(Book Review) Debunking Utopia: Exposing The Myth of Nordic Socialism by Nima Sanandaji

Ever since I began my studies of economics, I have had a predilection for free-market capitalism. While some proponents of laissez-faire capitalism concede the falsity that socialism sounds “nice in theory,” I have never granted a modicum of deference to the dogma. To venerate the morality of socialist thought would be to gift appurtenance to the already bloated and turgid ego of socialists. There is nothing auspicious, mellifluous, or reverent of socialism or its proponents. Socialist economies, much like their ideologues, have been an unfortunate recrudescence of failure. Given its pathetic track-record, it’s disappointing so many people of my generation have chosen to adopt the label. Moreover, given the conspicuous myopia, banality, torpidity, and intellectual facileness of the gawky generation y and z, it’s of little surprise, and truly rather tedious. Having commenced with this prologue, I will now propose the question, why has socialism been embraced by the youth besides for their charcateristic callow ineptitude?

If you’re an American born before 2005, then you probably have solid memories of the events antedating, and proceeding the 2016 presidential election, and that includes the tired bromides such as “Like Denmark!” from democrat Bernie Sanders, and “Make America Great Again!” from Donald Trump. Given the subject matter of this book, I will be focusing in on self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders who galvanized many young adults to adopt the label of “democratic socialist.”

Bernie Sanders’s tedious slogan “Like Denmark!” was used to gainsay those who pointed out that socialism had always failed, and who pointed out the oppressive hellholes that are North Korea and Venezuela. After all, Denmark, let alone, Scandinavia is nothing like those beacons of misery and subjugation, right? That is correct, the quality of life in Scandinavia far exceeds that of those draconian nations, but is Scandinavia’s success in debt to socialism? No, and that’s exactly what this book, Debunking Utopia: The Myth of Nordic Socialism by Nima Sanandaji, elaborates upon.

This book elaborates on how American progressives developed such an adulation for the Nordic welfare model, and as the title suggests, debunks the common misconceptions that progressives have about the Scandinavian economy such as healthcare, medical care, economic growth and stagnation, education, the welfare state, immigration, the Scandinavian market, and more. There’s also a fair amount of history of Scandinavia as well as the evolution of fiscal policy in the Nordic countries, but I do believe there could have been more elaboration on the history of Northern Europe pre-19th century.

My Final Ratings

Difficulty for economically illiterate to understand: moderately easy.

Explanation: The book doesn’t include too much economics jargon, or introduce particularly abstract concepts. However, a few of the arguments made in the book are based on some understanding of the free-market and how it differs from command-system economies, and someone without understanding of these terms or concepts may find themselves nonplussed. The book is written in such that it is assumed the reader has at least a rudimentary understanding of economics.

Keeping the reader interested: keeps the reader fully engaged.

Explanation: Sanandaji doesn’t go off on side-tangents or introduce abstruse monologues of filler to elongate the book. He’s concise enough to include the apposite details without concocting a screed.

Verifiable claims: Sanandaji verifies his claims.

Explanation: Sanandaji cites sources for all objective claims and elucidations.

Subfield of economics: this a book about the political economy.

Do I recommend this book, and for who? This is a book I universally recommend.

Explanation: As made clear in the book, democratic socialism as a political position has been around for decades as of writing this review. Since its nascent, it has not only pervaded United States politics, but Western and Southern European politics as well. If you have the slightest modicum of interest or care for political science, economics, or public policy, this is a must-read.

Favorite Quote:

Nobel Prize-Winning American economist Milton Friedman was talking to a Swedish economist, who told him, “In Scandinavia, we have no poverty.” Friedman cleverly replied, “That’s interesting, because in America, among Scandinavians, we have no poverty, either.”

Sanandaji, Nima. Debunking Utopia: Exposing the Myth of Nordic Socialism.

Buy the Book:


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Published by Daniel Ballesteros

An aspiring labor economist.

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