The American Dream Could Use Some European Inspiration

Copenhagen Denmark
Cyclists in Copenhagen, Denmark (iStock/Leo Patrizi)

One can tell two very different stories about the American economy.

In one, growth is robust, unemployment is at its lowest in half a century and the stock market is booming. This is the story President Donald Trump likes to tell.

In the other, two in five Americans would struggle (PDF) to come up with $400 in an emergency. One in three households are classified as “financially fragile“. Annie Lowrey writes in The Atlantic that American families are being “bled dry by landlords, hospital administrators, university bursars and child-care centers.” This is the story Bernie Sanders and the Democrats tell: for millions of Americans on seemingly decent middle incomes, life has become too hard.

Sanders’ solution is to bring “democratic socialism” to America. He cites European countries like Denmark and Sweden as inspiration. They’re not bad places to imitate — but they have actually moved away from socialism and toward a mix of free markets and the welfare state. It is why they rank among the freest and most competitive (PDF) economies in the world.

Americans can learn from the Scandinavian experience, if they get the balance right. Read more “The American Dream Could Use Some European Inspiration”

Swedish Center-Right Adjusts to Rise of Far Right

Swedish Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson attends a meeting of European conservative party leaders in Brussels, December 13, 2018
Swedish Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson attends a meeting of European conservative party leaders in Brussels, December 13, 2018 (EPP)

Sweden’s center-right Moderates have broken ranks with other mainstream parties by holding talks with the far-right Sweden Democrats.

The Moderates, who most recently governed Sweden from 2006 to 2014, had until now backed a cordon sanitaire around the Sweden Democrats, who are still seen as beyond by pale by centrists and leftists.

But years of political isolation haven’t made the Sweden Democrats less popular. On the contrary. They have risen from 13 percent support in last year’s election to 25 percent in opinion polls, tying with the ruling Social Democrats and ahead of the Moderates, who are at 17-19 percent. Read more “Swedish Center-Right Adjusts to Rise of Far Right”

What Can Danes Teach Europe’s Social Democrats?

Danish Social Democratic Party leader Mette Frederiksen gives a speech in Allinge-Sandvig on the island of Bornholm, June 16, 2017
Danish Social Democratic Party leader Mette Frederiksen gives a speech in Allinge-Sandvig on the island of Bornholm, June 16, 2017 (News Øresund/Sofie Paisley)

The victory of Denmark’s Social Democrats in the election on Wednesday would some seem to vindicate leader Mette Frederiksen’s lurch to the right. She hardened her party’s policy on immigration and supported such far-right proposals as a ban on prayer rooms in schools and universities.

A closer look at the campaign she ran, as well as the election result, reveals a more nuanced picture. Read more “What Can Danes Teach Europe’s Social Democrats?”

Why Sweden Still Doesn’t Have a Government

Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven leaves an EU summit in Tallinn, Estonia, September 29, 2017
Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven leaves an EU summit in Tallinn, Estonia, September 29, 2017 (EU2017EE/Raul Mee)

Two months after parliamentary elections, Sweden is still without a government. Neither the traditional left-wing bloc, led by outgoing prime minister Stefan Löfven’s Social Democrats, nor the center-right, led by Ulf Kristersson’s Moderate Party, has an outright majority, forcing the parties to explore other options.

I asked our man in Sweden, Johan Wahlström, to enlighten us on the situation. Read more “Why Sweden Still Doesn’t Have a Government”

Ignoring Nativists Doesn’t Work in Sweden Either

Stefan Löfven and Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the prime ministers of Sweden and Denmark, attend a press event in Helsinki, Finland, November 1, 2017
Stefan Löfven and Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the prime ministers of Sweden and Denmark, attend a press event in Helsinki, Finland, November 1, 2017 (Finnish Government/Laura Kotila)

The rise of the far-right Sweden Democrats proves that isolating nativists doesn’t work.

Support for the Sweden Democrats has hovered north of 20 percent since 2015, up from the 13 percent they got in the election a year earlier. They could place second in the election this year, behind the ruling Social Democrats but ahead of the center-right Moderate Party.

Sweden’s mainstream parties have deliberately ignored the far right and most of them share pro-immigration views, making the Sweden Democrats the only recourse for voters who feel their country — the most welcoming to refugees in Europe — has done its part.

