Pharyngula

Every once in a while, someone from Sweden notices American politics. The state of the nation may make us residents weep, but at least we can be entertained by the startled expressions of horror from the foreigners.

Comments

  1. #1 Dahan
    February 3, 2008

    Couldn’t agree with the writer more. I’ve often said that I feel I’m pretty conservative… until put up against a lot of Americans views. Then I’m usually branded with the dreaded “L” label and kicked to the curb.

    And could someone please explain to me why I should fear being called a liberal or progressive? The other option, I guess is being regressive. That is the synonym. Yeah, let’s all be regressive…

    What kind of society brands being rational, ignorant?

    I want to live in Europe

  2. #2 Fernando Magyar
    February 3, 2008

    So, believe me, US politics don’t have a Left. Looking at the presidential candidates, I am frankly appalled. None of them would be a viable politician in Sweden. They all support the death penalty, none advocates strict gun control and all make frequent mention of their religious beliefs in public. These are extremist stances. Not even the tiny Christian Democrat party mentions God publicly in Sweden, for fear of alienating the pragmatic rationalist majority.

    Anyone know of a way to bottle those Swedish perceptions and infect the American populace with them?

  3. #3 Lee Harrison
    February 3, 2008

    Dahan – well put (though I think you mean antonym…). I intend to steal that one and use it often to my more ‘regressive’ friends.

  4. #4 Dahan
    February 3, 2008

    lol! Thanks Lee, yeah antonym. Thanks for seeing past my coffe-less post.

  5. #5 Michael
    February 3, 2008

    I’ve always heard this from my sister in Germany, and it’s really no surprise. I think blogging about it is a good first step we can all take to make more people aware/infect the American populace. Moving to Sweden would not fix the problem but make it worse. It’s like all the non-racist people from the South leaving because they can’t stand the racism! We need the good people to stay and fight!

  6. #6 Steve LaBonne
    February 3, 2008

    Why, I’ll have that guy know that there is actually a wide spectrum of mainstream political opinion in the US- hey, it ranges all the way from center-right to far, far right! ;)

  7. #7 Sebastian
    February 3, 2008

    As another Swede I can state the following: Sweden has no right wing.

    I’m not sure which is best, actually.

  8. #8 Matt LaCrosse
    February 3, 2008

    Politics are an ugly business. I tend to avoid blogging about it because it tends to become negative pretty fast. I think the current political landscape in America is a reflection of the demographics and the religions present. Here in the Midwest, the number of Churches is about equal to the number of fast-food restaurants. There are many different flavors to suit your tastes.

    More than 50% of the population, in my town, attends Church on a regular basis. People here probably wouldn’t know of a better way to organize and socialize if not through their Church. Most of the Charities are faith based. The Salvation Army is primary food pantry here. Most of the Churches have other services to the public such as pre-school and day care. It’s just a part of Midwest cultural.

    All that Church going tends to skew things towards conservatism. Many of the people are “values” voters.

  9. #9 Cairnarvon
    February 3, 2008

    As another Swede I can state the following: Sweden has no right wing.

    I’m not sure which is best, actually.

    Considering that Sweden has one of the highest standards of living and one of the lowest fundies-per-capita counts in the world, I think I know the answer to that.

    Rundkvist is very right when he says that the maximum difference of opinion between members of the US Congress is far less than the maximum difference between party lines in most European parliaments, though, so even if Sweden really didn’t have a right wing, it would still have far more diversity of opinion than the US political landscape.

    (Also, what’s the deal with the Ron Paul supporters in his comments? I though those died out when it started to become so obvious the man is an extremist lunatic even the very slow started to catch on.)

  10. #10 Martin R
    February 3, 2008

    Matt said: “People here probably wouldn’t know of a better way to organize and socialize if not through their Church.”

    That seems to be an astute analysis.

    I’m in Sweden. Most of my socialising is not done through any organisation at all. And the organisational bits you mention are taken care of by the municipal authorities, a body of whose workings I am almost entirely ignorant. Everything just works. That’s why I pay 30% tax.

  11. #11 Alan Kellogg
    February 3, 2008

    Got news for some folks; being left does not mean you’re immune to irrationality, being right does not mean you’re immune to reason.

  12. #12 Matt LaCrosse
    February 3, 2008

    Martin,

    That’s probably a better way to go. It would sure make things less skewed towards convservatism if everything wasn’t so tied to religion in some way.

    We do have municipal authorities but they tend to be religious because of the political landscape. Between income, property and sales tax, I pay close to 30%.

    I hope that Obama gets into office but McCain probably wouldn’t signal the end of the world.

  13. #13 Sebastian
    February 3, 2008

    Martin, you probably pay more like 80-90% tax, it’s just that most of it is hidden.

    Cairnarvon, we also had years of 20-ish percent of unemployment in the middle of an extremely good economy (before the more leftists lost power, now it’s much more reasonable). Of course the official statistics were at 4% or so, because most of those unemployed people were put in various expensive programs (like “find a job” courses), and weren’t counted as unemployed.
    We have around 20% of the population receiving wellfare. You even get wellfare without asking for it if you have kids (i.e. even if you’re filthy rich, you’ll get around $170 a month per child – you have to go through lots of bureaucracy to stop recieving it, which almost nobody does).
    We have the highest taxes in the world, and yet our people is among the sickest people in Europe (well not really in all liklihood, it’s just that we have lots of people who are apparently to ill to work, so they’re prematurely retired, living off the rest of us — we’re talking twenty year olds here).

    Likewise our school system sucks, mostly because the socialist indoctrination has lead to the conventional wisdom that it is unfair that some students are more talented than others, so the talented students are supressed, and nobody is allowed to excel. This is a huge problem, because when they get to university they lack basic skills.

    And yes, we have universal health care… but, you guessed it, it sucks. We’re one of the worst countries in Europe when it comes to preventing avoidable deaths, and have huge waiting lists for operations.

    And no, we don’t have any major differences in our political system (at least not amont the established parties). Both sides want a huge government with lots of wellfare and high taxes. The major difference is that of competence (the “left” doesn’t have it, but the “right” does).

  14. #14 CalGeorge
    February 3, 2008

    So, Sebastian, do thing we do it better?

  15. #15 thadd
    February 3, 2008

    I find it amusing and scary that there are still some over on that board saying that Ton Paul is the answer.

  16. #16 CalGeorge
    February 3, 2008

    Sorry.

    So, Sebastian, do you think we do it better?

  17. #17 umkomasia
    February 3, 2008

    Alan has a point. Being on the left is no promise of rationality and it alone can’t explain the progressive politics of Europe. Consider post-modernism in its extreme form. It’s hardly a viable alternative intellectually to the far right’s infatuation with fundamentalist religious “ideas” like creationism. In fact, they have much in common – thus the talk of presenting all views as deserving of coverage in schools. There must be more to it than a simple right vs. left dichotomy.

