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News :: Social Welfare
Why do we deny the superiority of the swedish model?
10 Nov 2005
Modified: 11 Nov 2005
Like most intelligent, aware US citizens I'm tired of Dubya, Condi, Fox Channel and the rest of the Disney Family telling us, the american public, everything's going our way.
It isn't.
I live, since 18 months, in Sweden and I can tell.
Recently, according to statistical devolpment I've been following for some time, the EU in general now has surpassed the US in most important economical aspects.
France, Germany and Italy are said to be in states of economical crises, but hey, what are WE then?
This is the truth about the performance of the US economy compared to the "recessing" EU economy:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/list_of_countries_by_gdp

(choose either measure)

But let's forget the issue of EU vs USA in pure GDP figures and similar problems.
More interesting to me is to report on something important I have learnt from living in Scandinavia, mostly in Sweden, for some time now.
The whole thing is about how scandinavians manage to invest in society as well as individuals in a very plain, yet sublime, intelligent and unparalleled manner.

According to the statistics above, Sweden is now a little bit poorer than the US. Last time the swedes were richer according to (I confess I don't remember which) one of the original sources.
Read the following unscientific drivel and you'll probably be able to grasp what I'm trying to raise awareness of. If you are not able to, you're most likely a statistician.

I live in the "poorest" part of Sweden, up north (near a city called Umea).
Lots of people here, far more than in the richest parts of the US, drives a SAAB, Beamer, Mercedes or a Volvo. Nontheless public transport is well developed and subsidised for students, unemployed and elderly!
Most people under the age of 50 or so have studied till the age of 18 (they don't have our kinds of high schools and colleges, it's completely different, at least from what I've found out). All regular education is free for everyone in Sweden.
Most people round 20 attend university which, of course, is also free. As an appealing consequence, your parents can easily afford that big Volvo SUV!
Petty crime does exist, but compared to the US in general - it's like..you wouldn't belive it.
Health care isn't free in fact, although people on social welfare (which aren't many as most unemployed get generous payments from a joint trade union-government fund) have it for free.
Many employees are, at least once during their career, allowed to take a full year off work with retained salaries!
By the way, Sweden is not in the NATO, still it has one of the worlds strongest armies (measured in the conventional terms of mobility x firepower).

These public expenditures has to be financed somehow, right?
So the swedes are by and by quenching their private business sector to death, enforcing a Soviet-like system on themselves?
Hell they aren't!
In fact all swedish administrations since the early 90's, I've been told, have run austerity programmes, redistributing resourses from unefficient parts of the public sector and have been cutting down on unwise, unfulfilling financial arrangements earlier made for the public sector.

- So, they're smart in financing, big deal.
Let's have a look at things like swedish corporations and brands compared to ours!
- Yeah, let's do that.
Where do we stand, as a nation, in business matters, compared to this tiny nation of 9 million, bordering on the uninhabitated tundra of northern Asia?
This is what I've had to find out MYSELF through sources like Forbes etc, it's not what everyone here's been telling me all day long as swedes aren't exactly prone to boast in the company of foreigners (like, for instance, aussies and unsober germans are), although they do like keeping track of things and have a very international outlook:

We're something like 299 million in the US.
We've got IBM, Microsoft, Coke, McDonald's, Disney, GM, Ford (bought personal vehicle division of Volvo!), Chrysler-Daimler, Boeing and Pepsi, and we could sure continue...

- Well, they've got Ericsson, Electrolux, ABB (bought Westinghouse!), Volvo Truck Division(bought Mack!), IKEA, Absolute Vodka, SAAB, H&M and THEY could scontinue for sure...

Honestly, I got kind of annoyed, all because of these circumstances and challenged myself to find a walk of life, of some importance, where they didn't make such a stunning David vs. Goliat impression.

Sports? They've achived nothing in the fields of football, basketball or baseball. True.
Icehockey? Hrrm..Hrrm..
Boxing? We B Da Best! However, one of the few europeans to rule supreme in heavyweight, taking down the best american around was a certain swede named Ingemar "Ingo" Johansson round 1960.
Let's try Tennis: - McEnroe, Connors and Agassi, no, they'll just name Bjorn Borg, Wilander and Edberg.

