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Free Minds & Free Markets

Stossel: Sweden Is Not a Socialist Success

Many people think Sweden is socialist, but its success comes from free markets.

Democratic socialists in the United States point to Sweden as a socialist success. But Swedish historian Johan Norberg says, "Sweden is not socialist."

Norberg hosts a documentary called Sweden: Lessons for America?, in which he notes that in Sweden, "government doesn't own the means of production. To see that you have to go to Venezuela or Cuba or North Korea."

John Stossel asks Norberg why so many Americans think Sweden is socialist. Norberg answers, "We did have a period in the 1970s and 1980s when we had something that resembled socialism: a big government that taxed and spent heavily."

But big government led to problems. "Our economy was in crisis, inflation reached 10 percent, and for a brief period interest rates soared to 500 percent. At that point the Swedish population just said, 'Enough, we can't do this,'" Norberg says.

Sweden cut public spending, privatized the national rail network, abolished certain government monopolies, eliminated inheritance taxes, sold state-owned businesses, and switched to a school voucher system. It also "lowered taxes and reformed the pension system," adds Norberg.

So Stossel asks why we keep hearing "that Sweden is this socialist paradise."

Norberg answers: "We do have a bigger welfare state than the U.S. and higher taxes than the U.S. But in other areas, when it comes to free markets, when it comes to competition, when it comes to free trade, Sweden is actually more free market."

He's right, according to the Heritage Foundation's Economic Freedom Rankings. Sweden ranks higher than the U.S.

Norberg also tells Stossel that Sweden's tax system may surprise Americans. "This is the dirty little secret....We don't take from the rich and give to the poor. We squeeze the poor, because rich people might leave."

Even people who earn below average income pay up to 60 percent in taxes.

Stossel asks: What lessons should Americans take from Sweden?

"You can't turn your backs [on] the creation of wealth," warns Norberg.

Sweden: Lessons for America? airs on PBS on October 29th at 7 p.m. Eastern. You can also watch it at freetochoose.tv.

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The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel; his independent production company, Stossel Productions; and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.

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  • Old Mexican - Mostly Harmless||

    He's not stupid. He's a liar.

  • Shirley Knott||

    Or perhaps both.

  • sarcasmic||

    You give him too much credit.

  • John||

    You are an expert on stupid Mexican. So there is that.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    He's a high school kid. You guys are getting worked up over a high school kid.

  • Dont Tread On My Lawn||

    Wait seriously ? I thought LoveCon has said before that he had served in the military or something like that and was retired basically ?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The trolls cannot remember facts let alone details about Hihn's enemy #___ .

    It does say a lot that they know they get owned. Its even funnier that they admit that they could get owned by a kid in high school.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    And since people never lie about themselves on the internet...

  • mmmjv||

    Who's a high school kid?

  • buybuydandavis||

    "Orange Man Bad"

  • sarcasmic||

    Look. If the government owns anything that produces anything, then the country is completely socialist or communist. That's why Sweden is completely socialist and China is completely communist. There is absolutely no free market at all unless the government is completely and totally not involved. Just as the existence of any tariffs, no matter how small, mean a full fledged trade war is underway that justifies total boycotts of entire countries. Jesus. You must be a nanarchist or something.

  • John||

    And if a country has any free market elements to it, all of the success that results from that are because of the socialist elements.

  • sarcasmic||

    The above point was that Sweden tried socialism, and it didn't work. So they're instead encouraging free enterprise and free markets because that creates wealth.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    But the Socialists are still in charge. Major point.

  • sarcasmic||

    If they are abandoning socialism, are they really socialist?

  • TuIpa||

    It's like you don't know what a continuum is.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    As the definition points out. Since the Sweden government wholly owns some enterprises, they are Socialist.

    BTW: I saw no talk from Sweden about de-nationalizing those listed businesses.

    There is no real term for Socialist nations that allow from free enterprise to operate. Maybe 'mixed-economy' but that is not widely accepted.

  • JesseAz||

    Governments become socialist when they own entire markets, not just enterprises.

  • FlameCCT||

    They usually call themselves Democratic-Socialists although Lenin ruined that term as he used it as propaganda for his Communism.

  • DarrenM||

    Basically, socialism can not exist without capitalism to pay for it.

