The Swedish experience does demonstrate that it’s possible for a welfare-state society to survive the waning of religion and the decline of traditional marriage without sacrificing middle class prosperity. But this success is founded on a level of cultural homogeneity and an inheritance of social capital that simply isn’t available in a polyglot republic-cum-empire like our own. Sweden has the population of North Carolina, no real linguistic or religious diversity, no experience of chattel slavery or mass immigration (and the children of recent immigrants in Sweden, incidentally, tend to have much higher poverty rates than the native-born), and a culture of Lutheran thrift and prudence that endures even though Lutheranism itself is on life support. America is and always has been a country of much greater diversity and wider cultural extremes, which is why we’ve always had to lean more heavily than smaller and more homogeneous societies on a wide array of mediating institutions — churches, families and private associations of all sorts — to foster assimilation, encourage upward mobility, and make the pursuit of happiness a possibility for people from wildly different walks of life. Even if the Scandinavian counter-example — in which a strong government compensates for a weakened social fabric — has some applicability here, it offers fewer lessons than many liberals like to think. The bonds that hold Swedish society together aren’t just the creation of a well-funded welfare state, and they simply aren’t available to, say, recent immigrants in Southern California or struggling blue-collar workers in the post-industrial Midwest.