We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Socialists love analogies to Sweden. But they are always unconvincing because they are based on some fantasy Sweden, rather than on an actual Nordic country bordered by Norway and Finland. In the Sweden of lore, every single woman is also 18 years old, blonde, busty, lonely, naked and waiting for you in the sauna.

Claire Berlinski, Why Thatcher Matters. Page 154.

One of the highlights of the book are the interviews she carries out with Neil Kinnock, former leader of the Labour Party. He comes across as the buffoon he is with a layering of rather pompous Welsh charm. And for those who might have forgotten the mid-80s, there is a vivid pen portrait of Arthur Scargill, leader of the National Union of Mineworkers. He was not just a Marxist, he was an avowed admirer of Stalin.

19 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Sweden is a major industrial economy that has always embraced free trade, which has honest institutions and the rule of law, and in which the government does not intervene in the private sector and does not bail out failing companies.

    With all that, it’s possible to remain pretty rich even if you do have high taxes and a large welfare state.

  • pete

    Why single out Sweden? Lefties love to remain in deliberate ignorance of many countires so they can believe how wonderful they are.

    Cuba, the old soviet bloc and even communist China are all examples of this phenomenon.

    It’s nothing to do with these other countries really. It’s just to give them the excuse to whinge and whine about how awful the UK is by comparison, and the USA and Israel too. This is supposed to show the rest of us how perceptive and caring they are.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    pete, I chose a quote about Sweden because it is a nice distillation of the wish fulfillment of a certain type of intellectual. As Michael Jennings says, the reality is also rather different from the idea of a supposed socialist utopia, and in good as well as negative ways.

  • Unlike Cuba, the old communist block, or even China, Sweden is actually rich, free, and a really nice place. In Sweden’s case, the lie you are addressing pertains to why it is a really nice place, not whether it is a really nice place. If you like, you are addressing the “socialist” in “socialist paradise”, rather than addressing the “paradise”. Different arguments are required.

  • Stonyground

    My perception is that adapting a socialist economy results in a brief flash of apparent prosperity as the government indulges in a spending spree with borrowed money and sky high taxes. A few years on the economy crashes when they run out of other people’s money and all the big companies re-locate to some other country with a low tax economy.

    The point about Sweden, surely, is that they appear to have made socialism work. If this is the case, socialists must be studying the Swedish model in detail to work out why it succeeds when so many others have failed. I would suspect that maybe Sweden is not quite as socialist as it appears to be and that is the key but I am only speculating.

    I have actually been there, twenty years ago I should add, and I did comment to the locals that the cars there were predominantly Saabs and Volvos. It was explained to me that foreign cars were heavily taxed and as a result were really poor value compared to the homegrown cars. The rest of the world seems to be overlooking this kind of protectionism and allowing Swedish cars a level playing field in their own markets.

  • John B

    I have heard from Nordic friends that actually the wheels are coming off, in socialist Scandinavia.

    You mention Scargill in passing.
    It amazes how so few people seem to have noticed a consensus shift from the 80s/90s, when mass, destructive demos seemed something of the silly past, to about 2003/4, when the socialist heavy weights began moving in, and now mass, destructive demos have again become the norm.
    There has been a massive psychological and meta-contextual shift that seems to have gone unnoticed?

  • AndyJ

    It’s NOT true-? Guess I’ll have to revert to California Girls… Movie Stars… Just like on TV

  • Well, there are four Nordic countries on the European mainland, and they all have quite different economies. Sweden is an industrial economy, which actually made some fairly tough reforms in the mid 1900s, and to me appears to have handled the transition to at least partly post-industrial quite well. (The country of Saab and Volvo has evolved into the country of Ikea and H&M). Sweden has had the large advantage in the last couple of years of having had a floating currency, and a little bit of a resulting devaluation has helped navigate the economic downturn reasonably well. Quite seriously, the best thing about Sweden is that it is pretty clearly understood what is the government’s business and what isn’t. We on this blog probably wouldn’t agree with the placement of the line, but that there is a clear line is a very good thing. Denmark is more a trading nation with less industry, but (despite having a formal opt-out and being under no obligation to do this, and despite the fact that this gives them all the disadvantages of being in the euro with none of the advantages of being in the euro) has tied its currency to the Euro, and has had its economy squeezed and made less competitive as a consequence. Finland is a relatively small company that had one huge company (Nokia) become responsible for a huge portion of its economy, and then saw that one company totally flame out. And they have the lack of competitiveness from being in the euro on top of that. Norway on the other hand is an oil economy, with all the good and bad that comes with that.