  18. #18 Stephen
    February 3, 2008

    I agree with that blog post, but reading through the comments, the blogger in question started to piss me off pretty fast. A commenter pointed out again and again the differences between the GOP and the Dems, and Martin just brushed it off. Let’s face it – there are differences. The Dems don’t want to ban gay marriage, don’t want to push creationism in science classes, are generally against the death penalty, do want to protect the environment. These are the most basic things I expect of anyone who can even begin to call himself liberal, of course – the Dems aren’t all that liberal. But there’s a big difference between them and the GOP. That whole “hurrr they’re both the same attitude” got us 8 years of Bush. Even if Kerry was a dimwit (he was), he wouldn’t have been as actively destructive as Bush is.

    being right does not mean you’re immune to reason.

    No, I’m actually pretty sure it does.

  19. #19 Sebastian
    February 3, 2008

    CalGeorge, not really no. I’m just not convinced that going to the other extreme is better.

    Realise that Sweden stayed out of WWII entirely. We were pretty much the only intact European country after the war ended. And ever since that enormous “head start” has been spent on an unsustainable socialist policy. It works for a few decades if you have a head start, but it’s not something that’s going to last (and indeed, we’ve been surpassed by most European countries already).
    Your system is at least sustainable (if deeply flawed), so you could argue that on the scale of a century or so yours would be better (once ours crashes, similarly to the sovjet union – though proportionally less dramatic). I don’t know.

    I’m just saying that a country where every party can rightfully be described as “socialist” is not necessarily something you should smugly bring up as superior.
    The right solution is probably somewhere in the middle road. A responsible policy where those who need help get it, but wihtout handing out cash to people who don’t need it, or retiring people who just don’t feel like working, and where anyone who ever succeeds at anything in their life immediately becomes “the enemy” that must be fought at every turn.
    Swedish policy (at least the far left of it) is, unfortunately, more about fighting wealth than it is about fighting poverty.

  20. #20 Dahan
    February 3, 2008

    @ 11,

    “Got news for some folks; being left does not mean you’re immune to irrationality, being right does not mean you’re immune to reason.”

    No one’s ever said otherwise. What’s your point? Here’s mine. In America a large percentage of people who consider themselves conservative tend to tie their vote to that of those who believe in a mythical sky-daddy’s opinions.

    That, my friend is insane.

    Sure, everyone’s irrational sometimes. Again. Your point is…? The thing that you need to be aware of isn’t that some people are irrational, and that that goes across all boundries of education, etc, but that a large demographic chooses irrationality as their basis for decision making.

    Get it?

  21. #21 Stephen
    February 3, 2008

    Consider post-modernism in its extreme form. It’s hardly a viable alternative intellectually to the far right’s infatuation with fundamentalist religious “ideas” like creationism.

    I agree, but I don’t know what connection you think exists between post-modernism and liberalism. I know there’s this big (and idiotic) stereotype of those damn liberal college professors teaching our kids that all ideas are equally viable and blah blah blah.

    I’m an English major. I’ve had many, many English professors at this point, some of whom have been very liberal (in an American sense), and I haven’t come across the stereotypical post-modern attitude even once. I hear it more often from whiny classmates who want their shitty opinion to be given equal consideration. One of my current English professors has no problem whatsoever telling a student that his opinion sucks; the others aren’t as blunt, but they certainly aren’t overly tolerant of BS.

  22. #22 thadd
    February 3, 2008

    Actually, a lot of Dems aren’t against the death penalty, including both presidential candidates, as Martin points out, neither candidate supports gay marriage either. We’ll also see just how far they will go for protecting the environment, I am somewhat doubtful that much will change.

  23. #23 Cairnarvon
    February 3, 2008

    Re #13:

    Cairnarvon, we also had years of 20-ish percent of unemployment in the middle of an extremely good economy (before the more leftists lost power, now it’s much more reasonable).

    I’m not sure why people consider a relatively high unemployment to be a very bad thing in countries with a sufficient welfare system, especially since many of these people aren’t even looking for work. Especially since the government does seem to be making an effort to get the unemployed-but-seeking into government programs (or “hiding them to skew statistics”, if you prefer).

    We have around 20% of the population receiving wellfare.

    I don’t see the problem with this. Much as right-wingers like to decry redistribution of wealth as theft, it reduces social inequality. Sweden is one of the most socially equal countries in the world, while still managing to be home to the richest man in Europe.

    We have the highest taxes in the world, and yet our people is among the sickest people in Europe

    Is that why Sweden has one of the lowest infant mortality rates and one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world?

    Likewise our school system sucks, mostly because the socialist indoctrination has lead to the conventional wisdom that it is unfair that some students are more talented than others, so the talented students are supressed, and nobody is allowed to excel. This is a huge problem, because when they get to university they lack basic skills.

    This isn’t a problem with “socialist indoctrination”, it’s one with parents not being able to accept their kids might not be the smartest in the world. You see the same trend in US education.

    And yes, we have universal health care… but, you guessed it, it sucks. We’re one of the worst countries in Europe when it comes to preventing avoidable deaths, and have huge waiting lists for operations.

    That’s interesting, because everything I’ve seen indicates the exact opposite, one or two exceptional cases not considered.

    Both sides want a huge government with lots of wellfare and high taxes.

    You mean both realise a society is more than just a collection of individuals, and that US-style “small government” doctrines (which are really just a dressed-up form of anarchism for people past their teens) reduce the quality of life for everyone involved?
    There’s still a lot of room for nuances. It’s almost like saying there’s no political variety at all since all mainstream parties are in favor of having governments.

    The major difference is that of competence (the “left” doesn’t have it, but the “right” does).

    I think you’re letting your biases warp your perception of reality.

    Also, #19:

    Your system is at least sustainable

    The US system is? Are you kidding?

  24. #24 zooey
    February 3, 2008

    Sebastian wrote:
    “I’m just saying that a country where every party can rightfully be described as “socialist” is not necessarily something you should smugly bring up as superior.”

    I completely agree with what you write (this confusion about how much is acutally paid in taxes is pretty astonishing – swedes have no clue – as well as the blind faith in the “superiour” public sector). The evidence that we don’t really have any right wing parties is also piling up now that we have a supposedly right wing government. They stick to the socialist politics nonetheless.

    It’s actually important to point out – politically we have very little choice. It’s “more socialist” or “less socialist” and nothing else.

  25. #25 Brodie
    February 3, 2008

    Sweden has a pragmatic rationalist majority to which the candidates shape their image to appease.
    The US on the other hand has a dogmatic creationist majority to which the candidates shape themselves to appease.