- Entertainment? Let's line up Elvis, Scorsese, Marlon Brando, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Jack Nicholson, Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, all of them are bigger than anything swedish, aren't they?
Perhaps, but Roxette, Greta Garbo, The Cardigans, Eagle Eye Cherry, Max von Sydow, ABBA, Ingemar Bergman, Ace of Base and Ingrid Bergman aren't exactly unheard of outside of Thule.

But didn't we at least win WW2?
Yes! Together with some others, like the Soviet Union who took on 80% of the nazi forces (yes they recieved several Shermans etc. but also, obviously, produced T32's in a raging tempo and so on).
Sweden were "neutral", but, among other things, did supply the finns (their eastern neighbor country) with weapons and also men in order to battle off a Soviet onslaught early in the course of WW2. This first Soviets invasion was a total fiasco.

We could go on talking about things like, for instance, the UN and find out that Sweden (and the other scandinavian countries) for a long time has been finacing the UN to a great deal, as several of Europe's largest and richest countries as well as the US have neglected to pay their share for a long, long time.

We americans DO lead the world, in many ways, like in space technology, several fields of science etc, but in certain areas other countries are superior, like the swedes are in building a society getting maximum performance out of each and every one of its citizens.
That's my point here!

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Re: Why do we deny the superiority of the swedish model?
11 Nov 2005
I would never deny the superiority of Swedish Models. Most are tall, blonde and blue eyed. The Swedish Super Models are rich, beautiful, and have HUGE ....tracts of land.
Re: Why do we deny the superiority of the swedish model?
11 Nov 2005
My family is swedish and I must admit, they are some of the most loving, supportive, open minded and welcoming people I have ever known. As a 3rd generation American on that side of the family, I can say for a fact that some of the more progressive politics in our family have been handed down through the generations.

