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Sweden's Blue Model Blues


As immigrant riots in Sweden extended into their sixth night, spreading for the first time beyond the suburbs of Stockholm to outlying towns, Swedes are beginning to ask themselves what’s gone wrong with their famously generous welfare state.

Adrian Wooldridge, in a February Economist special report on the Scandinavian countries’ efforts to reinvent themselves, pointed to an answer:

Mass immigration is posing serious problems for the region. For the Nordic countries to be able to afford their welfare states they need to have 80% of their adults in the workforce, but labour-force participation among non-European immigrants is much lower than that. In Sweden only 51% of non-Europeans have a job, compared with over 84% of native Swedes. The Nordic countries need to persuade their citizens that they are getting a good return on their taxes, but mass immigration is creating a class of people who are permanently dependent on the state.

Sweden’s famously progressive redistributionist model, with its high taxes and high rates of spending, seems to be failing its immigrants. Unemployment among the foreign-born is persistently high and upward social mobility remains elusive. A recent study pointed out that up to a third of the youth in Sweden’s poorest regions are neither employed nor studying. Entire communities are stagnating rather than integrating.

High immigration societies need to be high opportunity societies. Immigrants and refugees come in search of a better life, but blue model societies like Sweden are more focused on providing welfare rather than opportunities for growth. The blue model social worker mind sees ‘excluded youth’ and thinks about programs: more midnight basketball, more food stamps, and the like.

But what might be needed instead are things like less restrictive zoning laws to promote the kinds of construction jobs that young immigrants can get without a lot of paper qualifications. Less regulation and protection (though not zero!) means more opportunity. And creating opportunity ends up being the ultimate welfare program.

[Swedish flag on a fractured brick, photo courtesy Shutterstock]

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  • Stacy Garvey

    Here’s a thought. Stop providing generous welfare benefits.

  • Greg Brown

    Here’s another thought. Stop importing unnecessary labor in favor for inviting refugees with a better fit.

  • Soren Kay

    “Swedes are beginning to ask themselves what’s gone wrong with their famously generous welfare state.”

    What is wrong with their welfare state is that it was built for Swedes… if they liked their welfare state, they should have filtered their immigration. They should have only accepted people they knew would be a benefit and not a burden.

    The irony of Swedish cultural marxism is that the only way to manage it is to adopt neo-liberal economic reforms(as described in this blog post). You can be a racial/cultural egalitarian or you can be an economic egalitarian but you can’t be both. Swedes have denied biological evolution and they will pay the price for their pathological altruism.

    I’m not a fan of this “blue social model” posture.. yes it’s true that welfarism leads to resentment(in both those who receive and those who pay), but the difference between Portland and Detroit isn’t the model but the people. The Texas model works, but I’m not sure how sustainable it is once the demographics change the democratic will… and the Texas model inflames the demographic changes that may undermine it.

  • Pete

    What everyone knows but won’t say is that Sweden needs an aggressive and far-reaching deportation policy to undo years of folly. .

  • Kuze81

    “It’s because we weren’t socialist *enough*!” -Socialists

  • Jim Luebke

    Remind me again how we can get the Swedish system to work in America?…

  • korby

    Mickey Kaus has a more convincing arugment. It’s not lack of opportunity, per se, that produces an alienated immigrant underclass. Rather, welfare itself allows “those in the ethnic ghetto to stay there, stay unemployed, and seethe. Without government subsidies, they would have to overcome the prejudice against them and integrate into the mainstream working culture.”

    • Fat_Man

      Does welfare cause terrorism, Part XVIII …–

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