Conservative Americans see coronavirus hope in progressive Sweden

On the surface, Sweden’s approach to containing the coronavirus pandemic is a libertarian dream: Restaurants remain open, as long as they adhere to social-distancing rules. Schools are in session. Salons are in business. And by some metrics, Sweden has fared roughly as well as many of its European neighbors, all of which have instituted much stricter lockdown measures.

The combination has made Sweden an object of curiosity — and a possible model — for conservatives and libertarians pushing states to relax the strident social-distancing guidelines that have shuttered much of the American economy. Some on the right have called Sweden an example of what happens when big government leaves citizens alone. President Donald Trump himself grappled with Sweden’s approach while talking to reporters on Wednesday, musing that the Swedish leader doesn’t have to tell people, ”stay in your house. The people stay there automatically.”

But Swedes are quick to point out that their model relies on elements that are antithetical to American conservative philosophy — namely a high degree of trust in government — in addition to natural factors such as a less-dense population.