WHAT WOULD IT be like here in the United States if our society were more like Scandinavia? Well, our children and grandchildren would be able to get free, high-quality education from preschool through college. They, and every other U.S. citizen, could get good, free medical care. They would be guaranteed a 40-hour workweek and at minimum a month’s paid vacation. Should they lose their job, they could count on comprehensive support through the nation’s elaborate social safety net, including job retraining and, if needed, help with relocation. At retirement, they would be guaranteed a pension providing basic security, regardless of previous earnings or contributions they’d paid in.
They probably would be unionized. The board of directors of any business they worked for, by law, would be at least 40 percent women. If the U.S. government had become like Sweden’s, our president’s cabinet would have an equal number of women and men.
George Lakey, author of Viking Economics, does not believe that Scandinavian countries are utopias—he points out mistakes they’ve made and the challenges they still face (for example, fervent debates over immigration policy). But he does make and support the dramatic claim that the four countries mentioned in his book—Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Denmark—“have created the clearest sustained model of democracy, equality, environmental justice, shared prosperity, and individual freedom in history.”