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Sweden Moves Right

John on September 18, 2006 at 10:04 am

Here is the first and fourth paragraph from today’s NY Times story:

Sweden swept away 12 years of center-left government on Sunday, voting to reject its longtime prime minister, Goran Persson, in favor of a conservative candidate who has pledged to revise the Swedish welfare state.

One of the world’s most consistently successful political parties, the Social Democrats have governed Sweden alone or in coalitions for 65 of the past 74 years. The party’s defeat reflects a feeling not only that Mr. Persson has become complacent in office, but also that Sweden’s celebrated social welfare model, with its high tax rate and generous benefits, has encouraged too many people to stay out of work for too long.

Apparently, unemployment was the chief issue which led the conservatives to victory:

By most measures, Sweden is thriving economically: the economy is growing this year at a projected annual rate of 4.1 percent, and the official unemployment rate is 5.7 percent.

But with its generous social services and high unemployment benefits, Mr. Reinfeldt argues, it has encouraged a vast swath of people to fall out of the labor market, a particularly acute problem with an aging population. Taking into account the number of working-age people who are not working or in school — including early retirees, people in job training and those on long-term disability — the unemployment figure is close to 21 percent, he says.

A bit later, the story gives an example of “those on long-term disability”:

Magnus Rosander, a 44-year-old computer engineer who said he had a nervous breakdown after losing his job four years ago and had not worked since, said he had voted for the Social Democrats and was worried about what would happen under the Moderates.

“I’m dependent on social welfare,” Mr. Rosander said outside a subway station in central Stockholm. “If Fredrik Reinfeldt wins, we will get less money and he will force me to work even though my doctor says I’m not ready yet.”

Four years! Wow, that’s some breakdown. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Congratulations to the Swedes for coming to their senses and trying something different for a change.

For more on Sweden’s economic problems, see this earlier post.

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Category: Secularism & Socialism |

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