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Are Scandinavian Welfare States Rooted in Viking Slaveholding?

Scandinavian welfare states are admired by many people the world over, and are regarded as perhaps as close to ideal as welfare states can be in reality. But were I convinced that Scandinavian welfare states are evil and cannot possibly survive of their own accord, I might launch a ‘research’ program sparked by this passage on pages 112-113 of Mark Kurlansky’s wonderful 2002 book, Salt: A World History:

But without salt, meat and fish were too perishable, and all the [medieval-era] Vikings had to trade were tools made from walrus tusk and reindeer antler. In search of a trading commodity, they raided coastal communities in northern Europe, kidnapped people, and sold them into slavery, which is why they are still remembered for their brutality.

If the reasoning of the practitioners of the so-called “New History of Capitalism” is valid, then the following argument is also valid:

Although Viking slaveholding ended long ago, the wealth that Viking slaveholders extracted from their slaves enabled Vikings to accumulate excess, unearned wealth. This slave-extracted wealth – lasting and growing automatically through the ages (as, of course, wealth does) – enables modern governments throughout Scandinavia to create and maintain costly and soul-crushing welfare states. The fact that many citizens of Scandinavian countries today seem to approve of their welfare states proves only that this oppressive institution brainwashes its victims into not only compliance with its commands and conditions, but into seeming approval of these.

The thesis’s logic, after all, is impeccable and indisputable: Vikings raid foreign lands ⇒ Vikings enslave many of the denizens of these lands ⇒ Vikings extract wealth from the labor of their slaves ⇒ the fruits of this extracted wealth is used today to fund oppressive welfare states throughout Scandinavia.

Plain as day! It’s astonishing that no one until now has stumbled upon this thesis. I will name my thesis the New History of Welfare States. Because this thesis is obviously correct, we can be sure that anyone who questions it is either so ignorant of facts and logic as to be unworthy of attention, or – more likely – intellectual mercenaries hired with dark money by evil oligarchs who support these welfare states. I mean, seriously, what other explanations for resistance to my thesis can there possibly be?


Of course, this so-called ‘thesis’ of mine is rank idiocy. Only the most puerile mind would entertain it for as much as a micro-moment. Yet in substance and logic my ‘thesis’ is on par with the New History of Capitalism – a ‘history’ that claims to show that capitalism today (especially American capitalism), and the wealth that capitalism today produces, is rooted in the chattel slavery that ended in the U.S. more than 150 years ago.

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