I have been to the place of Bernie Sanders’ utopian dreams.
I have seen social democracy in action.
I just completed a vacation in Sweden and Denmark – two countries that achieved an unusual prominence in Democratic primary debates this year.Obviously you can only learn so much about a country while on vacation – in between sightseeing and binge-eating herring.I spent most of my time in the biggest cities which don’t necessarily correspond to the typical Nordic experience.But what I took away from brief glimpses of everyday life in Scandinavia is that they exhibit a culture of respect for the dignity of work which completely drives the policies that facilitate it.
Americans if they think about Scandinavia at all, tend to focus on the high-tax high-service social welfare model.
And when you’re spending $30 on a shish kebab and rice in central Copenhagen because of the value-added taxes you can think that way and naturally conclude that such a setup could never work here because of the stronger foothold of anti-tax forces.
But societies make choices at a more elemental level.
You understand more about Sweden by seeing men with strollers in Stockholm neighborhoods at 2:00 in the afternoon than by reading any white papers on social spending.
Those men have an expectation of work/family balance that allows them to bond with their offspring and be an equal partner in child-rearing.
The policy comes after that expectation takes hold in the public consciousness.
Indeed Sweden has the most generous parental leave policy in the world.
Families receive 480 days off at 80 percent of their wages, -which can be split between mother and father (and 60 days must be specifically allocated to the father).
Sweden and Denmark also offer a ‘universal child benefit’ to families with children – virtually eliminating child poverty.
You see that pro-family policy manifested in the streets as you dodge young couples pushing prams.
High-quality day care is subsidized by the state as well in case both parents want to continue working.
This lets Swedish and Danish families pick their preferred path – one that’s typically forced by circumstance in America.