There is a huge, fully socialized segment of our society that works extremely well: the United States Armed Forces.
Soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, and coasties inhabit a world in which the pay is lousy (mimicking an exhorbitantly high tax rate), but the benefits--aside from the risk of dying young--are great: no-cost medical care, subsidized housing, cut-rate shopping, cheap travel, free education, equal opportunity.
National military organizations are inherently socialized enterprises--at least in the modern world. Once you pass the initiation rituals, you are accepted into a parallel society of entitlements and benefits of which the Swedes and Finns could be jealous.
Moreover, as anyone who is well acquainted with our military will tell you, we accomplish this without killing the spirit of excellence, the concept of competition, or the eye toward innovation that so often is suggested to mark socialist societies.
So why does this work? And--more to the point--why won't it transfer to American society as a whole?
1) The trade-off is voluntary. Military personnel go into this society at will, by specifically signing up for it. They are told up front that they are trading away certain rights in exchange for these privileges, to include: a large measure of their freedom of speech; control of their appearance; inability to negotiate for better terms once they are inside; inability to quit except at specified intervals; not being allowed to refuse shitty assignments; etc. etc. etc.--and there are a lot of etceteras here. But the key point is that entrance into this society IS voluntary and that if you truly cannot abide the trade, you can get out.
2) The organization is focused on an overriding, shared goal. Everything from uniforms to social activities to the way in which formations are regimented within the military is designed to foster a common culture centered around excellence at specific things--mainly, killing people and breaking things when so directed. This common goal is so thoroughly and even subliminally reinforced by everything in the military that it effectively substitutes for either (a) the profit motive; and (b) a common social culture (ala the cultural homgeneity that allows socialism to function in Sweden).
3) The US military is subsidized by the larger society. This is critical. The US military performs a function, but it does not generate wealth, except in the very indirect sense of protecting others while they generate wealth. Virtually everything you see on a military base, or in a war zone, has been purchased by the tax dollars from the people who are not in the military. AAFES--the Army/Air Force Exchange System--can rival Wal-Mart as a bulk purchaser, and can sell to military folks for less, because everybody else subsidizes it.
[Please note that I am NOT suggesting our military does not deserve this support, even though I believe we should have a significantly smaller military establishment, and close hundreds of foreign bases. That's not the point of this post.]
THIS is the point of the post: the three reasons why socialism works in the US military, are exactly the reasons why socialism in the US would be a dramatic failure.
1) It would not be a voluntary system. The decisions about which freedoms to trade and which to conserve would be made for you at birth, and there is no opt-out, because your enlistment never ends.
2) There is not enough of a common, shared culture in the United States. As an increasingly heterogeneous nation of more than 300 million people, we have less and less any idea or ideal of American exceptionalism, or common American identity which could be used to spur people to excellence in lieu of the profit motive of capitalism.
3) If everybody is in the system, there's nobody left to subsidize it. Thus many of the artificially sustained benefits enjoyed by the US military could not ever be extended to the full population. Example: by and large the food products available in military commissaries are subsidized to the point where they are actually sold to military customers at a slight loss. You can't do that kind of thing in a system that includes everybody, or the system will shut itself down right quickly.
Sweden has a population of 9 million.
Finland has a population of 5.2 million.
The US military has 1.4 million active service members, .85 million reservists, and (probably--the exact number seems to be damn near classified) another 2 million military dependents, along with at least .5 million civil servants entitled to all the perks and benefits of military life. Add to those numbers at least 1.8 million veterans who continue to receive significant socialized benefits after their active service is up, and you get a fully or partially socialized military population of 6.5 million people--enough to make a decent-sized Scandinavian welfare state.
But it takes the other 296 million American citizens to support it....