The View From 1776

Something to Like in Swedish Socialism

Since the 1930s, the Scandinavian socialist countries, particularly Sweden, have been held up as the models for social-justice policies that liberals want the United States to emulate.  Swedish citizens are actually better off than we, but not in ways the liberals anticipated: they don’t have inheritance taxes or minimum wage laws, and they do have a school voucher system.

In a TCSDaily posting titled America: More Like Sweden Than You Thought, Tim Worstall writes: “One of the joys of my working life is that I get to read papers like The State of Working America from the Economic Policy Institute. They are, as you may know, the people who urge that the USA become more like the European countries, most especially the Scandinavian ones. Less income inequality, more leisure time, stronger unions and so on. All good stuff from a particular type of liberal and progressive mindset—i.e. that society must be managed to produce the outcome that technocrats believe society really desires, rather than an outcome the actual members of society prove they desire by building it.”

But are social and economic conditions in Scandinavia and Finland really better than in the United States? 

Using the statistical analysis provided by the socialist Economic Policy Institute, Mr. Worstall observes, “... In the USA the poor get 39% of the US median income and in Finland (and Sweden) the poor get 38% of the US median income. It’s not worth quibbling over 1% so let’s take it as read that the poor in America have exactly the same standard of living as the poor in Finland (and Sweden). Which is really a rather revealing number don’t you think? All those punitive tax rates, all that redistribution, that blessed egalitarianism, the flatter distribution of income, leads to a change in the living standards of the poor of precisely ... nothing.”

Mr. Worstall also observes, “I will admit that I do find it odd the way that only certain parts of the, say, Swedish, “miracle” are held up as ideas for us to copy. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we were urged to adopt some other Swedish policies? Abolish inheritance tax (Sweden doesn’t have one), have a pure voucher scheme to pay for the education system (as Sweden does), do not have a national minimum wage (as Sweden does not) and most certainly do not run the health system as a national monolith (as Sweden again does not). But then those policies don’t accord with the liberal and progressive ideas in the USA so perhaps their being glossed over is understandable, eh?”

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