  26. #26 Sebastian
    February 3, 2008

    I think you should ask unemployed people if they think unemployment is a problem. I also think you should ask people who work very hard to secure a decent standard of living for their family if they like having lots of people just freeload off of them, when they could easily contribute.
    I’m not against collectively helping those that need help, but that can’t work the system doesn’t provide a sustainable way to keep the machinery going (having 20% of the people who are capable of contributing without the means, or requirement, of doing so is simply not sustainable). It’s like pissing your pants to stave off the cold in the winter. It may feel nice and warm in the short term, but you’ll regret it.

    I think you should read up on the Swedish healthcare system too. It’s been a long time since it was any good.

    I fail to see how your national debt is an indictment of the system as a whole? That’s the product of who you’ve chosen to run it.

    And you should realise that the richest man in Europe you talked about (Ingvar Kampraud) only got rich because he staunchly opposed socialism from the beinning (wouldn’t even hire social democrats) and went outside the country to make a fortune elsewhere. That’s hardly a point in your favour. Most of our successful companies (Ericsson, Volvo, Saab, etc.) have been sapped of their strenth by the government (they really should’ve moved somewhere else a lot sooner).

    Also, you should realise that whenever you compare two things (e.g. education in the US and Sweden), that Sweden pays the highest taxes in the world. There’s a pretty big difference there. We should expect more for our money than second rate schools, second rate health care, second rate care for the elderly etc.

  27. #27 HP
    February 3, 2008

    The terms “Left” and “Right” come out of European history. They only really make sense in light of European history. America separated itself from Europe prior to the French Revolution, when the whole Left/Right thing started. So, yes, America has no Left from a European perspective. It also has no Right.

    What it has a history of populism vs. authoritarianism, and a history of progressives vs. reactionaries. The two major parties take turns mixing and matching different combinations and intensities of these tendencies.

    So, someone like John Edwards could be understood as a progressive populist (like me!) while Mike Huckabee is a reactionary populist. Obama is a progressive authoritarian, McCain is a reactionary authoritarian. And so on down the line of candidates. Party affiliation is mostly about loyalties and lesser-evilism.

    The two major parties are dominated by authoritarians, with the populists out at the edges. The Democrats tend progressive, and the Republicans tend reactionary, but that wasn’t always the case historically — from Lincoln to T. Roosevelt, progressives dominated the Republican side, and really up until the Reagan era, the Democrats had some really nasty reactionary populists in their corner.

    But yes, there is no Left and Right in American politics, and that is to be expected, because our history is different.

  28. #28 zooey
    February 3, 2008

    Speaking of Ingvar Kamprad, he’s only rich because he always made sure he wouldn’t have to pay swedish taxes. His fortune hasn’t had anything to do with Sweden. He doesn’t live in Sweden (he lives in Switzerland – presumably because of low taxes ;)), and hasn’t done so in a long time. The company, IKEA, has its seat in The Netherlands.

    Everyone who runs the “risk” of earning any larger amounts money escapes as fast as they possibly can. This despite the fact that the heaviest tax burden, realtively speaking, doesn’t fall on them, but on the middle classes.

  29. #29 inkadu
    February 3, 2008

    he Dems don’t want to ban gay marriage, don’t want to push creationism in science classes, are generally against the death penalty, do want to protect the environment.

    Sort of, dude.

    Gay marriage: DOMA. The Defense of Marriage act, stating the federal government can not recognize same sex marriage. Senate vote: 85-14. House of Rep votes: 342-67. Signed by: Democratic President Bill Clinton.

    I think it’s more accurate to say that MORE Democrats than Republicans support those issues, but as a party, the Democrats are too diverse to really hold the line on most progressive policies. We have a lot of “blue dog” Dems who wreck progressive initiatives. The best you can say for the Democratic party is that we have a progressive WING, but it’s hardly a progressive party in its entirety, the same way the Republican part is a knuckle-dragging neandrethal party in it’s entirety.

    I’m not saying there’s no difference; I am saying it’s hard to be a progressive in the United States, to believe in all those things, and have what is supposedly your party in the majority and still see no action on any of those purportedly “key issues.”

  30. #30 Cairnarvon
    February 3, 2008

    I think you should ask unemployed people if they think unemployment is a problem. I also think you should ask people who work very hard to secure a decent standard of living for their family if they like having lots of people just freeload off of them, when they could easily contribute.

    I can assure you the “20%” unemployed people in Sweden have far less misery between them than the 5% unemployed people in the US, and that people who don’t have a “decent standard of living for their family” in Sweden will be net receivers of welfare, not givers.
    Yes, freeloaders are a problem (they always are, in welfare societies), but it’s better to have some freeloaders than it is to have people who should receive welfare but don’t, as is the case in the US.

    I fail to see how your national debt is an indictment of the system as a whole? That’s the product of who you’ve chosen to run it.

    That doesn’t even make any sense. Do you think the system exists independently of the people who run it?
    The US’s policies are not sustainable by any stretch of the imagination, and their massive debt (and continuing deficit) prove it. So do their social inequality and their violent crime rates.

    Also, you should realise that whenever you compare two things (e.g. education in the US and Sweden), that Sweden pays the highest taxes in the world.

    You barely pay more taxes than most of the other top scorers in Europe, and as your high standard of living testifies, they’re not particularly oppressively high. It’s nice to point at a flat number and claim your government is evil for it, but without context (in this case, the context of living standards, buying power, etc.), it’s meaningless.
    You do pay more than the US does, but if you think Swedish secondary education is even roughly in the same league of suckitude as US secondary education, you’re delusional. Your education is much better for the money. Your healthcare system is much better than the US’s. You may not like your welfare system, but there is far more social justice in Sweden than in the US because of it.

    I’m not saying Sweden is perfect, of course, but you don’t seem to realise just how much worse the US is. Or, for that matter, most other countries.
    Spoiled rotten.

  31. #31 windy
    February 3, 2008

    Most of our successful companies (Ericsson, Volvo, Saab, etc.) have been sapped of their strenth by the government (they really should’ve moved somewhere else a lot sooner).

    Haven’t all of those been bought up by foreign companies already? And what was all that a few years back about Saab whining for a huge support package from the Swedish government, if the evil government is only holding them back?

    Also, you should realise that whenever you compare two things (e.g. education in the US and Sweden), that Sweden pays the highest taxes in the world.

    It’s Belgium, actually.

  32. #32 Sigmund
    February 3, 2008

    I live in Sweden, moving here after 15 years in the UK and the previous 20 in Ireland, so I can give some sort of international comparison. Compared to the UK and Ireland the population here is well educated and fairly content. It is easy to find low cost subsidized nursery school places for children, thus allowing both parents to work and there seems to be a genuine interest in preserving the education positive culture of the country. The universal health service is fine (compared to the UK and Ireland, certainly), people are generally very friendly and there is very low levels of outright racism or anti immigrant feeling compared to the UK or in particular, Ireland.
    Taxes here are high, such that if I was very highly paid then I would feel less well off compared to other less taxed countries but, remember, that tax goes to educate and keep in health all of society, which in turn makes that society somewhere worth being. Then again, I’m a research scientist so I need not worry about high salary.
    Obviously because Sweden is 40% atheist there is the problem of the constant murders, rapes, robberies and animal marriages that necessarily occurs in such a non god-fearing place, but you get used to that after a while.

