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Dove va l'Europa? / Svezia, il duro risveglio

The Death Knell of Social Democracy: Sweden's Dream Turns Sour

Anno XXVII, n. 119, ottobre-dicembre 1992
Centro Einaudi


Abstract disponibile solo in lingua inglese

If there is a working model of the "middle way", it is generally believed to be that of Sweden. However, the dream of Swedish social democracy turned sour long ago, its alleged success in combining high standards of living with political freedom and social justice being founded on a series of myths and false truths. The economic progress achieved between 1870 and 1930 laid the foundations for Sweden to become one of the wealthiest nations in the world by 1945. But a gradual increase in the proportion of resources absorbed by the public sector – to pay for the development of a comprehensive system of social services – inhibited economic growth, while the redistributive taxation system eroded incentives to work, savings and investments. Although it had been developing for some time, the crisis in their country's economy has come as a profound shock to many Swedes. As companies in traditional industries, such as textiles and steel, came under pressure, the traditional policy of non-intervention in the management of industries was breached as failing businesses were taken over and reorganised by the state. The fallacy of the "middle way" also informed Sweden's world view and her foreign policy. The election, in 1991, of a new non-socialist administration under a Conservative, Mr Bildt, brings with it the promise not only of reforms of Sweden's welfare system and bureaucracy, but also of taxation in an attempt to encourage labour and enterprise, and a general removal of restrictions in the interest of economic and personal freedom. Even the Social democrats had realised that Sweden's self-imposed isolation from the European mainstream had gone on for long enough, and a strong Swedish drive to join the EC can now be expected, even if this does jeopardise the hitherto sacred policy of neutrality.