Liberals worldwide invoke Scandinavia as a promised land of equality, while most conservatives fear it as a hotbed of liberty-threatening socialism. But the left and right can usually agree on one thing: that the Nordic system is impossible to replicate elsewhere. The US and UK are too big, or too individualistic, or too . . . something.

In Viking Economics—perhaps the most fun economics book you’ve ever read—George Lakey dispels these myths. He explores the inner-workings of the Nordic economies that boast the world’s happiest, most productive workers, and explains how, if we can enact some of the changes the Scandinavians fought for surprisingly recently, we, too, can embrace equality in our economic policy.

About the Book!


The descendants of the ancient Vikings – Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland – are at the top of international ratings for freedom, equality, health, economic productivity, and reducing climate change . Economists call the design that produces these results “the Nordic model.” When most Americans learn about it, they’ll call it “good sense” and want to adapt the model for our use.

My book is personal and full of vivid anecdotes. At twenty-one I married Berit Mathiesen and lived in Norway, learned the language, studied sociology and taught school. In the book I include stories from Berit’s family, and other friends including, more recently, a young man from Burundi whose story helps us understand what it’s like for Africans who immigrate to Norway.

I share key observations from countless conversations with Nordic economists and other social scientists, with workers and business people and farmers and activists and teachers and even a bishop. Where appropriate, statistics reveal remarkable differences between the Nordic model and the rival neo-liberal model.

Today’s Vikings are far from perfect so I tell the stories of huge economic mistakes made by Norway and Sweden, plus Iceland’s world-historical financial collapse in 2008 – and their stunning bounce-back. I also tell about the Nordics’ struggles with the increasing racial diversity that their societies experience.

Few know the dramatic story of the Nordic nonviolent revolutions that pushed the economic elite out of power and opened the space for a new system, getting rid of poverty at last. Although their countries are different from ours, the Nordics learned some hard lessons that can help people in the United States get a head start as we tackle our own challenges.

The book is published by Melville House, an independent publisher based in New York and London.

About the Author


George Lakey, 77, wrote this book with support from Swarthmore College where he served as the Eugene Lang Professor for Civic and Social Responsibility. He has also taught at Woodbrooke College in England and the University of Pennsylvania. He was a founder of the modern international training movement for social activists, beginning while teaching in the 1960s at the Martin Luther King, Jr., School of Social Change. He started and led for fifteen years Training for Change, in the course of which he catalyzed networks of trainers in Russia and Thailand. He has led over 1500 workshops on five continents.

He has published eight previous books related to social change, most recently Facilitating Group Learning (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010) and Toward a Living Revolution (London: Peace News Press, 2012). His articles and books have been translated into Arabic, Danish, French, German, Japanese, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish, and Thai. He has been quoted on PBS and the business pages of The New York Times and is a featured columnist on WagingNonviolence.org. George Lakey, 76, was co-founder of Training for Change with Barbara Smith, and directed the group for 15 years before retiring. He has led 1,500 workshops on five continents, taught peace studies at colleges and universities, and authored seven books on nonviolent social change, peace, and organizational development.

He has led activist organizations on local, state, national, and international levels. His first time arrested was in the civil rights movement of the nineteen-sixties. During the Vietnam War he sailed into the war zone on a Quaker peace ship, to deliver medicines for suffering Vietnamese and protest the war. More recently he was part of the first team of Peace Brigades International giving protective accompaniment in Sri Lanka to human rights activists threatened with assassination.

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