T Nation

Sweden Opts for Shift

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A Center-right alliance led by Moderate Party leader Fredrik Reinfeldt won power in Sweden in an election on Sunday, ending 12 years of Social Democrat rule by vowing to lower taxes and trim the welfare state.

Reinfeldt, who will be the next prime minister, declared victory in a tight election. Social Democrat Prime Minister Goran Persson, one of Europe’s longest-serving leaders, conceded defeat after 10 years in office and will quit as party chief.

According to almost complete results from Sweden’s Election Commission, the four-party opposition bloc had won 48.0 percent of votes to 46.2 percent for Persson and his allies.

Taking the stage with his arms raised, a jubilant Reinfeldt told supporters: “We campaigned as the New Moderates, we won as the New Moderates and together with our alliance partners we will rule Sweden as the New Moderates.”

The result was a victory for the alliance’s pledges to stimulate job growth by fine-tuning, but not dismantling, the welfare system. Persson, whose party has ruled Sweden for six of the last seven decades, had vowed to continue government largesse and keep one of the world’s heaviest tax burdens.

Despite Sweden’s strong economic performance under the Social Democrats, opinion polls had shown many favored change in the Scandinavian country of just over 9 million people due to voter fatigue with Persson and a perceived lack of new ideas.

Persson, clutching a bunch of red roses, vowed his party would fight back, though without him at the helm.

“We have lost the election, but we are not a defeated party. Now we are aiming for a comeback, but it is not a comeback I will lead,” he told a crowd of supporters.

Many Swedes believe in the principle of a tightly woven social safety net but say the system conceived by the Social Democrats needs reform.

The election was closely watched by governments of other countries in the European Union facing the need of welfare reform because of aging populations and creaking pension and healthcare systems.

In Asian trading, the Swedish crown firmed against the euro. Economists expect an alliance government, with its tax cuts and plans to sell off government stakeholdings, to be positive for financial markets.

REINFELDT REVIVES THE OPPOSITION

The Moderate Party was crushed at the last election in 2002 but 41-year-old Reinfeldt enhanced his party’s appeal by shifting it toward the center and paring down earlier tax and benefit cut promises.

He leads an alliance with the Folk Liberals, Christian Democrats and Center Party that says years of excessive benefits and high taxes have eroded Swedes’ will to work. Reinfeldt also said the real unemployment rate was about 20 percent, almost four times the official level.

Reinfeldt says changes are necessary now to preserve the welfare system for the future, a theme of reform across Europe.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her conservative-Social Democrat coalition have been trying to fix a troubled healthcare system, cut corporate taxes and tweak jobless benefits.

In Britain, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has reformed the pension system, while neighboring Denmark has cut taxes and launched more flexible labor market rules.

Reinfeldt intends to sell off some 200 billion Swedish crowns ($27.6 billion) worth of state-owned shares in listed companies over four years. His privatization push could include government holdings in bank Nordea, telecoms company TeliaSonera and airline SAS.

Reinfeldt favors NATO entry, if there is broad agreement on the issue. He wants Sweden more involved in the EU but has no plans to hold a referendum on the euro currency in the next four years. Swedes rejected adopting the euro in 2003.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060917/wl_nm/sweden_election_dc

Isanely stupid Swedish voters decided for a break from the Social Democrats. These are largely the same Swedish who voted for Social Democrats in the past.

How could the Swedes go from being so flawlessly brilliant in their voting preferences to so mind-numbingly stupid?

That is sarcasm, of course - the real issue is how European nations are beginning to react to the stagnation that the European model has created. While Sweden’s welfare state model isn’t getting dismantled, what is interesting is the public perception that Europe is facing a growing wave of reformist sentiment.

[quote]thunderbolt23 wrote:
How could the Swedes go from being so flawlessly brilliant in their voting preferences to so mind-numbingly stupid?[/quote]

The argument also works in reverse, you know: how can the stupid Swedes who voted Social Democrat have suddenly smarted up and voted center-right? Or how can the smart Americans who voted for Reagan have been so stupid as to vote for Clinton?

I can’t believe I actually have to explain this to you, but here it goes anyway:

Europe, much like the US, cycles between left and right – and for the same reasons: when people get comfortable – they have all their most basic needs met – they start getting greedy and so they vote for whoever promises them more money so they can buy their brand spanking new BMW. The right then comes in, widens the gap between the poor and the rich, and a few years later the poor majority eventually starts getting upset and puts the left back in power. Then the left increases benefits, sends everybody towards the middle class, people get comfortable – and the cycle restarts.

