Scandinavia: land of socialist utopia. Right? Well, not lately.
Conservative Erna Solberg just swept the Norwegian elections this week, campaigning on a platform of cutting taxes, privatizing hospitals and other free market policies. This is in addition to conservative Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen coming to power two years ago when the center-right National Coalition Party had its biggest turnout in Finnish history and conservative Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt becoming the first center-right incumbent to win re-election in Sweden since the 1930s after the Socialists suffered their worst defeat since before WWI.
Surprised? Well, the mainstream media sure hasn’t been talking about it much. In fact, all every major news outlet could say about Norway’s swing to the right is that it came “just two years after a far-right, anti-immigrant militant killed 77 people, many of them teenagers.” (Had to get that in there.)
But the Scandinavians can’t seem to get enough of free market solutions as of late. Reinfeldt has been proposing bold-minded reforms since taking over in Sweden — from slashing the corporate tax rate down to 22% to raising the retirement age all the way to 75. As a result, the economy has been growing, unemployment has been declining, and the budget is now balanced.
Katainen has been doing the same in Finland, scaling back Finland’s extremely generous welfare state — cutting financial benefits for students to encourage them to look for work earlier, changing childcare leave policies to encourage mothers to return to work sooner, and making other budget cuts in waste and unnecessary spending.
This phenomenon isn’t limited to Scandinavia, either. After decades of nanny state policies, high debt-to-GDP ratios and unsustainable public sector growth blew up the troubled eurozone economies and brought them at the mercy of their foreign creditors for bailouts, conservatives finally swept power in those countries as well — including Greece’s Antonis Samaras, Spain’s Mariano Rajoy, Portugal’s Pedro Passos Coelho, Ireland’s Enda Kenny, and Cyprus’ Nicos Anastasiades. That’s in addition to other conservative leaders such as Britain’s David Cameron, Canada’s Stephen Harper, and Germany’s Angela Merkel who is poised to win a third term in just two weeks.
And over the weekend, Australia also swung back to the right after voting for Tony Abbott and his anti-tax, pro-business platform. Abbott has proposed everything from steep public sector spending cuts to getting rid of the carbon tax.
Of course, there have been a few exceptions to this trend. Socialist François Hollande ousted conservative French President Nicolas Sarkozy in last year’s election — a decision French voters have immediately regretted with his popularity dropping to a record low of just a 26% approval rating after seeing spikes in unemployment and wealth disappearing due to his lame brain 75% tax idea. A scandal-plagued Silvio Berlusconi cost him his premiership in Italy after three terms in office. And the Socialists took back power in Denmark two years ago after the conservatives held power there for 10 uninterrupted years.
Of course, also, while the rest of the world is slowly waking up to sound economic policies, fiscal responsibility and less government intrusion in the wake of the global recession, the U.S. has been slowly bucking the trend as it drifts more leftward with higher taxes, out-of-control public sector spending levels and aggressive regulations from the SEC to the EPA.
Personally, I believe the recent presidential elections have had to do way more with the cult of personality than with any objective criteria of results or math. Midterm elections have been another matter altogether.
But maybe the majority of Americans will soon realize what the rest of the world has already figured out: The nanny state just doesn’t work. It's too expensive and if you’re too late to reverse it, it will bankrupt you. Promoting economic freedom and personal responsibility does more to grow the middle class and alleviate those in poverty than keeping a permanent underclass dependent on government sustenance indefinitely.