Dear America: Don’t Listen To Bernie Sanders. Sweden’s Not All That Great.

Dear America: Don’t Listen To Bernie Sanders. Sweden’s Not All That Great.

by Alexandra Ivanov

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (D) has said that socialist policies characteristic of countries like Sweden should be implemented in the U.S.

As a Swede, I would strongly advise against this.

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The worldwide socialist movement praises the Scandinavian countries for their high living standards and welfare. Easy to do for someone who has never lived in Sweden or read a book on Swedish history.

First off: The success of Sweden predates the welfare state. In reality, the economy began to fall behind in the 1960s when the state rapidly expanded. Moreover, Sweden enjoyed the highest growth in the industrialized world between 1870 and 1936 – between 1936 and 2008 the rate dropped down to number 13 out of 28 industrialized nations.

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The Swedish-Kurdish scholar Dr. Nima Sanandaji has written all about this in his book Scandinavian Unexceptionalism, published by the Institute of Economic Affairs. Not only did it hurt our economy, the growth of our welfare state has also made our social capital deteriorate. A study by the OECD, mentioned in Scandinavian Unexceptionalism, calculated the share of GDP spent on disability and sickness programmes and it showed, with the exception of the Netherlands, that the five Nordic countries spend more than all other OECD-countries.

The grand welfare state – built on the idea that someone else picks up the bill – has also influenced the way people view society and morality. The change is noted by the World Values Survey: 82 percent of Swedes agreed in the 1981-84 survey with the statement “claiming government benefits to which you are not entitled is never justifiable’”. Thirty years later only 55 percent of Swedes believed that it was never right to claim benefits to which they were not entitled (Sanandaji, IEA, 2015).

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A thriving economy, morality and a good business climate is incompatible with socialism. Only two of the 38 most successful privately owned Swedish companies were established after 1970. Today Sweden slowly moves away from the old ways, but someone who makes 2,500 USD a month will still pay 1,000 USD out of that in taxes, and on top of that 25 percent VAT. Third-way socialism (market socialism) might look good on paper, but when people lack ownership over the wealth they create, productive people will either leave or do something else.

However, living in a socialist country has other side-effects other than just hurting prosperity and growth. By giving away the money one creates, the power to make decisions over one’s life is also abandoned.

Imagine living in a country where it is illegal to homeschool your child? We’re also high on other government monopolies: you can only buy beer and wine in the state-owned stores. They are closed Saturday 3 pm until Monday 10 am and have a worse selection than your local Kroger. Horse racing? A state-controlled monopoly. To sum it up: Even our pharmacies were nationalized in the 1970s, and when we deregulated the market in 2008, only Sweden, North Korea and Cuba had a government monopoly for pharmaceutical retailing.

The education of all children, from the moment that they can get along without a mother’s care, shall be in state institutions.”
– Karl Marx

A strong government system which expands at the expense of personal liberty will influence human psychology. One of the most terrible consequences of Swedish socialism is how individualism has been replaced by state-individualism. Relying on individual help and support has been replaced by reliance on the state.

They don’t ever just take your money. Sweden strives to be the most equal country on earth, and the politicians won’t let anything stand in the way. An important part is the almost free (a Swedish word in Swedish for “someone else pays”) daycare for children. Since it’s all distributed by the government, politicians decides the curriculum as well as the values taught. There’s even been discussions about making daycare mandatory.

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What is the core of living in the country of equals? Never believe that you are better than anyone else. In all Scandinavian countries we have the Law of Jante: the idea that individual success and achievement is unworthy and inappropriate.

As a young girl growing up in Sweden, I always looked towards the United States for hope and inspiration. A country founded on the principles of freedom and self-ownership. A country where the people were not supposed to serve the government, but the other way around.

When I hear Bernie Sanders speaking about socialism, I am reminded of the words of Thomas Jefferson: “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground”. I advise you to protect your rights and run as far away as possible from candidates who advocate socialism.

