Bernie Sanders and AOC support the 'Nordic model,' which features robust health and social-welfare systems - one that Finland's leader calls 'the American Dream'

Bernie Sanders, Sanna Marin, AOC

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, a leading 2020 Democratic candidate, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez both support modeling the US after Nordic countries that have robust social and healthcare benefits.
  • Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin also backs the idea, saying the American Dream "can be achieved best in the Nordic countries" in an interview with The Washington Post.
  • Marin echoed a new, younger generation of progressive American politicians calling for steeper taxes on the very rich and corporations to make the economy fairer.
  • Ocasio-Cortez explained why democratic socialism drew strong support among young adults in an interview with Business Insider last year.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York have supported modeling the United States after Nordic countries like Finland, Sweden and Norway - all of which feature cradle-to-grave benefits like government-run healthcare and a robust social welfare system.

Now they have a young but influential European leader lining up behind them.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin recently said she believes some of Europe's social democracies hold lessons for the United States, which is struggling to roll back inequality that's only growing wider.

In an interview with The Washington Post published Monday, Marin called the Nordic model "a success story."

"I feel that the American Dream can be achieved best in the Nordic countries, where every child no matter their background or the background of their families can become anything, because we have a very good education system," she said at the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland last month.

Marin went on: "We have a good health-care and social welfare system that allows anybody to become anything. This is probably one of the reasons why Finland gets ranked the happiest country in the world."

She conceded "every country's situation is different, every country's political atmosphere is different," but she said Finland had examples for the US.

Marin, the world's youngest female prime minister at 34 years old, echoed a younger generation of progressive American politicians calling for steeper taxes on the very rich and corporations to make the economy fairer.

A Gallup poll in November found that nearly equal numbers of millennials and young adults expressed support for socialism and capitalism - 49% and 51%, respectively.

Ocasio-Cortez, a leading progressive lawmaker, sought to explain why democratic socialism has drawn strong support among young voters in an interview with Business Insider last year.

"We're talking about countries and systems that already exist that have already been proven to be successful in the modern world," the Democratic congresswoman said.

Then she drew a comparision to European social democracy: "We're talking about single-payer health care that has already been successful in many different models, from Finland to Canada to the UK."

Like Sanders, she backs Medicare for All, which would create a government-run healthcare system that insures everyone in the US, along with the Green New Deal to transition the economy onto cleaner sources of energy.

With a strong base of support among young adults, Sanders is among the frontrunners in the 2020 Democratic primary, championing a vision of democratic socialism and economic fairness on the campaign trail.

The Vermont senator held the view for many years. In 2008, Sanders welcomed the Finnish ambassador to Vermont and urged Americans to study "one of the best economic and social models in the world."

He added that Finland operated under "egalitarian principles" that virtually eliminated poverty while providing high-quality healthcare and education to its citizens.

Still, some experts have noted that Nordic countries maintain pro-business policies. Finland and Sweden, for example, previously taxed wealth but both ditched their laws, in 2006 and 2007, respectively, amid administrative problems. Instead, the wages of the middle class are taxed highly, but unions act as a lever to restrain inequality.

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