On neoliberal Scandinavia

Tim Worstall

They are classically liberal economies with lots of redistribution on top. So, if we want to be more like them we’ve got to be a classically liberal economy with lots of redistribution on top. We need the classically liberal economy in order to generate the moolah to be redistributed.

Scott Summers

The neoliberal revolution combines the free markets of classical liberalism with the income transfers of modern liberalism. Although this somewhat oversimplifies a complex reality, it broadly describes the policy changes that have transformed the world economy since 1975. Markets in almost every country are much freer than in 1980; the government owns a smaller share of industry; and the top MTRs on personal and corporate income are sharply lower. The United States, starting from a less-socialist position, has been affected less than some other countries. But even in the United States there have been neoliberal reforms in four major areas: deregulation of prices and market access, sharply lower MTRs on high-income people, freer trade, and welfare reform. Many other countries saw even greater neoliberal policy reforms, as once-numerous state-owned enterprises were mostly privatized.

There is an unfortunate tendency to associate the term “neoliberal” with right-wing political views. In fact, the quite liberal social democracies of northern Europe have been among the most aggressive neoliberal reformers. Indeed, according to the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, Denmark is the freest economy in the world in the average of the eight categories unrelated to size of government. The Nordic countries have begun to privatize many activities that government still performs in the United States. These include passenger rail, airports, air-traffic control, highways, postal services, fire departments, water systems, and public schools, among many others. These countries do have much larger and more comprehensive income-transfer programs than the United States has, but are not otherwise particularly socialist.

So, we’re on the Road To Sweden then?