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

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  636 ratings  ·  115 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 the
Published July 12th 2016 by Melville House
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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)
R.J. Gilmour
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 called "flexicurity" the
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
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, subsidised transport
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 going to make it harder to
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.
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
Jake M.
May 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
It's not meant to be an economically rigorous book, but rather a political one, filed with hollow buzzwords - it's very clearly intended to push for one particular set of policies, which would be fine, except it doesn't take others seriously. Anyone who disagrees is painted as being caricaturally evil.

Is this is your first time hearing about the Nordic Model at all, it will probably be informative, but don't expect it to paint a complete pictures on the nuances and tradeoffs of policy.
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!
Aug 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book, strongly recommended reading for all Americans (possible exception: Not for reading aloud to your toddler. Unless maybe you read it in a really soothing voice, and say "Goodnight, Political Economic History with considerable relevance to our contemporary situation," at the end of each paragraph?).

I'm not just saying this because I happened to have the pleasure of working with the author on another book some years back, but because this book really has a lot of important new
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
Dec 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thought provoking and informative, although a bit disappointing in its policy recommendations. The book focuses on Norway, which the author admits is in a somewhat special set of circumstances given its oil wealth and small population. The Icelandic financial crisis does not get the attention that it deserves. Finland is largely ignored. The most relevant parts of the book take case studies from Denmark and Sweden.

Lakey's recommendations for the US seem naive and somewhat "pie in the sky". He d
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
Joseph Gendron
Dec 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The Scandinavian countries are definitely at the forefront of civilized society and George Lakey lays out the reasons why in this tremendously enjoyable read. Throughout the book, the stark differences between "Nordics" and the U.S. and other countries is presented.
I was fortunate to briefly visit Denmark, Sweden and Norway in 2019 and I was impressed by what I experienced. Kudos to them and the happy people we met.
These long-lived people have a cost per capita for health care of a little more
Σωτήρης Γούλας
May 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Extremely readable and interesting
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.S. bec
Dec 18, 2021 rated it liked it
It’s approachable and has good content and he makes his point and I’m all for what he’s trying to get at, but he’s all over the place and he can’t decide whether he’s going for breadth or depth at any given moment. Was excited about it, and it definitely let me down a bit.
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

Aug 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: random-subjects
Considering there were a number of used copies of this book on the shelves only a month before, when I finally decided to get it, they were suddenly all gone. Those many copies of the same used book, both hardcover and paperback, don’t usually disappear off the shelves of a bookstore that fast. So I don’t know what happened. Nevertheless, it made me want to read it even more, so I hunted it down at the library. After all that, plus based on some of what I saw and heard about it in other places, ...more
May 06, 2021 rated it liked it
A book filled with new and interesting information about the Scandinavian Economy, that changed my mind on a number of subjects. but the book also feels one-sided, ignores the many different advantages that are unique to Scandinavia, and fails to explain in depth the complex issues of the free market and Worker's committees.
Finally that main metaphor of Viking is flat, annoying, undeveloped and Unnecessary.
May 31, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: economics
Pretty terrible. Uncritical hallelujah and cherry-picking. After two deep and thoughtful books on Nordic countries I've read earlier this month, this one is almost impossible to read, 'cause it's so shallow, random and uncritical. It'd perfectly fit among "My Country is the Best" coloring books for preschoolers. I'd give it 1 star if not some mildly interesting (random) facts it contains. ...more
Dec 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
The content of this book is exceptional in what it shares; especially as contrasted with the rogue, extractive economic system in the US. My hope is that Swedes, Danes, Icelanders, and Norwegians don’t change. Stay the course!
Anthony Faber
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The guy explains why and how the nordic states became universal benefit states (his preferred name for what we call welfare states) and why we should think about doing the same.\
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
Mark Schultz
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
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
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George Lakey 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 African act ...more

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