distribute government provided services to each individual citizen, as well as ensure that every citizen is paying. This also allows administrative costs to be relatively low since fewer bureaucrats are needed to maintain this entitlement network.


Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we learned what it would be like for the US to implement a socialized healthcare program. Besides the fact that Americans lost the freedom to decide whether or not to buy health insurance, premiums doubled between 2013 and 2017, healthcare costs continue to increase, and entitlement spending continues. It would be simply unfeasible for the US  to attempt to provide healthcare to every single citizen through a single-payer system. Currently, the cost of implementing a single-payer healthcare system is estimated to be $1-2.5 trillion per year, on top of the $1 trillion deficit we run every year.

The US healthcare system is much less efficient than European healthcare due to geographic limitations and its population size is simply too large to efficiently manage. In comparison, Europe and Scandinavia have much fewer people to provide services to and in a much more confined area than the US. Taxing and regulating such a large area and population in the same manner as a socialist system would be nearly impossible.

Military and Defense Spending

Another very important issue that would plague the world if socialism were to come to the United States would be the regression of defense spending. Now, I am of the opinion that the US defense budget is too high, we pay too much in foreign entanglement but that is a discussion for another time. The fact is that not a single Scandinavian country pays more than 2% of its GDP in defense spending ( Whereas the US pays over 3% of a much higher overall GDP. The Scandinavian countries have nuzzled up to the US, knowing if needed, the US would act as an ally for Europe again, as it did in World War 2.

If the US were to decrease military spending and no longer be the biggest force in the world’s conflicts, the Scandinavian countries, some of whom share a border with a Russia that seems to be growing more aggressive (Crimea), may be forced to abandon some social programs in order to fund a stronger military. Simply, it would ne impossible for the US to continue to spend the amount of money to protect the world, giving socialized entitlements, and drive the world’s economy. There are just not enough dollars in the country. This sentiment is also true for the Scandinavian countries, they simply could not sustain their entitlement systems while defending themselves and not dampening their own economy.

Two Different Countries, Two Different Systems

Socialism, or “Social Democracies”, work great in Scandinavia, unfortunately, this does not mean the success will automatically translate to the US. There are many factors driving the success of the Scandinavian style of government (more than mentioned here). They seem to have found the best mix of market and entitlement spending for their situation. Like all other countries, the US has a different situation from Scandinavia and that is why we cannot copy and paste their system into ours. We still have a way to go, but we will find the system that fits us if we stay diligent and continue to work for what we believe in.\

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