“Folkhemmet” – Sweden’s Fascism in slow motion

Excerpts from John J. Ray

The dominant political party in Sweden since 1932 on has been the Social Democratic Party. The program and policy of the Social Democrats centred around transforming Sweden into a folkhemmet (A home for the people). This became the dominant Swedish concept of Sweden in 1932 with the accession to power of the Social Democrats but was well in evidence before that. The concept is usually traced to a book, The State as a Live Form ( Staten som livsform ), written by Rudolf Kjellen in 1910.

Folkhemmet is probably best translated as “a home for the Swedish people”. And this idea of what Sweden should be was what the Swedish Social Democratic Party preached. The concept is the core of the “Swedish model” and what it brought about was essentially just another version of the characteristic Fascist “corporate” or “collectivist” State. So, like Fascism generally, the Swedish model was seen as a Third Way between Communism and Capitalism.

The Swedish corporate State really got going only in 1938, however, with the Saltsjobaden Agreement between the unions and the employers. This agreement outlawed strikes and created a central wage-fixing system for the whole country.

And Sweden has been essentially a socialist one-party State since 1932, with the socialists being out of power for brief interludes only. But what exactly the folkhemmet should consist of evolved and developed only very slowly and gradually. Change in Sweden is glacial even in the hands of Leftists so the fundamentally paternalist folkhemmet took many years to develop a sweeping dominance of Swedish life. Bit by bit taxes were raised, business was regulated and taken over and welfare programs were expanded. It was not in fact until the early 1990s that the whole edifice came crashing down. So the concept of a fatherly government was there from the beginning, the one-party State was there and a quiet conviction of Swedish superiority and unique wisdom was also there.

Like all Fascist ideologies, however, folkhemmet had its own unique national character. Sweden experienced nothing remotely like the huge interwar disruptions that took place in Germany and Italy — for the excellent reason that Sweden stayed out of WW1. So Swedish nationalism was much calmer and less excitable. Which led to it being neither strident nor expansionist. Swedes felt perfectly comfortable with the burgeoning wealth being produced by their own country and so felt no need for foreign adventures or huge and sudden changes.

The Swedish Social Democratic party was founded on its popularity and was achieved by constitutional rather than revolutionary means.

So the Swedish folkhemmet State was welfarist, nationalist, paternalist and essentially all-powerful. Because it used its power very sparingly and cautiously, however, and respected civil liberties, it was undoubtedly the mildest of the Fascist States. Fascism varied greatly from country to country (to take a rather striking example, Sir Oswald Mosley initially used to expel from the British Union of Fascists anyone who made antisemitic remarks!) and the distinguishing feature of the Swedish version was undoubtedly that it was the least authoritarian. And after the war the Swedish Social Democrats did as all Leftists did and abandoned overt nationalism.

After their big economic meltdown in the early 90′s (huge unemployment and welfare benefits that could no longer be paid for) they undertook an exemplary program of privatizations and made big cuts to both taxes and welfare benefits but there are still huge disincentives to work in Sweden. Incomes are kept pretty uniform regardless of what you do — meaning that there is little incentive either to improve one’s skills or to work hard — and the sickness benefit side of the welfare system is still a huge racket. People on sickness benefits no longer get a higher income than they would by working but the benefits are still close to wages and access to the system is very easy. So huge numbers of Swedes have declared themselves too ill to work.

As a consequence, average Swedish incomes have fallen well behind American standards — as indexed by the most objective criterion we have: GDP per capita. When purchasing power is taken into account, the picture is even worse. A cup of coffee, for instance, is likely to cost you three times as much in Sweden as in the USA.

Leftists who advocate high taxes and pervasive welfare need to be told that the country that went furthest in that direction hit a rock years ago and has been paddling in reverse ever since.

There is an assumption that the welfare states of Scandinavia were high-tax regimes which tried to redistribute wealth from rich businessmen to the average person. This is not the case at all. On the whole the Scandinavian systems are not meant to be redistributive states. Nor are businessmen the targets. Business is relatively lightly taxed compared to many developed nations. It is not the earnings of businesses that the bureaucrats want to control but people. (Comment: This point might be true for BIG corporations that are running the country together with the government (Revolving door business/politics – the same people on the board of a large company take turns to sit in government positions). Small individual business owners are taxed in to oblivion, unable to employ and survive for the most part. Privateers are unwanted in Sweden. They want you working for BIG companies. Entrepreneurship is pretty much non existent in Sweden. As long as you are dependent sucking of the corporate-fashist-government teet, it’s ok.)

