June 30, 2009

THE LEFT IS CORRECT THAT WE NEED TO MOVE IN THE SAME DIRECTION AS SWEDEN:

Death of the super model (Ruben Andersson, 6/30/09, guardian.co.uk)

The Swedish dream is no more.

Swedes were roused from this dream with the 1986 assassination of prime minister Olof Palme. Palme might have left behind "a country where no one was poor and no one had room for optimism" as Andrew Brown puts it, but it was Sweden's homemade financial meltdown of the 1990s that 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. The conservative government at the time has lately been praised worldwide for its handling of the crisis. Actually the bankers were rewarded, not punished, while the rest of the country is still reeling from the cuts, selloffs and dashed dreams the crisis provoked. But the idea of a well-oiled Swedish model insulated from the shockwaves of capitalism runs on like a Volvo. The reality, like troubled, Ford-owned Volvo itself, is more globalised and gloomy than that.

Take healthcare. Swedes do not enjoy free public care: it costs to see a GP. That is, if you manage to see one. Queues are long and scandals rack the system. Psychiatric care, the source of many such 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 because state-run healthcare is supposed to work: this is Sweden, after all. [...]

Even being in the system is less rewarding than it was. Unemployment benefits are falling behind those of other countries, and access to social security involves Big Brother-style controls most Europeans would abhor. The state's iron grip remains even as the care that used to go with it has gone. Swedes might lack Britain's profusion of CCTVs, but their lives are scrutinised by an armada of bureaucrats. A new law lets authorities tap all phone and internet traffic crossing the borders. Norwegian lawyers have sued over privacy infringement, leaving the prime minister perplexed – because in Sweden, the state is there to help us.

Just as Sweden was in the vanguard of postwar social democracy, it has since the 1990s become a neoliberal experiment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 30, 2009 5:09 PM
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