Sweden: Conservatopia

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Tom Van Dyke

Tom Van Dyke, businessman, musician, bon vivant and game-show champ (The Joker's Wild, and Win Ben Stein's Money), knows lots of stuff, although not quite everything yet. A past inactive to The American Spectator Online, the late great Reform Club blog, and currently on religion and the American Founding at American Creation, TVD continues to write on matters of both great and small importance from his ranch type style tract house high on a hill above Los Angeles.

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23 Responses

  1. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    You assured me that, while you could care less about print conventions in comments, you would scrupulously observe citation rules in main- and sub-blog posts.

    There are paragraphs here which you did not write that are not indented, italicized, or otherwise marked off from what you did write as not your own. Lots of them.

    I suppose the editors can decide whether this flies here or not.Report

  2. Avatar greginak says:

    I can’t tell, is it supposed to be news that one of the OMG SOSHULIST EURO countries has free markets that work well. Okay that was a snarky response. But still. That is really not news at all. It is possible to combine free markets and social safety nets.

    Social cohesion is an interesting idea. I’m for except it for the times i want to tell everyone to piss off and then i go off by myself. It’s much easier to be all for social cohesion when you feel you are in the dominant culture and SC means “everyone get with my program.” The US was sort of formed and settled by the dregs/exceptional people from all over Europe so we are by nature less cohesive. As we have expanded the people who can be fully American we now get people from all over the world. So how exactly are we supposed to be such and such socially cohesive when we are an immigrant nation says the proud grandkid of two sets of immigrants.
    What exactly does social cohesion mean? Who is in charge of that? Who gives up their culture? When should my grandparents have stopped speaking yiddish and greek at home?Report

  3. Avatar Murali says:

    Tom, To what extent is Sweden conservatopia rather than libertopia? After all, its social policies AFAIK are liberal. i.e. it is liberal on a range of issues like gay marriage and abortion. I’m not sure how liberal it is on religious pluralism issues (do they ban burqas or headscarves?) Or how big they are with insisting on everyone speaking the same language. To the extent that the consensus they have over there on those issues differs from the consensus social conservatives in the US have on the same issues, to what extent does the conservatopia label really apply?Report

  4. Avatar CK MacLeod says:

    Yeah – conservatopia, fersure – with overall taxes after the big conservative “rollback” to ca. 47% of GDP from a high above 50% – so still around twice the US rate, and one of the highest in the world. Other ways of figuring taxation, such as those highlighted in the linked report, put the total rate even higher. Note also that Sweden’s total military spending is around 1.2% of its GDP, or around 1/4 the U.S. rate.

    Can’t say I notice a lot of resemblance to what most conservatives in the U.S. have been pushing for. I’m kinda scratching my head as to what the relevance of Sweden or the report for us is supposed to be.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to CK MacLeod says:

      Do people on the left often point to Sweden as a “liberaltopia” of some sort? Almost every time I’ve heard Sweden mentioned, it’s been by conservatives. I could be wrong, though. It’s been a while since I hung out with any real Democrat-votin’ lubruhls.Report

      • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Chris says:

        I think people on the left point to Sweden – and Scandinavia in general – as an example of how to make a country both more socialist/liberal *and* more libertarian/conservative than the USA at the same time. Neoliberals, in particular (your Yglesii, etc), speak very highly of its ability to combine a robust social safety net with very, very free markets. If it’s any kind of -topia, it is, as James K points out, a neoliberaltopia or a liberaltariantopia.Report

        • Avatar Rtod in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

          The important thing for everyone to remember is that all opinions on everything need to fall into one of two pre-chosen sets, as determined by US political parties.

          Otherwise it’s just chaos.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

          Which is why the social cohesion thing is such an important aspect of this (as are comparisons to Swedish expat communities in countries which don’t have Sweden’s social model.) If the Swedish model works because you start out with people who make virtues of hard work on the community’s behalf and a refusal to depend on government-provided benefits, then that doesn’t tell us much about whether it’s a good idea to provide extensive government benefits that aren’t tied to hard work.Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to DensityDuck says:

            Yeah, you got it, Mr. Duck. More in Part Deux: The gov’t is more a Costco for social services than a mommy, and is considered worth the extra tax levy.

            And the system collapses if people take more from the common treasury than they absolutely need. Here in America, it’s become take whatever you can get. The social web has a completely different dynamic.

            Further, everyone in Sweden is expected to work and is considered a moocher if they do not. Here in America, we call that a residue of a leftover Calvinism, unmodern and mean-spirited.

            Perhaps the most interesting part is how well those raised in Swedish culture thrive here in America. The equation isn’t political policy, its values and culture:

            Swedes seem to do just fine under the American system as well; the question is really whether Americans could make the Swedish one work.Report

      • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

        If you’re an ideologue convinced that what you believe must be true and pretty much exactly as you believe it, relieving you of any need to assemble relevant facts and put them in context, then Sweden is a shining proof that your ideology is correct. So among certain rightwing ideologues the possibility that European social democracy may have reached its economic and political limits under current conditions is proof that rightwing ideology is correct, even though the same “center right” government-slashers would view what the American conservatives favor as barbaric and inconceivable, and even though the same “conservative” European governance, if proposed for the U.S., would be attacked as treason, communism, and the dark night of tyranny extinguishing the last best hope of all mankind making the statues of the Gipper cry real tears.Report

  5. Avatar david says:

    An account of ‘relative economic performance’ that has no apparent acknowledgement of, say, World War II, the collapse of Bretton Woods, the rise of East Asian states on the GDP per capita table, etc., doesn’t seem particularly convincing.

    And it seems strange to assert that the UK and USA didn’t participate in the same third-way revolution that Sweden did.

    I doubt TvD doesn’t know that the only way to convincingly link long-term growth and redistributive policy is to drag out a lot of boring and impenetrable econometric techniques and statistical tables, so I’m not sure where this post was going.Report

  6. Avatar CK MacLeod says:

    Here’s the Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweden#Economy

    Relevant paragraph:

    The typical worker receives 40% of his or her income after the tax wedge. Total tax collected by Sweden as a percentage of its GDP peaked at 52.3% in 1990.[108] The country faced a real estate and banking crisis in 1990-1991, and consequently passed tax reforms of 1991 to implement tax rate cuts and tax base broadening over time.[109][110] Since 1990, taxes as a percentage of GDP collected by Sweden has been dropping, with total tax rates for the highest income earners dropping the most.[111] In 2010, it collected 45.8% of the country’s GDP as taxes, the second highest among OECD countries and still nearly double of that in the United States or South Korea.[108] The share of employment financed via tax income amounts to a third of Swedish workforce, a substantially higher proportion than in most other countries. Overall, GDP growth has been fast since reforms in the early 1990s, especially in manufacturing.[112]

    The 47% figure I gave in the prior comment was from a different source, possibly for a different recent year – a minor discrepancy, obviously. You can also find a handy chart comparing Sweden to other advanced economies over the last few decades in the Taxation in Sweden entry.Report

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