  • vek||

    That is the moral of the story. And how much big government they decide to have, and how much free market they decide to have, will determine how shitty the country is.

    It isn't an all or nothing thing, as many like to pretend. But I tend to believe that the less socialism a country has, alllllll the way down to the point of it being zero, the better off that nation is overall.

  • LinoleumBlownApart||

    And at that point it's no longer socialism.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Sweden's success is a result of multiple factors working together. Yes, free markets play a huge role. But so do cultural forces, such as the Law of Jante, and the Scandinavian perception of time. Swedes are more efficient workers than Americans, for example.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Sweden does not really produce anything that other countries cannot get from somewhere else. Sweden's primary export commodities include industrial machinery, automobiles, paper products, iron and steel products, pulp and wood, and chemicals.

    Swedes get massive time off. They get at least 41 days off. Times are changing but Swedes used to take July off to go to summer houses, so some of the economy just shut down.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Also a huge oil reserve last I looked.

  • Gus diZerega||

    You confuse Sweden with Norway. look again.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Lots and lots and lots of Swedes.

  • D-Pizzle||

    ^This^

    This brings to mind the story of a discussion between Milton Friedman and some pro-socialist (paraphrased):

    Socialist: There's very little poverty in Scandinavia.
    Friedman: Yes, and there's very little poverty among Scandinavians in the U.S.

  • D-Pizzle||

    Another story from a conversation between a Swedish pro-market economist and P.J. O Rourke (again, paraphrased):

    P.J.: How does Sweden stay prosperous with such a generous social safety net?
    Economist: (points out window at bleak wintery landscape) The lazy ones all died centuries ago.

  • vek||

    Yup. Cultural factors play a major part in things.

    The Protestant Work Ethic is in fact a thing man, although it's not JUST about working hard. There are a lot of cultural habits that have made Northern Europe in general whip everybody elses asses. Many of these carry through the generations. My grandpa, supposedly never took a sick day in over 40 years on the job. His father was born in Germany, and his mother was US born but also German. My father, and I in turn, both very much had a "don't be a pussy" thing instilled in us about work, and even specifically calling in sick.

    I will probably try to beat the same thing into my children. An Italian family in the US... Possibly not so much. But these little things add up to BIG differences cumulatively, as evidenced between the difference between Germany/Sweden/Etc and Spain/Italy/Etc.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Poor trolls cannot do anything correct without me to teach them.

    Swedish state controlled enterprises

    Wholly owned:
    Akademiska Hus
    Apoteket
    Green Cargo
    Göta Kanalbolag; see Göta Canal
    Infranord
    Jernhusen
    Lernia
    LKAB
    RISE - Research Institutes of Sweden
    Samhall
    SBAB
    SJ
    Sveaskog
    Svenska Spel
    Casino Cosmopol
    Swedavia
    Svevia
    Swedish Space Corporation
    Systembolaget
    Teracom
    Vattenfall

  • John||

    The slogan of the ruling party for most of the post war period was "we do not want to eliminate private property, just all of the benefits that come from owning it".

    Yeah, but Sweden isn't socialist or anything.

    It is also a model of the success of open borders

    http://www.nytimes.com/2018/03.....nades.html

    Funny how reason doesn't want to talk about Swedens amazing refugee policy.

  • JesseAz||

    What's their percent of foreign born? Why did they start restricting patterns after complaints from the large influx the last decade.

  • vek||

    Yup.

    Now the thing that all these stupid bleeding heart fucks refuse to admit is that Sweden would be having NONE of these problems if they didn't let in a bunch of low rent foreigners.

    NOTE Japan DOES NOT have hand grenades being tossed around in the streets of Tokyo. Nobody being run down by trucks, or blown up by suicide bombers etc.

    Swedish society has been made shitter because of these people. PERIOD. So the question is, WHY should Swedes put up with it? Why shouldn't they just deport every one of those fucks back from whence they came? Sweden isn't a "nation of immigrants" it is a homeland for their people...

    Some GENIUS Libertarian explain to me why they should ruin their country for the sake of diversity please?

    ALSO, in the US keep in mind Hispanics commit ~35% of murders... And are barely 15% of the population. They were only 1-2% several decades ago... So our murder rate would probably be 30% lower if we hadn't taken so many in. Keep in mind I'm part Mexican... But facts are facts, and facts don't always back Libertopia fever dreams...

