Becoming a Millionaire: Norway vs the US

Tom-of-the-coast-of-Maine-2As I read the electronic news this morning, I ran across this interesting chart that illustrates how long it takes to become a millionaire in various countries of the world.  Not surprisingly the US is the country in which it takes the least amount of time to become a millionaire.  It is certainly the land of opportunity in that sense.

Note the second country on the list:  Norway.  Must mean that the social and economic policies of Norway and the US are very similar!?!  While they are both democracies, the social and economic practices of the two countries differ dramatically.


The US is number one & Norway number 2

Norway is a much more socialist country than the United States. Tax rates are relatively high and social services provided by the state are extensive.  In Norway, there is both private and public ownership of the means of production.  In that sense, Norway is not a purely “socialist” country but one in which there is a mixture of state programs and private enterprise.  Norway’s policies are more socially democratic than pure “free market.”  Income inequality in Norway is much less than in the US and Norway has the highest GDP per capita in the world.

In the US the ratio of the lowest 10% of income earners to the top 10% is 15.9 according to the United Nations.  In Norway that ration is 6.1–more than half of that of the US. If we look at the lowest 20% the US looks much more like Russia that Norway, Sweden or Denmark all of whom have substantially less disparity than the US.

In pointing out these facts, I am not trying to argue that what works well in Norway will work well here in the US.  I am only pointing out that those right wing pundits and politicians who speak about “socialism” as if it were some sort of dirty which can only serve to hurt our economy and crush the entrepreneurial spirit ought to take a more clear-eyed and dispassionate look at the global economic scene.

In our economy a small number of people have become very rich at the same time that an even larger number of people are getting poor and poorer.  Perhaps, there is really something to be learned from our Scandinavian brothers and sisters that would enable us to take the “best” from both capitalism and  socialism and marry those elements into both a prosperous and more equitable society.  What President Obama sometimes calls a “balanced approach.”

There are many differences between the US and Norway.  I am not trying to compare them fully but only to point out that there may be aspects of what the Norwegians do that could benefit us and vice versa. In addition, I am also pointing to the irony of the fact that the first two countries on the list of countries where it is quickest to make a million dollars have very different economic and social points of view.  So, from the American point of view, “socialism” ought not be anathema anymore than “capitalism” should be to Norwegians.  In practice, neither system seems to work well in its “pure” form despite the protestations and inflexibility of the ideologues currently holding the US hostage to their dogmatism.

3 thoughts on “Becoming a Millionaire: Norway vs the US

  1. Excellent article. Just like minimum wage (currently $7.50/hr and right wingnuts don’t want to rise any more) there should be MAXIMUM Wage limit say $1M.

    • Thank you Ranga. There are wage caps like the one you suggest in a number of countries that are concerned about the devolution of society that accompanies economic inequality. Love to have you as a regular follower to this blog.

  2. Very interesting post. Having been to Norway several times for work, I can also attest to the fact that they have a very different socioeconomic profile which seems to contribute to their stability/prosperity. They have huge energy reserves (largely sold/exported to other countries) for a small population which funds many social programs, have a *MUCH* healthier population than the US, many fewer single-parent families, and have few high-school-equivalent drop-outs (unskilled workers) than we do. BUT…it’s extremely cold and dark in the winter; I think I’ll stay here…

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