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Sweden proves the neoliberals wrong about how to slash poverty.

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Imperialism Inc. Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 12:45 PM
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Sweden proves the neoliberals wrong about how to slash poverty. /

By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 11th January 2005


But there is another means of testing the neoliberals hypothesis, which is to compare the performance of nations which have taken different routes to development. The neoliberals dismiss the problems faced by developing countries as growing pains, so lets look at the closest thing we have to a final result. Lets take two countries which have gone all the way through the development process and arrived in the promised land of prosperity. Lets compare the United Kingdom a pioneer of neoliberalism and Sweden: one of the last outposts of distributionism. And lets make use of a set of statistics the Economist is unlikely to dispute: those contained within its own publication, the 2005 World in Figures.(6)

The first surprise, for anyone who has swallowed the stories about our unrivalled economic dynamism, is that, in terms of gross domestic product, Sweden has done as well as we have. In 2002 its GDP per capita was $27,310, and the UKs was $26,240. This is no blip. In only seven years between 1960 and 2001 did Swedens per capita GDP fall behind the United Kingdoms.(7)

More surprisingly still, Sweden has a current account surplus of $10bn and the UK a deficit of $26bn. Even by the neoliberals favourite measures, Sweden wins: it has a lower inflation rate than ours, higher global competitiveness and a higher ranking for business creativity and research.

In terms of human welfare, there is no competition. According to the quality of life measure published by the Economist (the human development index) Sweden ranks third in the world, the UK 11th. Sweden has the worlds third highest life expectancy, the UK the 29th. In Sweden, there are 74 telephone lines and 62 computers per hundred people; in the UK just 59 and 41.

The contrast between the averaged figures is stark enough, but its far greater for the people at the bottom of the social heap. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Economist does not publish this data, but the United Nations does. Its Human Development Report for 2004 shows that in Sweden 6.3% of the population lives below the absolute poverty line for developed nations ($11 a day).(8) In the United Kingdom the figure is 15.7%. Seven and a half per cent of Swedish adults are functionally illiterate just over one third of the UKs figure of 21.8%. In the United Kingdom, according to a separate study, you are over three times as likely to stay in the economic class into which you were born than you are in Sweden.(9) So much for the deregulated market creating opportunity.

The reason for these differences is straightforward. Over most of the 20th century, Sweden has pursued, in the words of a recent pamphlet published by the Catalyst Forum, policies designed to narrow the inequality of condition between social classes.(10) These include what the Economist calls punitive taxes and grandiose programmes of public spending, which, remember, do nothing but harm. These policies in fact appear to have enhanced the countrys economic competitiveness, while ensuring that the poor obtain a higher proportion of total national income. In Sweden, according to the UN, the richest 10% earn 6.2 times as much money as the poorest 10%. In the UK the ratio is 13.8.(11)

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pilgrimm Donating Member (187 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 12:54 PM
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1. Great Article
thanks for posting
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txaslftist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 12:58 PM
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2. Lew Rockwell better not see this...
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Imperialism Inc. Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 01:20 PM
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9. Lew is probably well aware of this kind of thing.
It is just that it is his job to ignore it :)

If sigs were active you would see this quote from a 1999 report from the World bank itself:

"globalization appears to increase poverty and inequality...The costs of adjusting to greater openness are borne exclusively by the poor, regardless of how long the adjustment takes" -World Bank
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Imperialism Inc. Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 01:05 PM
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3. As a clarification.
In case anyone was unclear, Neoliberalism is another term for "globalization", and has nothing to do with being a liberal (well unless you include liberals who like NAFTA I guess).
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youngred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 01:07 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. also third way politics
as seen in the DLC types in the Democratic party
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youngred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 01:08 PM
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5. fantastic, thanks for sharing this
I'll def pass it on to my Republican friends for comparison
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Imperialism Inc. Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 01:40 PM
Response to Reply #5
12. Off topic:
Hey young red. how are you? I didn't notice it was you at first. You may not remember me but I remember you from the old DU1 days. My nam,e has changed but my avatar might be a clue. Hope you are well. So sad about Scott. I saw you had returned in his tribute threads. Take care.