  • John||

    No. you are a complete retard who doesn't understand what Stossell is saying. He is not syaing Sweden isn't socialist. It is. He is saying that it succeeded because of the fre market elements that the socialist government allowed to remain and in spite of it being socialist not because of it.

    In additiont to being a hateful troll who can only find a job working for media matters trolling, you are more than anything just stupid. Like all leftists, you are incapable of grasping any kind of nuance or degrees of things and see the world as completely black and white. You are utterly incapable of anything beyond what can best be described as animal level reasoning.

  • sarcasmic||

    Just as China's current success is a result of free market reforms, not central planning.

    Oh, wait. That's not true. At least not according to Trump supporters. China is completely communist with no free market at all, and is an economic powerhouse because of central planning. Or is it both? I think it's both, just depends on what point they are trying to make. Consistency is for fools.

  • John||

    I really can't speak for the Trump supporters that live in your head. I can only speak for myself and the ones I know and I have never heard anyone claim anything like that.

    The irony of you, the person who can't go ten minutes on here without yelling STRAWMAN, posting one of the most absurd strawmen ever posted on here, is not lost anyone reading your post.

  • sarcasmic||

    You seriously haven't seen the usual suspects here saying we can't do business with China because the commies own everything, so when we do business with them we're only enriching the central planners?

    Where the hell have you been?

  • TuIpa||

    "You seriously haven't seen the usual suspects here saying we can't do business with China because the commies own everything, "

    No, actually I haven't. Finding some quotes shouldn't be hard though if it is so ubiquitous.

  • ||

    You seriously haven't seen the usual suspects here saying we can't do business with China because the commies own everything, so when we do business with them we're only enriching the central planners?

    Where the hell have you been?

    When you say "can't do business with China" do you mean "can't do business with the Chinese people"? Because I frequently make the point that Reason and others blatantly disregard the distinction, even the idea that their might be a distinction, like good little useful innocents/idiots.

    I mean, we oppose the Fed in this country but favor all of our debt being held by a banks literally owned by a socialist, foreign power? What sense does that make?

  • JesseAz||

    I haven't seen that sarcasmic, can you post examples?

  • DarrenM||

    can't do business with China because the commies own everything

    I thought it was the JOOS. It's hard to keep up.

  • newshutz||

    It must be the (((chinese))).

  • loveconstitution1789||

    China is Communist AND those Commies have allowed some parts of free market to be used.

    China would not be growing at the rate it does without the amount of trade they do.

    Yet another reason that Trump knows that China will cave to lowering trade restrictions. China has to at some point or it falls back into the trap of Communist stagnation like the USSR experienced.

  • sarcasmic||

    That argument seems to change every day.

  • TuIpa||

    Or maybe you're just wrong.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Sarcasmic cannot keep his life straight so figures that he is delusional about what I say.

    He could go back and check to find out he is wrong but refer to Sarcasmic's life issues again.

  • vek||

    Obviously China has become so successful because of freeing up their economy relative to how it used to be... But the Chinese government also directly owns major industries, and has investments in semi-private firms too. AND they regulate/manipulate the heck out of favored industries too, even when they don't directly own a piece of the action.

    So it's a mixed bag. I know of nobody who has said otherwise, so don't be daft.

  • John||

    You are a complete fucking illiterate. Sweden was a socialist country and then reformed and it worked.

    You are just so fucking stupid. Why do I waste my life dealing with lowlifes like you? You just come here to shit on the thread and ensure no rational discussion ever occurs. You are just a complete waste of space.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Buttplugger will never admit that Sweden being high on some freedom index is because that is what they want the index to say. There is just no way that Socialists would try and hide their Socialism to remain in power.

  • TuIpa||

    "John, after yesterday's humiliation when you misread Nick's assertion that he doesn't "hate" Trump you should be too ashamed to get a second ass-beating."

    You mean like a couple days ago when you got caught lying about a poll?

    Or like how you're known as a welsher?

  • Dont Tread On My Lawn||

    "Ass-beating"

    Lol i think you spend too much time on the internet.

  • Sevo||

    Sarah Palin's Buttplug|10.23.18 @ 11:01AM|#
    "Now Stossel is a troll."

