Does Sweden Have A Socialist Nightmare

Earlier today I did a link to this video on the The Daily Show with Jon Steward about the socialist system in Sweden   It has raised quite a bit of discussion on facebook so I thought that I would link to it here too.  What do you think – is this a nightmare or is it a dream?

To be honest growing up in Australia where we had a partially socialized medical system and then working in New Zealand where health care was more fully socialized I can see both good and bad in the socialized system.  Yes taxes are higher but one does not live in fear of losing everything you have when you get ill. And I must say that 4 – 6 weeks vacation a year is rather nice too.  

Would love to hear your thoughts.  Check out the video here 

(I know I should be able to embed this but have not been able to figure it out so ideas on that would be appreciated too.  Obviously not as techi as I thought)


11 Responses

  1. Two year’s of life in New Zealand and my wife Angel’s career in nursing and public health have given me some perspective on this one.

    Statistically speaking, our mildly socialist system is a nightmare for many more people than are the less mildly socialist systems in the Scandinavian countries and Australia/New Zealand. Other than the US, every Western industrialized nation covers healthcare universally and requires manditory paid vacation. Even without universal coverage, we manage to pay twice as much in healthcare expenses per capita as any other nation, and have worse outcomes across the board (infant mortality, life expectancy, something called ‘excess death’ measures, etc.) Inequality is greater here than in any other industrialized nation, and people suffer here completely out of proportion with the wealth produced by our country.

    The most interesting ‘socialist nightmare’ to look at from a health perspective is Cuba, where life expectancy and other health measures are better than they are in the US, but where spending is only $500/per capita/per year (vs. about $7000 in the US). The real issue is inequality – nationally and internationally – and the fact tends to be that more ‘socialist’ cultures view humans as equal, where our competitive culture adopts a survival of the fittest mentality.

    a film series I would highly recommend re: all this is

    • Tim,
      No system is perfect unfortunately and people will always try to manipulate the system no matter how good the original intentions were. Like you I am intrigued by the Cuban system. I understand that many developing nations are preferring Cuban doctors to US because of it

  2. And actually, Angel is looking for places to screen that series (she has a set). If you’re interested in a screening at the MSH, email me!

  3. Can’t view the video unfortunately as I’m an Australian! (The site says that the vid is only available to US viewers).

  4. Funny video 😀

    I recently visited europe. I loved it. I particularly loved their built environment. They curbed their suburban development early and resumed building sensibly. It’s awesome.

    As far as the socialism. I thought life there seemed pretty awesome. My friend in belgium didn’t have a ton of extra cash because of the very high taxes but lived very comfortably. I also like the idea of universal healthcare.

    All that being said, I feel like I rarely hear any sensible cautions about socialism. Recently a friend of mine took a class at S.U. from visiting professors from Sweden on European healthcare. He told me that they informed the class that many European states are on the verge of bankruptcy from supplying so much to the citizens. Michael Moore’s Sicko touted the European governments’ fear of the people as the reason why they provided so much. If that’s true, the major flaw is that people in Western countries have become increasingly myopic, tending to focus on their individual concerns and not the common good–even more so than humans tend be any way. When self-focused, individualized people start dictating what the government should do then it’s easy see how a country could go bankrupt trying to answer those demands.

    Also, a french lady–one who really disliked the US– told me something rather profound while I was there. She said that she feels a sense of freedom like no other when she comes to the US to visit. I’m increasingly skeptical of any government that grows large in a country and assumes responsibilities that citizens should have. On one extreme side, it paves the way for totalitarianism (socialist Nazi Germany) but, much more likely, it feeds self-centered individualism. Greedy capitalists are obviously something to not model or be desired, but we often forget that many of the same types of human tendencies drive leftist politics. The desire to be freed from the responsibility of our neighbors by getting the government to professionalize and programize care is an insidious desire.

    I have a hard time swallowing right-wing politics, but I’m also continually growing more uncomfortable with left-wing. I don’t really know what the answer is and I’m sure that’s probably because it’s deeply contextually dependent. I do think, however, it’s good to keep in mind that the whole world is feeling our economic crash because we were driving the world’s economy in many ways. So, it might be said that the capitalism here helped grow the pie so the socialism in Europe could have extra cash to invest in socialist programs, riding our coattails. BUT, even that may not be sustainable if many of the governments are facing bankruptcy (someone should check into that) and, not too mention, the capitalist system that helped create the excess wealth to provide the healthcare was fueled by consuming 1/3 of the world’s resources in the last 3-4 decades. I just really don’t see it being sustainable at the levels or in the ways that it has been implemented.

    The best thing that could happen, IMO, is to minimize federal government and let most decisions and organization happen at the state and local level. And most importantly, start investing our time and energy into developing citizens instead of consumers who depend on the government to care for the common good. I truly believe the future of our society hinges on whether or not we develop citizens.

