Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ya Sure Sweden, da Greatest Society

Socialism's shining star has lost some of it's sheen...

Many high school students head out into the world, college bound or not, convinced by their social studies teachers that Sweden is greatest society on Earth. Sweden is the model all socialists point to as the ultimate example of societal bliss. After being fed a steady diet of how bad America is with its history of slavery and its decimation of the native peoples of this continent Sweden in comparison looks pretty darn good.

But all is not well in the land of the midnight sun. Sweden the Model is showing signs of its age and the wear and tear of global economy that is stuck in high gear. Sweden is suffering the same malaise as the rest of Europe. The cost of cradle to grave socialism is wearing heavily on a country that is not economically dynamic in the least. The fact that 50% of the nations GDP is spent by the government just might have something to do with it...

Johan Norberg is a Swedish writer and an author of several books, including In Defense of Global Capitalism (2003). He has written a piece for the the's website that delves into the reality of the world's greatest socialist success story and I'm here to tell you it's not pretty - anymore.

What I find so interesting is how Sweden's social success was predicated on the exact attributes that American conservatives claim to be the real strength of the American model. These attributes being self-reliance, self-discipline, high productivity and efficiency. Sweden also kept its taxing mits off the businesses and instead taxed the worker to whom the social benefits were distributed.

The homogenus, hard working population, low immigration and steady as she goes big industry made it possible for Sweden to maintain a generous welfare system. That is changing in this rapidly transforming globalized world. In contrast America has a huge immigration influx every year. A population more diverse than anywhere else on the planet. We have an economy that is not in steady state and, in fact, transforms itself every 20 to 30 years. Yet we still maintain a social benefit system that spends trillions of largely unproductive dollars.

So, I guess what I am saying is that comparing Sweden to America is comparing bluberries to watermelons.

Johan Norberg doesn't make too many comparisons in his article, he merely explains what went right and what is now going wrong with the once famed Swedish Model. Here are a few instructive quotes from the article:

"After the recession of the 90's... Sweden retained the world's highest taxes, generous social security systems and a heavily regulated labor market, which split the economy: Sweden is very good at producing goods, but not at producing jobs."

"Sweden's true unemployment rate is still 12 percent... Moreover, the unemployment rate says nothing about another hidden labor problem: rampant absenteeism. Swedes are healthier than almost any other people in the world, but they are also out sick more often than any other people"

"Since the early 1980s, Sweden has received a large number of refugees from the Balkans, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, which has ended the country's homogeneity. Today, about one-seventh of the working-age population is foreign born, but no where near that proportion is actually employed."

"The Swedish model has survived for decades, but the truth is that its success was built on the legacy of an earlier model: the period of economic growth and development preceding the adoption of the socialist system."

"The real worry is that Sweden and other welfare states have reached a point where it is impossible to convince majorities to change the system, despite the dismal results. Obviously, if you are dependent on the government, you are hesitant to reduce its size and cost."

And finally:

"Radical reform seems far off. On the other hand, just like the step-by-step construction of the welfare state that slowly but steadily reduced the willingness to work and the sense self-reliance, incremental reforms to expand freedom of choice and reduce the incentives to live off fellow-citizens might rejuvenate these fundamental values and increase the appetite for reform."

If Sweden, the world's most successful socialist state is falling apart then why is there still such a yearning for it in the lefist heart in America. My guess is that the hatred (read jealously) of capitalism is far stronger than such an obviously failed ideology.



TJ Willms said...

One of my former “New” bosses was employed some years ago by a Local U. S. based telecommunications company at its Swedish production facility. He related an interesting story about family dynamics among the Swedes. Elder parents and Grandparents, aunts, uncles, even busybody neighbors exert a great deal of pressure upon their sons, daughters, nieces and nephews etc... of working age to go out their and get a job, because they know where their bread is buttered.

They are well aware that the free bennies will stop coming if no one is out there working. As the younger generations, grow weary of the confiscatory taxation to support those around them who they see everyday doing nothing the system will have to crumble. Judging from the absenteeism numbers you cited nagging them to go out there and get to work is losing its effectiveness.