    List of turd's posts which are no lies:

  • sarcasmic||

    Good point. Some means all. So if the government owns some companies, it owns all the companies. Your logic is impeccable.

  • John||

    No. You don't understand what is going on here. Did you even read your post above? Sweden was a socialist government and economy. The fact that some free market elements remained no more make it not a socialist country than the existence of Social Security and Medicare make the US not a capitalist country.

    This stuff isn't hard. I wouldn't expect a retard like Shreek to understand it. But you generally are smarter than that.

  • sarcasmic||

    Socialism means government control of the means of production. Sweden has encouraged free enterprise (private ownership) and free trade. That's hardly socialist. A robust welfare state does not equal socialism either. Social welfare on the back of a capitalist economy is not the same as a socialist economy. Yeah, I get it. Retards like lc can't.

  • John||

    We are arguing semantics. They had more than a robust welfare state. They also had enormously high and regressive taxes. I don't see how a country that says that you can start a business but the government gets to keep virtually every dime that business makes is not a socialist country. Sure, you own the business not the state, but the state has made ownership of it virtually meaningless through its taxation. And indeed, that is exactly what the Swedish government openly claimed to be doing.

  • sarcasmic||

    Fascists allow private ownership but tell the companies what to do. By your logic the US is a fascist state because bureaucrats run the companies through regulation.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    fascism noun
    fas·cism | \ˈfa-ˌshi-zəm also ˈfa-ˌsi-\
    1 often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
    2 : a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control

  • sarcasmic||

    severe economic ... regimentation

    As in the government tells companies what to produce and how to produce it. My point still stands.

  • John||

    Socialists allow private ownership sarcasmic. You seem to have confused socialism with communism. The two are not the same. Communism is where the state owns all of the property. Socialism allows the ownership of private property, it just distributes the benefits of that property equally among the population or in other words, what Sweden did for many years.

  • sarcasmic||

    I don't see how a country that says that you can start a business but the government gets to keep virtually every dime that business makes is not a socialist country.

    Socialism ignores the price system in favor of orders from central planners. That's one of the main reasons why it doesn't work. Goods are allocated by command and control, not by prices. So people get too much here and not enough there.

    A robust welfare state and high taxes still isn't socialism if goods are allocated by prices. When people don't have enough prices go up, when they have a lot prices go down. Goods flow according to prices. That can still happen with high taxes and a welfare state.

  • John||

    Socialism ignores the price system in favor of orders from central planners.

    Again, you are confusing communism and socialism. Socialism in the modern sense is a hybrid of private ownership, central planning and controlled markets. You can define the word however you like. There is no one definition of socialism. But, a whole lot of people consider themselves socialist and still recognize private property and do not think the government should totally control every market. They just think the government should collect and distribute the wealth created by those markets.

  • sarcasmic||

    When I think of socialism I think of the government nationalizing industries. Like Britain and coal. Or what Bernie wants to do with the health care system.

    When I think of countries easing up on socialism I think of private ownership and free markets.

    I think there is a distinction between socialist as a political system and socialism as an economic system. What you're talking about is a socialist political system riding on a capitalist economy. What I'm talking about is a socialist economy.

    So we're probably in agreement.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The definition of Socialism does not require that every business be owned by the state. The fact that some are, indicates that that nation is okay with owning and controlling means of production.

    so·cial·ism
    /ˈsōSHəˌlizəm/
    noun: socialism
    a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.
    (in Marxist theory) a transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism and the realization of communism.

  • sarcasmic||

    Distribution and exchange is run by the state, meaning abandoning the price system.

  • TuIpa||

    According to you.

  • sarcasmic||

    The definition provided said that distribution and exchange is run by the state. That means bureaucrats determine what goods go where. The hand is very visible. The price system is that invisible hand that economists talk about. It's the coordination of millions of people who give each other information with prices. Socialism distributes goods based upon the commands of central planners, not the price system. How else can they run distribution and exchange?

  • TuIpa||

    "The definition provided said that distribution and exchange is run by the state"

    Actually it said " the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole"

    Consider why that isn't the same as "That means bureaucrats determine what goods go where"

    You seem intent on being both extremely specific when it suits you and resorting to paraphrase when it doesn't. Pick one please.

  • sarcasmic||

    In practice "the community as a whole" is the state.

