Sweden bucks the trend.
September 16, 2002 9:02 AM   Subscribe

Sweden bucks the trend. In a heated election yesterday, Swedish voters ended the European left's losing streak. Despite having the highest taxes in the industrialized world, Swedish voters rebuffed the tax-cutting, center-right parties that proved so successful in Denmark, Austria, Italy, Portugal, France and Holland. With Germany's Socialists suddenly ahead in the polls, and the implosion of Austria's far-right Freedom Party, is the center-right revolution in Europe out of gas?
posted by Ljubljana (23 comments total)
This is why I LOVE Sweden. The Social Democrats always win. (I swore I'd move there if Bush won. I really should get around to packing...)

You have to understand that paying 40, 50% in taxes is imbedded into their culture. Swedes really value the terrific social benefits and services they receive, more so than a reduction in taxes.

Also, the SDs tend to be defenders of the environment, which has really resounded with European voters the last 4 elections.
posted by jennak at 9:19 AM on September 16, 2002

Yeah, I haven't felt this good in a long time.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 9:28 AM on September 16, 2002

I doubt it represents a change. Conservatives still control the Austrian chancelry, and Schroeder's only squeaking ahead because he's managed to shift the public's attention to Iraq. It's no surprise that Sweden voted for Social Dems; the surprise is that it was such a heated debate at all.
posted by risenc at 9:32 AM on September 16, 2002

Fifty percent of their income goes to taxes, with even more coming out soon? Wow!

This is really great news! It is just so heartwarming to see the Swedes pitch in to help prop up the ailing U.S. economy by sacrificing their own economic growth! Hopefully, the rest of Europe will quickly rally round and embrace this kind of confiscatory taxation too!

You like us! You really, really like us!

posted by nobody_knose at 10:01 AM on September 16, 2002

Info on emigrating to Sweden
posted by UncleFes at 10:04 AM on September 16, 2002

Fifty percent of their income goes to taxes, with even more coming out soon? Wow!

It's less than 50, and it probably won't raise much. Voting SD doesn't mean increasing taxes, it just means not cutting them any.
posted by jennak at 10:11 AM on September 16, 2002

Hey, don't be so humble -- 40% is a great start!

I see the whole thing working as a sort of reverse Marshall Plan: Instead of Americans airlifting war-torn Europeans food and medicine, they can send the U.S. and Asia jobs and bank deposits!

posted by nobody_knose at 10:22 AM on September 16, 2002

risenc: I agree with you about Schroeder, but Austria's inept conservatives will be gone with the wind before the new year. The Freedom Party got 27% in the last election; opinion polls put them at around 15% now -- and dropping.

"Instead of Americans airlifting war-torn Europeans food and medicine, they can send the U.S. and Asia jobs and bank deposits."

Funny you should mention it, nobody_knose. Ikea just launched a $40-50 marketing campaign in the U.S. and plans to open 50 stores by 2012.
posted by Ljubljana at 10:55 AM on September 16, 2002

Sweden, of course, is one of the few western countries who bought into the socialist dream to the level of bankrupting their government. They've rebuilt things somewhat now, but are still paying down big foreign debts.
posted by dagny at 12:14 PM on September 16, 2002

Suppose that I hypothetically wanted to move to Sweden (I live in the US now). Err.. don’t they all speak Swedish there? I mean, wouldn’t the language-barrier alone make it tough for non-Swedish speakers to move there?

Or, do most Europeans also speak English these days? (not a troll, just an honest question)
posted by abischof at 12:46 PM on September 16, 2002

Hmm, MetaFilter appears to haved mangled my HTML Entities in my previous post. Bummer.
posted by abischof at 12:48 PM on September 16, 2002

Anybody aged 10 and up speaks English in Sweden.

Oh, and dagny, it's true that Sweden has big foreign debts, but doesn't the US, too? (I don't know, I'm asking)

Living in Denmark, I'm happy that the 10-year reign of the Social Democrats and the Social Liberals ended in Denmark about a year ago - it's never good when the same people stay in power for more than a few years, but I think a lot of Danes have had a rude awakening to the Conservative-Liberal Right's policies; they are a far cry from the Third Way policies they proponed in the election. Thus, I welcome the Social Democrat victory in our Brother Country.
posted by cx at 2:18 PM on September 16, 2002

abischof: Erm, english is part of the curriculum over here. From first grade onwards. So it's not all bork, bork, bork, ja?, you know.

On preview: What cx said.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 2:20 PM on September 16, 2002

Yeah, when I was over there visiting relatives I actually had to insist on speaking Swedish with strangers. They were quite gracious but would clearly have preferred using fluent English rather than grammar-school Swedish. My dad found only one person who couldn't English with him, an older shop-owner; she sent out her teenage daughter.