People are stupid always and everywhere. Sometimes they just happen to make the right choice, even if it’s for all the wrong reasons.

They always get the government they deserve, though. That’s the beauty of it.

I have always heard that Sweden is the country where entrepeneurs go to die…and I don’t like that.

I consider myself a Social Democrat, but I think Sweden might be alright with a couple years where invention is rewarded.

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:
I have always heard that Sweden is the country where entrepeneurs go to die…and I don’t like that.[/quote]

That is a blatant misconception spread by the right… There are a lot of very successful and innovative things coming out of Sweden.

As I mentioned before, Entrepreneurs flourish in Social Democratic regimes more than anywhere else; maybe it’s because they can focus on their strengths rather than being distracted by social issues that they should not have to worry about – like getting Health Insurance for their employees, or providing for their retirement, or maybe it’s because they themselves can simply take bigger risks without having to worry about ending up living in the streets.

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:
I consider myself a Social Democrat, but I think Sweden might be alright with a couple years where invention is rewarded.[/quote]

Let’s check back again in 4 years and see the extent of the damage they will make…

Let’s see, since 1932 Sweden have had three non-socialist governments, none of them lasting longer than 1,5 terms.

If you are interested you can check this link.

http://www.regeringen.se/sb/d/2460/a/14591

It’s in swedish, but should be pretty easy to decipher. Blue dots are for the right, red ones for the left.

To me the result looks more like a reprimand to social-democrats than a genuine shift in the way swedes think. My guess is, that Reinfeldt’s coalition will have this one term and that’s it.

[quote]karva wrote:
Let’s see, since 1932 Sweden have had three non-socialist governments, none of them lasting longer than 1,5 terms.[/quote]

Great post!

Let me predict the American conservative response to that:

[american conservative]
Hey, let’s not get all rational here. I mean, using actual facts to base your argument on? And Math? With – gasp! – using a comma instead of a decimal point? Don’t tell me you use the metric system too?! I mean, only scientists do that, and they’re all a bunch of God-hating pedophiles!

What do you guys do in Scandinavia anyway, besides really good vodka? You’re all just a bunch of dumb lazy sissies. You should bow to our greatness! After all we taught you a lesson in WWII!

You must be a commie. At least a pinko you are for sure. Stop drinking that kool-aid!
[/american conservative]

How did I do? Pretty close?

Speaking as a Swede, I think that most of us who shifted from voting Social Democrats to some other party did so in protest at the arrogance in power showed by the Social Democrats these last years (tsunami response, blame culture, etc.).

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/06/europe_swedish_voters0_views/html/1.stm

It is important to remember that the Swedish Conservative Party would be considered left-wing liberal by US standards.

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:
I have always heard that Sweden is the country where entrepeneurs go to die…and I don’t like that.

I consider myself a Social Democrat, but I think Sweden might be alright with a couple years where invention is rewarded.[/quote]

Interesting stuff, and for a balanced view here are some things regarding Sweden that you simply won’t get from Hspder, who is as much of a zealot as he accuses Bush voters of being:

  1. Since 1950, Sweden has been in a decline as to GDP per person as % of OECD average. That, of course, is after breakneck growth between 1870 and 1950.

  2. The official unemployment rate is 6% - but Sweden has created almost no net private-sector jobs since 1950. Moreover, the large number of Swedes on the generous long-term sick leave are counted as working.

  3. The welfare system - which can pay as much as 80% of previous incomes for three years - act as an incentive for people to stay in the welfare hammock once they arrive.

  4. Only one of Sweden’s 50 biggest companies was founded after 1970.

(source: the Economist)

All this points to a practical concern that the long-term approach of the current arrangement is unsustainable. It doesn’t have to be a “Social Democrat = good, opponents = evil” approach - wise Swedes can have appreciated the system in the past but have changed their minds based on pragmatic concerns that the old system was too idealistic and naive. That doesn’t mean they have all become raging Thatcherites - my point is that many Europeans are tiring of the philosophical social-market approach as it is and we are seeing results in elections.