  • TuIpa||

    Sometimes (usually) yes, but that is not essential.

    A direct democracy would be one example where it was not the state.

    Regardless, MY point stands. You are using two different standards of accuracy when it serves you.

  • Microaggressor||

    Therefore the U.S. is socialist because it has the post office and some other things.

    Binary labels are useless when you're talking about a spectrum of mixed economy.

  • TuIpa||

    Try telling that to sarc.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The USA does have a few socialist enterprises. AMTRACK, FDIC, USPS, medicare, ObamaCare, Medicaid.

    Does that make the USA Socialist? Technically, yes.

    A yuge difference is that in the USA there are tens of millions of us trying to end these socialist parts of the USA. In Sweden, there are few and Socialism is very popular.

  • JesseAz||

    You're just wrong. Once again, to control a mean of production you have to own markets, not competing businesses. If the US outlawed ups you'd almost have a rational point.

  • Barrie||

    Let's not forget about public schools, the biggest socialist enterprises in the USA.

  • JesseAz||

    The us has government owned entities producing things... Especially in the defense industry.

  • JesseAz||

    For fucks sake. Socialism is the control of markets, not businesses. Even America has government owned entities such as AMRDC in Huntsville which sells technology to not just the government but to non government and foreign entities.

  • Conchfritters||

    The Systembolaget sucks. Luckily when I lived in southern Sweden in 1992 I was close enough to Denmark to buy cheap booze at friendly hours of the week. People would load up 2 wheel carts full of cases of beer and wheel them back to their cars on the Swedish side to take home. Also, Volvo's and Saab's were so dam expensive in Sweden that you could buy them cheaper in Denmark.

  • XM||

    Sweden owns some companies, but they don't control the means of production (according to this video). And the state owned companies don't receive tax dollars.

    It looks like most of these state owned businesses are involved in things like infrastructure, energy and education. I get the feeling that these companies are equivalent of contractors in the United States. They do business for the government.

    If Sweden is a socialist state, it's not the kind that exists in Bernie Sanders' mind. Honestly I think Japan and Korea are more socialist than Sweden.

  • Mongo||

    Kudos to Reason's online ad jefe: I'm seeing very few - if any - rotting toenail and skin disease ads.

  • Dillinger||

    Audi ads during Saab story ha.

  • JFree||

    I'm always amazed by the importance commenters here seem to attach to labels/categories/pigeonholes. That once a label can be attached to something, then the label is the only important element and the thing itself is near-irrelevant.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Its human nature to make things easier. Less work.

    Life is already complicated enough to then push for purposeful complexity.

    It also is a major tactic of Lefties is to change definitions and what terms they use, in order to hide. At various times, they use: Nazis, Marxists, Progressives, Liberals, Lefties, Democrats, Left-Libertarians, Socialists, Communists, Democratic Socialists, left-wingers, anarchists, an-caps, revolutionaries, freedom fighters, Fascistii, fascists, anti-fa....

  • sarcasmic||

    So you're one of the Lefties? And here I thought you were a Trump-worshiping conservative. Learn something new every day.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I did leave off Minarchist and Nanarchist.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Does this force the Democratic Socialists in America to confront the fact that they're pushing fascism?

  • buybuydandavis||

    Ask a Lefty to point at their ideal society, and it's always one of the most ethnically homogeneous white countries.

  • JesseAz||

    This.

  • apedad||

    Ask a Righty to point at their ideal society and it's always an ethnically homogeneous white country.

    FTFY.

  • vek||

    Yup. The only countries where large welfare states have even remotely functioned are northern European nations, or Asian nations, namely Japan and South Korea.

    They like to ignore though that the most successful of ALL honky nations has been the USA, which is the least socialist of white nations. And they like to ignore all the social and cultural things that probably play into it working at all in said countries. They also like to ignore that ALL the European countries have been trimming back the very stuff they're pushing here since the 70s or 80s in all of them, because all of Europe started to fall apart when they were trying stuff that was close to "real" socialism.

    But whatevs. It's not like using logic or facts will convince most idiot leftists, although I will definitely have to remember a few of these things about Sweden to throw in their faces anyway just to watch them twitch!

