They can do that in part because they piggy-back on pax-Americana, which ensures relative global peace and security for all. Like it or not, our military might provides this and until some other nation, who may or may not be as benevolent as the US, steps up to the plate and shares that responsibility or assumes it for themselves, we are stuck with that burden for the greater good. Not just militarily, but foreign aid to help stabilize and support nations.Kevin, do you have links? Anything I've found is dated or perhaps I'm not using the right search words.
"The expansion of the welfare state has increased the tax pressure in these countries to the highest level in the world, but despite high tax levels, the Nordic countries are among the richest in the world."
Rich sounds good to me, but not without a yardstick for comparison purposes.
Ask yourself why the US is providing airlift and refueling support to the French in Mali ... It's because the French do not have the means to do so for themselves.
Who else could assume that role; China... Look at who their allies are ... Look at who they protect in the UN security counsel. The progressive societies of Europe may not always like how the US operates, but they would cringe at a world dominated by Chinese foreign policy. Most of them don't even recognize this or all the benefits American hegemony, which by far outweighs instances where we have acted against global interests.
They also have a largely homogenous society with common cultural values and values of shared responsibility, but also pull your own weight and contribute to the collective good. A culture that values education. There are significant segments of our population that do not reflect these values and much more so than in Nordic countries.