It helps that I’m undergoing a resurgence in love for Scandinavian interiors…
In fact, contemporary Sweden is much less socialist than many Americans realize. Since the early 1990s, when it suffered a painful financial crisis, the Scandinavian country has deregulated key industries (such as airlines, telecommunications, and electricity), lowered its overall tax burden, established universal school vouchers, partially privatized its pension system, abolished certain government monopolies, sold a number of state-owned enterprises (including the parent company of Absolut vodka), and trimmed public spending. Several years ago, it eliminated gift and inheritance taxes. The World Economic Forum now ranks Sweden as the second-most competitive economy on earth, behind only Switzerland.
Etc etc, including a bunch of stuff I’ll skip and then:
Which brings us to a common misconception about the Swedish system — that it takes from the rich and gives to the poor. Actually, says Lund University economist Andreas Bergh, “the majority of the taxes you pay are given back to you during your life cycle.” Thus, “if you pay more when you work, you will also get more when you retire.” Even upper-class Swedes enjoy bountiful government largesse.
Another popular myth would have us believe that Sweden’s wealth was somehow created or facilitated by social democracy. In reality… the relative “success” of the country’s social-democratic model “was built on the legacy of an earlier model: the period of economic growth and development preceding the adoption of the socialist system.”
During the first half of the 20th century, Sweden benefited enormously from its non-participation in the two world wars, which devastated Europe’s major industrial powers. Blessed with abundant natural resources, it was a staunch defender of property rights and a robust advocate of free trade. Cultural homogeneity, a strong legal framework, and a lack of corruption promoted famously high levels of trust and social cohesion. Sweden had a welfare state, but it also had an open, free-market economy. “As late as 1950,” Norberg observed, “the total tax burden was no more than 21 percent of GDP, lower than in the United States and Western Europe.”
In other words, Sweden became a fantastically rich country before it started greatly boosting taxes, spending, and regulation during the 1970s.
Yet certain aspects of the old Swedish model have proved stubbornly resistant to change. For example, the government-run health-care system remains plagued by long waiting times, and onerous labor regulations make it very difficult for companies to hire or fire workers. Labor-market rigidity has contributed to a yawning employment gap between natives and immigrants, which has retarded the process of integrating Swedish Muslims.
Decades ago, Stockholm chose to embrace liberal asylum policies, thereby inviting future waves of refugees from the Middle East, the Balkans, East Africa, and elsewhere. In a country once known for its homogeneity, the foreign-born population share is now approximately 14 percent. Unfortunately, Sweden has not made the labor-market adjustments necessary to accommodate mass immigration. The ghettoization of Muslim communities in poor, crime-ridden neighborhoods has inflamed cultural tensions and heightened fears over the sustainability of the welfare state. Sweden has “essentially imported an underclass,” says UCLA historian Peter Baldwin, a scholar of contemporary Europe. “It’s a huge social problem just waiting to explode.”