11 Feb 2019                    home

John Stossel, Sweden, and anti-Socialism

In the US, the libertarian pundit John Stossel does his bit on the hot topic of socialism, telling us that Sweden is "not a socialist success" that Sweden's success is a product of capitalism. That Sweden is capitalist is common knowledge. And the Social Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) accepts the existence of free-enterprise capitalism in her ideal society. But Stossel makes his anti-socialism point by describing socialism as having been a drag on Sweden, rather than pointing to Sweden's social policies making Sweden's capitalism work better for society.

Comments on Quora describe the predominant economic organization of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland and such — the Nordic Model — as capitalist, but they also describe benefits. Someone from Denmark describing Sweden as well writes:

Most of our historians would say our tradition of social democracy, our extensive welfare state and the relationship between employer and employee is a big part of our success. But that's not socialism.

Someone in Sweden writes that his country's welfare system works and despite or because of it Sweden is one of the best economies in Europe (and the world)." He credits education and describes migrants with less education as something to overcome.

Stefan Johansson writes that he isn't tired of Sweden's taxes because it "is used to finance health care and education," and he asks whether Americans will ever tire of paying hospital bills and college fees? "We don’t have those in Sweden, as we pay by our tax system."

With their capitalism, Swedes enjoy more vacation time than do American workers. In Sweden, parents are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave. Sweden has good public transportation.

As for economic equality, Sweden rate 24.9 on the Gini Index (zero being absolute equality. Japan, a welfare state with a lot of rich people, rates 37.9. the US according to the CIA World Factbook scores 45.

Despite its welfare, Sweden's public debt (according to the CIA Factbook) is 40.8 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The US public debt is a little over 105 percent of our GDP. In other words, Sweden's capitalism, with all of its accompanying social what-have-you, is outperforming US capitalism regarding debt. Sweden ranks high in index figures for happiness and for health. Life expectancy (at birth): the US 80.1, Sweden 82.2. Infant mortality (deaths before the age of one: the US 5.7 per 1,000, Sweden 2.6 per 1,000. Maternal mortality (per 100,000 live births): the US 14, Sweden 4.

Still, people like John Stossel, who consider themselves masters of logic, look for reason to deride Social Democrats in the US for advocating policies similar to Sweden's, and they are finding their reason these days in the boogyman label of Socialism and associations with policies that US Social Democrats or Swedish Social Democrats have not been advocating.

Stossel describes Sweden's "socialism" has having been a drag on Sweden, but democratic elections have produced prime ministers of the Social Democratic Party. From 2006 to 2014 a center-right coalition of parties barely dominated, and since 2014 a coalition led by Sweden's Social Democrats (including Sweden's Green Party) has returned to power. The Social Democrats have 100 seats in Parliament, the Greens 16 — of 349 seats. Sweden's Communists have an ideological identity apart from the Social Democrats, and the Communist Party is too small to have representation in parliament. Stossel's fellow Libertarians in Sweden's general election in 2018 received only 0.02 percent of the vote — people in Sweden in general not sharing Stossel's righteous indignation regarding Social Democrats.


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