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Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians Got It Right-and How We Can, Too

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  405 ratings  ·  73 reviews
An academic and activist takes an entertaining look at the Nordic welfare state—and shows us how we, too, can have a far more equal and just economic system

In America, many Democrats invoke Scandinavia as a promised land of equality, while most Republicans fear it as a hotbed of liberty-threatening socialism. But the left and right can usually agree on one thing: that t
Published July 12th 2016 by Melville House
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Jul 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Lakey a teacher from the U.S. married a woman from Norway and writes about the differences in political and social systems in the United States and Norway. Written in short sections the book looks at how the Scandinavian model deals with social and economic issues.

"In Norway, you have the freedom to fail without becoming a failure." 9

"The crime rate is very low, partly because societies with high equality tend to experience less crime." 9

"Borrowing a 1995 Dutch concept c
Sep 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a very approachable book on Nordic policies, ranging from education to taxation and how the various Nordic countries view the social umbrella. It has very little to do with historical Viking societies and how they functioned, though the title is catchy. Most of his personal experience is with Norway, but he interviews administrators from various countries and explains how the system works. This is a nice entry-level book into how a different point of view can be beneficial and what gains ...more
Jane Routley
Mar 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
A terrific book about a terrific subject - how socialist democracies work! I've lived in Denmark (7 years) and I know it works. It was a happy country and i want Australia to be happy in the same way. Free health care and free education, Yes!
(and 100 percent renewable energy)
Sep 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is an excellent, highly readable introduction to the Scandinavian-style democratic socialism promoted by Bernie Sanders, why it works, and why even conservatives in the four countries covered (Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland—Finland is culturally quite different and is mentioned few times and only when citing studies that specifically included it) neither want to end their country’s socialism or particularly to leave it—he notes a guy who went to Cyprus to avoid taxes who became li ...more
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The author is an American who married a Norwegian woman and wrote an excellent overview of the Nordic model. Why are the Nordic countries often amongst the top of world rankings in happiness, quality of life, equality, education, and GDP per capita? The Nordic model depends on:

1. High level of employment, which together with
2. High level of taxation, provides money for
3. High level of services for everyone, including universal health care, free childcare and parental leave, subsidis
Johannes Seemann
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Love the book!

Is the Nordic approach truly that hard to scale? Considering just two of the core variables that drive productivity, you want all citizens to be healthy and educated. This is where you should allocate your funds and reduce barriers. Also agreeable on left and right, I would hope.

As for style of the book, a bit more empirical work would have served me well.
May 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fantastic! There is hope if people want change. More democracy, equality, and health are not at odds with prosperity. Compelling, well researched and referenced. A must read!
Pat Hearps
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
A good rundown of a bunch of ways the Nordic countries have their collective s#!t together way better than most other countries in the world. He points out that while Norway had oil wealth, it was already doing very well before the oil started flowing in the 70s/80s, while the other Nordics don't have a similar resource wealth to piggy back on. Argues that all of them a century or two ago were as poor and unequal as many other countries in Europe, but it was a set of policies aimed at enhancing ...more
Since the financial crisis in 2008, the neoliberal economic consensus has come under close scrutiny by many folks. Thomas Piketty famously showed how wealth accumulation favored those who already had wealth to build upon, especially when tax rates are low. This book takes a look at the Nordic countries and how their economic models have resulted in both economic wealth and equality.

What is so interesting about this book is just how possible it seems putting in place an economic system like this
Ashish Samuel
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics-policy
If you've ever wondered how come all rankings and indicators of prosperity have a game of musical chairs going on at the top among the Scandinavian countries, this book gives you the reasons. Also, how they got there. They set a stellar example for the rest of the world in every area of public policy, from sustainability, gender parity, livability, economic prosperity, inclusiveness, social security, peace - you name it, the Scandinavians got it.