[quote]thunderbolt23 wrote:

All this points to a practical concern that the long-term approach of the current arrangement is unsustainable. It doesn’t have to be a “Social Democrat = good, opponents = evil” approach - wise Swedes can have appreciated the system in the past but have changed their minds based on pragmatic concerns that the old system was too idealistic and naive. That doesn’t mean they have all become raging Thatcherites - my point is that many Europeans are tiring of the philosophical social-market approach as it is and we are seeing results in elections.[/quote]

It sounds to me, that you wish, that wise swedes would think like this. You use words like the old system, idealistic and naive. I don’t think that is what swedes, wise or not - mostly not, think of their system. Maybe they could accept the idealistic part.

[quote]thunderbolt23 wrote:
for a balanced view here are some things regarding Sweden that you simply won’t get from Hspder,

[…]

(source: the Economist)[/quote]

You must surely be joking – you’re saying the Economist has a balanced view? Newsflash: the Economist is as far right as any mainstream publication can be without being illegal in at least 10 European countries.

I would agree they are still probably to the left of most American conservatives, especially considering how they ranked the US in their quality of life index:

Yes, the US is below most of Europe, including Ireland, Switzerland, Norway, Luxembourg, SWEDEN, Iceland, Italy, Denmark, Spain and Finland (as well as Australia and Singapore, which are outside Europe…), and pretty close to the rest of it – for example, the US score’s is actually closer to Portugal’s – which the second poorest country in Europe – than it is from most Scandinavian countries in the list.

Then, again, for most conservatives “Quality of Life” is an abstract concept; how YOU measure a country’s success is by the ability that its rich citizens have of getting richer, in the finest feudal tradition…

[quote]TQB wrote:
It is important to remember that the Swedish Conservative Party would be considered left-wing liberal by US standards.[/quote]

True. That’s why it is always so amusing when somebody around here refers to the US as a “welfare state”. That’s truly hilarious…

[quote]hspder wrote:
TQB wrote:
It is important to remember that the Swedish Conservative Party would be considered left-wing liberal by US standards.

True. That’s why it is always so amusing when somebody around here refers to the US as a “welfare state”. That’s truly hilarious…
[/quote]

Any move to the right - even if it is only as far as from hspder’s party to left-wing liberal - is a good one.

Baby steps. Baby steps.

[quote]rainjack wrote:
hspder wrote:
TQB wrote:
It is important to remember that the Swedish Conservative Party would be considered left-wing liberal by US standards.

True. That’s why it is always so amusing when somebody around here refers to the US as a “welfare state”. That’s truly hilarious…

Any move to the right - even if it is only as far as from hspder’s party to left-wing liberal - is a good one.

Baby steps. Baby steps. [/quote]

Yea…maybe one day Sweden too will be a conservative christian nation concerned more with boys kissing than people dying.

Yea, that’ll be a great country indeed…

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:
Yea…maybe one day Sweden too will be a conservative christian nation concerned more with boys kissing than people dying.

Yea, that’ll be a great country indeed…[/quote]

I haven’t heard anything about boys kissing. I don’t think it has been declared illegal. In fact - you can mack on any guy you want to that will let you.

You are talking about going to war in the Popes defense, and you are bitching about our “christian nation”? Dude.

[quote]rainjack wrote:
FightinIrish26 wrote:
Yea…maybe one day Sweden too will be a conservative christian nation concerned more with boys kissing than people dying.

Yea, that’ll be a great country indeed…

I haven’t heard anything about boys kissing. I don’t think it has been declared illegal. In fact - you can mack on any guy you want to that will let you.

You are talking about going to war in the Popes defense, and you are bitching about our “christian nation”? Dude.

[/quote]

I am an enigma…

RJ, I assume you’re not Catholic, so I don’t expect you to understand the strange complex Catholics have (I don’t mean that insultingly at all).

For as much as I hate what the Catholic Church has done for two thousand years, I respect where John Paul II brought the Church as a whole. Though I hate organized religion half the time, I still have the utmost respect for the Vatican and the Pope himself. I can’t really explain it all the way. It’s like a drunken father who beat the shit out of you when you were little, but is trying to reconcile with you as you get older- you wouldn’t let someone kill’em, even though personally you’re still pissed about things.

Catholics have traditionally been very Democratic anyway, and it’s only the recent upsurgence of bullshit about abortion and gay marriage that’s changed that a little.

