How Sweden became rich

One of the central pieces of government propaganda in Sweden is the belief - embraced by almost everyone in Sweden - that conditions in this country were horrible until the Social Democrats came along and built the so-called welfare state. And of course, a lot of people around the world idolize this system and think of it as great success.

This is in fact an absurd inversion of what actually happened.

This recent essay by Johan Norberg digs deep into this interesting topic and describes when and how Sweden actually went from being a poor country to one of the richest. Highly recommended reading if you have some time on your hands and want to learn more about this particular corner of the world:

From the essay:

It was not socialist policies that turned Sweden into one of the world’s richest countries. When Sweden got rich, it had one of the most open and deregulated economies in the world, and taxes were lower than in the United States and most other western countries. The Social Democrats kept most of those policies intact until the 1970s, when they thought that those excellent foundations—unprecedented wealth, a strong work ethic, an educated work force, world-class exports industries, and a relatively honest bureaucracy—were so stable that the government could tax and spend and build a generous cradle-to-grave welfare state on them.

They couldn’t. At least not without costs. Because that welfare state began to erode the conditions that had made the model viable in the first place. And the fourth richest country became the 14th richest within three decades.