  5. Dear Reader I’m a Swede hand have been for my hóle life. Belive me, we are NOT live in a socialistic nightmare!
    We have;
    -Free healthcare for all
    -Free Schools for all including University level
    -Free dental car until the age of 20
    -We are free to vote in elections
    -We are free to speak our opinion
    -We are free to organize us
    -We have the freedom of religion
    -We are free to get rich!

    If you label those freedoms that cost for socialism as such as healthcare paid trough taxes from people we have some parts of socialism.
    But we don’t….

    We label that fairness. The size of your wallet shouldn’t be the key to good healthcare. everyone should have that in a good society where people care about others.
    Paid by all trough tax system

    Simple as that…

  6. Bengt is right!

    I am also swedish.

    First of all: Sweden is a democracy.

    Our system is a mix of hightech capitalism and extensive welfare benefits. Tax rate is high, but not extremely high. You can get rich in this country. Many of us are, by the way. From good honest work. And ANYONE, despite background, can be whatever they want to be since university level education is free. We have a very low crime rate and the highest standard of living in the world.

    Having lived abroad in various parts of the world and visited loads of countries all over the planet, I am convinced that there actually are only six countries that can match the amount of freedom, prosperity and quality of life as we have here. Those countries would be Norway, Denmark, Finland and Canada for sure. Maybe also Germany and Australia.

    • You say that health care is free and university education is free and dental is free..jippie everything is just free and great….nothing is free my friend you pay for with your high taxes.

  7. I’ve never been to Sweden or Scandanavia, but I’ve heard a lot of stories about life there.

    Both Bengt and MG (the previous posters) seem to portray Sweden as an almost perfect Utopia, but I’d like to hear from Swedes who disagree.

    I’ve met a couple of people from Denmark who both claim that yes, their country has a very high standard of living and the quality of their hospitals is far superior to those of lower tax European countries.

    However, both also say that within their system there is not a lot to strive for because the minimum standard of living through which no one is allowed to fall numbs their natural drive to improve their lot in life (ie not need to as it’s already satisfactory). One told me that if you wanted to be entrepeneurial and better your life by striving to be wealthy, then it would be very difficult as the progressive tax system would discourage you from succeeding.

    I also met a Swedish lady recently who has lived in the UK for 15 years. She is returning to Sweden with her children because taxation in the UK is comparable to that in Sweden but that it is easier to see the tax being spent on the common good, whereas in the UK as taxation has increased massively over the past 10 years there is not much evidence of any improvements in redistribution or services.

    It’s interesting to note that the countries that claim to have successful socialist Utopias also have small populations – Scandanavian nations and New Zealand have from 4 to 8 million, Australia has 18 million and Canada has 20 million.

    It would seem that once a country exceeds a population of about 30 million then it becomes difficult to control and the competitive “I wanna be better than my neighbour” mentality of human nature takes over.

    And then there’s Germany which may or may not be an exception with its 80 million people.

  8. a late reply some years later…
    I am a Swede, an entrepreneur, that likes to make money. Americans have been brainwashed during centuries. Your politicians have constantly portraited the “socialist system” as the biggest fear. First things first: Sweden is NOT a socialist country. Sweden is a capitalist country with great social benefits. Our income tax is higher than in the US, but not as high as it used to be 10-15 years ago. We receive alot of benefits. We have free elections and we are always voting for partys that wants to keep our social benefits.

    The ones that say “you cant make money in sweden” – its just B–shit. We have one of the highest standards of living in the world. Remember, rich people dont pay taxes of income from work they do. To start and run a business in Sweden is not more difficult than anywhere else. I would like to see some improvements for start ups though.

    My wife is american and we spend alot of time in NY. There more time i spend in the US, the more i get sceptical to your system. Humans have been dehumanized in America. America is built upon slavery, take care of yourself and screw anyone else, racism, ultra capitalism – no social responsibiliities, no helping hand when you are in need of it – it´s not a place for humans to live. I woul like to give an example of the ultra capitalism in America. This one is a story from a friend that works in wall street. It´s about the trade of Life Insurances, or Life Settlements. This trade is forbidden in Sweden by the way.

    A person signs a Life Insurance, they pay a premium of maybe $ 200 – 500/ month. One day they get ill, maybe cancer. The insurance company then raise to premium to $ 200 000 – $ 600 000/year. Most people will not be able to pay the premium. What happens? A guy from an “agency” get information from the insurance company, about people that are sick and that cannot pay their premiums. They visit the person in the hospital and try to make a deal. They offer the sick person maybe $ 40 000 cash and the person accept, they have no choice as they cannot afford the premium. So the family of the person that have paid the premium for so many years won´t get a dime now. The agency go and make hundreds of those deals and sell it to financial companies; they just sit and wait until the people dies so they can get the cash.

    This is America in a nutshell – dehumanizing, instead of a helping hand, you get this b–shit when you are about to die.

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