  • Lawn Darts||

    I watched the full documentary. Great quote about how the parties in Sweden came together to have an "adult conversation about arithmetic". It backs up the chart in the story "We've Never Had Deficits Like This During Peace and Prosperity" story in H&R a couple days ago, that shows the best way to provide the money for social programs is to tax the poor to pay for it. It's simple, and painful, math.

  • vek||

    Yeah, it seems like it'd be a cool one to watch. It's always nice to have facts to throw at lefties, even if they rarely sink in.

  • Gus diZerega||

    For more years than many of you have been alive, right wingers and conservatives have been calling Sweden socialist and predicting totalitarianism would eventually arrive there. Now that Scandinavia is clearly doing better by most standards than just about anywhere else on earth, it's turning into a 'free market' success.

    Neither is true.

    Hayek very specifically said his Road to Serfdom was about British Labour's plans to replace the market but keep democracy. He wrote he was not describing Sweden because Sweden never sought to replace the market with government planning. Sweden has always been a market economy. At the same time many of its most successful features have come from the public guarantee that basic needs would be met. Taxes are higher and Swedes get more for them, even if fewer aircraft carriers.

    U.S. Democratic Socialists do not propose central planning for the U.S. In this sense they are no more socialist than Sweden.

  • JesseAz||

    Shortly after Sweden pushed socialist program controls their production halved. They've recently pulled back from those policies and their economy is growing again. Stop attacking strawman ghosts in your head and look at reality.

  • JFree||

    He wrote Road to Serfdom in WW2. It didn't apply to Sweden then because Sweden itself changed in the 60's/70's (to out-and-out market-destroying socialism) - and then reversed many of those changes in the 80/90's. Fact is - the DemSocs want to emulate what FAILED in Sweden.

  • XM||

    Bernie Sanders believes there should be like 2 companies making soaps and deodorants.

    Sanders wants government ownership of the economy. In his economic vision, the government will be in the position to dictate working hours, wages, benefits, and production in the name of social justice and equality. But Bernie know he can't be quite that blunt in public.

    There's a reason why people like Tony often express support for "maximum society". It's utopia that promotes idealism, not freedom. Awkwafina (the raspy voiced Asian chick with all the screen presence of a potato) will never be a huge star in the American market. But in Bernie's world, she'll be guaranteed a huge contract and all kinds of starring roles thanks to to government mandated diversity quotas.

  • Rob Misek||

    From Stossel," even people who earn below average income pay up to 60% in taxes "

    From wiki,"the marginal tax in practice varies between 7 % on incomes just above 18,800 kronor to 60,1 % on incomes above 675,700 kronor."

    Fake libertarian news.

  • vek||

    Math, it's tough I know... But did you know that according to Google 675,700 kronor is... $74,293.21. That's round bouts triple our top tax rate, at a dollar amount far lower than ours kicks in. 18,800 K is $2,067.06 A YEAR. People in the US at those wages get money paid BACK to them for income taxes.

    ALSO you do know they have other taxes still right? Like property taxes, sales/VAT, etc... What are the total tax rates for proper poor people? I dunno, but a lot higher than ours. So their income taxes ARE higher on poor people, and ARE higher for middle class people, by a metric fuck ton. EXACTLY like Stossel said. The example he used was $30 something grand a year, and I bet TOTAL TAXES hit the number he used. So piss off.

  • D-Pizzle||

    Like vek said, they also have other taxes like the VAT, which is essentially a tax on consumption. Since these taxes are not based on income, and lower income people tend to spend a larger proportion of their income on immediate consumption, the VAT is really a regressive tax that offsets the progressivity of their income taxes, which aren't as progressive as ours given the much lower income thresholds at which the higher marginal rates kick in.

  • ||

    The problem is that the Swedish model is hard to replicate in a country as large, diverse, and infused with institutional legacies as the US.

    Take health care. True, Sweden spends half as much for, arguably, better outcomes - financed 90% by income tax. But in the US, socialising health care financing would mean starting at current levels of expenditure, almost 20% of GDP. Raising the necessary revenue would upend the economy radically. You cannot simply tell doctors they will from now on earn a Swedish style salary of less than $100 k even for specialists.

