On Sweden, socialism, and social democracy

Jazz caused a bit of stir last night when he asked if Sweden was on the verge of rejecting socialism. His theory is based on a Bloomberg article highlighting the potential rise of the Sweden Democrats – a more nationalistic party than the Swedish Social Democratic Party.

I reached out to Swedish blogger, friend, and candidate for parliament, Erik Lidstrom for comment on the piece. His comments are presented below with some grammar and language cleaned up.

Sweden is not about to reject socialism. If it were, my own party the classical liberal/conservative Medborgerlig Samling would be riding high in the polls. Or the more libertarian “Classical Liberal Party”.

The Sweden Democrats are at heart social democrats., maybe of the more right-leaning kind, and maybe they are partly integrating some small conservative elements.

They want to return to the kind of social democratic policies of the 1950s and 1960s, before it all went to [crap] under Olof Palme, six years of center-right government, followed by mostly but not only social democratic government.

The Sweden Democrats want to restrict immigration, but their immigration policies would still be by far more generous (including with our tax money) than those of the Social Democrats under Tage Erlander, prime minister 1946-1969.

No other party with a chance of getting 1 percent in the polls, apart from ours, wants to lower the tax pressure. Keeping it at about 45 percent GDP is not exactly rejecting socialism.

It’s also debatable whether Sweden is really a democratic socialist country, or just has the reputation for so-called Third Way politics.

Nima Sanandaji argued in 2015 at CapX the country actually rebelled against one of the Social Democrats’ key initiatives in the 80s.

The third way policies in Sweden were not merely about crowding out entrepreneurship by punishingly high taxes. They also culminated with the introduction of “employee funds” at the beginning of the 1980s. The idea was to confiscate parts of companies’ profits and use them to buy shares, which in turn would be part of the funds controlled by labour unions. In effect, the system was designed to gradually transform the ownership of private companies to the unions – a soft evolution towards socialism…

The funds were introduced in 1984, and later abolished following the election of a centre-right government in 1991. Not only was the confiscation of profits for the funds stopped, the money previously gathered in the funds was transferred into pensions savings and research foundations. Sweden chose to return to the path of market economics over that of socialism.

It’s pretty obvious Sweden is still a country with high taxes and heavy state spending. Tino Sanandaji and Bjorn Wallace wrote in 2011 at The Independent Review about Sweden’s crazy tax system noting, “the median wage earner pays 63 percent of earned wages in total taxes,” which is absolutely asinine.

The Sweden Democrats are rather vague on exactly what they’d do about the tax burden, speaking mostly in general terms on their party platform. A Google Translate version is below:

Careful management of the common financial resources is one important and natural part of the Swedish democratic governance concept. Healthy government finances and respect for the target of surplus in the state budget is a prerequisite for long-term preservation of a high level of welfare. The Swedish Democrats regard ownership as a necessity a prerequisite for successful social development. A responsible, regulated market economy, based on long-term thinking, is for us obvious. Growth is necessary to maintain our well-being, but must be balanced against important social values ​​such as public health, cultural heritage, environment, social capital and national self-determination.

The tax exemption must not be so low that it threatens the state’s ability to protect vulnerable groups, hold together society or offer all citizens one high basic welfare level. However, the tax exemption must not be calculated either
such a way that it severely limits the individual’s ability to cope self-sufficiency, eliminates the incentives to want to contribute to the economic growth or significantly inhibits business competitiveness.

We see work as the only safe means to achieve lasting individual and general prosperity. Therefore, good conditions for entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship are required.

This is why I’m skeptical on whether Sweden Democrats are an actual change from Swedish Social Democrats. The former may be considered “nationalistic” but – outside of flowery talk about the importance of national identity – are they really any different from the latter? Probably not.

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David Strom 4:31 PM on November 25, 2022