Dear Reader Tom Stinnett alerted me to a really doom-laden article about Sweden in yesterday’s Guardian. Says Ruben Andersson (apparently a Swedish expat and anthropologist),
Sweden’s conservative coalition government has stood still as the financial crisis has engulfed the country. Jobs, social services and healthcare are eroding. The Sweden Democrats – the equivalent of the BNP – are on the rise. The social state is failing. The Swedish dream is no more. … Sweden’s homemade financial meltdown of the 1990s … finally killed off the dream. Poverty was added to the pessimism. Savage cuts hit schools, unemployment rocketed, the krona sank – leaving the social system in a disarray from which it has not recovered.
Now, I certainly don’t pretend to have a very comprehensive or updated view of the state of my country’s social security system and national economy. But I’ve lived here for decades, and I do know that our society is very far from “eroding”, “failing” and “in disarray”.
Swedish media have been discussing the uncertain future of our high-taxes, cheap social services system for about twenty years now. They have been unfailingly gloomy about it. But it still costs me only $19 to see a doctor (no, the queue is never long as Andersson claims) and $260 a month to have a child in daycare. Swedish universities still don’t charge students a fee, and anybody can still have six years’ worth of government loans to support them through their studies.
Andersson’s piece appears to be the first he’s sold to the Guardian. My impression is that in order to make the sale, Andersson fed his editor a scary interesting story that happens not to be true. His choice of words suggests that he has pretty extreme libertarian opinions that cause him to want the Swedish system to fail. He would dislike it simply on first principles even if the system showed no weaknesses whatsoever.
Psychiatric care, the source of many … scandals, has a near-medieval penchant for authoritarianism with few European equivalents. People are locked up for months for not taking medicine, given no therapy, and spat out of the system into despair and destitution. The mentally ill die in wards and in outpatient isolation. And they do not even have charities to turn to
This is bollocks. The main problem with the Swedish psychiatric care system is that out of misguided respect for their integrity, patients who can’t really take care of themselves are allowed to roam free and homeless. And note the guy’s highly suggestive love of charities. He simply doesn’t like high taxes and collective solutions. He then goes on to talk about “Sweden’s second-rate public services”, which is just a joke.
Dear Reader, to get a fair large-scale grip on current Swedish society, you shouldn’t listen to me, because I spend most of my time in the 1st Millennium AD. And you certainly shouldn’t listen to Ruben Andersson, because he is an axe-grinding anti-collectivist who is more interested in influencing society than describing it.