Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Sweden Isn't Socialist (mostly)

For years, I've heard American leftists say Sweden is proof that socialism works, that it doesn't have to turn out as badly as the Soviet Union or Cuba or Venezuela did.

But that's not what Swedish historian Johan Norberg says in a new documentary and Stossel TV video.

"Sweden is not socialist -- because the government doesn't own the means of production. To see that, you have to go to Venezuela or Cuba or North Korea," says Norberg.

"We did have a period in the 1970s and 1980s when we had something that resembled socialism: a big government that taxed and spent heavily. And that's the period in Swedish history when our economy was going south."

Per capita GDP fell. Sweden's growth fell behind other countries. Inflation increased.

Even socialistic Swedes complained about the high taxes.

Astrid Lindgren, author of the popular Pippi Longstocking children's books, discovered that she was losing money by being popular. She had to pay a tax of 102 percent on any new book she sold.

"She wrote this angry essay about a witch who was mean and vicious -- but not as vicious as the Swedish tax authorities," says Norberg.

Yet even those high taxes did not bring in enough money to fund Sweden's big welfare state.

"People couldn't get the pension that they thought they depended on for the future," recounts Norberg. "At that point the Swedish population just said, enough, we can't do this."

Sweden then reduced government's role.

They cut public spending, privatized the national rail network, abolished certain government monopolies, eliminated inheritance taxes and sold state-owned businesses like the maker of Absolut vodka.

Read the rest here.


fitzhamilton said...

John, with all due respect this is more or less nonsense. Like most of our political categories "socialism" is a corrupt term. Like "liberal" and "conservative" in terms of our practical politics it means virtually nothing. We live in a society dominated by capital, which is to say one controlled by the "investor" class, in which normal people (the lower 80% of wage earners, and most especially those without investments that they can live on without a salary, which is to say more than 95% of us) are driven onto debt treadmills as soon as they enter adulthood. We have a 15% maximum capital gains tax, where most salaries are taxed at much higher rate, and this is simply insane. We need to release students and apprentices from debt, we need to guarantee everyone healthcare, we need to ensure everyone who works a living wage (defined as a wage that can afford mortgage or at least rent for a two bedroom dwelling for one wage earner in the market he is employed in).. This is not "socialism" in the sense that the economic sectors in question (healthcare, education, housing) must be controlled by government (though in the cases of healthcare and education they largely already are - see Medicare, the VA system, the public schools and universities, etc.) The Church in its ancient dispensation forbade usury, which in our context I think we can define as forbidding the accumulation of any debt that is not backed by an asset, that is charged an interest rate significantly above the rate of inflation.

"Christians" backing oligarchy and plutocracy is simply disgusting, on near par with Christians supporting abortion and sodomy, because the ethics of all these things are basically the same: screw the weak, and sterilize the fecund.

Deacon Nicholas said...

I'll beg to differ. When I hear "we need to guarantee . . . we need to ensure," particularly when we're speaking about economic matters, it's clear that the "we" is "the government." That is socialism. Calling a system that is still basically market driven an "oligarchy" and a "plutocracy" is tendentious, but even if these names were defensible, saying that support for them (as opposed to support for monarchy?) is "near par" [sic] to supporting abortion and homosexuality is not.