Dan Klein on Sweden
Dan Klein has an interview on Sweden, a country he knows well. It will read counterintuitive to many. In short, Dan argues that Swedish civic virtue precedes the welfare state and does not depend on it. Thinking otherwise implies not understanding “why the Swedish bumblebee flies as well as it does a strong and liberal national identity, free markets, civic virtue”.
A couple of highlights.
Dan emphasizes the importance of an entrepreneurial class that is relatively cohesive and that has a distinctive understanding of its own social role:
In Sweden there is a nexus of private enterprise—organizations, families—who still cohere as a loose yet important force of the central zone. They are counterparts to the “honest gentlemen” of Britain that David Hume and Adam Smith appealed to, the people of wealth who are called to assume the responsibility of using their wealth and influence wisely, most notably by not using political influence to acquire privileges against would-be competitors. It is my understanding that the private-enterprise nexus in Sweden tends to lean liberal, even in a scrupulous way.
These liberal elements were drawn upon in the 1960s and 1970s when the Social Democrats forsook their liberal side and lurched too far to the left. Reasonable Swedes took a stand, and Sweden changed direction.
He also points out the strength of Swedish (contemporary) liberalism:
liberal research, scholarship, and discourse requires professional liberals. On a per capita basis, Sweden probably sustains professional liberals better than any other country in Europe, usually far better, and maybe even better than England. The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv) and various foundations do a fantastic job supporting fantastic people doing fantastic work, in the heart of Stockholm, with seats in the central zone. Some of my Swedish classical liberal friends do not realize how good they’ve got it, relative to the rest of Europe.
The whole thing is well worth reading – and includes a comment on the nationalist “Swedish democrats”.