  33. #33 Marcus Ranum
    February 3, 2008

    Your system is at least sustainable

    I don’t think anyone wants to live in a sustainable system. Because they’d pretty much have to be totalitarian to survive.

    Democratic societies will never last long past the point where “the people” discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses, or when their lawmakers realize they can vote themselves a raise.

  34. #34 dzho
    February 3, 2008

    Re post 9 & 10:
    I’m always a little chagrined that we non-religious people don’t seem to organize to provide social services the way church groups do. Is this the answer–That we depend on the municipal authorities? (If so, maybe I better get more involved in politics.) ???

  35. #35 Marcus Ranum
    February 3, 2008

    The US’s policies are not sustainable by any stretch of the imagination, and their massive debt (and continuing deficit) prove it. So do their social inequality and their violent crime rates.

    Which, by the way, were dropping fairly sharply from the mid-1990s until 2000 or so. Correlation does not imply causality but this is a little chart that I use to deflate people who like to link violent crime to porn or videogames or George Bush:
    http://i95.photobucket.com/albums/l139/gwcstudio/correllation-causality.jpg

  36. #36 inkadu
    February 3, 2008

    30% taxation is high? When I worked as a contractor, I put aside 33% of my wages, and sent all of it to the government. On top of that, I was paying $500/month for health insurance.

    I have a conservative friend who wanted to tell me how much he paid in taxes last year. It turns out he paid 28%. I told him that was about 5% lower than what I paid. He was still outraged though, he said his tax dollars were being wasted and that the money was going to freeloaders. So we looked up the federal budget, turns out the kinds of programs he was against constitute roughly 10% of the federal budget. So I asked him if he’d be happy if those programs were gone, and his tax rate was reduced 10% from 28% to 25%. He said, “No, my taxes would still be too high.”

    Americans don’t seem to have any understanding at all about taxation. Taxes are ALWAYS too high, government is ALWAYS too big. It’s almost a religious belief that has nothing to do with reality.

  37. #37 JJR
    February 3, 2008

    slightly OT, I just finished Joe Bageant’s DEER HUNTING WITH JESUS; Good book, lots of poignant stories–but overall depressing as hell.

    as regards the Swedish commentator, I’d just note that in US politics, strict gun control is an extremist position that is rejected by a majority of Americans. Not to mention being unconstitutional and all. In recent weeks I’ve become a regular watcher of the A&E program THE FIRST 48 which follows real homicide detectives in a major US city for the first 48 hrs of a real investigation. In nearly every case involving shootings, drugs played a role in some way, shape or form…drug deal gone bad, someone robbing a dealer, dealers fighting over territory, etc. I’m drawn to the show for many reasons, mainly the vicarious thrill of watching the detectives put together clues, interrogate suspects, build their case against the probable suspect(s), etc. If Sweden had our crime rates and levels of social inequality, they might reconsider that whole strict gun control thing.

  38. #38 thadd
    February 3, 2008

    While I personally have enjoyed sport firearms use for my entire life, I cannot believe people consider them an item to be used fop protection, how more unsafe of a mindset can someone have when holding a gun.

    As for the constitutional nature of firearms ownership, this is debated by many who see a stricter interpretation of the amendment as possible.

  39. #39 Russell
    February 3, 2008

    #2:
    “Anyone know of a way to bottle those Swedish perceptions and infect the American populace with them?”

    You might try a liter of

    . ABSOLUT
    .. GUDLOS

    . Only The Spirit Will Move You.
    Distilled from pure Swedish matter

  40. #40 Jonas
    February 3, 2008

    Re: Sebastian (#13)

    You even get wellfare without asking for it if you have kids (i.e. even if you’re filthy rich, you’ll get around $170 a month per child – you have to go through lots of bureaucracy to stop recieving it, which almost nobody does).

    I was also against that, up until I connected the points. We are nine million-ish and need to become more, so the government pays people to get children; it shouldn’t be a matter of if you can afford to have children or not that decides the issue for you. We are pretty good at the making-babies thing, but we are also very good at using contraceptives, so the government actually pays us to have more sex.

    This time without the contraceptives.

    Many argue that the taxes should be lowered with the same amount instead, so we can save on the administration, but that defeats the purpose of the child support money; it is a carrot – Hey, look what you get if you do what you usually do, but without the usual peripherals! (Now go and wash your dirty imagination.)

    I have always been of the opinion that the Atlantic is a moat, you Americans got more then your fair share of nutcases, but don’t give up! When the night is at the darkest, come on over! I know a few bars and pubs around here where we can sit down and have a chat and a beer and we’ll see what we can do to boost you morale. First round of beers is on me.

  41. #41 mirshafie
    February 3, 2008

    First of all, Sebastian, please stop perpetuating the lies that “Sweden has the highest taxes in the world” or “Swedes probably pay 90% in tax”. It’s simply not true, and since it has been repeated to me by rightwingers since childhood it’s tremendously tiring.

    Of course it hurts to see that 30 % of “your” money was just stripped off. Sure. Then I remember that my teeth are straight because other people payed taxes before me, that I got education and food for free, that when I broke my arm I didn’t pay a dime to have it fixed. My grandmother had her legs fixed (for free) so now she can walk again and my grandfather had heart bypass surgery (for free), so now he can walk again.

    Perhaps compared to some other country the surgeries that my grandparents had, or the dental care that I had, are second class. I don’t know. The question is if, without the “high” taxation, would we be able to pay for better health care ourselves? I think not.

  42. #42 Jonas
    February 3, 2008

    Re: JJR (#37)

    If Sweden had our crime rates and levels of social inequality, they might reconsider that whole strict gun control thing.

    This is very much a matter of how we get to the scenario you mention. For comparions, the rumour mill has it that there are more weapons per capita in Sweden then in the US, there are many hunters in Sweden and many of them own several rifles. (All businesses shuts down during the hunting season in the northern half of Sweden, and that is no exaggeration.)

    There has been some very spectacular, high profile, violent crimes during the last five-ten years (Hells Angels vs. Bandidos, fire fights between criminal gangs among sun bathing beach goers, robberies, youth gangs, kidnapping, police murder, jail breaks etc.) and they only reaction I’ve seen is demands that the police get more resources. The mindset that a gun in my hand will make me more safe haven’t really crossed the collective Swedish mind. The basic opinion is, I think, that more guns will result in more crimes and in more violent crimes.