    Take institutions. The Swedish public sector is transparent to a fault, with senior officials blasted in media and forced out for spending, for instance, more than $40 on wining and dining staff and investors. A staunchly feminist countries, we lost one of our strongest women candidates for prime minister because she, I kid you not, had used the Government credit card to buy diapers and Toblerone chocolate (only in Sweden can I imagine something called the Toblerone scandal). But this, coupled with moderate wages (few senior officials make more than $150 k), also makes our public institutions at times amazingly efficient. Swedes count on government to give them value for their tax dollars.

  • ||

    And there are cultural assumptions about data privacy. In Sweden, income tax declarations are public record, traffic fines and tolls are deducted from payrolls, and mandatory national id numbers make it very easy to cross-run data bases. We note the efficiency of this everywhere; electronic medical prescriptions, for instance, make doctor shopping for narcotics impossible. But this only works because culturally ensconced trust in government not to abuse data.

    Cohesion: although inequality is on the rise, we are still one of the most equal countries in the world. This is not, or only in small parts, because of redistribution or public sector control - though I have yet to see a solid economic explanation of why, for instance, a Swedish physician makes double of what a nurse makes rather than, as in the US, ten times as much. But this relative equality has made society cohesive; a much more fertile breeding ground for experimentation.

    Finally, both the right and the left acknowledge that the future of the welfare state is contingent upon a thriving private sector - and continuously monitor policies to detect trade offs and intervene where necessary. What works, we tend to scale up. What does not, we tend to analyse in open debate and phase out.

  • vek||

    In other words, your system is COMPLETELY different than what we have, and even than what the leftists in the USA are proposing... And we would NEVER accept some of the trade offs that make your system somewhat functional.

    Now, the funny thing about it is, I imagine Sweden would be even MORE economically successful if you dumped most of the government programs.

    The problem with socialism isn't that it 110% of the time completely destroys a nation... Mild forms can seemingly go on forever, or at least a long time... It's that every step that direction incrementally messes stuff up.

    Not to mention unintended consequences. Half the reason the rest of the world can spend as little on socialized medicine as they do is that the US spend out the ass, and almost every new piece of medical technology, drugs, etc are basically paid for on the backs of US citizens. If we ran our healthcare just like the UK or Sweden, everybody else would have to start duffing up more if we didn't want innovation to stagnate.

    There is NO free lunch in the world, as much as people wish there was.

  • apedad||

    So...this article simply highlights the ignorance of people who call Sweden socialist.

    Got it.

  • Michael Cook||

    Sweden exported a lot of its under-employed population to the USA in the 19th century, in the 20th century it avoided any damage at all in the two world wars, and its biggest problems today are that Swedish women have decided to stop reproducing, which means that Middle Easterners or someone will have to come in and make the country function. Reportedly a good number of Swedish women spend some quality years in Middle Eastern harems so that cultural exchange is mature. I even noticed it in Las Vegas years ago when a desert prince passed through a lobby/concourse trailed by his happy entourage of chattering personal lady assistants. I can't even dream of having enough money to take nine women like that on a shopping spree.

  • vek||

    Ya know, you don't HAVE to import foreigners to keep a nation in existence... You can just plan for a declining population, like Japan. Their debt problems are related to dumb spending policies, not their population.

    Remember GDP per capita IS ALL THAT MATTERS. Growing overall GDP is a meaningless figure. Sweden can stay Swedish if they want... And I suspect they would be the better for it.

  • D-Pizzle||

    "Remember GDP per capita IS ALL THAT MATTERS. Growing overall GDP is a meaningless figure. Sweden can stay Swedish if they want... And I suspect they would be the better for it."

    Try telling that to the open borders crowd.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    "Reportedly a good number of Swedish women spend some quality years in Middle Eastern harems so that cultural exchange is mature. "

    Citation [excluding Porn Hub]?

  • ||

    What is socialist in Sweden is redistribution - through transfers, health care, and social services that are either free or priced based on income.

    The rest is pretty damn neoliberal. Charter schools, private nursing homes, free competition in utility provision, and MORE freedom to hire and fire in the US (because unemployment insurance and retraining pick up the slack).

    I would venture you cannot have one without the other... unless you have oil, like Norway, which is indeed arguably socialist (well, closer).

  • Michael Cook||

    I will say this for the Swedes, they don't fight often. but as far as NATO members go they are not the worst of the bunch for being unprepared. Their small weapons industry has turned out some products over the years that I would go to war with any day. They are doing their best to keep up with the pricey new technology, or at least think of ways to deal with it. They remind me a bit of Israel in that regard.