With 20 percent of the vote, the Sweden Democrats could block a traditional left- or right-wing government. They already forced Prime Minister Stefan Löfven into an awkward pact with the center-right in the outgoing parliament, reinforcing the impression that the entire political establishment has ganged up on the populists. Read more “Ignoring Nativists Doesn’t Work in Sweden Either”

Social Democrats in Iberia and Scandinavia Try Opposite Strategies

Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal greets his Spanish counterpart, Pedro Sánchez, in Lisbon, July 2
Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal greets his Spanish counterpart, Pedro Sánchez, in Lisbon, July 2 (Governo da República Portuguesa/Clara Azevedo)

What is the future of European social democracy? Your answer to that question may depend on where you live.

If you’re in the Mediterranean, it’s cooperation with the far left. Social democrats in Portugal and Spain have come to power under deals with far-left parties. In both cases, unwieldy coalitions were greeted with skepticism, but now Prime Ministers António Costa and Pedro Sánchez are riding high in the polls.

In Greece, Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza party has even supplanted the center-left altogether.

In Scandinavia, by contrast, social democrats are trying to win back working-class voters by taking a harder line on borders, crime and defense.

Both strategies appear to be working. Read more “Social Democrats in Iberia and Scandinavia Try Opposite Strategies”

Why Should Norwegians Emigrate to the United States?

View of the village of Reine, Norway
View of the village of Reine, Norway (Sandra Mode)

American president Donald Trump reportedly disparaged immigrants from Africa, El Salvador and Haiti on Thursday, asking his advisors, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

Trump then suggested that the United States should bring more people from countries like Norway, whose prime minister he had met a day earlier.

Much of the outrage has focused on Trump’s racism. It’s clear he would rather have more white than brown people in his country.

But here’s another question: What possible reason do Norwegians have to emigrate to the United States? Read more “Why Should Norwegians Emigrate to the United States?”

Denmark’s Left Must Find Balance Between Nativists and Progressives

Danish parliament Copenhagen
View of the Christiansborg Palace, seat of the Danish parliament, in Copenhagen (Shutterstock)

Denmark’s Social Democrats are eying cooperation with the nationalist People’s Party which they have shunned for years.

Under Mette Frederiksen, who took over the party leadership after its 2015 election defeat, the center-left has supported such far-right policies as a ban on prayer rooms in schools and universities.

The two parties, who are both in opposition to a liberal minority government, have also made common cause against raising the pension age.

Frederiksen argues she is defending the Danish welfare state from the challenges of globalization.

Her strategy is not too dissimilar from her Swedish counterpart’s. Stefan Löfven, the ruling Social Democratic Party leader in Stockholm, has taken a hard line on border control, crime and defense in a bid to stem working-class defections to the far right. Read more “Denmark’s Left Must Find Balance Between Nativists and Progressives”

Finland’s Brain Drain: When Talent Leaves a Small Country

Helsinki Finland
Sundown in Helsinki, Finland, August 9, 2008 (WomEOS)

Young Finnish professionals are attracted to major European capitals. They move to Stockholm, Berlin and Amsterdam, as well as farther away. The sun shines in Dubai; the world’s top organizations and institutes are in New York and Washington. The occupations of these migrants are manifold: bankers, graphic designers, computer engineers, photographers and researchers, to name only a few.

They leave Finland because of poor employment opportunities and future prospects. This has been happening for a long time. Finns were moving to North America 100 years ago and to Sweden after World War II — in both cases because growing economies needed factory workers.

The difference with today’s migrants is they are better educated (PDF) and leaving a welfare state that ranks as one of the best places to live in the world according to most indices. The likelihood of them returning has nevertheless fallen sharply. Why? Read more “Finland’s Brain Drain: When Talent Leaves a Small Country”

Sweden’s Social Democrats Take Risk with Hardline Policies

French president François Hollande and Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven attend a meeting with other European socialist leaders in Brussels, June 28, 2016
French president François Hollande and Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven attend a meeting with other European socialist leaders in Brussels, June 28, 2016 (PES)

Sweden’s Stefan Löfven is taking the fight to the far right. Politico reports that the prime minister and Social Democratic Party leader is implementing a hard line on border control, crime and defense.

With his tough stance, Löfven hopes to avoid the fate of sister parties elsewhere in Europe who have failed to convince voters that they are still relevant now that the welfare states they helped build are well-established.

Polls show the Swedish left down a few points. The nationalist Sweden Democrats have moved up.

Löfven’s party would still get nearly 30 percent support on its own and 40 percent in combination with its left-wing allies; a far cry from the dismal performance of center-left parties in France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

But like social democrats elsewhere, Sweden’s are losing their traditional, working-class supporters to the far right. Read more “Sweden’s Social Democrats Take Risk with Hardline Policies”