The success of Swedish society is not due to the welfare state

So argues Nima Sanandaji in a new paper from Libera called ‘The Swedish Model Reassessed – Affluence Despite the Welfare State’ (PDF). Instead, the paper argues that Swedish affluence is

“…the result of cultural and demographic factors, as well as a favorable business environment throughout most of Sweden’s modern history.”

The evidence presented to support this hypothesis is threefold. Firstly, it is argued that Sweden displayed comparatively higher rates of growth and had a particularly vibrant society well before the start of the Social Democratic era in 1936. Secondly, descendants of Swedes who migrated to the United States in the nineteenth century are also today characterized by favorable social outcomes, such as a low poverty rate and high employment. The Nordic nations have, for hundreds of years, benefited from sound institutions, such as a strong Lutheran work ethic, a homogeneous population, and high levels of trust, civic participation and cooperation. Thirdly, starting in the 1990s, Sweden has dramatically scaled back the size and scope of government, which was followed by a recovery of the earlier strong growth rate. The period characterized by the most extensive welfare state policies, around 1970–1995, is associated with low growth rates.

Overall this is a really interesting report and well worth a read. It is available for order and/or free download from here.

5 Comments

  • Christopher Snowdon says:

    Something’s wrong with your link there.

    • Mark Goodhand says:

      Sorry about that, and thanks for bringing it to our attention. Now fixed.

  • Dr Tim, You are skating on very thin ice here. You say “descendants of Swedes who migrated to the United States in the nineteenth century are also today characterized by favorable social outcomes, such as a low poverty rate and high employment.” That could be taken to suggest there are racial differences between Nordics and other racial groups and you aren’t allowed to say that.

    Even worse you say that “The Nordic nations have, for hundreds of years, benefited from . . . a homogeneous population…” Don’t you realise that “homogeneous populations” have been deemed by the PC powers that be to be a disaster, and that a heterogeneous, multicultural, mongol populations bring untold benefits?

    If you want make sure you are not arrested for “hate speech” I suggest you publically apologise for speaking the truth :)

  • Andrew Russell says:

    I just want to compliment this article; a friend linked me to it.

    Just a comment to Ralph Musgrave, I don’t think PC-ers would seriously be able to (consistently) object to Dr. Tim’s statement about Nordic people having specific social institutions like a Lutheran work ethic etc. These social institutions aren’t necessarily a product of racial biology; they could quite easily be defended on a Social Constructivist viewpoint (i.e. they are cultural/memetic in origin and not biologically determined). Consistent leftists (a rare breed, admittedly) only object to “ethnic differences” when they’re backed by an argument from biological essentialism; they’re TOTALLY okay with “ethnic differences” when they’re backed up by a social constructivist argument (for example; the entire theoretical underpinnings of Multiculturalism, which deny pesky things like individual free will and the capacity for independent thought in order to render individuals mere products of their ethno-cultural context, so as to enable “enlightened” multi-cultural technocrats to stick with the Methodological Collectivism they’re so comfortable with, whilst also allowing said technocrats to fend of allegations of racism by pointing at the fact they aren’t racial essentialists).

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