Nordic Socialism

Chart from the recently released White House report Opportunity Costs of Socialism:


The Nordics in their own countries (except Norwegians) are about 15% poorer than the American average. The American Nordics are 25% richer than the American average, as are oil-rich Norwegians.

The Nordics in the US are almost certainly a more elite group than the ones who remained at home – you needed a minimal level of income to afford the trans-Atlantic passage, and there would have been further selection effects for adventurousness and entrepreneurialism. The US Nordics would also benefit from the economies of scale enabled by residence in a 320 million continental empire with extreme labor mobility. Still, I don’t think that’s sufficient to explain such a huge difference.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Especially given that they probably live in much lower cost areas in the US than their average in the Nordic countries.

  2. RadicalCenter says

    The lower taxes in the USA, unfortunately, are largely attributable to the fed and State govs borrowing trillions instead of taxing enough to pay for the welfare / warfare / surveillance State. So in the end, we probably won’t get off much easier than the Nordic nations, fiscally or otherwise.

    Here in California, there are ballot initiatives every year or two that ask the voters to approve billions more in borrowing (issuing bonds), when we could and should either not institute the program or just pay enough tax to cover it. The way they do it here, we will end up paying even higher taxes because of the interest on the bonds.

    Bonds are a way of pretending that we don’t have to really and fully pay for what we want or need.

  3. John Burns, Gettysburg Partisan says

    The Nordics who went to the Upper Midwest were indeed outstanding. They are mostly in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, with some in bordering states like Michigan and Nebraska.

    They further benefitted from the ethno types of their neighbors. The Midwest was originally heavily settled by “Yankees” from New England. Then came Germans; both first-wave (mostly southern German lands) Germans who came to Pennsylvania in the 1700s, then the far larger second wave of German immigrants from all over the Deutsch lands. There were also some Irish Catholics and Ulster Scotch-Irish. I’m not a huge fan of the Irish Catholics in American history (I’m a trad Catholic who regrets the tendency of Irish Catholics to become Democrats and worship the Americanist heresy), but they knew how to work hard. The latter, the Ulster Scots, tend to show up everywhere in the United States; they were rarer in Minnesota and Wisconsin, but in good numbers in the lower Midwest, including Iowa. And they are fairly famous for their productivity. Surrounded and outnumbered by Anglos, Germans, and Nordics, they were probably even better.

    The Dutch also had a presence in Iowa. Iowa, by the way, contributed more troops to the Union Army than any other state, per capita (The Confederate per capita leader was – who else? – the then thinly populated state of Texas). And they still give their fair share of martial men to the empire.

    American Nordics also may be less liberal than many think. Seems so anyway. For example: most of rural Minnesota, including the part called “Scandinavia,” went heavily for Trump, and actually appears to be more church-going than some parts of the South. There is a kind of a Scandinavian Bible Belt in the Upper Midwest. If not for the refugees and nut-jobs in Hennepin County (MPLS-StPaul), Minnesota would have Trumped out. Any liberalism among American Nordics may be more of a case of the classic urban-rural divide. I would need to study this more, though, to make bigger conclusions. I welcome replies from residents of American Scandinavia.

    Random PS. In case anyone wondered, the Finns did not go to the Michigan Upper Peninsula because it resembled Finland. They went because they were recruited by American industrial companies. Similar to how southern Italians ended up on railroad projects and in coal camps throughout the Appalachians.

  4. Hyperborean says

    I don’t know much about it, but didn’t Scandinavian-settled regions in the USA have a lot of social democratic and agrarian populist agitation and eventually implement social democratic systems in the US states where Scandinavians had a heavy presence?

  5. Thorfinnsson says

    Maybe. Japan and South Korea have government shares of GDP not too different from America, but are in fact poorer than the Nordic countries.

    On the other hand Switzerland is richer than the USA per capita and has a “small” federal government.

  6. Thorfinnsson says

    Dumb comment.

    The federal budget deficit last year was 4.6% of gross domestic product. The Nordic countries have government sectors more than 20% larger as a share of GDP than America.

    There’s nothing mysterious about bonds. They’re debt instruments with a defined coupon. No different than a mortgage, and just about every country including the Nordics issue bonds.

  7. Thorfinnsson says


    Minnesota has a 9% top state income tax rate.

    North Dakota has a state public bank.

    Wisconsin is practically a 19th century German social democracy, though Walker is changing that.

    Vox Day has made the argument, correctly I think, that non-Anglo whites never actually assimilated.

  8. …selection effects for adventurousness

    How would that work? Presumably the value of ‘adventurousness‘ is in the risk taking. Each tribal group needed some risk takers; they would come to a river or a ravine, the risk takers in residence would boldly test the waters or make a leap into the unknown. Sometimes it worked, often it didn’t, either a breakthrough, or one less show-off mouth to feed. But having people willing to take adventurous risks was beneficial for any tribe.

