in Canada, Economics, Law, Politics, Travel

As a long-time student of politics, I often find myself wondering if Sweden simply has public policy basically figured out and everyone else is just screwing it up or governed by self-interested elites.

Would nearly all countries be better off imprisoning their politicians and high-level civil servants, bringing in some Swedish politicians and bureaucrats, and then having the newcomers exact sensible public policies across the board?

After finishing my PhD at U of T, the idea of moving to Sweden for at least 2-3 years has a lot of appeal at the moment.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

. September 2, 2015 at 8:47 pm

Critical Book Review: Steinmo, Sven. “The Evolution of Modern States.” (2010)

. September 8, 2015 at 1:21 pm

Vattenfall confirms early closure of Ringhals units

Although the co-owners of Sweden’s Ringhals nuclear power plant -Vattenfall and EOn – have yet to agree on the early closure of units 1 and 2, majority owner Vattenfall has said it will limit investment in those units which will mean they can only operate until 2020.

. September 8, 2015 at 1:22 pm

“Ringhals unit 1 is an 878 MWe boiling water reactor (BWR) which started operating in 1976 and had been due to be closed in 2026, while unit 2 is an 807 MWe pressurized water reactor (PWR) that began operation in 1975 and scheduled to shut down in 2025. Ringhals 3 and 4 are larger PWRs that started up in the early 1980s.”

. September 9, 2015 at 11:00 am
. March 13, 2016 at 8:16 pm

In recent days, the president has taken to joking privately, “All I need in the Middle East is a few smart autocrats.” Obama has always had a fondness for pragmatic, emotionally contained technocrats, telling aides, “If only everyone could be like the Scandinavians, this would all be easy.”


. April 25, 2016 at 5:22 pm

Global Integrity, an NGO, says that though 43 of 54 African countries it follows have rules against cronyism, only Botswana tends to appoint bureaucrats based on “professional criteria”. Some development wonks naively promoted the Weberian model, without building up capacity to implement it. “We went into countries and said you need to be more like Denmark,” says Mr Srivastava. “So countries changed their laws to look like Denmark’s—but then nothing would happen.”


. July 15, 2016 at 8:11 pm

Bjorn Lyrvall, Sweden’s ambassador, says he is flattered by the attention, but some Scandinavians are slightly irritated by Mr Sanders’s praise. According to Daniel Schatz, a visiting fellow at Columbia University, his country’s economic success is due to its sound institutions and social cohesion, rather than the welfare state so admired by Mr Sanders. During the heyday of Swedish socialism and big government, Sweden’s economic growth actually fell from second in the world in 1970 to the second-lowest in the OECD in 1990. The country recovered only after it decentralised, deregulated its economy and lowered its punishing tax rates.

. December 22, 2016 at 8:01 pm

In part, Sweden is a victim of its own generosity and success. No European country has a larger proportion of refugees in its population and in 2015 none welcomed a larger flow of asylum-seekers, proportionate to its population, than Sweden did. Employment rates for refugees are no lower than in most European countries, but the difference with Swedish-born workers is striking. Partly it is because many Swedish-born women work and Swedes are highly educated. Nevertheless, fears are mounting about the social impact of the two-tier labour market that is developing. Magnus Henrekson, an academic, fears further ghettoisation and alienation.

On the surface, Sweden has one of the least troubled labour markets in the world. The economy is growing, vacancies are plentiful, only 5% of 15-74-year-old native-born workers are jobless and the unemployment rate is falling. But foreign-born workers are three times as likely to be unemployed, and the ratio is rising. For those from outside the EU it is higher still (22.5% are unemployed). Hidden discrimination, housing problems and a Swedish reliance on informal networks help explain the gap. But many refugees simply lack the skills for Sweden’s job market.

The concerns reflect changes in Sweden’s employment market. Fewer than 5% of jobs are now low-skilled, requiring less than a high-school qualification, compared with 9% in Germany and 16% in Spain. Countries such as Greece and Italy have larger shadow economies, helping explain why refugees there have higher employment levels than natives. “High-school diplomas are Sweden’s biggest divider,” says Anna Breman, chief economist at Swedbank. Nearly all Swedes have them, yet only half of new arrivals do, according to government statistics.

The paradox, says Thomas Liebig, from the OECD, is that Sweden has among the most advanced refugee-integration policies. A two-year programme is meant to make refugees “job-ready”, but is often too long for educated refugees and too short for those lacking basic literacy and numeracy. Only 22% of low-educated foreign-born men and 8% of women found work in the year after completing the programme. On average it takes seven to eight years for newcomers to find employment. According to a survey in 2014, across Europe it takes refugees and other beneficiaries of international protection 20 years to reach employment rates similar to natives. This contrasts with America, where research has shown that refugees find work faster than other immigrants, and even do better than economic migrants over time.

. June 21, 2017 at 1:21 pm

Sweden commits to becoming carbon neutral by 2045 with new law

Sweden has committed to cutting its net carbon emissions to zero by 2045, becoming the first country to significantly upgrade its carbon ambitions since the Paris accord in 2015.