    Knowing my fellow Swedes I believe that should the crime rates go sky high in short time, there would be demands for more police men, not legal rights to carry a gun.

    Self defense courses and pepper spray would be a more likely course of action.

    But if our social inequalities reaches US levels, that is a different story altogether and I am not as optimistic about the result.

  43. #43 Bruce Almighty
    February 3, 2008

    Also re JJR in #37: If the USA had European attitudes (and appropriate legislation) toward recreational drug use and firearms, the crime rate would be a lot lower.

  44. #44 Taz
    February 3, 2008

    One thing I take pride in being from Michigan – we banned capitol punishment in 1847 and haven’t had it since. Sweden banned it in 1921.

  45. #45 windy
    February 3, 2008

    If the USA had European attitudes (and appropriate legislation) toward recreational drug use, the crime rate would be a lot lower.

    Swedish drug legislation is nothing to cheer for. There are no allowances for milder drugs, personal use and so on. Swedes are the flower-hatted aunties of Europe when it comes to European drug policy, constantly demanding that Netherlands gives up its coffee shops etc. Many East Africans get in trouble for importing khat (a relatively harmless drug) for personal use, although some other EU countries allow it.

    At the same time, Swedes definitely want to keep their “snus”, a kind of chewing tobacco which is forbidden elsewhere in the EU. It may be relatively harmless too, but this smacks of hypocrisy…

  46. #46 zooey
    February 3, 2008

    mirshafie worte: “First of all, Sebastian, please stop perpetuating the lies that “Sweden has the highest taxes in the world” or “Swedes probably pay 90% in tax”. It’s simply not true, and since it has been repeated to me by rightwingers since childhood it’s tremendously tiring.”

    I’d suggest they aren’t that far from being right. The amount of money that goes into the public sector is huge.

    You’re grandparents didn’t get their health care “for free” – it costs money. They probably paid for it many times over during their years working. Much as they, and your parents, have paid for your teeth and your school.

    Nothing is free. It’s absolutely ridiculous to assume things are “free” because you don’t pay right then and there. My dog gets health care for free (almost)… because I paid his insurance. Would you consider that to be “for free”? really?

  47. #47 mirshafie
    February 3, 2008

    zooey: not being far from right doesn’t make it any less wrong. Sorry. If only Swedish liberals would say that Sweden has internationally very high tax levels, or to say that Sweden is in the “top ten” of high taxes, I would be fine with it. But that is not the case.

    And you really have got to be kidding me about the “free stuff” lecture. Because I do, in fact, understand that my grandmothers surgery didn’t fall from the sky. Taxes paid for her surgery and she payed the taxes. Not that confusing, huh?

  48. #48 Bride of Shrek
    February 3, 2008

    How are you guys calculating your tax rates? In Australia we (well my husband actually as I’m not working for a couple of years while I’m a full time mother) pays 42% of his gross income straight away in tax, BEFORE paying other taxes on a state amnd local level. At this point 30% is looking pretty damn good to me and I’m wondering where you got the idea Sweden pays the highest tax in the world?

  49. #49 windy
    February 3, 2008

    At this point 30% is looking pretty damn good to me and I’m wondering where you got the idea Sweden pays the highest tax in the world?

    The social security fees the employer pays are not included in that 30%.

  50. #50 NelC
    February 3, 2008

    Zooey, this is the internet, you can just go and check what the rates are, before commiting yourself to such idiocy as “I’d suggest they aren’t that far from being right.”

    Corporate tax is 28%, personal taxes are from 0-55%, VAT is 25% for most things, 12% for food, 6% for books. So pretty far from 90%, really. Though the top personal rate is near the highest in the world, it isn’t all that much higher than the top rate in the USA (55% vs. 50%).

    And while Mirshafie’s parents did pay for their medical treatment through their taxes, at least they didn’t have to deal with insurance companies while they were ill in order to get the treatment.

  51. #51 Bride of Shrek
    February 3, 2008

    Thanks for clarifying that Windy

  52. #52 Yossarian
    February 3, 2008

    Here is a table over the total tax as a percentage of GDP:
    http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/tax_tot_tax_as_of_gdp-taxation-total-as-of-gdp

    Sweden is the only country above the 50% line.

  53. #53 Jonas
    February 3, 2008

    I pay high taxes any day of the week compared to having to brown nosing an non-existent sky-daddy. I prefer to have the politician being guided by political ideologies I do not subscribe to then have them listening to and being guided by their stomachs digesting a cheese burger with extra mayo (that is what ‘gut feeling’ is, right?). I prefer to have politicians trying to explain a decision in terms of how it is related to the party’s agenda or how it will benefit the common good (how stupid it ever may sound like), then have them saying ‘the voices in my head said so’ – and being proud of it.

    I think we shall be happy that we only have the efficiency of the government to quarrel about… (Which we do all week through.)

  54. #54 John Emerson
    February 3, 2008

    There are many hunters in Sweden and many of them own several rifles. (All businesses shuts down during the hunting season in the northern half of Sweden, and that is no exaggeration.)

    Much like Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

    Gun ownership isn’t really a problem, and neither is gun registration. But the U.S. has a paranoid element that worships guns, and if you look at them closely they usually turn out to be obsessed with violent racial fantasies. And they’re terribly afraid that the government will take their guns away and that rampaging mobs of Negroes will rape and ill them.

  55. #55 John Emerson
    February 3, 2008

    Wisconsin banned capital punishment so quickly that there’s only ever been one execution in the whole history of the state. Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, and North Dakota are other Midwestern states without it; Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Alaska, Hawaii, and even West Virginia also do not have capital punishment.

    Enthusiasm for capital punishment is a major symptom of the American sickness, and often is related to feelings about race. Even after an unproblematic century and half without it, people in this area will occasionally agitate to have it restored.

  56. #56 zooey
    February 3, 2008

    “Zooey, this is the internet, you can just go and check what the rates are, before commiting yourself to such idiocy as “I’d suggest they aren’t that far from being right.”"

    Actually I don’t have to check it on the internet. I’m pretty familiar with taxes. Swedish tax laws are one of the things I’ve studied at the university (and I know people who specialize in taxes, I could ask them if I wanted to know).

    Income taxes are 30-55%. VAT is 25% (on food 12% and then there are some other exceptions). There are extra taxes added on alcohol, cigarettes etc – these taxes are high. Same goes for energy sources/fuel, petrol tax, electricity etc.

    Before the income taxes are even deduced – the employer pays a “arbetsgivaravgift” which is a tax in normal language – that’s about adding about 25-30% to the expenses for vages for the employer.

    There are lots of other “avgifter” (as I said, fancy word for taxes) that people know little about. But they add to our expenses whe we buy goods or services, for example.

