What's Left in Sweden?

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Sweden's centre-right opposition secured a narrow victory in yesterday's general election, ending 12 years of rule by the Social Democrats, who have governed for 65 of the last 74 years.

Fredrik Reinfeldt, the next prime minister, declared victory shortly before 11pm after a nail-biting finish which gave his four-party Alliance for Sweden a wafer-thin parliamentary majority.

His group was on course to win 178 seats in the 349-seat parliament—seven ahead of the Social Democrats and its allies on the left. With 99.7% of Sweden's districts counted, Mr Reinfeldt's alliance led with 48.1%, compared with 46.2% for the left. "The Swedish people have voted in an alliance government," Mr Reinfeldt told cheering, flag-waving supporters….

The loss for the Social Democrats, who have held office since 1994, represents a big political shift for Sweden, which is normally wary of the centre right. The Social Democrats, who won around 35.3% of the vote—their worst share since 1914—are seen to embody Sweden's "social model" which is praised across Europe for allowing strong economic growth while providing generous cradle-to-grave benefits.

More here.

For a great history of the Swedish welfare state–and a prescient tale of its decline–read Johan Norberg's excellent recent essay in the National Interest, in which he points out, among other things, that Sweden's total tax burden as a percentage of GDP in 1950 was less that of the United States and that the Swedish-model welfare state didn't really get cranked up until the 1970s.

Reason interviewed Norberg a few years back, focusing on his book In Defense of Global Capitalism. Read the Q&A here.

And check out blog and commentary by Johnny Munkhammar, a mainstay at the Swedish free-market think tank, Timbro.

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  1. Victory o/

    Sure, the Moderates have moved slightly towards the center but it still felt a lot better to to go to work today knowing that the Social Democrats and their communist party lapdogs won’t rule for another four years.

  2. ‘Mr Reinfeldt, whose party suffered a crushing defeat at the last election in 2002 after pledging tax cuts of ?9.4bn, carefully toned down his message to reassure the electorate that the “social model” would be safe in his hands. Voters, who believe the model needs to be reformed but not dismantled, were encouraged by more modest tax cuts of ?3.2bn over two years which would mainly be targeted at low-paid workers. The cuts would be paid for by reducing unemployment benefit from 80% of previous income to 65%…

    The election was watched closely across Europe because many leaders have hailed the “social model” as an example for the rest of the EU. Politicians including the German chancellor, Angela Merkel – who has said that Sweden shows that changes can be introduced without cutting off generous state provision – will be relieved that Mr Reinfeldt is not planning to take the axe to the “social model”.’

    It’s always good when a party comparable to our own Democratic Party comes to power.

  3. Yes, let’s spin a center-right victory in Europe into good news for the American Democrats.

    [cue dixieland jazz]

    “Happy Days Are Here Again…”

  4. Yes, let’s spin a center-right victory in Europe into good news for the American Democrats.

    [cue dixieland jazz]

    “Happy Days are Here Again…”

  5. OMG, Joe, you’re tireless!

  6. Kinda OT, but funny: A Swedish gang fight, or what passes for one. Apparently sponsored by L.L. Bean.

  7. We got a rumble in Brighton tonight!!!

  8. joe, could you point out for me the Democratic proposals to cut back the welfare state and reduce taxes?

    Last I saw, the Dems were plumping for higher taxes and a bigger welfare state.

  9. Well the Dems are for getting rid of the “tax cuts for the rich”.

    I expect many of them consider that to be cutting welfare, since in their convoluted minds allowing “the rich” to keep more of their own money actually constitutes the government “giving” them a handout.

  10. joe:

    ?modest tax cuts of ?3.2bn over two years which would mainly be targeted at low-paid workers. The cuts would be paid for by reducing unemployment benefit from 80% of previous income to 65%…

    Sounds like a step in the direction of a freer and more prosperous Sweden.

    It’s always good when a party comparable to our own Democratic Party comes to power.

    joe, when do we ever se the Dems advocating tax cuts to be paid for with budget cuts? When the Dems advocate budget cuts, it’s to spend the money somewhere else. Can you use your pull with the Dem folks to fix this bad habit?

  11. Actually, the Bush’s modest plan to allow private investment of part of social security payments was virtually identical to the plan proposed by the Social Democrats in Sweden. It was condemned as being “right wing” by the U.S. Democrats.

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