The law was drawn up by a cross-party committee and passed with an overwhelming majority in parliament by 254 votes to 41.

The legislation establishes an independent Climate Policy Council and requires an action plan to be updated every four years.

Sweden had previously committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2050. It already gets 83 per cent of its electricity from nuclear energy and hydropower, having met its 2020 target of 50 per cent renewable energy eight years ahead of schedule.

. February 25, 2018 at 11:09 pm

To explore the role of genes Dr Salvatore and Dr Kendler turned to the Swedish national registries. These databases store, for all residents of Sweden, information on sex, year of birth, year of death, marital status, criminal activity, education and alcohol abuse. They also contain details of both the biological and the adoptive parents of adopted children.

. September 9, 2018 at 11:34 pm

Swedish election: political uncertainty looms after deadlock
Far-right Sweden Democrats set to play kingmaker as vote leaves two main blocs both short of a majority

Sweden: far right surge upends Europe’s most stable political order
The Sweden Democrats fail to win power – but could make or break a minority government

Sweden’s shift to the right has been decades in the making
Kenan Malik

. November 23, 2019 at 1:33 am

LGBT travel index puts Sweden top, and warns against some popular destinations

Canada and Norway make top three of new ranking for gay and trans travellers, which also warns of ill-treatment in some countries favoured by tourists

. December 17, 2019 at 1:12 pm

Swedish support for nuclear continues to grow, poll shows

As many as 78% of people surveyed in Sweden – up from 71% in 2017 – strongly support nuclear energy, 43% are open to the construction of new nuclear power plants, and 35% would like to continue using the country’s reactors for their full operating lives, a survey by Novus and published by Analysgruppen shows. In contrast, only 11% of those polled are opposed to nuclear power.

. December 24, 2019 at 3:54 pm

Immigrants are a burden only if a host country’s policies set them up to be one, by making it too easy to draw benefits or too hard to work. Sweden committed both these errors with asylum-seekers during the European migrant crisis in 2015-16, showering them with free stuff while forcing them to remain idle for long periods. This was not sustainable, and the government curbed the flow of refugees by five-sixths.

. January 28, 2020 at 11:13 am

The example of eastern Europe suggests that a recent agrarian past is another dog booster. America has that too: dog ownership is heaviest in the heartland. Averse to regulation, it also disdains the dog-precluding rules of northern European places such as Sweden, where canines cannot be left alone for more than six hours.

. January 28, 2020 at 11:42 am

In Sweden, billionaires are surprisingly popular

The land of ABBA and Ikea has high wealth inequality

If surprisingly few Swedes hanker for punitive taxes on the rich, that is also because many have concluded that they do not work. Sweden introduced wealth taxation in 1911, followed by three big increases in 1934, 1948 and 1971. By the early 1980s Swedes with a household wealth of about $600,000 (in today’s prices) faced a marginal tax rate of 4%. Combined with heavy taxation of income, the effective tax rate on investment exceeded 100% in some cases.

Despite these punitive rates, wealth taxation only made a minor contribution to Sweden’s generous welfare state—at most during the post-war period, it raised 0.4% of gdp. From the 1970s onwards its popularity waned. Kamprad fled to Switzerland in 1973; Hans Rausing, whose father founded Tetra Pak, a packaging firm (and who died earlier this year), escaped to Britain in the 1980s. By that decade “people could with impunity evade the tax,” argue Magnus Henrekson and Gunnar Du Rietz, two economists, not least because of the relaxation of foreign-exchange controls in 1989.

The inclusion of various exemptions—including the exemption of holdings of land and forest from 1991—increased the complexity of the administration of the tax. With bipartisan support, Sweden abolished the inheritance tax in 2005 and the wealth tax in 2007. Before long, Kamprad returned.

. May 1, 2020 at 9:23 pm

Inherent in Sweden’s social contract is trust in the state, trust by the state in its citizens and trust among citizens, explains Lars Tragardh, a historian. Swedes can be relied on to adhere to rules voluntarily and to self-regulate. Moreover, jokes Carl Bildt, a former prime minister, “Swedes, especially of the older generation, have a genetic disposition to social distancing anyway.” Over half of Swedish households consist of just one person, the highest number of single-person households in the world. The country is sparsely populated. And Swedes do not kiss or hug as much as southern Europeans tend to do.

. June 19, 2020 at 9:27 pm

One answer is that although, for some outsiders, Scandinavia is a beacon of social democracy, the reality of life is darker and more complicated. Social pressure to conform, the near-endless winters, the poverty and depression behind the sleek prosperity, rising xenophobia—all these drawbacks and more are explored by Wendy Lesser in her lively, perceptive guide to Scandi noir. Sweden’s smugness, she says, conceals a murky past. Its post-war wealth is rooted in wartime trade with Nazi Germany, to which the Swedes sold steel to make Panzer tanks and the ball-bearings on which their tracks turned.