    Then there’s taxes on savings (differs on what type of assets). There used to be shockingly high taxes on property, but that system has been revised. it means, still high taxes for most people who own property – but it’s construed differntly now. even if you rent your apartment, a pretty large part of that rent is – or at least has been – taxes.

    So, no, I’d still say that even though 90% isn’t right – looking at the larger picture will lead you to see 90% is probably closer to the truth than is 30%.

    Btw, some years ago (15-25, not sure) you could actually end up paying more than 100% of your income in taxes. It’s true. You’d actually have to take from your savings, because the income wasn’t enough to pay the taxes. Not so anymore, but that puts 90% taxes in perspective…

  57. #57 zooey
    February 3, 2008

    “And you really have got to be kidding me about the “free stuff” lecture. Because I do, in fact, understand that my grandmothers surgery didn’t fall from the sky. Taxes paid for her surgery and she payed the taxes. Not that confusing, huh?”

    Well, then, how odd isn’t it that election campaigns in Sweden always centre on who can give away the most services or subsidies “for free” – people scream for “free” health care, “free” childcare, “free” local transportation, etc.

    If your grandparents had been paying to a private insurance, they would have had their surgeries paid as well. Maybe it would have been more cost effective, too.

    It’s my absolute conviction that the state should care only for those who need it – and for those it should care well. The rest of us should take care of our own businesses, making our own choices, paying our own insurances (and, yes, I can anticipate the reactions to that statement – they’re usually uniform, coming from swedes). Now politicians are promising this and that and pouring money into this huge monster of public services – only to provide for people who could have got their own insurance, if they’d got to keep more of their income. All the while, there are people sleeping in the street and mentally ill people who aren’t cared for and people who really can’t fend for themselves – they don’t seem to get much of anything. I guess the public sector is just too busy pampering ordinary grown-ups who all expect to get everything they want and need for free. (I guess they are right – they paid for it. But the system is wrong.)

  58. #58 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    February 3, 2008

    I do think the US political system is more sound, minimizing regulation and allowing more decentralization at a minimal cost. (I.e. a few antiscience persons in local school boards from time to time.)

    What I don’t get is the insistence on bilateral negotiations all over the place. We wouldn’t have much of free trade or global standards if everybody joined that politic as I understand it. It would be all right if US was inconsequential on the international arena. Alas, while US seems head bent to go that route we aren’t quite there yet.

    Your system is at least sustainable (if deeply flawed), so you could argue that on the scale of a century or so yours would be better (once ours crashes, similarly to the sovjet union – though proportionally less dramatic).

    I’m in a similar situation as original poster martin, not having been interested in politics until starting to blog. But I do know there is no reason to think Sweden’s political or economical system crashes.

    On the contrary, Sweden have wintered been major crises such as the market crash in the 90′s (caused a change in finance politics) and the state pension system growing too costly (caused a change to individual pension). Besides showing flexibility, the general european inflation policies have been adopted and so on, adding robustness.

    It is probably correct that there has been a squandering of resources though. I think it is normal in any body (private, corporate or national) that have been well off for any longer period of time.

    swedes have no clue

    We do have a clue, see the earlier correcting comments.

    You may be citing old numbers from a time where for example IIRC the margin tax were allowed to be over 100 %. (I.e. for some income ranges you wanted to cut down on work.) Not only did that social democratic government correct this idiocy themselves, they are now often voted out of office as the right wing block have grown more competent and don’t enable finance politics crises.

  59. #59 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    February 3, 2008

    I do think the US political system is more sound, minimizing regulation and allowing more decentralization at a minimal cost. (I.e. a few antiscience persons in local school boards from time to time.)

    What I don’t get is the insistence on bilateral negotiations all over the place. We wouldn’t have much of free trade or global standards if everybody joined that politic as I understand it. It would be all right if US was inconsequential on the international arena. Alas, while US seems head bent to go that route we aren’t quite there yet.

    Your system is at least sustainable (if deeply flawed), so you could argue that on the scale of a century or so yours would be better (once ours crashes, similarly to the sovjet union – though proportionally less dramatic).

    I’m in a similar situation as original poster martin, not having been interested in politics until starting to blog. But I do know there is no reason to think Sweden’s political or economical system crashes.

    On the contrary, Sweden have wintered been major crises such as the market crash in the 90′s (caused a change in finance politics) and the state pension system growing too costly (caused a change to individual pension). Besides showing flexibility, the general european inflation policies have been adopted and so on, adding robustness.

    It is probably correct that there has been a squandering of resources though. I think it is normal in any body (private, corporate or national) that have been well off for any longer period of time.

    swedes have no clue

    We do have a clue, see the earlier correcting comments.

    You may be citing old numbers from a time where for example IIRC the margin tax were allowed to be over 100 %. (I.e. for some income ranges you wanted to cut down on work.) Not only did that social democratic government correct this idiocy themselves, they are now often voted out of office as the right wing block have grown more competent and don’t enable finance politics crises.

  60. #60 John
    February 3, 2008

    #52: That’s a start, but why not provide an equal footing by supplementing total costs for services provided as a percentage of GDP? We all pay for the same stuff one way or another. Health care alone would drop most of the gap between the US and Sweden, even though our privately socialized system does not cover a significant portion of the population! Maybe deferred expenses would fill the gap? Our bridges fall down because we don’t pay to maintain them. How about the government expenses deferred into deficits rather than directly in current taxes, we do seem to be spending beyond our budget… We all share these expenses sooner or later, one way or another; simply comparing colored lines labeled “taxes” is naive.

  61. #61 John Emerson
    February 3, 2008

    If your grandparents had been paying to a private insurance, they would have had their surgeries paid as well. Maybe it would have been more cost effective, too.

    This is not a smart thing to say to an American audience, Zooey. Not at all.

  62. #62 zooey
    February 3, 2008

    “Swedish drug legislation is nothing to cheer for. There are no allowances for milder drugs, personal use and so on. Swedes are the flower-hatted aunties of Europe when it comes to European drug policy, constantly demanding that Netherlands gives up its coffee shops etc.”

    In Sweden it’s more socially apropriate to get so drunk you pass out. It’s actually pretty ok, among some, to do that every weekend. Politicians would rather brag about our magnificent drug laws, superior to those in all other countries. Of course, it’s so much easier to point fingers at the horrible drug culture in Amsterdam, than it is to soberly sum up our own unhealthy attitude towards drinking (not to forget the success of Absolut Vodka – still owned by the swedish state, I think). I’m not saying one thing is better than the other, but I’m a bit fed up with the attitude of some people that the swedish way is the right way, just put on the blinds first…

  63. #63 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    February 3, 2008

    90% is probably closer to the truth than is 30%.

    Can you explain in more detail why the OECD numbers for total taxation isn’t applicable? Besides making you wrong, I mean.

    Btw, some years ago (15-25, not sure) you could actually end up paying more than 100% of your income in taxes.