    I think it is a mistake to assume that the four countries are too similar.

  • “Sweden is a major industrial economy that has always embraced free trade…”

    Not true; trade with somewhat less onerous restrictions and regulations than elsewhere perhaps, but to call it “free” trade is wrong, unnecessary to the point being made and concedes the principle of State interference as a constitutive element to “free” trade.

  • Paul Marks

    One thing the left miss is that, for much of the 20th century government took up a SMALLER percentage of the economy in Sweden than it did in Britain.

    For example, not only did Sweden miss the capital destruction of World War One (people who think that major war is “good for the economy” ought also to think that earthquakes and so on are “good for the economy” for the same crackbrained Keynesian reasons) but even in the 1930s (when fools started to rave about the wonderful “Middle Way” Sweden)…….

    Taxation in Sweden in the 1930’s took up HALF the proportion of the economy that it took in Britain.

    Then came World War II (which Sweden avoided as it had World War I) then the mass destructionism of the Atlee regime – with its vast nationalization and orgy of controls.

    And on and on.

    Indeed it is only in recent years that Swedish statism has been greater than British statism.

    And even then this is not fully true – for example the Swedish commercial legal system is less bad than the British one.

    And Swedish corporation tax is not particularly high,. and…..

    So on and so forth.

    Even government spending may not be so much higher in Sweden than it is in Britain.

    I suspect (when one takes everything into account) it is about half the economy in both nations.

    Of course a country where government spending takes up half the economy can not survive in the long term – but that is just as true for Britain as for Sweden.

  • Brad

    What else needs to be said about Sweden than it has a relatively small population, low density, and is largely homogenous culturally. They could develop an economy, market, and culture involving worshipping pineapples and buttering their nipples and get away with it. Try it in a country that has one city alone that has more population, more ethnicities, inhabited with some people who would shove a knife in your ear for looking at them the wrong way. Problems arise when we disagree with one another, not when we get along with one another. The free market is the mechanism that addresses disagreement and teaches people how to be disinterested. The more diverse, the more tolerant and disinterested we need to be. Comparing highly populated, cross purposed countries with Sweden is comparing apples and oranges.

  • That was a very astute observation, Brad. Seems obvious enough, but nevertheless I’ve never quite thought about it that way.

  • What else needs to be said about Sweden than it has a relatively small population, low density, and is largely homogenous culturally.

    Except that there are many other countries in the world with relatively small populations, low densities, and which are largely homogeneous culturally that are dirt poor.

  • Michael: what I took from Brad’s comment is not that those attributes are necessary for success, but that they make success possible under less-free market conditions than would be required in more diverse societies.

  • An easy way to embarrass advocates of the Swedish “socialist paradise” is to point out that its government was practising Nazi-eugenics-style forced sterilization until well into the 70s.

  • Kim du Toit

    Yeah, let’s wait and see how well the “Swedish model” holds up when a larger proportion of its population does not only not share the Swedish work ethic, but is inimical to the entire society which foolishly offered it no-strings sanctuary.

    Oh, we don’t have to wait?

    Swedish Welfare State Collapses as Immigrants Wage War

  • Laird

    Kim, that article you linked is five years old. I’m not aware that Swedish society has yet collapsed. Apparently we’re still waiting.

  • Paul Marks

    Sweden is indeed still in existance Laird, but look at (for example) Malmo.

    Get the average Swedish person hooked up to a lie detector and ask him or her about Malmo……..

    Either they will say it has become a Hellhole – or the lie detector will show a lot of dishonesty in play.

    The cities of Sweden (especially Malmo) are not the nice places they used to be.

    Still (like Finland) most of Sweden is forest – when, and IF, civilization collapses it remains to be seen who will survive (and who will not) in those forests. Especially trying to farm without practical knowledge of a Swedish winter (a tough task even for people with centuries of experience).

    However, it should also be understood that the Welfare State is no less out of control in Britain.

    The idea that Sweden is much closer to collapse than Britain is – well that is a myth.

  • Kim du Toit

    Laird, and if you think things have gotten BETTER in Sweden in the five years since the article was written, I want some of whatever it is you’re smoking.

    It takes a long time to destroy a prosperous democratic nation-state, but that at least makes it easier for voters to force their government to apply corrective action. Sadly, however, I see little evidence that Swedish voters will ever do so.