Bio: Alexandra Ivanov is a Swedish opinion leader and chairwoman of The Confederation of Swedish Conservative and Liberal Students. She has previously worked at the Swedish think tank Timbro and the Swedish Taxpayers association.

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  • HenrikG
    August 19, 2015, 10:15 am

    “As a Swede” who moved back to Sweden after having lived in the U.S. for 28 years of my 34 year old life I can unequivocally say that I disagree. There is a reason I left the U.S. Sweden is 6 hours and 30 years ahead of the U.S.

    Personally, I gave up a 6 figure job to come back to a 5 figure job. I knowingly pay the higher taxes and I wholeheartedly support the system here. Why… because the U.S. doesn’t have this government with which the author speaks. They have corporations and a war machine. They care more about guns, gays and God than issues that really matter.

    Just look at the presidential race, it’s like a reality show. It’s a joke, a circus. The only candidate who seems to care is Bernie Sanders and for him to use Sweden as an example for the United States… considering the circumstances, is completely justifiable.

    Side note: Went with my GF to the Dr.’s office here not too long ago. In and Out in 50 minutes with what she needed. Saw the doctor and other specialists within minutes of arriving and paid only 150 sek (~$20). That’s where it ends. No surprising bills later in the mail. It works, it just works… and it works well.

    Maybe the author has spent too much time in the U.S. 😉


  • JasonN
    August 20, 2015, 6:13 am

    I have to wonder if the author has spent *any* time in the US at all. There’s a reason why the Scandinavian countries are consistently the happiest in the world. So they may not have the world’s biggest or best economies. Does that matter if the people are happy?

    As an American who has lived in Europe for the last 3 years, I firmly believe that America needs to do a lot of the things European countries have done. People are just happier overall here. And isn’t that the ultimate purpose of life?

    If we went by this author’s logic, money seems to be the most important thing and I’m so over that attitude. There’s more to life.

  • sevinn
    August 22, 2015, 6:22 pm

    I don’t know if the author has children, but there are some important comparisons that are essentially glossed over here. Compulsory school in Sweden starts at age 7, in the US it’s 5. Sure, we can home school here, BUT the majority of parents couldn’t afford to do that even if they wanted to. The fact is, most parents have to return to work soon after the birth of their child if they want to be able to support said child; the US being the ONLY first world country, and one of the few countries in the world that does not provide paid maternity leave. Who cares if my COUNTRY tops economic lists, is wonderfully rich, if the PEOPLE living in it are unhappy? Further, if the author kept up with, well basically ANY current news reports, she would know that our government is not there for the people, at least not any other people than the top 10%. Talk to a couple of middle or low income American parents about how much their government does for them, about how they are able to really be with their kids, and about how happy they are; then talk to some Swedish parents in the same income bracket. These responses might teach you something about what really matters.

  • fotografipro@sevinn
    August 28, 2015, 5:38 pm

    The present level of socialism in Sweden has been over eighty years in the making. I lived there for ten years (the seventies) and found it becoming increasingly difficult. In a state where that state controlled the sales and pricing of alcohol, the people were not happy. Sure with enough alcohol fueling the system they were, however in the cold light of day they were a grey people, poor socialisers and lethargic in life. They didn’t have to think, the state did that for them to the extent, that today a Swede has to be careful what they say and how they say it as the wrong utterances about the wrong subject matter can cause extreme difficulties in their lives. The kind of fairness that Bernie Sanders is talking about is so far from the Swedish norm that I fail to understand where the writer of the original article is coming from.

  • ZV48
    September 3, 2015, 3:38 pm

    I guess Austin Petersen has clearly never lived in Sweden. As an American, and an E.U. citizen, I have two passports, having lived in both countries equal time. If I were forced to forfeit one, it would never be my Swedish E.U.

    The standard of living is better by far in Sweden and you may pay more taxes, but equally wages are higher.

    Swedish reality is better than the American Dream


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