We did eat one late night in a tavern where we became the best friends of an inebriated American who cagily appeared to have dodged the draft and never returned. He didn't seem terribly happy, though.

There's a lot more vacation time, but few Swedes acquire roomy American-style houses; rather typical is a small city house (I was surprised at the claustrophobic feel of the hillside home of my cousin, a newspaper executive) and a modest vacation cabin. Many Swedes live in leased government apartment projects, which are cleaner than American government housing but charmless. Investment retirement savings is uncommon, and actively discouraged by various tax measures. There are fewer small business incentives; my other cousin prefers driving a single taxi now to the taxi business he tried to run (five or six cars at peak). I think even liberal Americans might find the communitarian impulses of Swedes a bit frustrating after a while.

Although the heavy taxes, high social benefits culture is beloved in Europe (France being another peak example), Sweden has had trouble maintaining economic growth since they turned around their goal of dependence on nuclear energy. Despite this win, I think Swedes know the welfare state is going to be difficult to maintain; but as the US trusted Democrats to undertake our own welfare reform, Swedes would rather have the SD in charge of any changes. Immigration was more of an issue than indicated, helping the Liberal Party surge (where 'liberal' is, in the European sense, rather closer to what Americans term libertarianism). But Sweden's immigration problems -- including a strong debate over some notorious "honor killings" -- may be less severe than in the rest of Europe due to the present strength of their economy.
posted by dhartung at 3:32 PM on September 16, 2002

I believe Macedonians also elected the lefty candidate a couple of days ago, FWIW.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:46 PM on September 16, 2002

And on a totally trivial note, isn't it immensely cool that the world's most successful socialist democracy is also a constitutional democracy? Anyway, I've always though so. It appeals to my inner Pre-Raphaelite, somehow.

UncleFes, I wonder if Mefites emigrating to Sweden could qualify as refugees?
posted by octobersurprise at 5:56 PM on September 16, 2002

*aargh* -- that's constitutional monarchy!
posted by octobersurprise at 5:58 PM on September 16, 2002

You always hear people speaking of these "huge" taxes people in liberal European countries pay - but isn't the top rate in the US almost 40% (when, say, adding in Social Security and state income tax?)
I know, there is a difference between the top rate and the rate everyone pays - but the average in the US must be around 30%. So they pay 10% more in taxes - I bet the people in countries like Sweden feel they get a hell of a lot more for their 40% than we get for our 30%.
posted by sixdifferentways at 9:16 PM on September 16, 2002

according to The Economist, the top tax rate in Sweden is 60%. Sweden also has a VAT of 25%. So there is still a major difference in the amount of taxes an individual pays. Interestingly, the corporate tax rate is "only" 28%.
posted by gyc at 10:47 PM on September 16, 2002

And of course, you could always learn the language.
posted by allaboutgeorge at 2:30 AM on September 17, 2002

allaboutgeorge: I'm addicted to How to learn swedish in 1000 difficult lessons. A must read.

BTW, taxation this and monarchy that... Don't forget that all swedes are incredibly good-looking, fit and modest.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 4:43 AM on September 17, 2002

For when you learn that not all Swedes are incredibly good looking, fit and modest.

I wonder if Mefites emigrating to Sweden could qualify as refugees?

Only if they are being actively repressed, and my source at Justice says that won't start until after Thanksgiving :)
posted by UncleFes at 7:00 AM on September 17, 2002

Swedish is easy, or at least it should be, for english speakers. As an added bonus anyone who understands swedish will understand a lot of norwegian and danish as well. Sweden is one of the richest nations in the world and unlike some other nations (US and soon even Norway) the wealth is evenly divided.
It may not be possible in the future for countries like Sweden and Finland to maintain such a high-level of social welfare, due to policies in countries like Ireland and the USA. In these modern times it is viable for corporations to move abroad and since some other countries do not care about their poor and needy, we may not be able to afford either.
Also, corporations here in Finland can rely on a large supply of highly-educated work-force, with relatively low wages compared to other countries. The possibilities for these people to move abroad have also increased.
This might sound like I'm against the increasing globalization of the economy, but I still don't. I hope and believe that we can maintain our level of prosperity, and some poorer countries can improve. Although I did vote for The Leftist Union (born in 1990 from the remnants of a few communist parties) in 1999. (I have been content with my decision so far, the fellow I helped to get in the parliament has rarely failed to vote differently than I had, especially in the most important: He voted for a new nuclear power plant.
posted by lazy-ville at 8:26 AM on September 17, 2002

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