a contemplative approach to politics

Sweden and Political Ideology

Posted by blindspotpolitics on June 10, 2012

Before the recent faltering of the European Union, the average left leaning American was inclined to use the success of the European social welfare state as an example of the fairness and economic equality America should attain. Sweden, with its supposed combination of massive taxes and livable bliss, was often the epitome of this thought.

The argument would go: They live longer! They have universal healthcare! They’re happier! They have a lower infant mortality rate! And they have it all and do it all because of higher taxes, entitlement programs, and more governmental regulation. Why is America so behind the rest of the industrialized world? Why can’t we be more like Sweden?

Besides the glaring dissimilarities between the Untied States and many European “social welfare” states, such as the homogeneous populations of most Northern and Western European countries, the new question becomes, are these states really succeeding; and if so, is it because of social welfare promoted by the state?

Sure, wouldn’t it be great if everyone had healthcare? And heck, who doesn’t want to live longer or be happier?  But is the modern social welfare model sustainable? Or does it allow one generation to live rich and equal, while sentencing another to an imminent collapse and economic devolution?

Recently, Sweden has stripped itself of many taxes and entitlement programs. In these pressing economic times, the Swedish have continued to have a strong economy by heeding more to the creed of Smith than of Keynes.

However, these successes are not necessarily a rallying point for the proponents of Austrian or supply-side economics. Relative to the United States, Sweden still has high taxes and many entitlement programs. They are moving toward deregulation and lowered taxes—but are hardly an example for the triumph of unmitigated capitalism; Sweden is cutting waste, not the desire for economic equality.

Instead, Sweden’s successes indicate that a balance between social welfarism, directed by a sense of national community, and the private sector, supported by lower taxes and increased economic freedom, can lead to good things. Essentially, in recent years, Sweden has given us a balancing act.

We have seen in Sweden, if anything, the triumph of civil society, not of government or the free market. President Clinton and the New Democrats were correct—balance social responsibility with equality of means instead of equality of outcome. Sweden reveals the resilience of mankind and communities—not of governments—during hard economic times.


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