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LisaLynne Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 01:11 PM
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6. Interesting article.
Hmm. Does this somehow suggest that instead of just spewing trite phrases and relying on things that we "know" without thinking about them, we could actually look at the data and see how things work out? What a concept.
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GreenPartyVoter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 01:17 PM
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7. No surprises there. Go, Sweden , go!
Save our country one town, county, and state at a time!
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Taxloss Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 01:20 PM
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8. Even Monbiot can occasionally hit straight.
I realised how much I hated Bush when I found myself agreeing with Monbiot week in, week out. Before that, I thought him a bit of a joke. Now he's really telling it right.
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prolesunited Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 01:22 PM
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10. Can somebody track down
the same figures for the U.S. as a basis for comparison. It would be interesting.
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Cats Against Frist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 01:37 PM
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11. Couple things wrong with this -- but just a couple
1. None of this would persuade an American neo-liberal, because it relies on facts, numbers, objectivity -- REALITY -- etc. In addition, I can almost recite their "retorts" by memory: "if it wasn't for the U.S., they'd be Hitler's most stylish colony," "Well, they're a bunch of rats who live like rats (pat arguments for freepers that have never been out of the treeless cul-de-sac)," they'd blab a bunch of shit about worshipping the free market (when they really have no fucking clue what the free market is, and they're more like corpo-fascists), etc.

2. They'd find some other irrational or logically flawed excuse not to listen.

3. And -- in the end, it just wouldn't be in their character. Many neo-liberals don't believe in altruism, at all, so the welfare state means nothing to them. Kind of like throwing around the term "evil" with a bunch of secularists (of which I am one).

I lived in Stockholm for a while, and it was one of the coolest places I've ever had the pleasure to set my two feet on. I was a guest of a man who is now a fairly high-ranking member of the Swedish government, which is an interesting thing, in itself, because he was just a teacher, and very humble, and quite average -- but he worked his way up -- not with money, but with message. The Swedes love to elect really young people to their parliament. He, and his girlfriend, and his best friend are all in their early 30s, and they are the Swedish equivalent of Michael Bloomberg, Hillary Clinton, and Charles Schumer.

I had an incredibly interesting and eye-opening experience there that has shaped my entire political existence. We all learn in elementary that "Sweden and Canada are socialist," but if one is really interested in either socialism, social democracy, libertarian socialism, or anything involving wealth re-distribution or state ownership of utilities, health care, etc. it is definitely worth the visit. I was lucky to have a lot of access to the Swedish government, for a humble, jobless American. I even got to write for one of the Socialist swedish youth journals. (I was 25 when I went there).

I was the guest of an SAP party member, or Sveriges Socialdemokratiska Arbetareparti, or "Social Democratic Labor Party of Sweden," so most of the people I hung out with, and their families, were total socialists.

Now there WAS a difference between these people and the "core 'murican values" crowd -- mainly in terms of egalitarianism, humility, moderation and discipline. And materially, they were MUCH different -- families did live in high-rise apartments in Stockholm, very modern -- not the type of "period" homes that attract liberals and artists in big cities in the U.S., truthfully, many of the working class suburbs of Stockholm were like one big housing project -- except the occupants of this housing project bought organic vegetables at the co-op, drank US$6-a-glass Pilsner Urquell at the bars, and spent their summers in Brazil. They also had US$10-a-month cell phones, FREE computers, nearly-free utilities, free healthcare, six weeks of paid vacation a year -- you name it, it was free, or it had a discount for certain segments of society.

The Swedish have a word that's supposed to sum everything up: lagom which translates into "not too little, not too much," or something like that. Like the other Scandinavian countries, they have certain characteristics that tend toward egalitarianism. It was a really lovely existence, and no worse than most American existences.

I learned some things about them that betrayed their "image" though (though I realize that the image is just that) -- they love American television, and lots of the youth are materialistic. I had the experience of going out with a young man who was NOT a social democrat and he and his group of friends hung out at the "fast clubs" and shopped in the ritzy district. He had horn-rimmed glasses from Hungary and drove a kind of souped-up Volkswagen. Even though his best friend was dating a social democrat (she was "hot," he said), they emulated American excess.

I guess it just depends on your opinion of life. The way most of my liberal friends live, here in America, in the big cities, is similar to how the urban socialdemocratic youth lived, only here, the liberals ARE more materialistic, even the poor ones. The social democratic youth of Stockholm were involved in unions, their party -- they were concerned about pensions, etc.

Maybe they aren't as "grand" as rock star America, but everyone doesn't want to be as grand. Just as many people here don't want to be nice, socially responsible or humble.

Sweden was good though -- and I learned a lot about modernity, that's for sure. And they are better off than us, in a lot of ways -- first and foremost, their lives haven't been COMPLETELY permeated by media, and they have more local spheres of existence and identity than we seem to.
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