Cheryl Branch: Social democracy: ask the Swedes |

Cheryl Branch: Social democracy: ask the Swedes

A recent letter expressed a fear of social democracy with the election of Joe Biden. Another letter stated emphatically that Sweden was not socialist, merely “a capitalist country with a bloated welfare system.”

While I would use less negative language, that is a pretty good description of a social democracy.

Sweden is a social democracy, which means that its citizens have chosen to value the welfare of all its members as a high priority, so they have health care for all and a base income that provides all families with adequate housing and food. As a result, Sweden and the U.S. are not just a little different, they are on opposite poles of any metric you could select. Swedes rate themselves as very happy and content. They have a longer life expectancy, lower maternal/infant mortality and morbidity, higher literacy and educational attainment, less violence, less income inequality, and they incarcerate fewer of their population. They also still manage to value individual freedoms and egalitarianism. The Swedish government chose not to lock down for COVID-19 with the rest of Europe, instead trusting their people to social distance and mask as the right thing to do. The success of that path can be argued but it is in line with their philosophy. They consider all citizens equally valuable; not even the king gets a reserved parking space in congested Stockholm.

Sweden is not perfect. Like other European countries, they have their own problems with white nationalists who are threatened by the refugees the country has taken in, and I am sure there is a loyal opposition that has criticisms of some government policies. I would argue, however, that as a model of a social democracy, there is not much there to be afraid of.

Cheryl Branch

Grass Valley

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