    The groups without enough risk takers ended up hiding away, marrying cousins, and eventually went extinct (other than the British royalty). But the benefit of risk-taking accrues to the group, and only rarely to the individual. So the adventurous Swedes who headed across the icy waters were a great addition to America, but why would they individually do better?

    A better explanation for the higher living standards of American Nordics would be the wealth of America: the basic ratio of people to resources. More stuff around, better off one is – not that complicated. I also suspect that many Swedes got on the creaky boats out of desperation, the less successful, less connected, and with fewer assets back home.

    As the people-resources ratios changes, the living standards will adjust. In both cases – America and Sweden – the demographic changes would suggest a coming decline. All the adventure seeking, risk taking, and ‘entrepreneurship‘ (whatever that is) cannot do a damn thing about it.

  9. Thorfinnsson says

    Socialism really ought to be in quote marks here. The Nordic countries, especially if you ignore Norway (the government owns two-thirds of Statoil and one-third of Norsk Hydro), are some of the most capitalistic states in the world.

    Sweden in particular is home to numerous vast multinational corporations like Volvo, Skanska, ABB, H & M, Ericsson, Scania, Atlas Copco, SSAB, SKF, Electrolux, SCA, AstraZeneca, Swedish Match, AGA, Assa Abloy, Boliden, Securitas, SEB, Nordea, Bofors, Saab, Husqvarna, Kinnevik, LKAB, Sandvik, etc.

    Denmark isn’t as well represented but still has Maersk (largest shipping company in the world), Danfoss, Novo Nordisk, Carlsberg, and Vestas.

    Finland has Nokia (much reduced, but once a global colossus), Stora Enso, Fiskars, and Nokian Tyre.

    These are some of the most dynamic capitalist economies in the world, and exceed the rest of Europe other than Switzerland.

    They just happen to tax a large fraction of GDP (but not that much more than, say, France) and redistribute it.

  10. In case you’re looking to settle down with a a beautiful Minnesota girt of Swedish heritage, go to Scandia MN to the ice cream shop. A clan of Swedish descent runs the small town and they are quite entrepreneurial and all beautifully blonde. Located in a bountiful and green part of of Minnesota in the St. Croix Valley, close to Minneapolis and the ever popular American Swedish Institute. You could do a lot worse (the 9% state income tax is a drag, though!). Check out their website and photos of the stately looking Swedish mansion (cocktails at the mansion): Very classy.

  11. the bell curve in the USA is more binomial than Scandinavia?

    so 1) maybe usa is richer at each level and 2) scandis cluster nearer the top level cos the usa is more binomial?

  12. The Nordics in the US are almost certainly a more elite group than the ones who remained at home – you needed a minimal level of income to afford the trans-Atlantic passage

    But the mighty warrior of Odin, Varg, told me that Scandinavian emigrants to the US were all criminal degenerates……..
    How could such a wise and knowledgeable man be wrong?

  13. Chet Bradley says

    I don’t think RadicalCenter’s comment had anything to do with mysteriousness of bonds.

    His point was that, if you decide to finance something with bonds, you are pushing the financial obligation to your children and grandchildren, whereas if you finance the same thing with taxes, you are taking on that financial obligation yourself. It is irresponsible to burden future generations with payments for things we wanted but didn’t want to sacrifice to afford. In that light, RC’s comment stands.

  14. You met him in person?

    Many Norwegians used to be poor, complained about rocky soil back home. Cascadia, where some of them moved, is heaven on earth by comparison, with similar landscapes.

  15. Thorfinnsson says

    Our children and grandchildren will live in a much larger economy, making the burden lesser for them than it is for us.

    And in any case the federal government does not amortize its debt–it simply rolls it over.

    RadicalCenter’s comment is typical of dweebs unable to break free from hard money crankery.

  16. Btw, both Leif Eriksson’s dad and grandpa were technically criminals. I’m sure Varg knows this (he’s the one to talk, lol).

  17. “Bond” is public sector speak for “credit card.”

  18. Thorfinnsson says

    Interest rates are typically far lower than credit cards, and unlike credit cards there is usually a fixed amortization period (some exceptions, e.g. consols).

  19. Do the Figure 7 plot with median income per capita and the story will be slightly different.

  20. Okay. But how about quality of life, and how does their cost of living compare? Without knowing those things, simple income per capita is not all that meaningful.

    Unless people actually believe that all societies and places will monetize various goods and experiences to exactly the same extent.

    Even housing/rental costs alone can vary enormously from place to place, and could more than make up the difference seen here. Or medical costs, which are much cheaper in Scandinavia than in the US for the same quality of care.

  21. Buster Keaton’s Stunt Double says

    Kudos for referencing the “Americanist heresy.”

  22. Costs for most things, are much lower in America (relative to Scandinavia).

  23. Anatoly,

    Are you recanting some of your comments in your post of 11 April 2015? On that occasion you downplayed the importance of economic freedom. That post also contained data on hours worked. For example, Americans on average work more than 26 percent more hours than Danish nationals.