There are several universal laws. The sun rises in the East and sets in the West, a falling object will accelerate at approximately 9.81 meters per second and far-left liberals love Bernie Sanders.
I spent two years of my life on the far-left end of the political spectrum. Being a self-proclaimed activist, I devoted hours of my day researching the heinousness of capitalism and how badly American society needed to change. I firmly advocated for unyielding laws which would aid in the climate crisis, increasing the minimum wage, while doing what I could to advocate for the voices of marginalized communities. I remember my first time seeing a Bernie campaign on television and being swept away by how eloquently he spoke. Being eighteen years old with zero political knowledge or experience, I suddenly felt like the mechanics of this country were no longer a heap of nonsense. Admittedly, one of Sander’s greatest strengths is presenting his arguments articulately enough for them to make sense to everyone, regardless of their political awareness. Through Bernie’s movement, I felt as if I finally got the answer of how our country could collectively improve, which was presented through his agenda of “democratic socialism.” Bernie flaunted this revolutionary idea and emphasized that contrary to what American society has been taught about socialism, there are many cases in which socialism has “worked” in developed countries. He underlined that Scandinavia as his biggest example while arguing that China and Venezuela are not actually “socialist”, rather dictatorships and tyrannies. He gave examples of Scandinavia’s free healthcare and education, strict environmental laws and high wages, emphasizing that if America adopts similar principles, we too can see the same results in our country.
Except there’s one small problem. Scandinavia is not socialist.
For those trying to find an example of “functional socialism,” Scandinavian economies are the poster child. After all, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark all share the common denominator of having generous governments who have the best interests of their people at heart, traits one would attribute with the fundamentals of socialism. However, the truth stands clear. Scandinavia is not socialist. One of the fundamentals of a socialist economy is that production and distribution decisions are made by the government, not private businesses. As a result, individuals living in socialist countries heavily depend on the state for food, employment, healthcare and other means for survival.
Scandinavia, however, runs on free-market capitalism, just like the United States. The main difference between the two countries is in their stable state of welfare and social security benefits. Contrary to what our progressive candidates are pushing, everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, pays high taxes in Scandinavia. In Denmark, for example, people’s average income tax can go up to 52 percent, much higher than America’s 14.9 percent. However, these high levels of taxation create ample funding for public services such as hospitals, schools and public transportation. This additionally creates a large safety net and public pension system, which aids in Scandinavia’s low levels of unemployment and high life satisfaction. One of the cores of Scandinavian economics is the practice of bidirectional trust between the people and the government. The government trusts the people’s individual judgement, and the people trust the government to do what’s right on a national level. This explains why minimum wage does not exist in Scandinavia, since corporations are given the authority to create their own wages based on the worth of their jobs. Employers creating their own wages allow for higher hourly pay in Scandinavia, which tend to be significantly higher than countries who have set federal minimum wages. Scandinavians, however, hold their corporations accountable, which reflect in their high percentages of unions: Norway is currently the highest at 51 percent in comparison to the United State’s 11 percent. Scandinavia’s economic approach creates lots of space for balance as everyone paying high taxes benefits from their investment in the form of good wages, better social services and overall life satisfaction.
All facts considered, Bernie Sander’s campaign tells a different story. Despite emphasizing its effectiveness in Scandinavia, Bernie’s proposed plan of taxing only the wealthy and setting a fifteen-dollar minimum wage is not a reality in these countries. This misleading information is what fed the public a false narrative that Scandinavia is socialist. Unfortunately, this mistake is not exclusive to Bernie as many politicians only give the rhetoric that benefits their agendas. But imagine the national outrage if governments of foreign countries were attempting to promote feudalism while using the United States and Canada as examples. This scenario is no different.
There is a lesson to be learned from this: it is incredibly easy to be misled by well-respected authority figures. After all, there is a sense of trust and respect for those in high positions, especially if they share similar values to us. All they need to do is tell a story that sounds convincing. Then the first domino piece will collapse, and before anyone knows it, millions of young people like myself will fall for the narrative without thinking twice. A harsh reality of life is not all that glitters is gold. Always listen to the other side of the story– no matter how crazy or irrational it may be. Doing this will allow you to draw your own conclusions as you may learn more than you anticipated.
In a hypothetical sense, we could rely on our government officials to fix all of the problems that they created. After all, the United States government is run by the same people who legalized fracking, set the unlivable federal minimum wage at what it is, and made Jim Crow laws socially acceptable. We could hope that maybe someday our country will be run by morally virtuous people whose means don’t justify the ends. Or, we could take it on ourselves to be good and altruistic human beings and make sure to treat everyone and everything with the same respect and kindness we would expect others to treat us with. One person can’t change everything, but the 33 million of us sharing this country?
I leave such judgments to you.