  • vek||

    In short: Socialist redistribution requires capitalist production.

    And also, it IS a spectrum... No matter how many people argue otherwise. A single bad social welfare program will not instantly destroy a nation... But enough of them will.

    Thing is, the farther away from a free market you get, and the more welfare programs, the poorer the nation will be overall compared to if it were free market. One need not believe in the instant destruction idea to think it is still a bad idea to have big government running lots of stuff. Death of a thousand cuts is just as legit, and just as scary if you ask me.

  • Michael Cook||

    Death of a thousand cuts--are we talking Kashoggi now? Venezuela is a case of death of two thousand cuts. Hope that Mike Pence can reinforce the charge he made yesterday that Venezuela is orchestrating and logistically supporting this caravan approaching the USA.

  • D-Pizzle||

    The caravan claim was reinforced by the Honduran government itself yesterday.

  • wreckinball||

    Great article.

    Maybe John can recruit a few more Libertarians to Reason

  • R. K. Phillips||

    I have suggested taxing the poor, through a minimum tax of 5%, and eliminate any benefit that isn't available to everyone. It's time to eliminate the "success penalty" that is applied to folks such as myself (for example, my $912/month health care payment, no subsidy, and yet my higher taxes subsidize others.)
    High tax states have lost high earners; that's true cause-and-effect, which means it's invisible to those on the left.

  • tinwhistler||

    Sweden is what the United States could be, if we eliminated the progressive income tax and replaced it with the Fair Tax (a national retail sales tax that protects the poor), so every person in the country would have a perceived stake in government spending. For example, Bernie Sanders Medicare for All, would increase the national sale tax from the proposed 23% to 69%, so if that were acceptable to a majority of voters, we would have it. It is more likely the taxpayers would tell the politicians to find another, cheaper solution and we would have the first balanced tax and spend system since the 1913 implementation of the progressive income tax.

  • Art Gecko||

    Every now and then, when I'm feeling masochistic, I'll reply to commenters on news sites who says that Sweden is a socialist success story. When I tell them that Sweden has a lot more laissez-faire attitude towards business, they explode in a rage and call me a liar.

    I give up on the human race.

  • cynicalretiree||

    Stossel has valid points and good examples. Part of Sweden's general wealth today is because Sweden has been at war since 1800's. Sweden was neutral in WW2 and is not part of NATO.For better or worse, this is as example of what achievements await when war is a rarely threatened option.

  • cynicalretiree||

    correction: Sweden has NOT been at war since 1814.

  • markm23||

    Not only did Sweden avoid the expenses and bombing most of Europe suffered, but they sold iron ore and other war material to Nazi Germany, for gold. They must have become quite wealthy, and could afford socialism for a while. And then when the loss in wealth became obvious, unlike almost every other socialist nation in history, their leaders did not double-down and confiscate _more_ wealth and regulate any businesses they hadn't taken over _harder_, but reversed course and returned to a mostly free market.

  • mmmjv||

    Sweden is not socialist? Ok, so if we want to take some of their ideas then we're not advocating socialism? And if it should fall on hard times in the future can we assume that the righties aren't going to yammer and yap about a "failed socialist state"?

    Norberg hosts a documentary called Sweden: Lessons for America?, in which he notes that in Sweden, "government doesn't own the means of production"

    You know which other government doesn't own the means of production? The United States. You know how many of these so called. "socialist Democrats" that righties like to blather about advocate government owning the means of production? Zero. If a government that doesn't own the means of production is automatically not socialist then people who don't advocate government owning the means of production, like Democrats, can't be said to be advocating or promoting socialism.

  • markm23||

    It's not all or nothing. Sweden still has pieces of socialism, for instance a very generous welfare program. And whenever someone proposes adopting some Swedish program, it's a socialist program, not a free market one. We in the USA don't have to look to foreign countries for free market ideas, we only have to kick out the politicians that (mainly to keep and increase their own power, regardless of which party they are in or what they pretend to be doing) stand in the way of returning to earlier and more prosperous times.

  • cheapmcmbelt||

    I agree!!! You can discuss with other side. That's how you learn and expand your view points. http://www.mkoutletfire.com/mi.....-blue.html

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