sweden socialism

The Swedish Way



look to authority practice (2)
kinda income enough (2)
abolish interview social security
means record (3) documentary
vicious period (3) set the record straight
tax enterprise capitalism
vicinity complain for instance
essay privatize find/found/found
witch resemble repressive
fund pick (3) welfare state
reduce sound (2) at that point
role point (3) pay/paid/paid
rail raise (2) cut/cut/cut (2)
heavily eliminate inheritance
state paradise monopoly
welfare peasant sustainable
reform free trade impoverished
terrify socialism when it comes to
kind of take away particularly
switch voucher going well
force popular private (2)
version broke (2) competition
scare obviously innovation
bulk collapse contribution
realize pension automatically
vote ability (2) buy/bought/bought
sort of promise generation
earn average squeeze (2)
secret manage exorbitant
loyal surprise turn your back to






Today, many Americans don’t like capitalism.

Socialism would be better, they say . . .

Not repressive Russian or Venezuelan socialism, but democratic socialism, like what is practiced in Scandinavia.

Bernie Sanders, 2106 US Presidential Candidate: “I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden.”

Cenk Uyghur, TV Host: “Say what? You want to be like Sweden? Kinda. Sounds pretty good.”

Journalist: “People interviewed in this just released PBS documentary say America should be more like Sweden.”

Person one: “It seems like it’s a place that has no problems or anything.”

Person two: “It’s a socialist economy.”

Person three: “Volvos and uh . . . socialized medicine.”

Johan Norber: “Volvo is now a Chinese company.

Welcome to Stockholm, Sweden. My name is Johan Norberg, and this is where I was born and raised.”

Johan Norberg made this documentary because he wanted to set the record straight.

Johan Norberg: “Sweden is not socialist because the government doesn’t own the means of production. To see that you have to go to Venezuela or to Cuba or North Korea.

But we did have a period in the 1970s and 1980s when we had something that resembled socialism: a big government that taxed and spent heavily — and that’s the period in Swedish history when our economy was going south.”

So much so that even socialists complained about the high taxes.

Lisa Pelling, Chief Analyst, Arena Group: “Astrid Lindgren, who wrote the very popular children’s books, Pippi Longstocking, for instance, was a social democrat, but she had made a lot of money from her books.

She found that she paid 102% in taxes.”

Johan Norberg: “She wrote this angry essay about a witch who was quite mean and vicious. But not at all as vicious as the Swedish tax authorities.”

And yet even though taxes were high, they did not bring in enough money to fund Sweden’s welfare state.

Johan Norberg: “There were waiting lines to get health care, people couldn’t get the pension that they thought that they could depend upon for the future.

At that point, the Swedish population just said, ‘Enough, we just can’t do this.’”

Sweden then reduced government’s role, they cut government spending, privatized the national rail network, abolished certain government monopolies, eliminated inheritance taxes and sold state-owned businesses, like the maker of Absolut Vodka.

Johan Norberg: “Lower taxes reformed the pension system, so that it wasn’t unsustainable.”

The results from the spending cuts and privatization?

Johan Norberg: “This impoverished peasant nation developed into one of the world’s richest countries.”

Journalist: “All I hear is that Sweden is this socialist paradise.”
Johan Norberg: “We do have a bigger welfare state than the U.S, higher taxes than in the US.

But in other areas, when it comes to free markets, when it comes to competition, when it comes to free trade, Sweden has actually more of a free market.”

That free market pays for Sweden’s big welfare programs.

Johan Norberg: “Today our taxes pay for pensions (you call it social security). For eighteen months, paid parental leave, government paid childcare for working families.

But having the government manage all of these things didn’t work well. So we had to manage it in another way.”

They privatized.

Johan Norberg: “We realized in Sweden that with these government monopolies, we don’t get the innovation we get when we have competition.”

Lisa Pelling, Chief Analyst, Arena Group: “And this is particularly true for the school system.”

Sweden switched to a school voucher system that lets parents pick their kids’ school, and forces schools to compete.

Johan Norberg: “And one of the results that we’ve seen is not just that the private schools are better than the public schools, but even the public schools in the vicinity of private school, they often improve.

Because they have to.”

Sweden’s version of social security was going broke, so Sweden privatized that too.

Journalist: “Privatize the pension system? That terrifies people.”
Johan Norberg: “And obviously that scares people, but when they realized that the whole pension system would collapse, they though this is much better than nothing.”

Economist: “Now the bulk of pensions is really contribution defined. So if things are going well for Sweden, pensions are increasing. But if things are going less well, pensions are automatically lowered, which basically takes away from politicians the ability to buy votes by just promising higher pensions, and letting future generations pay.”

And when it comes to taxes, what Sweden does may surprise you.

Johan Norberg: “Low income earners pay a lot more than low income earners in America. So despite the fact that Sweden looks like sort of a socialist country, which taxes the rich exorbitantly high, the truth is the opposite.”

People who earn below average income pay up to sixty percent (60%) in taxes.

Johan Norberg: “This is the dirty little secret about the Swedish tax system: we don’t take from the rich and give to the poor — we squeeze the poor because they are loyal taxpayers.”

Not taking more from the rich, school choice, privatization.

Sweden is anything but socialist.

Johan Norberg: “You can’t turn your backs to the well, to the creation of wealth.”


*     *     *     *     *     *     *



1. Many people see a socialist system as ideal for the United States. True or false?

2. Do they consider Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea to perfect countries, paradises, role-models for the US?

3. Is Johan Norberg American? Does he agree with the Americans interviewed?

4. According to Johan, does Sweden have a truly socialist system? Did it have one in the past? What was it like in the 1970s and 1980s?

5. What had happened to Astrid Lindgren, the author of children’s stories? What were the negative aspects of their system in the 1970s and 1980s?

6. Describe the resulting reforms.

7. How is Sweden more capitalist than the US? How is it more socialist?

8. Do you think Johan has a political stance?


A. Does your country learn towards capitalism, socialism, in the middle, a mixed economy?

B. What do you and others think of Sweden? Do people consider it an “ideal, perfect” nation?

C. Does your country’s socio-economic policies have problems? Does it need reforms?

D. What prevents changes and reforms from taking place?

E. What might happen in the future?

Comments are closed.