    I checked, it was the margin tax (of course). It was at the height of the social democratic party power, and such mistakes started its long fall to more normal influence. And it was over 30 years ago.

    Do you mind checking your facts before commenting? It’s more fun to discuss new ideas than to correct others mistakes.

  64. #64 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    February 3, 2008

    90% is probably closer to the truth than is 30%.

    Can you explain in more detail why the OECD numbers for total taxation isn’t applicable? Besides making you wrong, I mean.

    Btw, some years ago (15-25, not sure) you could actually end up paying more than 100% of your income in taxes.

    I checked, it was the margin tax (of course). It was at the height of the social democratic party power, and such mistakes started its long fall to more normal influence. And it was over 30 years ago.

    Do you mind checking your facts before commenting? It’s more fun to discuss new ideas than to correct others mistakes.

  65. #65 David Marjanovi?, OM
    February 3, 2008

    So that’s why the traffic over there is so high… it’s been pharyngulated…

  66. #66 David Marjanovi?, OM
    February 3, 2008

    So that’s why the traffic over there is so high… it’s been pharyngulated…

  67. #67 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    February 3, 2008

    Oops, here is the missing link to the margin tax discussed.

  68. #68 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    February 3, 2008

    Oops, here is the missing link to the margin tax discussed.

  69. #69 armillary
    February 3, 2008

    Martin is an old friend of mine, though it’s been quite a while now. Thanks for the pointer!

  70. #70 zooey
    February 3, 2008

    Thorbjörn L. wrote:
    “they are now often voted out of office as the right wing block have grown more competent and don’t enable finance politics crises.”

    Well, I don’t think sweden will stay non-socialist more than 4 years at a time. After the next election, there will be at least 2 (I think 3) consequtive socialist governments. 8 or 12 years. In any case, it doesn’t matter what you vote for, socialism is going to be there anyway. The socialdemocrats have been in power for to long, everything works the way they planned it and construed it.

    The most powerful tool is probably the reality of economics. That’s been a mightier force than social democracy – if it hadn’t, social democrats wouldn’t have made many the changes they have made. On the other hand – that’s not something to be optimistic about, having to rely on the markets for change, rather than your democratic vote.

    (Well, that just sounded a bit too negative. But anyway.)

  71. #71 David Marjanovi?, OM
    February 3, 2008

    As for the constitutional nature of firearms ownership, this is debated by many who see a stricter interpretation of the amendment as possible.

    The very fact that it is not screamingly blindingly self-obvious what the 2nd Amendment means PROVES that it must be amended IN ANY CASE. The big-C Constitution is not holy writ. It contains explicit rules for the procedure of its own amendment. Why doesn’t anyone do anything!?!

    Yes, I am shouting.

  72. #72 David Marjanovi?, OM
    February 3, 2008

    As for the constitutional nature of firearms ownership, this is debated by many who see a stricter interpretation of the amendment as possible.

    The very fact that it is not screamingly blindingly self-obvious what the 2nd Amendment means PROVES that it must be amended IN ANY CASE. The big-C Constitution is not holy writ. It contains explicit rules for the procedure of its own amendment. Why doesn’t anyone do anything!?!

    Yes, I am shouting.

  73. #73 zooey
    February 3, 2008

    “Can you explain in more detail why the OECD numbers for total taxation isn’t applicable? Besides making you wrong, I mean.

    I checked, it was the margin tax (of course). It was at the height of the social democratic party power, and such mistakes started its long fall to more normal influence. And it was over 30 years ago.”

    Yes, of course that was the margin tax on incomes which caused the situation I mentioned (I think I rememeber mentioning a time span, too, and that would’ve indicated I didn’t say it was today). They didn’t correct this until it author Astrid Lindgren caused a national drama about it, and opened people’s eyes. I never, ever suggested that marginal taxes are on that high level now – I clearly stated that the current max. marginal income tax is 55% (or, it’s about 52% now I think). But no – it wasn’t a mistake – the social democrats were fully aware of it (and presumably everyone who had any knowledge about taxation), before it turned into a scandal. That’s how they wanted society to be.

    But that’s the income tax – there’s a lot more to swedish taxation than that.

    As for the rest, I think that you’ll find answers from the rest of the swedes more rewarding.

  74. #74 Colugo
    February 3, 2008

    If American conservatives are consistently overly chauvinist and triumphalist about American values and practices, American liberals are likewise unable to give up their European hobbyhorse. The grass is always greener in Europe. Perhaps in some ways, but certainly not in all. I could list all kinds of cultural, political, and economic problems and indicators that aren’t so flattering to Europe in general and Western Europe and Scandinavia more specifically. This left-liberal Euro-romanticism has become a perpetual unexamined trope.

  75. #75 Hairhead
    February 3, 2008

    zooey, you have the same characteristic that every tax-hater I have come across has: you loathe and view with contempt your countrymen for making different electoral choices than you would make. You quite clearly think they are all fools (fill in a few more pejorative adjectives) and you morally disapprove of their decision to vote in parties who give them what they want (all those generous government services which you disapprove of).

    You seem to have two choices, given the strength of your feelings: participate in your Swedish political system to bring down taxes and cut benefits; or leave Sweden for a place with lower taxes (which would include, from your point of view, virtually every other country in the world). The United States does like white, English-proficient people; why don’t you try?

  76. #76 Marcus Ranum
    February 3, 2008

    The basic opinion is, I think, that more guns will result in more crimes and in more violent crimes.

    In the US the number of guns in private hands continues to rise. Yet violent crime has fluctuated, including a sharp drop of nearly 50% from the mid-1990s until about 2000. Violent crime remains at 50% of what it was between 1973 and 1990. I’m not carefully picking that time window to lie with statistics, either, it’s just based on the chart I’m looking at: Source, US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics.

    If the availability of guns had something to do with the rate of violent crime, I would expect increases in gun availability or gun sales to correlate with increased violence, or gun restricting legislation to correlate with drops. They do not. Therefore, if one is concerned with violent crime, one should look elsewhere than guns for its causes.

    I’m not advocating a position on gun control or ownership, I’d just like to point out that there’s lots of opportunities for bad science (or outright bullsh*t) regarding that particular topic.

    Disclaimer: I own guns for entertainment purposes. I like making loud noises and turning hydrocarbons and copper/lead into big holes in pieces of paper and occasionally steel plates at long distances.

  77. #77 Charlie
    February 3, 2008

    The Swedish government is prosecuting the Pirate Bay and therefore is a puppet of corrupt US corporate interests. Same shit different day.

  78. #78 stormen per
    February 4, 2008

    #32 As a swede, that last sentance made me laugh out.