As the book shows, it wasn't always like this. Th
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, politics
This book was simply phenomenal. It probably helps if you're interested in the Nordic countries, but that is certainly not required to delve into this book. I've never taken an economics course so I was bit worried about this being overly jargony or dense, but Lakey took great measure to make his work both well written and accessible by anyone. If you have any interest in equality, poverty, sustainability, diversity, collective action, universal systems of healthcare or education and all interse ...more
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
One unfortunate quality that many Americans have, while they thump their chests and chant “We’re No. 1,” is arrogance, coupled with a belief that the United States has nothing to learn from other countries.
The 2016 book “Viking Economics” by George Lakey should dispel that arrogance and unwillingness to learn. East to read and using firsthand knowledge and wide research (36 pages of notes), Lakey's book shows that economic practices in Scandinavian countries should be considered in the U.
Peter Moy
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Performance of the Scandinavian Economies Annoys the Free Market Spruikers.

On any measure of economic performance the economies of the so called “socialist” Scandinavian countries, (Demark, Iceland, Norway & Sweden), match or outperform those of the hard capitalist countries of the Anglosphere. For example, according to the World Bank the countries rank between 8th (Norway) and 17th (Sweden) by the average income per person adjusted for purchase price parity. (This list is a little polluted with t

Bill S.
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Eric Bottorff
Apr 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Generally very good, as should be evident from my rating. Two complaints, though:

1. The framing device (i.e. "vikings!") gets tiresome really quick, and is just distracting.

2. Too little attention is paid to the differences in political institutions between Nordic countries and places like the US/UK. It's discussed some, obviously, but there's little discussion of, for example, the fact that American political institutions are loaded with veto points, which was always goi
Bryan McNeil
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lakey threads a needle here between lacking rigor (he has plenty) and beating the reader over the head with technicalities (not by a long shot). There are no surprises here: invest heavily in human capital, promote equality and full employment, demand value and transparency in government. What Lakey provides is a well-researched, broad-strokes support structure for Nordic economic priorities that have so successfully transformed Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland over the past 70 years, give o ...more
Dec 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
You may need to adjust your expectations with this book. If you are expecting a text that is fairly technical, graph and number heavy, and filled with wonderful econobabble....your going to be disappointed. This text barely qualifies as pop econ material (which makes sense, considering the author is a sociologist, not an economist). However, as a social guide to how the Nordic economic model came to be, this book is excellent and is a good starting point learning more about the economics of the ...more
Cameron DeHart
Dec 21, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was pretty “meh”. There was no discernible roadmap and each chapter felt like a random collection of statistics, paired with anecdotes from the (American) author’s experiences living in Norway and marrying a Norwegian woman in the late 1950s/early 1960s (he’s super old). There wasn’t much new here for me, and I’m sure there are better treatments of the empirics out there. I although found the flow to be confusing at times. The ordering of paragraphs, and even the ordering of sentences ...more
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians Got it Right – and How We Can, Too, by George Lakey, 2016. This book by Lakey gave me a good sense of what an economy looks like whose purpose is not maximization of wealth by the wealthy, but freedom and equality and sustainability. Digging into the history, economy, culture, social issues, demography, and public policy in the Nordic countries of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland, the author shows what works – substantial tax rates on the wealthiest, un ...more
Mike Slawdog
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-read
Disclaimer: I received this book for free as part of a Goodreads Giveaway.

Lakey details the political and economic workings of Nordic countries in this book. While there is discussion on Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland, the majority of the focus is on Norway due to his personal ties and experiences in that country, though he himself is an American.

In the book he tackles issues ranging from banking to public education, taxation, and social issues. While he discusses past failures in Nor
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Through non-violent struggles, Scandinavians have managed to escape poverty and win themselves a highly productive and egalitarian system that is built upon solidarity and participation, through getting rid of the hegemony of the ineffective owning class. Full employment, a living wage, universal services (such as health, education, transport, child care, elder care, and, through cooperatives, housing), and willingness to invest in the human capital are major pillars of their success.

Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics, world
overview-level light reading on the Nordic model, with Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and [the economic juggernaut] Iceland as the primary cases in point. a very high level overview, at that. some history, some stats for bragging, some examples of policies, some personal yarns and way too many mentions of Vikings (author's nomenclatural convenience notwithstanding).

very readable, but unfortunately skin-deep. no in-depth exposition of policies, no meaningful examples of these policies being successfully
BJ  Brown
Apr 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A fast yet informative and thought-provoking read that was recommended to me as something to acquaint myself with Sweden before visiting--also recommended by a woman in the ophthalmologist's waiting room who saw me reading it and told me that the author lives in West Philly (small world!)
Bookmarked quote: "In their book [Spirit Level, by British epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett], the authors assemble peer-reviewed data from the world's richest countries. They find that in
Deborah Kuo
Aug 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I would say this is a pretty easy read, despite the topics discussed. You need not be a major historian, economist or political scientist to understand what Lakey discusses. The subjects are logically presented to help give context to subsequent ideas and perspectives. It also shows where things were not so great and places where they were great. It's a really good examination at the Nordic systems and how they work to create a happy society where health is good, people are happy and can make a ...more
Sep 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-loan
This book was an excellent look at the economics of modern Nordic countries, and how they make their policies work. The author focuses on Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland, and highlights both their similarities and differences when it comes to economic policy. The book is extremely readable for the layman, and well organized. The only downside is that it may make some American readers even more depressed about the state of the economy and life itself in the United States. It seems government ...more
Jake M.
May 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The title Viking Economics is a misnomer as it more-so resembles an overview of Nordic social democracy. George Lakey combines research and personal anecdotes to outlining how and why Scandinavia has succeeded in balancing socialism, capitalism and democracy to ensure stable, healthy and energetic societies. There is no hard economics or deep anthropological exploration, rather, Lakey explains the situation in its present day form with cursory references to the past. As a result, Viking Economic ...more
Cole Whiteley
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a really good economic and social analysis of how socialism exists and came to be in Scandinavia. It does a really good job of dispelling some of the common myths about socialism in Norway, and is particularly good about analyzing the course of Scandinavian economies after the 2008 economic crisis. While sometimes the evidence it uses can be a little uncertain (such as using the results of a radio show to support a claim about Norwegian communal culture), I really love this book and ...more
"Cyril' (David
Aug 07, 2018 rated it did not like it
A great deal of anecdotal evidence, and while there are some citations, the author even brags in one footnote that he doesn't cite much, since there were enough academic treatments of the subject. He does not inspire trust in his analysis when he blames, for instance, the banking crisis on greed of banks... I had chosen this book as a counter to two others on the topic from a different perspective... Usually doing so helps to keep me honest when analyzing a book with which I am in general agreem ...more
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
A nice attempt to portray the socialism that seems to be effective in the Scandinavian countries as the solution for the US, UK, and other Western democracies.

The last chapter finally reveals the author's full progressive liberal socialist beliefs.

There are many points that it is easy to argue with, e.g. having a more homogeneous population makes it more 'difficult' to implement their High Tax, High Benefits society.
Jun 08, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lakey is a social justice activist and Bernie Sanders fan who's married to a Norwegian since 1960. This book is mostly about Norway, but also has a lot of material about Iceland (mostly the crisis) and Denmark (Flexicurity, Cartoon crisis, windmills).

Despite the title, it's not an economics book and it is pretty superficial, but I learned some stuff about Norway and it is a decent introduction to the Nordic model.
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George Lakey, 67, is the director of Training for Change. He began his career as a trainer at the Martin Luther King School for Social Change, and has since gone on to lead over 1000 workshops on five continents. He has run trainings for coal miners, therapists, homeless people, prisoners, Russian lesbians and gays, Sri Lankan monks, Burmese guerrilla soldiers, striking steel workers, South Africa ...more