The libertarians’ nightmare:
    the Swedish model works

The Swedes stubbornly refuse to collapse into destitution, despite a government share of GDP that makes strong wingnuts weep.

This will shock the “Sweden-is-poorer-than-Mississippi” crowd. It turns out that a good social safety net helps build political consensus for open trade and employment flexibility.

More equality, more security, more leisure, better public services, somewhat smaller houses and fewer gadgets: where do I sign up? Now the trick is for Sweden and the other Nordic countries to learn to handle immigration.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

12 thoughts on “The libertarians’ nightmare:
    the Swedish model works”

  1. I don't know; as a libertarian, I don't find that terribly nightmarish at all. It mainly seems to support my belief that the actual transfer payments and safety net are the least damaging part of a welfare state. I'd happily support a much larger safety net in terms of size of transfer payments if I got a more sensible way of making them, less business regulation, and preferably smaller middle-class subsidies. The impression I got from the article is that Sweden has combined a really strong safety net with a certain amount of deregulation of other parts of the economy; I think that mix is less-than-ideal, but in some ways I'd prefer it to the current mix here.

  2. Very sensible, Jadagul. But you'll find that it's an article of faith on the right that Sweden is certain to collapse under its burden of socialist government any day now.

  3. It all sounds desirable–and I've visited Sweden and like it. BUT there's one huge long-term problem–there aren't anywhere near enough children in Sweden. (I don't have the statistics, but I know the fertility rate is way low). It's sort of like our budget deficit–it's great now, but it just isn't sustainable.

  4. I remember the "Sweden has a very crime rate" claim also. Turned out to be a result of adding bicycle theft in with murder, etc.

  5. I'm with Jadagul. Others call me a leftist libertarian, so maybe "there's your problem right there".
    I've eyeballed them for some time, as a fallback plan if things keep going to hell here. Recreational language learning is hard, but is coming along. It helps that I already speak German.

  6. Mark is right about the no-problem-for-liberty nature of big transfer payments and social insurance. There's actually a big political science literature on how big welfare states make populations more willing to be open to trade and to invest in human capital (because they'll have lots of time and resources to retrain if necessary).
    The problem is different: a policy of uniformly high wages, INCLUDING FOR SERVICES, renders just about impossible the lifestyles we're used to. People in Nordic countries don't eat lunch at restaurants. Takeout pizzas can cost a fortune. I'm told (anecdotally, to be sure) that Swedish doctors sometimes paint their own houses. Add such things together and "leisure" starts to seem less like leisure and more like compulsory home-based work. Maybe all this explains why Swedes have no time to rear children (though as some readers of this site will know, I think low birthrates are just fine). It certainly explains why immigrants find it hard to get a foot in the employment door.
    In principle, one could have high taxes, and income and retraining support in cases of unemployment, without a policy of very low wage differentials. In practice, the same union-heavy coalition that leads to the latter may be required to institutionalize the former.

  7. Being american living in sweden takes a bit of getting used to. The wage structure does make eating out way expensive. But then we don't have poverty wage waitresses without healthcare for their kids. So you get your own sandwich and cafe.
    The swedes are very concious of how their actions affect the whole of society. And they don't put up with corruption.
    A couple years ago it came out that ministers were taking their wives along to conferences on the government tab. We're talking coach air fare and run of the mill accomodations. Heads rolled. US tax-payers would say, "ho hum".
    Swedes expect a lot from their government, are willing to pay for it and pay attention that the ship of state is run tight. The way it pans out; nobody is too rich, nobody is too poor. Contrary to the right wing rhetoric (bull s**t) it's no free lunch but these very practical, hard working people gaze out at the rest of the world and know they have a good thing going and aren't going to let it slip away.

  8. It's always better to be high-wage and high-price.
    As yourself — would you rather be Sweden, or Mexico?

  9. The Swedish system could probably use a bit of a prod, maybe from talented Americans going over there and helping them fixer upper their system a bit?
    How much is a crash course in Basic Swedish?

  10. The Swedish system could probably use a bit of a prod, maybe from talented Americans going over there and helping them fixer upper their system a bit?
    How much is a crash course in Basic Swedish?

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