Debunking Election Myths: 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Fear ‘European Socialism’

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Before the 2014 midterm elections start to heat up, I want to challenge a popular campaign phrase we are bound to hear from Republican candidates: “we are headed for European socialism.” It was especially, popular with candidates like Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich during the 2012 presidential election as an attack against President Obama. Republicans have offered no case as to why this is such a dubious fate; rather they are expecting it to be self-evident that we shouldn’t want to be like our allies in Europe. I did some research on how these countries compare to the United States. It became quite apparent that contrary to what conservatives claim, becoming more like the most ‘socialist’ nations (the Nordic countries – which ascribe to what the Nordic Socialist Model) in Europe would in fact be a great thing.

1. Citizens of European Nations Have More Freedom

Every year the Legatum Institute produces a Prosperity Index, which attempts to rank nations productivity by including more factors than just GDP growth. They claim that “most people would agree that prosperity is more than just the accumulation of material wealth, it is also the joy of everyday life and the prospect of being able to build an even better life in the future.” Thus, the Prosperity Index not only measures economic growth, but also accounts for the overall well-being of a nation’s citizens in its attempt to index countries’ prosperity. One of the subcategories that helps them develop their Prosperity Index is the level of personal freedom citizens have with in a given country. According to their 2012 report, the United States ranks 14th in terms of the level of personal freedom its citizens experience. Ahead of the United States are ten European nations, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. Additionally four of the six countries that adopt the Nordic Socialist Model are ahead of the United States. This ranking was based on measurements of tolerance for immigrants, tolerance for minorities, civil liberty & free choice, and satisfaction with freedom of choice.

 2. European Countries Have the Lowest Gender Gap

According to the 2012 Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum, the United States ranks 22nd in the level of equality between men and women. Ahead of the United States are thirteen European nations including all six of the countries that adopt the Nordic Socialist Model. In fact, three of the top four nations with greatest equality between men and women are Nordic countries. These rankings are developed by measuring economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.

3. European Nations are the Happiest Countries in the World

The 2013 World Happiness Report ranks the United States as the 17th happiest nation in the world. There are eight european nations ahead of the United States, and all six of the nations within the Nordic Socialist Model are included in those eight. In fact, the top five happiest countries in the world are all Nordic, and Finland is just two spots behind at seventh.

4. European Nations are More Economically Free

The Cato Institute’s “Economic Freedom of the World: 2013 Annual Report” ranks the United States as the 17th most economically free nation in the world. Ahead of the United States are three of the six  countries (Switzerland, Finland, and Denmark) within the Nordic Socialist Model. The remaining three are not far behind at 29th, 30th, and 31st respectively. According to the Cato Institute, “The foundations of economic freedom are personal choice, voluntary exchange, and open markets.”

5. European Countries Have Better Youth Education

The OECD produces an annual comprehensive world education ranking report, known as PISA, which scores students of industrialized nations in reading, math, and science. According to the 2012 report, students of the United States rank 36th overall, and specifically 24th in reading, 36th in math, and 28th in science. Ahead of the United States are twenty-one european nations, and five of them belong to the Nordic Socialist Model.

6. European Nations Have Less Income Inequality

In addition to PISA, the OECD ranks industrialized nations based on levels of income inequality. The calculate what is known as the GINI coefficient for each country, “which is a measure of statistical dispersion intended to represent the income distribution of a nation’s residents.” Out of all thirty-four nations that were ranked, the United States (with a GINI coefficient of approximately 0.37) is the fourth most unequal society behind Turkey, Chile, and Mexico. The top ten nations with the least amount of inequality are all European countries, and four of them are Nordic. The other two Nordic Socialist countries can be found within the top fifteen most equal nations in the world.

7. European Nations Have Much Lower Levels of Poverty

If you don’t think severe income inequality is a problem, maybe you will find this statistic to be more eye-opening. The OECD also creates a ranking system for the level of poverty found within industrialized nations. In their 2010 report, they found that the United States is the country with the fifth highest level of poverty, among the thirty-four nations they ranked. Ahead of the US is Turkey, Chile, Mexico, and Israel. Just like with income inequality, the top ten nations with the lowest levels of poverty are all European countries, with four of the belonging to the Nordic Socialist Model; the other two Nordic countries can be found in the top sixteen nations.

8. European Nations Have Greater Levels of Social Capital

The Prosperity Index of the Legatum Institute also produces a ranking of countries based on social capital. They calculate this ranking by measuring the level of certain factors such as reliability of others, volunteering, helping strangers, donations, religious attendance, trust of others, and marriage. The Legatum Institute’s 2012 report has the United States as the 10th country with the highest level of social capital. Also within the top ten, and ahead of the United States, are seven european nations, and five of them are Nordic Socialist countries.

9. European Nations Have a Freer Press

An organization named Reporters Without Borders produces an annual report ranking nations based on the freedom of their press. Their mission as an organization is to “promote and defend the freedom to be informed and to inform others throughout the world.” According to their 2013 World Press Freedom Index, the United States ranks 32nd. Ahead of the US are more than a dozen European nations and all of the Nordic Socialist countries. In fact, five of the top ten nations with the freest press are all Nordic.

10. European Nations are Healthier / Have Better Healthcare

For the first time in its history, the World Health Organization produced a ranking of nations based on the overall quality of health care back in 2000. They have yet to produce another ranking, as there was great controversy surrounding the project. Nevertheless, their findings still may be of interest. They found the United States to have the 37th best health care system in the world. This very low placement is quite shocking considering how much money we spend on healthcare. Again, more than a dozen european nations are ahead of the US in this ranking, including all six of the Nordic Socialist Countries. Many dispute these findings by questioning the methodologies that were employed. Regardless, the fact remains that Europeans are healthier than Americans. According to Bloomberg’s World’s Healthiest Countries Ranking, the United States is the 33rd healthiest nation in the world, behind many european nations and all six of the Nordic countries.

So what would it be like to live in the most socialist of the european countries? You would be happier, have more personal freedom, be better off as a woman, be more economically free, your kids would be smarter, you would be subject to less income inequality, there would be less poverty, you would have access to more social capital, you would have a freer press, you would pay less for better healthcare, and you would be healthier. So let’s drop the ‘we are headed for European Socialism’ argument and discuss the real issues in America.


Bo Donoghue

Featured Image Courtesy of [tpsdave via Pixabay]

Bo Donoghue
Bo Donoghue is a student at The George Washington University. Contact Bo at



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