Now that Sweden is shaken by riots which look embarrassingly similar to the 2011 London riots – the politically correct interpretation of which was that they were an outcry against inequality, poverty and spending cuts – our bien-pensants are hastily rewriting their image of the country. The BBC now reports:‘Many said there was a wider context of a growing gap between rich and poor in Sweden. […] Sweden has seen the biggest increase in inequality of any developed country over the past 25 years.’The Guardian adds:‘After decades of practising the Swedish model of generous welfare benefits, Stockholm has reduced the role of the state since the 1990s, spurring the fastest growth in inequality of any advanced OECD economy. […] successive governments have failed to substantially reduce long-term youth unemployment and poverty, which have affected immigrant communities worst.’The comments below the latter article are a delight. Suddenly, everybody has known it all along: Sweden is a neoliberal hellhole. People riot because Sweden has private schools, private welfare providers, spending cuts, and worst of all, private healthcare. The rioters may not be quite aware of it, but they are ‘really’ rioting against the free-market fundamentalism of PM Reinfeldt and his predecessors. The symbolic Sweden has been moved into the past, and we have always been at war with Eastasia.
I’m not an expert on Sweden, but as far as I can judge, it is a very unusual model which, by British standards, would be considered highly interventionist in some respects, and very liberal in other respects. Of course, no country is simply ‘more liberal’ or ‘more interventionist’ than another country in every single respect, but the Scandinavian countries show an especially diverse policy mix.
So far, British Scandinavophiles have ignored this heterogeneity entirely. They have clung to their symbolic Sweden, a place where people do little else but pay taxes, consume public services, and then pay some more taxes. I have been complaining for quite a while about this wilfully selective, reductionist perspective. But now that it’s gone, I don’t think I like what has replaced it any better.
quarta-feira, junho 26, 2013
afinal já não há modelo sueco??
Is the British left falling out of love with Sweden?: