Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Socialism is for individuals

A new book by Swedish historians Lars Trädgårdh and Henrik Berggren, Är svensken människa? (Is the Swede a Human Being?),argues that the Swedish welfare state is a bargain between the highly independent Swedish people and the state. The state takes care of all the things normally relegated to social organizations like the family, church, and secular organizations/charities. For example, the family policy includes state-subsidized infant care, strictly individual taxation after marriage, and no legal obligation toward parents when they grow old. And the individual is liberated from having to deal with raising their kids, sharing money with their spouse, and taking care of senile parents. And so, of course, can then focus on the truly important things: loneliness, alienation, and silence.

The main purpose of the Swedish system has been to maximize the individual's independence," Tragardh, who has spent most of his life in the United States, said in an interview. "The picture of a collectivist animal is completely wrong; the modern Swede is a hyperindividualist."

The book also points out why you should never marry a Swede:
The shyness is at heart the expression of a fundamental longing for individual autonomy and a desire not to depend on or be indebted to anyone, particularly not in intimate relationships - what the authors call "the Swedish theory of love."

"This means that an ideal relationship between two people is based on mutual independence," Tragardh says. "In comparative terms, this is rather spectacular. In most other cultures, the opposite - mutual dependence - is seen as the very stuff of love."


boredoom said...

There may be something to that, but mainly it's a bunch of crock. To Sweden's collectivist tendencies we can count:

mandatory collective bargaining at most workplaces

mandatory military service (though it's being watered down)

until a few years ago, you were enrolled automatically in the state church when you were born

the government sector taking a larger amount of your income, leaving less for the individual to decide over and more for the collective to rule over

a one-size fits all primary school system

and so forth...

boredoom said...

And regarding the Swedish theory of love, I'd like to know why the U.S. theory of love (marrying to get health insurance) is a good thing.

liberal elite said...

Hey, woah Boredoom. It's ok, you're in America now!

Re the Swedish theory of love: I think that one gets me into trouble a lot with the wife. And I'm only nominally Swedish!

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