  79. #79 Flex
    February 4, 2008

    Posted by Dzho, way back at 34, “I’m always a little chagrined that we non-religious people don’t seem to organize to provide social services the way church groups do. Is this the answer–That we depend on the municipal authorities? (If so, maybe I better get more involved in politics.) ???

    Yes. One of the insidious things that appears to have happened over the past few dozen years is that Americans have developed an atagonistic attitude toward their municipal authorities.

    This attitude is not entirely unwarrented, what with increased police powers and idiotic zero-tolerance regulations.

    However, we, as citizens, do have to ability to change our municipal authorities in order to organize social support networks, and many local municipalities do support and provide such services. It’s not easy, and there are plenty of conflicting viewpoints about how much authority a municiple government should have (which is not found in many religious organizations), but is can be done.

    The government is not the enemy, the government is us.

  80. #80 Flex
    February 4, 2008

    In regard to the oft-used argument about high unemployment and free-loading.

    There are many ways to look at that particular issue. One point which rarely comes up is that in a welfare state the average wages for working people are higher due to the reduced number of people willing to work.

    A certain amount of your income and business taxes are used to provide for the unemployed. There are social benefits for giving the unemployed health care, food, shelter and even some spending money. In themselves, the increased liquidity of the cash in the economy can help reduce the chance of a recession. But beyond that, if those people entered the work force, how much would your salary fall? If it’s more than the cost of paying them to stay out, you are a net loser.

    Unless, of course, you are a business owner and want the average wage you pay your employees to fall in order to increase the profits of your business. I understand the motive, but it seems a bit callous.

    Paying a certain amount of your salary to ensure your own wages remain higher than they would otherwise is a classic tactic of unions. Why is it different because the state is doing this for you?

  81. #81 Bill Dauphin
    February 4, 2008

    Matt (@12; sorry I’m so late to the party):

    I hope that Obama gets into office but McCain probably wouldn’t signal the end of the world.

    McCain himself might not be the end of the world (though I tend to believe his rep for personal character and moderate views is only valid by comparison to other Repubs), but I’m afraid another 4 (nevermind 8) years of Republican policies might be the end of the world (perhaps literally), regardless of who sits in the Oval Office.

    Don’t forget that any Republican president makes the world safe for the Sam Brownbacks of the world.

  82. #82 Bill Dauphin
    February 4, 2008

    inkadu (@29):

    I think it’s more accurate to say that MORE Democrats than Republicans support those issues, but as a party, the Democrats are too diverse to really hold the line on most progressive policies. … The best you can say for the Democratic party is that we have a progressive WING, but it’s hardly a progressive party in its entirety….

    I think the Democratic Party is as progressive as it can possibly be, given the context of a country whose political “center” is historically far to the right. Yes, lots of Dems voted for DOMA and Clinton signed it… but do you really believe those folks are anti-gay? Clinton campaigned on gay rights for the military (only to have that shunted into the execrable “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in large part because his gay activist supporters forced him to move too early). Isn’t it more likely that Clinton and the Dems in Congress understood where the majority of voters were on the issue of gay marriage at the time (~a decade ago, remember; I’m guessing there’s been significant evolution in political attitudes since).

    I have plenty of lefty friends (and mind you, I think of myself as a lefty, too) who love to grumble about what a triangulating, Republican-lite SOB Clinton was… but IMHO he was as far to the left as any president could possibly have been, following 12 years of Reagan-Bush rule (and 20 years during which Dems held the White House for only a single term). The political center of mass has considerable inertia, and there’s a fine balance to be struck between leading and actually representing the people where they are. If you get too far out ahead of folks, you find you’re no longer a leader but just a lonely hiker.

    I’ve been having this same discussion with my fellow progressives here in Connecticut: They all want to support candidates who will throw themselves on the sword for liberal causes; I want to support candidates who can realistically move the country in a more liberal direction… even if that means some political temporizing now and then.

    YMMV, of course.

    PS: For all the defending of Bill Clinton above, I’m still supporting Obama. I’ll be hearing him speaking in person here in Hartford in just a few hours.

  83. #83 Bill Dauphin
    February 4, 2008

    Obviously because Sweden is 40% atheist there is the problem of the constant murders, rapes, robberies and animal marriages that necessarily occurs in such a non god-fearing place, but you get used to that after a while.

    Thanks, Sigmund, for the caffeinated nasal lavage! ;^)

  84. #84 Bill Dauphin
    February 4, 2008

    Flex:

    The government is not the enemy, the government is us.

    From your lips to God’s (nonexistent) ears!!

  85. #85 Phoenix Woman
    February 4, 2008

    Somebody commented over there:

    One of the major progressive projects in the next decade or so is to (1) understand why the right wing has so effectively dominated electoral politics even though their policies do not command anything close to majority support in the citizenry and (2) to make this stop happening.

    As for #1: It was a push by the moneyed conservatives to:

    a) kill off public education by lying about its effectiveness (Why? Because the baby boomers were the first big beneficiaries of FDR’s universal public education, and they were the most lefty generation in American history) and

    b) assert conservative control over those entities in charge of relaying objective reality (i.e., truth) to the rest of us: Schools, colleges, research faciilities, think tanks, and of course the media. The late William Simon, a member of Nixon’s cabinet who wanted revenge for Nixon’s downfall in Watergate, was one of the prime movers behind this push: “Funds generated by business…must rush by the multimillions to the aid of liberty…to funnel desperately needed funds to scholars, social scientists, writers and journalists who understand the relationship between political and economic liberty. [Business must] cease the mindless subsidizing of colleges and universities who departments of economy, government, politics and history are hostile to capitalism.”

    Now you know why the Fairness Doctrine was repealed in 1987. That move made possible the right-wing takeover of talk radio, and also led to FOX News.

    The answer to #2: Reinstating the Fairness Doctrine. Getting big-money liberals to walk their talk and invest in sane media, especially broadcast media (where most Americans still get their news). Supporting progressive online media. And getting on your local school board to keep out the purveyors of Fundy garbage “science”.

  86. #86 Thomas Larsson
    February 8, 2008

    Swedish taxes have been lowered in the last decades. Once upon a time the tax rate could exceed 100% ( Pomperipossa effect ).

  87. #87 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    March 25, 2008

    FWIW, catching up on old threads:

    @ zooey:

    Yes, of course that was the margin tax on incomes which caused the situation I mentioned

    You seem to be confusing margin tax with income tax. A larger than 100 % marginal tax rate means that the tax is deducting on your income, not savings as you stated. I.e. it doesn’t pay to work, but you will still have an income.

  88. #88 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    March 25, 2008

    FWIW, catching up on old threads:

    @ zooey:

    Yes, of course that was the margin tax on incomes which caused the situation I mentioned

    You seem to be confusing margin tax with income tax. A larger than 100 % marginal tax rate means that the tax is deducting on your income, not savings as you stated. I.e. it doesn’t pay to work, but you will still have an income.