Sweden is generally thought of as a Nordic country with beautiful scenery, beautiful women, good food, and a peace loving and congenial society. Socialists, or Democratic Socialists, see Sweden as a utopian paradise, an ideal world, a very generous welfare state financed by high taxes paid by people who work for a living, where people who don’t work can have a generous standard of living, nonetheless.
Democratic Socialists probably see Sweden as the best representation of their view of collectivism, a collaborative arrangement of society in which no individual makes an excessive amount of money, even if their skills and productivity suggest that they should. In this scheme, people who do make a lot more money than others will pay high taxes to support those who haven’t made so much money. This doesn’t incentivize people to be financially successful. It discourages productivity.
So, when the Center-Right forces in Sweden (much different from the Center-Right in America or Canada) won the elections there in September, that kind of blew me away. If a Democratic Socialist party can’t win in a country where Democratic Socialism is very popular, probably more popular than anywhere else in Europe, and where faith in the state is high, where can they win?
European nations tend to go back and forth between the Center-Right and Center-Left with neither political faction ever achieving a lasting majority. But in Sweden, the Democratic Socialists, who would be considered far-left in the U.S., have been in power for a long time. The Swedish elections should serve as a message for Democratic Socialists worldwide that, perhaps, their overwhelming faith in the state should be reexamined. I think that what happened in Sweden in September is similar to what in happened in America in 1968, 72, 84 and 88.
In that era, the Democratic Party, of which I’m proud to be a member, lost badly in each presidential election (except 1968), in large part, because they were seen as more of a Social Democratic party than a Liberal Democratic party, which it had traditionally been. It fought for freedom and equality and for giving people who are down a hand up, not a hand out. But instead we were seen as a “tax and spend” Social Democratic Party committed to a European style welfare state. That “tax and spend” stereotype cost Democrats for twenty years.
In the election of 1992, Bill Clinton and Al Gore introduced the New Democrat concept, a more pragmatic view of politics and economics, and were able to beat back this stereotype. They convinced the American electorate that the Democratic Party was not a Social Democratic party, committed to a welfare state, supported by high taxes on the rich and business with visions of a “Utopian Paradise”. The Swedish elections should serve as a lesson for Democratic Socialists everywhere that they can lose, in even Sweden. If they can lose there, they can lose anywhere . It’s time for them to reexamine their faith in the State as the primary provider of income, goods, and services.