“Socialism works in Sweden” is one liberal refrain I’ve found difficult to rebut. At the American Conservative, Samuel Goldman writes:
Even after significant cuts, Nordic governments still spend about half of their GDP, just a bit less than the U.S. spent at the peak of the Second World War. It’s true that the Scandinavians have impressively low debt and responsible fiscal policies. But that’s because their citizens take on a considerably higher tax burden than Americans are willing to accept.
It’s worth asking, then, why Scandinavians are consistently willing to spend more and pay more than Americans. An important part of the answer is that members of small, homogeneous societies are much more willing to bear the burden of supporting their fellow citizens than members of large, diverse ones.
Schwartz contends that “the publics in these countries trust government because the social democrats built their welfare state upon a vision of comprehensive and universal social rights.” That’s partly true. But it neglects the crucial fact that this vision was achieved in societies where the vast majority of the population looked the same, talked the same, had names and relatives in common, went to same churches, and so on.
As the political scientist Robert Putnam has found, increased diversity tends to decrease social trust and willingness to make sacrifices for others. And that’s just what’s happened as the generous North has experienced its first encounter with mass immigration, as The Economist obliquely acknowledges.
Charles Murray observed the same in Coming Apart: Diversity decreases public trust. The Scandinavian population is relatively homogenous. The centralized state acts in the interests of the whole community and is seen as an extension of that community. Nowadays, they don’t go to the same churches, they don’t go to church period!
I am troubled by this. A government like Sweden’s in America would be seen by traditional Americans as an enemy of the people and our culture and traditions. Not because of our diversity, but because of America’s unique character. In fact, the case for revolution against a Sweden-like government was stronger when America was less diverse, when most of the population was directly descended from white European Protestants.
The reason Swedes get along with a Sweden-like government and Americans don’t comes down to national character. Swedes like big, secular government; Americans—rather, about half of us—don’t. The polls say 29% of Americans are satisfied with the country’s direction. Most of these are ignoramuses and Fabian socialists who are in not too big a hurry to fundamentally transform America. Of the dissatisfied 71%, most are conservatives, and the rest are radicals applying various purity tests to our institutions and finding them not sufficiently subdued to state power.
A people get the government they deserve. And people do change—not just as individuals, but as a group. Change can come from the top down or the bottom up. Too often the change comes from the top down, and we decry the government imposing change on the people. But really the measure of change is not the direction it flows, but the merits of the change itself. Whether or not America goes through another civil war to become like Sweden, in the end it will be like Sweden.
What is bad about that? For starters, it is sterile. There is no zest for procreation in the materialist state, which is why Sweden’s native population is aging. Also, it is objectively poorer, leaving to citizens less of the product of their labor to invest in what matters to them and in a legacy worth protecting. It is a hedonic, literally barren culture that cannot survive the erosion of time.