The Swedish welfare state, in particular, was designed so that the average individual was highly taxed. There was even the well-known case of Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, of Pippi Longstocking fame, who discovered that her tax bill was 102% of her earnings. Consumers are highly taxed, while business itself is not so highly taxed.

The reason for this is simple. Taxation is a means of control. The object of control in the Swedish system is not business, they produce the golden eggs after all. The object of control is the individual. The Swedish system doesn’t so much redistribute your wealth but confiscate it and return it to you provided you spend it in ways approved of by the political elite.

Consider how this system works. Say you are taxed $100 on earnings of $150. The state may now say that can have $20 back in education vouchers for your children, $30 in health “benefits” and so on. If you choose to spend in other ways you will not receive the money back. In essence the Swedish system was created to take control of the individual Swedish consumer, not redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor. While some redistribution is inevitable that is not the reason why the system was created.

Swedish business is more lightly taxed because the government wants business to provide jobs for workers. Once the workers are employed the state can tax them and control their spending. Approved spending is subsidized with the tax money that consumers pay in, unapproved spending is not subsidized or may be heavily taxed. This system of coercive incentives is meant to regulate how people act.

While many in the world think that the “third way” of Sweden was a “socialistic” policy of helping the needy, the reality is closer to a “fascistic” policy of manipulating the consumers into behaving in ways that politicians want.

15 thoughts on ““Folkhemmet” – Sweden’s Fascism in slow motion

  1. I also left Sweden, 20 years ago…
    I think you are right about most things in this article, but I don’t think the average salary leaves you with much less consumer power than in most western countries.
    The way that the control of the individual is achieved in Sweden may be unique, but show me a country where there is economic freedom and the big corporations is not dominating the market and the individual is not controled…

    • Hi Robert, thanks for the input.

      I agree – it’s bad in most countries, but I argue that the level of control in Sweden is “special”. It’s certainly have progressed in the 20 years you’ve been gone. I’m sure you’ve visited, but as we know there’s a difference in visiting a country as opposed to living there.

      The control is certainly crippling physically in regards to the monetary system, but the mental control is extraordinary. In a country where someone might be worse off economically, where even starvation and homelessness is more common, there are still people who have a free mind and a strong spirit. Something I struggle to find in Sweden.

  2. its when we can se the problem we can change it, so all people that are living in Sweden and fighting against the controll ekonomic facist pseudo system, Im whit you all the time.
    They are going to kill themself and we are going to tell the story.

  3. You got it, John. This place is more like an old fashioned mental institution with padded walls and regular coffee breaks than a free society.

  4. I’ve lived in the US for about 25 years. I grew up in Sweden, and even though I have to agree that things have really changed for the worse in Sweden as well as many other industrial countries the US system is far more cruel for millions of people compared to living in Sweden. For example, are you denied healthcare if you don’t have insurance? Do 1 out of 4 children go to bed hungry? Does a large part of the older generation go hungry and can’t afford to heat their homes because they have to live on $15,000/year? etc. I think we need to see major changes in Sweden as well as the US. I wish I could say what that change needs to be, but I don’t have the answer. I believe a system based on high taxes and a government controlling what you are given back creates weak people, and in the US the system is based on keeping people in a state of fear. The heart is left out of both of those systems, and until a system is created that truly cares about the people I can’t support either of them.

    • Well said. There are severe flaws in both systems. Capitalism does not play well with socialism and a mixed system is clearly not the completely answer. However, it’s best to pick what benefits you want to reap from each system and what freedoms and burdens need to be endured to belong to that particular political-economy. Unless of course…a person just wants to go out into the wild and live in the wilderness. which is OK too.

