Sunday, October 29, 2006

There’s something terribly wrong with social democracy…just look at Sweden

When, as Labour leader, Neil Kninnock was asked if socialism had been successful in any country. Yes, he exclaimed: Sweden.

The Social Democrats ruled Sweden alone or with other parties for 65 of the past 74 years. The consequences? Sweden has paid a high price for its extensive welfare state. Nearly £6 of every £10 in the country is spent by the government. About 10 per cent of the Swedish workforce are on sick leave at any one time. Many Swedes feel the true unemployment rate is closer to 20% than the official rate of 6% because people on long-term sick leave are counted as working. Youth unemployment is among the highest in Europe.

According to Johnny Munkhammar, Of Sweden's 50 largest companies, only one was started after 1970. That's no big surprise as by 1980, the average tax burden had reached 50 per cent (where it remains today) while the labour market became highly regulated and the size of the welfare state reached epic proportions.
Between 1980 and 1999, the gross income of Sweden's poorest households increased by just over 6 per cent, while the rise in the US was three times as fast.

What of crime in this socialist utopia? Generous welfare provision certainly does not prevent crime. The number of violent crimes reported in Sweden is steadily rising. The official number of rape charges in Sweden has more than tripled in 30 years. The number of reported cases of physical abuse/assault in Stockholm has also tripled in three decades. The number of people under the age of 18 who are serving sentences in juvenile detention centres has risen sharply over the last seven years. Threats against witnesses in Swedish court cases have quadrupled between 2000 and 2003. See here for more.
As for the environment, the World Wildlife Fund says Sweden is among the world's worst polluters.

Thirty years ago Sweden was a largely homogeneous country. And the future? Today, out of a population of 9 million people, about 1 million were born outside Sweden. This constitutes 11% of the population, or nearly 20% if their children are included.

According to Fjordman Sweden is already a banana republic, perhaps on its way to becoming an Islamic republic. Swedish culture is disappearing with astonishing speed in front of our eyes. If the trend isn't stopped, the Swedish nation will simply cease to exist in any meaningful way during the first half of this century. The country that gave us Bergman, ABBA and Volvo could become known as the Bosnia of northern Europe. The "Swedish model" will no longer refer to a stable and peaceful state with an advanced economy, but an Eurabian horror story of utopian multiculturalism, Socialist mismanagement and runaway immigration.
Not unsurprisingly, a mere ten per cent of Swedes consider it important to nurture a long-term relationship with the United States, according to a survey carried out by the Nordic Council in september 2006.

As Johan Norberg has put it:
....the Swedish model is rotting from within. Ironically, the unique social and economic foundation that first allowed Sweden to construct its political edifice--and which makes it such a difficult model for other countries to emulate--has been critically weakened by the system it helped create. Far from a being a solution for the new sick men of Europe, Sweden must face serious and fundamental challenges at the heart of its social model...
See here.

As an economy and a society, Sweden seems to have gone off the rails as a result of punitive taxes, excessive regulation and radical multi-culturalism. One thing is clear Europes's social democrats would do well not to study Sweden's methods for inspiration. Not everyone seems to have noticed. Sweden is a "model country" for others to follow, Tony Blair said after talks with his then counterpart, now former PM Goran Persson in Downing Street in March 2006. "The situation in Sweden speaks for itself, with the good economy the country has. If you look at Sweden from a ten year perspective, the country is strong," Nu Labour certainly seem intent on replicating many of Sweden's mistakes.
The new government in Sweden has faced scandal after scandal in the three weeks since it has been in power. On the plus side, it has announced that the government would sell state holdings worth 50 billion kronor (6.8 billion dollars, 5.4 billion euros) a year over the next three years. From January 1 next year the government proposed "a reduction in tax for those on low and medium incomes making it more attractive to return to work rather than remain on benefits." Taxes would be cut more substantially for older individuals to encourage them to stay in the labour market longer.Also from the beginning of next year employers would no longer be required to pay charges for taking on the unemployed, those on sick-leave or in early retirement.Employers hiring people between the ages of 19 and 25 would also see a reduction in such charges.

Norberg suggests that ...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.

For Sweden's sake I hope he is right but I am personally inclined to take a more pessimistic view.


Colin said...

Excellent article, Istanbultory,

This puts you in the same category as the best bloggers on the web.

One remark in regard to Johan Norberg: I admire his Capitalist Manifesto and many of his articles. However, I beg to differ concerning his advocating of free immigration. Many (but not all) libertarians advocate open borders for goods and people. I agree with open borders for goods. However, the analogy between goods and people appears to be flawed.

Goods don't cross by themselves borders but come by invitation only. More importantly, goods don't try to rob or subdue you. On the other hand, people come uninvited, try to subdue and rob you if they have the majority or the power.

Thanks again for the valuable information about the Swedish model.

istanbultory said...

Cheers, Colin. I certainly would never advocate unrestricted immigration. Sweden seems to have embraced it....with rather painful consequences.Sweden is a failed model if only the European Left would realise it.

Anonymous said...

ps: Non- Swedes incl. foreigners born in the country is considersably more than 1 mio. More like 2 mio - 22 % of the population.

all the best from Copenhagen

Serf said...

I agree with your more pessimistic thoughts.

It took a complete breakdown in the UK for the voters to select Mrs T, and even then they only accepted some of what she stood for.

The electorate never wants to face up to the truth.

Voyager said...

Socialism is the doctrine of using The State to destroy the nation

istanbultory said...

"Socialism is the doctrine of using The State to destroy the nation"
yep, and Socialism has been used with great effect to the reaching of that goal in Sweden.

C4' said...