For decades, many on the American left have pointed to the Nordic nations as models that we should be striving towards. One frequent response to this has been to say that, although the Nordic nations have built remarkably equal economies, they lag in other important respects like inventing and implementing new technologies.
There is no compelling statistical evidence for this claim, but some version of this idea seems to permanently linger in the US discourse. Recently, various liberal commentators — often rallying under the label of supply-side progressivism — have published articles chastising leftists who frequently point to the Nordic and western European models. According to these articles, such leftists are inattentive to the questions of how to steer the invention and deployment of new kinds of production.
In this paper, I highlight four recent examples of state-led Nordic innovation that should serve as useful models for American policymakers who are interested in steering technological development and deployment in this country:
- Electric autonomous cargo ships in Norway.
- Fossil-free steel in Sweden.
- Offshore wind and energy islands in Denmark.
- A mines-to-battery value chain in Finland.
In all four examples, the government of each respective country has directly pushed an important clean energy innovation, typically through the use of state-owned enterprises.
How best to shape the income distribution in a country is a different question from how best to shape the mix of production in a country. But different questions sometimes have the same answer. In this case, one answer to both questions is to simply copy the Nordic model.