“Sweden’s COVID-19 policy is a model for the right. It’s also a deadly folly,” opined the Guardian’s Nick Cohen in May. “Sweden Tries Out a New Status: Pariah State,” the New York Times excitedly reported on June 22.
The truth could not be more different. Not only is the verdict still out on the wisdom of the Swedish approach; the country’s strategy has nothing to do with the live-and-let-die philosophy most prominently championed by U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
Instead, the Swedish model is rooted in the country’s history of collective action, in which everyone has a role to play in keeping the country safe.
Sweden’s coronavirus strategy is a public health version of the country’s “total defense” approach to national security. Introduced during World War II and perfected during the Cold War, it posits that every citizen has to do their part to defend the nation.