When I say “Christian”, I don’t mean Catholic- I mean the born again cult that has arisen in the past ten years.

[quote]hspder wrote:

You must surely be joking – you’re saying the Economist has a balanced view? Newsflash: the Economist is as far right as any mainstream publication can be without being illegal in at least 10 European countries.[/quote]

This is why the Era of Hspder is over.

I got the statistics from the Economist. The math presented is neither conservative nor liberal. They are numbers and percentages.

I presented a balanced point of view - that there may be some economic reasons to consider that Sweden may have some troubles - because should anyone suggest that there might be a better alternative to the Social Democratic party option in Sweden based on the assembled statistics, you act exactly like a Religious Fundamentalist that has just heard someone insult the Bible - exactly.

You are the mirror image of the people you claim to despise - Religious Fundemantalists. Any challenge to dogma has you shrieking irrationally and beside yourself with indignation.

Any ordinary reader could realize that I got the numbers from the Economist - but your reactionary response only confirms that you can’t be taken seriously.

Hmm - help me - what is a good word for Secular Fundamentalist that replaces religious gospel with political philosophy and comes just as unglued and unhinged when the faith is challenged?

The rest of your post - arguing that the Economist is EVIL for having a QOL index that actually places the US high (blasphemy!! heresy!!) - is a irrelevant to the point. I used the Economist for the figures and the figures alone.

Hspder - nothing more than a kind of fundamentalist. How does it feel to know you have become that which you despise?

[quote]thunderbolt23 wrote:
I got the statistics from the Economist. The math presented is neither conservative nor liberal. They are numbers and percentages.[/quote]

'Cause there’s no way to distort those, right?

Are you serious?

[quote]thunderbolt23 wrote:
The rest of your post - arguing that the Economist is EVIL for having a QOL index that actually places the US high (blasphemy!! heresy!!) - is a irrelevant to the point. [/quote]

Again, are you serious? I mean, my argument was not that at all! Not even close, not by a million light-years. Do you actually understand the English language? Is it that you simply read what you want to read?

[quote]hspder wrote:
thunderbolt23 wrote:
I got the statistics from the Economist. The math presented is neither conservative nor liberal. They are numbers and percentages.

'Cause there’s no way to distort those, right?

Are you serious?

thunderbolt23 wrote:
The rest of your post - arguing that the Economist is EVIL for having a QOL index that actually places the US high (blasphemy!! heresy!!) - is a irrelevant to the point.

Again, are you serious? I mean, my argument was not that at all! Not even close, not by a million light-years. Do you actually understand the English language? Is it that you simply read what you want to read?

[/quote]

If The Economist’s numbers are so wrong - it would not be hard to refute, right?

After your partisan titty-fit, I think your word is a little suspect right now.

But that’s just me.

[quote]rainjack wrote:
If The Economist’s numbers are so wrong - it would not be hard to refute, right?[/quote]

I did. With the Economist’s own numbers – in another article. I even provided the link and everything.

Of course, both you and thunder completely missed the point (did you even read the PDF?) – how you managed to do that completely escapes me, but you did.

I’m not surprised, however.

[quote]hspder wrote:

'Cause there’s no way to distort those, right?

Are you serious?[/quote]

Well, genius, the numbers are the numbers - so were they distorted? Or not? Go read my post - all I did was outline a few, basic statistics.

I did nothing more than grab a few economic statistics. They weren’t presented in any kind of analysis or index or anything like it. Ouch.

I have begun to feel sorry for you. The numbers were straightforward stats, no more, no less - and know you are wheezing that somehow they have been ‘distorted’?

Better explanation: you got exposed as being a hack and you are trying to obfuscate to recover lost ground.

Completely serious - what does the QOL index have to do with what I am arguing? You are refuting a straw man. I never claimed that the Economist’s QOL index was supporting my argument, yet you are now trying to attack that fabricated point.

Let me break it down for you, tenured professor:

  1. Sweden’s stats aren’t that rosy

  2. Swedes know this, and are more likely to give another political party a shot at governing since the stats aren’t so rosy

  3. That, in part, explains the Swedes’ shift in this recent election

The QOL - whatever its worth - had nothing to do with my point. I guess there isn’t a fourth PhD coming in Argumentation?

Now, back to the idea of your brainless hyper-Fundamentalism - I ask again, how does it feel to become that which you despise most?