  5. As you might know Christian, this website is not about comparing the Swedish system to other countries systems. The website is simply about pointing out the problems as they exist within the Swedish Model. But yes, in Sweden there are kids that go hungry, there are homeless and there are elderly that have gotten their entire pensions drawn in by the state. Although we don’t have the problem of “no insurance” that I often hear as a major point of critique of the American healthcare system, in Sweden we have have plenty of negligence and malpractice. Meaning: just because there is an E.R. you can go to (without insurance), that doesn’t mean you get help or even descent help if you go there. There are many horror stories in Sweden of misdiagnosis, malpractice, poor service and people dying because of a completely failing and overburdened system that now is on the brink of collapsing. Furthermore, the healthcare system in Sweden is something that EVERYONE is paying into with every paycheck willingly or unwillingly. So even if you NEVER go to a doctor during your entire life – you are still paying for it. Is that fair? The health care system is “preemptive”, you pay and pay and pay for something that hasn’t happened yet (and might never happen). What also needs to be considered is that the health care service that the government offer is of very low standard and the service is very poor. There not much competition since there are few private practices and hospitals – so there are very few options to go elsewhere (even if you have the money to do so). Is that fair?

    • Good point on having health care is not the same thing as having quality health care. At least you tell it like it is since you are in Sweden. Is there a particular reason as to why there are so few private practices and hospitals?

  6. Hi, my name is Erik! I’m 17 years old and I live in Sweden. I happened to read all this so i decided to write a little about my thoughts about this country. In Sweden even from school you learn how to think and act. Every time you say something like, “people should have the possibility to choose” and “I think the parents can take care of their families themselfs and the state shouldn’t interfere and decide what to do with their children (school, daycare)” and competition and entrepreneur-ship is a good thing. Then people call me capitalist, crazy, (girig) greedy and other things. I think that there is a “dubbel moral” (double standard?) when it comes to the typical Swedish tolerancy. The Swedes say they are tolerant to everything and everyone but to force christians and others to be tolerant that aren’t tolerant to me.. Then we have the agressive form of atheism that is spreading out in Sweden. If you say something that are in some way religious people think you are crazy and they are willing to do everyting they can to make you look stupid. I think both people and media are contributing to this. Isn’t this a consequence of all that you’ve spoken about? I’m just 17 but I agree in everything you say. I want to move to USA, i’m sick and tired of the “jantelag” (who do you think you are, you’re not better than anyone else) mentality. USA is the dream, it’s a cliche I know, but is it that awesome or should I just stay here? It’s bad english and my thoughts are a bit messy but I wrote this in the middle of the night..

    • The USA you will have freedom and the government will not be in your business and your day-to-day life as much. Ex. Taxes on eating healthy do not exist and were dismissed by the public as government exertion of power. The government tried to control the public and the public rejected it. If a person wants to drink 2-liters of soda a day, it’s within that citizen’s rights to do so. However, you will be appalled by the lack of social cohension amongst the different socioeconomic classes of the haves and the have-nots. If you move to the USA and live in a metropolitan area, you will feel this tension even more. But…with that being said you should follow your heart to where you would be most happy to develop the rest of your life. When you have the government forcing (physical violence) or even indoctrinating their citizens (strictly government run schools) into a certain way of thinking means that it’s more FAKE and the more people are going to secretly resent it even though they aren’t conscious of it in their day-to-day living. It’s is 100% ingrained in our psyche at birth that you are born FREE into this world with your own heart/mind/soul and when other people are trying to ATTACK this essence of being, you can be sure that this will lead to stagnation and hopelessness when your only purpose as a human being is to Self-actualize in the 60-100 years of lifespan you are given. Thank you for bringing to light on what your experience is like as a young person in Sweden and why the grass actually may be greener on the other side.

    • I think you could come here. Half of the country wants mostly freedom, while the other half wants to be exactly like Sweden. America will not be this way for very long, but it’s worth coming here for the time being. Save every bit of money you can get, study a profession that will make you NEEDED in the working world, and try to come here. If you move to the mid-west or the south, you will mostly find people that love capitalism and freedom, just as it should be. NEVER go to places like California, Oregon, Washington, New York, etc. They are all states that are trying to be more like Sweden, and our President at the moment is trying to make the country into a “Third Way” kind of country like Sweden. Just get the education and skills you need to follow freedom. American think tanks always come out with freedom indexes based on Libertarian principles, so just go where the freedom is. http://www.heritage.org/index/ranking

  7. I like how they show old black n white movies of how bad things were but totaly ignore the freedom and value of the money. You used to have the whole family living at home and taking care of them. Now you stick your parents and grandparents in a home. One lonely police patroling the area and showing up after the citizens them self arrested the criminals. You could build 40 rooms in your house without permission and a coin could give you food for a week.

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