Lean Government

US the Sweden of the 1970s? A rematch between responsible liberalism vs social democracy

In the US we are now seeing the debate that Sweden had in the 1970’s. Should you have a Big Government, statist state or should you keep the system as it is but put into place legislative frameworks for the citizens to make their own choices within these frameworks or should you take away choice altogether because a small minority cannot make rational choices?

I am extremely disturbed that the US seems to be going the way of Sweden in the1970’s. It led to disaster from a point of economic power and prosperity but also for individual liberty. In Sweden there used to be a saying that Sweden have a capitalist economic system for corporations but have socialized the individual. It was before 1990 a near perfect corporatist state.

Up until 1968 the political opposition in Sweden, mainly Folkpartiet, the Responsible Liberal Party, had been in fierce opposition to socializing polices. However the SocialDemocrats changed tactics and abandoned pure socialism to what Nobel Laureate and party leader Bertil Ohlin called “central directive and regulation socialism”.

During the student and worker uprising of  1968, intellectuals became infatuated with Maoism,  all parties en Sweden became radicalized and the opposition against socializing policies and corporatism stopped. Sweden’s decline started, taxes were raised by 50 % overnight and the Public Sector tripled in size.

Sweden was in 1970 the world’s third strongest economy and declined to the 17th, our welfare system could not be sustained because of lower growth the lead to lower tax revenues than calculated. Entrepreneurs and venture capital had been run out of the country because of the extreme, punitive tax system and the constant attention of the Swedish Tax Authorities. In fact tax evasion and avoidance had become a national pastime for all and the Shadow Economy sector prospered.  

By the 90’s and small and medium sized business owners had all but been eradicated, as result Sweden still has least small and medium sized business owners in all of the developed countries (OECD). Not only that in Sweden because of the corporatist polices of strong interaction between labor and  large corporations and government not one single new job has been created in the Private Sector, all new jobs were created in the Public Sector.

So should the US steer the course that Sweden did 1970-1992 semi-socialized statism, massive intervention  as well as high taxes or should we adopt polices Sweden applied after its banking sectors financial meltdown in 1990-1992 and that lead to the Swedish model being the envy of most US liberals i.e. tax cuts, deregulation and abandoning the corporatist model of cooperation between labor and large corporations ?

From Bertil Ohlin’s Memoirs “Socialistisk skordetid kom bort”(“The Socialists crop was never harvested”) 1940-1951 Bonniers 1975.

Bertil Ohlin was not only a party leader but also a professor of Economics as well as Nobel Laureate. He won the prize for the Heckscher-Ohlin theorem.. He was the founder of The Stockholm School of Economics a forerunner to Keynes.

In particular, responsible liberalism saw it as a danger to the liberty of its citizens the development of the growth of an increasingly centralized political power. The SocialDemocrats [Swedish Big Government statists,] were always adherents of such practices that increased the political influence.

Only when a very strong case could be presented could we in Folkpartiet [Swedish Responsible liberal party] agree to such measures. We preferred makings laws that put a framework in place and with full freedom within this
framework. The SocialDemocrats always wanted to increase what they called “the Societies influence” and minimized the individual’s right to self-determination both in private as well as in business life. Instead of the old “nationalization policy, pure socialism” we now saw on the horizon the beginnings of a new “central directive and regulation socialism” [In the US called Statism] emerging which, however – it must be stressed – was strongly opposed by us and the other parties in opposition and only developed very slowly after1948.


April 23, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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