In reading this table, it should be noted that the foregoing debt ratios reflect credit market debt only. Had they included unfunded liabilities to government pension and healthcare programs, a form of implicit debt, the US ratio of debt/GDP would be considerably worse. Because Nordic countries fully fund such public obligations, their debt ratios are more honest and believable.
This raises the obvious question: Why do Nordic countries lead in these key indicators of national wellbeing while the US falls further behind every year? Moreover, how does the US maintain its high credit rating in view of its continually deteriorating combined debt ratio?
We’ll address the second question first because it’s the easiest to answer. The US retains its high credit rating because it can print “sovereign” money that investors and other countries are willing to accept to cover its liabilities. How long that privileged status will last if our debt-leveraged neoclassical/industrial/hegemonic strategy continues is anyone’s guess.
Nordic leadership in the key economic variables shown in Tables One and Two reflect the coherence of their political-economic strategies. By mimicking life in the ways they organize and manage, they implicitly acknowledge that the wellbeing of people and Nature are their primary economic leverage points.
We find further evidence of this strategy in annual surveys on the strength and sustainability of Nordic banks and publicly owned companies. According to Global Finance Magazine, eight Nordic banks were listed among the world’s fifty safest banks in 2019.7 In addition, fifteen Nordic companies (including the top three) were included in the 2020 rankings of the “Global 100” – a compilation of the world’s most sustainable publicly held companies presented each year by Corporate Knights Magazine at the World Economic Forum.8 These are remarkable achievements for a region that contains less than half of one percent of the world’s population.
The economic strength of the Nordic region is further reflected in their high gross national savings rates. According to the World Bank, Norway led in this metric during 2019 with a huge savings rate of 36%, followed by Sweden and Denmark (29%), Finland (24%) and Iceland (21%).9 It should be noted that the indicated savings rates of Norway, Finland and Iceland are understated due to the existence of their sovereign wealth funds, which were not included in the World Bank’s calculations. By contrast, the US, which reports a gross national savings rate of 19% is grossly overstated due to the size of its unfunded liabilities.
The foregoing comparisons lead to the obvious question: What are the common attributes of economies that mimic life that enable them to perform at such high levels? Broadly speaking, there are six – each of which describes a critical function of life that has enabled Nature to evolve over billions of years from single cell organisms to complex human organizations