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What we can learn from Sweden

In Sweden, the winner takes it all. Chris Jackson/Getty

British conservatives have a “dystopian” view of Sweden, says Lars Trägårdh in UnHerd. They argue its supposedly bloated welfare state, high taxes and “overbearing regulations” discourage initiative and entrepreneurship. But Britain’s “flailing governing party” could learn a lot from the Swedish model. The country is always near the top of international rankings of economic clout and living standards. And it’s achieved this success through “rampant individualism”. The “fundamental unit” of Swedish society is the person, not, as in Britain, the family. Each citizen is bound in a high-trust relationship with the state, which in turn provides them with the means to prosper as a single economic agent.

Only a nominally socialist country could sport this “powerful brand of capitalism”. Back in 1971, Sweden introduced individual taxation, void of deductions or advantages for being married or having children. This boosted female labour participation by ensuring married women wouldn’t be heavily taxed based on their spouse’s wage. Universal daycare followed, allowing both parents to work while raising a family. Student loans are offered to all, regardless of parental income; the bill for looking after the elderly is footed by the government, not the family. Conservatives in Britain rave about Thatcherism and the need to shrink the state. But it’s the Swedes who truly understand the “fundamental principle” of free market economics: it’s the government’s job to “maximise individual autonomy”.