Written by Jan Gillberg
The private (market-steered and competition-prone) sector and the public (politician-steered and monopolised) sector are like two different worlds. Basically it is also just as it is. Just as when Europe was divided in an easterly Communist World and a westerly Market Economy World: One world where political oppression and stagnation limited the people’s existence; another where market forces and prosperity constantly created new possibilities for a more prosperous life.
Once again we meet the two so different worlds. To create conditions for the survival of the company and for future development, the market dependent Eriksson was forced to extensive and deeply painful redundancies. Which is what we now see. There was a strategy - carefully prepared and adjusted to the reality of the market plan of action.
When the local authorities and the county council must cut down, it is not because the need/demand of welfare services have become less, but quite simply because of the lack of recourses. And that is something that regularly must be observed, that the local authority coffer is empty - i.e. after increased costs have swallowed the latest tax increases. The handling of the public economy is no more sophisticated than this.
The both short and long term big problem for Sweden, as for other countries, which have copied the Swedish model - e.g. Germany - is that the public economy has, to a desperate extent, become a transaction economy aimed at (with considerable deductions in the bureaucratic handling) more or less tolerably keeping the whole flora of the allowance system going.
• In short terms this will be expressed in the spring budget presented in April. When the allowance system, which forms the basis for the foundation of the government, is accomplished, what is called in the debate a „surplus amount” is what remains. This surplus amount has diminished year for year and is not at present sufficiently large to be able to finance an employment policy (including investments in a increasingly leaky infrastructure).
• In the long run this will be expressed in a long-term investigation, which entirely focuses on the equation of how taxes and allowances can be solved. There is not a scrap of ideas or thoughts on any future projects devoted to making Sweden a better country for its citizens. Nothing is devoted to mediating a feeling of future and development, which so strongly meets each visitor to those countries which for little more than a decade ago, managed to be free from the different development obstacles of socialism.
And where are the margins? Where are the resources that need to be mobilised to manage an environmental catastrophe or an emergency situation?
If something really serious were to happen in Sweden, can Göran Persson be expected to explain with the same hollowness once used by Per Albin Hansson: „Our state of alert is good.” But then with the difference that neither the forces of nature or terrorists can be led astray or spoken to.
Add to this that the Swedish system has with time made the people passive - made them not only dependant on the whole allowance arsenal, but also at a growing level incapable of managing situations, which require one’s own contribution and capacity. Not even old, honest helpfulness is at hand as a last resort. Not in the same way as when the neighbourhood and united families functioned as props in sudden situations.
Even the high tax society has contributed to this development. With all the taxes the people have had to pay, we have got an unhelpful mentality: „Society must take care of that. That is what I pay my taxes for.”
And just as in the Soviet system, the Swedes have created their nomenclature - described by Anders Isaksson as „the political class”. And straight through the system it is understanding that applies, or as Inga-Britt Ahlenius recently formulated it in a column in Dagens Nyheter:
„We have made consensus part of our national self-portrait. We reward silence and ’understanding’, we create ’troublesome’ people. We must come to an agreement Sweden is also a small country with few alternatives. The private owner circles are few, all are in some way dependant. Few are granted the privilege of taking their cases and leaving to defend the truth and try their luck elsewhere.”
This conforming spirit of understanding has also pushed out the old, honest public official traditions, independent of interest in one way or the other. Instead we have in Authority Sweden (also in which the judicial system has been incorporated) an affirmative culture adapted to the political power. That a new approach could thrive in such a political culture cannot be expected. However, when this has actually happened, it is not the opposition parties that have been the deliverers or the supporters. These have through the years become more and more concentrated to suit their politics and measures to the established agenda of governing powers - to sail on the leeward.
The longer development can harp on in run-in tracks and the closer the public economy comes to a financing collapse, the room for a change of system in a decent orderly way will become less. We are rapidly coming to the situation where changes risk being made in anarchic forms.