Writing today in the Guardian, the journalistic Rottweiler of Britain’s bourgeois left known as Polly Toynbee praises the workers’ paradise that is Swedish social democracy. She also uses the opportunity to attack British conservative leader David Cameron, who asks if there are lessons to be learned from the defeat of the social democrats in the last Swedish general election.
Now I’m ever delighted to see Cameron attacked in print. He is an oleaginous PR man with about as much personal depth as a crêpe suzette and none of the fire. The only consolation is that should Cameron and his wretched party come to power when a majority of the British electorate decides to defenestrate Gordon Brown and his useless New Labour administration, nothing much will happen as the Tories have barely an idea between them.
Not that the current Swedish administration led by Fredrik Reinfeldt is much better. But at least the liberal(ish) government in Stockholm has for the time-being saved the country from bankruptcy. I do not see Mona Sahlin’s social democrats coming out with much in the way of new thinking.
As for the political ideology that is Swedish social democracy, Toynbee appears to yearn for a similarly regimented society in Britain. By that I mean an economic system that cripples small business initiatives and favours state-subsidised national and multinational corporations, all schools managed by the state, 60%+ personal taxation, alcohol sold only in state-owned liquor stores, and much, much more.
Just about the only thing in Toynbee’s article that rings true is the statement that Sweden’s modern history is one of social democratic equilibrium punctuated by brief periods of incompetent liberal and conservative rule. The rest of the piece is a complete fantasy, as any self-respecting, well-heeled, middle-class socialist who for a moment averts his attention from the op-ed pages of the Guardian or Dagens Nyheter and contemplates the facts will acknowledge.
The Scandinavian welfare system is well and truly broken. And no-one outside of Norway, where the natives are for the time being swimming in oil money, believes otherwise. Even in the upper echelons of the Nordic nations’ social democratic parties.
Corruption is rife in Scandinavian societies. Black economies are booming; tax evasion is considered normal; rent controls are routinely flouted; companies pad out their employees’ salary packages with non-taxable benefits; it pays to go on the sick for years at a time; industry is packing up and moving elsewhere in Europe; banks collapse; unemployment is high. And there is so much inertia in the system that half-hearted measures such as those implemented by the Reinfeldt government are unlikely to succeed.
Despite what I write above, I remain hopeful that the Swedes will find their own solutions to their many political and economic problems. But one thing at least is certain; the answers will not lie in the social democratic model that has on so many occasions brought the country close to ruin.