. October 15, 2020 at 1:44 pm

Sweden to increase military spending by 40% as tension with Russia grows | Sweden | The Guardian


. May 4, 2021 at 9:04 pm

The real lessons from Sweden’s approach to covid-19
Sweden is held up as a champion of liberty. In fact it is the home of pragmatism

Fans of Sweden are right to point out that, in the first phase of the disease, the government had a light touch. Although it banned large groups and issued plenty of health advice, it rejected blanket lockdowns. But that was not a particularly successful approach. Sweden has a fatality rate of around 60 per 100,000, ten times that of Finland and Norway, which did lock themselves down. Swedes’ freedom did not spare the economy, even though many deaths were among elderly people no longer working. Output in the second quarter alone shrank by 8.3%—also worse than the other Nordic countries. A high caseload is bad for the economy.

. May 4, 2021 at 9:40 pm

Sweden embarks on its largest military build-up for decades
The reason is Russia

Civil defence will get more funds for cyber-security, the electricity grid and health care. “We’ve begun to rebuild a newer version of what we had during the cold war,” says Niklas Granholm of foi, Sweden’s defence-research agency. The aim is to enable Sweden to hold out in a crisis or war for at least three months until help arrives (assuming it does).

Much of this dramatic expansion is to patch up a creaking force. “The armed forces were in a state of crisis for the last 20 years,” says Henrik Paulsson of the Swedish Defence University. In 2013 Sweden’s top general admitted that his forces could defend only part of the country—and only for a week. Sweden’s army has just two dozen artillery pieces. They are in the north, more than ten hours’ drive from the brigades they are supposed to support, says Mr Paulsson. Under the new plan, the army will have a more respectable 72 pieces.

. August 20, 2021 at 5:35 pm

The Sweden Democrats pose a problem for the “bourgeois” parties, as the mainstream right is known in Sweden. Because of their roots in the neo-Nazi movement and their penchant for racism and sexual-harassment scandals, other parties shun them. But over the past decade they have become the third-biggest political force, drawing about 20% support in recent polls. Jimmie Akesson, their leader, has professionalised the party, confident that eventually it will be included in government.


. September 9, 2021 at 2:31 am

You might wonder why a company in Los Angeles was branding its films as “Swedish.” It’s because Americans of the time viewed Sweden as a sexually permissive country, a reputation that might’ve been established in 1955 when Time magazine published the alarmist essay “Sin & Sweden.” Author Joe David Brown felt troubled by Sweden’s wide acceptance of “birth control, abortion, and promiscuity,” and was particularly horrified by their “sex education given in public schools.” Sweden’s lascivious reputation was only furthered by the highly publicized international release of I Am Curious (Yellow), an art film that was controversial in 1969 for its casual nudity and sexual situations.


. April 4, 2022 at 12:11 am

Sweden was well equipped to prevent the pandemic of COVID-19 from becoming serious. Over 280 years of collaboration between political bodies, authorities, and the scientific community had yielded many successes in preventive medicine. Sweden’s population is literate and has a high level of trust in authorities and those in power. During 2020, however, Sweden had ten times higher COVID-19 death rates compared with neighbouring Norway. In this report, we try to understand why, using a narrative approach to evaluate the Swedish COVID-19 policy and the role of scientific evidence and integrity. We argue that that scientific methodology was not followed by the major figures in the acting authorities—or the responsible politicians—with alternative narratives being considered as valid, resulting in arbitrary policy decisions. In 2014, the Public Health Agency merged with the Institute for Infectious Disease Control; the first decision by its new head (Johan Carlson) was to dismiss and move the authority’s six professors to Karolinska Institute. With this setup, the authority lacked expertise and could disregard scientific facts. The Swedish pandemic strategy seemed targeted towards “natural” herd-immunity and avoiding a societal shutdown. The Public Health Agency labelled advice from national scientists and international authorities as extreme positions, resulting in media and political bodies to accept their own policy instead. The Swedish people were kept in ignorance of basic facts such as the airborne SARS-CoV-2 transmission, that asymptomatic individuals can be contagious and that face masks protect both the carrier and others. Mandatory legislation was seldom used; recommendations relying upon personal responsibility and without any sanctions were the norm. Many elderly people were administered morphine instead of oxygen despite available supplies, effectively ending their lives. If Sweden wants to do better in future pandemics, the scientific method must be re-established, not least within the Public Health Agency. It would likely make a large difference if a separate, independent Institute for Infectious Disease Control is recreated. We recommend Sweden begins a self-critical process about its political culture and the lack of accountability of decision-makers to avoid future failures, as occurred with the COVID-19 pandemic.


. April 14, 2022 at 10:24 pm

Sweden: three police hurt in riot before demo where Qur’an was to be burned | Sweden | The Guardian


. June 30, 2022 at 5:31 pm

The green revolution sweeping Sweden

A boom of renewable-powered industries has found a home in northern Sweden, fueling the country’s ambitions of a fossil-free economy


. September 7, 2022 at 5:00 pm

‘Deep roots in racist organisations’: Magdalena Andersson on the far-right threat in Sweden’s election | Sweden | The Guardian


. September 19, 2022 at 10:58 am

Right-wing bloc wins narrow majority in Sweden, marking major political shift | CBC News


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