This article forgets to mention the bizarre and often amazing smorgasbord that is swedish food!
Re: Why do we deny the superiority of the swedish model?
11 Nov 2005
Oh yes Swedish Models. Yum.
And they're beautiful and have a great culinary tradition as well..
12 Nov 2005
I don't know much about swedish models, but sure, Victoria Silvstedt, Emma Sjoberg and a newcomer called Natacha Peyre are beautiful women indeed. A male model many swedish, as well as foreign, women (and gay men too, I guess) appreciate is Marcus Shenkenberg.
Why are swedes beautiful? I asked some swedish friends for an answer and one of them replied that hoards of beautiful women were brought to Sweden through viking raids and invasions like the one of Germany in the 17th century (Sweden occupied large parts of present Germany for over 15 years) and of Denmark, Poland and Russia in the 18th century (The danes, poles and russians formed an alliance against Sweden and it's young monarch Charles XII only to be crushed one by one in several battles until Russia finally got the best of the swedish invaders in a big battallion at Poltava in the Ukraine). This particular friend continued by explaining Swedes have enjoyed peace for nearly 200 years having all the wealth, glory and beautiful women anyone could ever dream of.
Is that so?
According to www.viamichelin.com, there are some outstanding restaurants in especially Stockholm and Gothenburg.
Swedish chefs, perhaps the one in the Muppet Show too, are always among the best in international contest, even those being held in France.
I myself haven't been to any of the most celebrated establishments among swedish restaurants, but I sure do appreciate swedish cooking and I've been to great restaurants in both Umea (closest city from where I live) and Stockholm. Just like in London or NYC You'll find all kinds of food in Sweden.
I just love swedish dishes like sill (pickled herring), janssons's temptation (anchovies, onion, cream and potatoes gratinated in the oven) and of course meatballs (which are even better when competent swedish chefs made them than they are at IKEA).
Internationally, Sweden is not in the culinary ranks of say France or Italy, but I would say swedish cooking is facing a bright future as I've found out swedes are getting more and more keen on rediscovering their tradtions of eating and Sweden has a growing tourist sector - and for sure, people from all parts of the world are beginning to realize what a great nation Sweden is.
The western european countries all have copied the Swedish concept of the welfare state since the end of the second world war, instead of going in our direction.
I see why..
Re: Why do we deny the superiority of the swedish model?
12 Nov 2005
Down with Swedish Imperialism!
How can we fight their imperialism?
12 Nov 2005
If there seriously exists any "swedish imperialism" it would be in the competition of global business.
In international trade, I fear it will be difficult to fight swedish corporations down, as free trade's the name of the game and the swedes produce superior products. Compare the products of Sony Ericsson (which is a joint venture between Sony and Ericsson) to the ones of Motorola, or the ones of Chevrolet and Ford to SAAB and Volvo and you'll see why.
However, what we can do is to cooperate with them - if you can't beat 'em, join 'em - as swedes always have welcomed american influence in their business sector. Apart from Ford and GM having taken over the already exellent activities of Volvo's and SAAB's personal vehicle divisions (as these were in need of capital for developing new products which is getting more and more expensive these days), Microsoft has formed an alliance with Sony Ericsson. That alliance includes the best of three continents in the IT world. Wise americans, like Bill Gates, have already understood what I'm talking about. Maybe he's a bit annoyed that the owner of IKEA, Ingvar Kamprad, now is the richest man alive and not he (by the way, there's a phony controversy - between Forbes and swedish Veckans Affarer - over this topic as Forbes, in patriotic grudging towards Kamprad, claims that IKEA isn't longer owned by Kamprad personally as he has made some financial arrangements through some funds etc. in order to avvoid taxation - so it's like he's given it all away or what? To whom then? Get real!).
I don't know in what other ways than in economic matters Sweden can be said to have an "empire". Sooner, my impression is that they've been wise enough to use their diplomatic skills instead of brute force since the end of the napoleon wars.
Of course you could accuse Sweden of double dealing and profiting on conflicts (an example is their successful arms industry, producing among other things advanced fighter planes like JAS and "stealth" destroyers, "stealth" submarines etc, etc), but on the other hand, which country hasn't?
I guess Leon Trotsky isn't all that serious, but there are undeniably some americans who view europeans as being all leftist hypocrite crackpots, applauding the WTC attack and so on.
That notion doesn't exist among americans in touch with european society and european debate.
No one I've met in Sweden wants Saddam back in power or have high regards of Bin Ladin, especially not immigrants from the Middle East who've been given asylum in Sweden, fleeing from terror regimes like the former one in Iraq or the present one in Iran. Furthermore, I've been told by friends here in Sweden that, as a response to the attack on WTC, all of Sweden stood sill - public transport, factories, schools - for one minute in 2001, honoring the innocent victims of September 11th. Single swedish debaters suggesting the US has itself to blame for the attack on WTC, have aroused rage and animosity among the majority of intellects more sound. Most swedes view the US as an ally in the struggle for a more democratic Globe.
Despite the swedes appreciation of many things american, from Hollywood to the Declaration of Independence, Washington, Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Lincoln and Martin Luther King, they are opposed to our present downsizing of social security. They feel they've proved to the world that a government/society that provides a future for all citizens, invest in proper education etc will also boost economy and produce succesful corporations. Apparentely we too have produced a lot of succesful, inventive businesses, but in proportion to population, the swedes make us and ALL other nations look pathetic.
I still wonder why some people are denied a future in America and who the hell gains something out of these sad circumstances? Maybe we should question ourselves why swedes who have difficulties getting a job - as such persons do actually exist in Sweden - do not to turn to crime and gangbanging? Maybe because instead, they are provided educational and other opportunities?
Why were we early inspired by french political theory of liberty, but never by the swedish model of producing success? The only time we've adapted a "swedish" policy was back in the days of FDR:s "New Deal". It got us out of the Depression and helped us win WWII.
Re: Why do we deny the superiority of the swedish model?
13 Nov 2005
Swedish Models....SCHWING!!!!