Viking Economics by George Lakey
  Book Reviews    June 4, 2017     Eric Larkin


This book is a tear-jerker.

If you care about America and are woke enough to have noticed our long, steady decline – from a place where freedom and equality were ideals we might actually achieve to a place where a tiny economic elite orchestrates conflict among us regular folk so they can hold onto power – then this book will make you cry with fury. See, the Vikings have created a system that’s producing results looking very much like our old-fashioned American dream. It ain’t perfect, but it’s working pretty damn well. Meanwhile, you and I  don’t trust government. We don’t trust corporations. We don’t trust each other — and we can barely even have conversations with folks on the other side of the aisle. We’re in debt for our educations; we pay too much for healthcare – even with the Affordable Care Act. We can barely afford housing – and yeah, good luck saving for your future. The American dream? RIP. But these totally metal, long-hairs with straight-swords and fat ships, they might be pathfinding a way for us.

Starting about 100 years ago, from a place of desperate poverty and the oppression of a wealthy upper class (sound familiar?) the peoples of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland slowly reshaped their economic and cultural systems into ones that provide education, healthcare, both economic freedom and stability and social equality, including a surprising amount of diversity. This was not even a primarily idealistic effort. Regular folks were having such a hard time, they finally just said “Knulla detta!” and started openly opposing the moneyed-powers that were running the country. They organized, they marched, they did not relent. In the long process, there have been failures and successes. A recent example, Iceland followed an American/European trend and deregulated their banks – which, in the Nordic systems are usually highly controlled. The resulting reckless speculating collapsed their economy. To recover from this disaster, they rejected the IMF’s neo-liberal advice for recovery. They instead taxed the wealthy, reduced taxes on the middle and lower classes, and strengthened the social safety net (education, healthcare, etc). This resulted in significant recovery from the damage done by their financial institutions. In general, the Nordic countries are growing, innovating, flourishing – and all the while, they continue to host a very high number of refugees from war-torn countries.

So Viking Economics is really infuriating, if you’re from a country that used to be famous for all those things. Lakey points out how we Americans live in a delusional bubble of our own superiority, and when you think about it, most of the things we are proud of are in the past. World War II, the moon landings, the invention of jazz — none of these achievements belong to us. These are things we have inherited, and you know what they say about folks who merely inherit their wealth –> they grow up to be rich, entitled assholes. The tools of the enlightenment, “evidence-based rationality”, still holds a lot of weight for these former sea-faring marauders. We have been reduced to knee-jerk reactions to catchphrases.

An important point Lakey makes is that though some people don’t believe in the possibility of developing our own version of Viking economics, the process for getting “there” and the ideals at the heart of the Nordic system are absolutely in-line with the essentials of the American spirit: intolerance for oppression from above, a penchant for hard work, a realistic outlook, and an unquenchable desire for opportunity. The Nordic system didn’t spring up overnight; it took many years of organizing, (non-violent) revolt against authority, and a kind of trial-and-error flexibility looking for what actually works. That really sounds like our jam.

He closes with a few thoughts on what we can do. Non-violent action actually works (better than violence), so do something. Yes, vote – absolutely – but that’s not enough. Put your body in the streets.

It’s not that we have to abandon the American way; it’s that we’ve been lapped, and other folks are doing it better than us. The way forward… is forward. Read this book.


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