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Wingnuts Suddenly Love Sweden

The Worldnutdaily has an amusing article about how Switzerland and Sweden are bucking the trends in Europe, with low debt and relatively low unemployment while the rest of the region is swimming in public debt and struggling with slow economies and sluggish job growth.

As headlines continue to trumpet the economic tsunami swamping much of Europe, there are at least two countries that are weathering the storm better than the rest: Switzerland and Sweden.

Experts told WND that there are several reasons why the Swiss and Swedish economies are doing so well relative to the European Union: economic freedom, national currencies, work ethic, and more.

Other governments could learn something.

The largely free Swiss economy is performing the best by far, but even Sweden, after a decade of market reforms, is doing very well compared to the rest of Europe. Both economies are still growing even as the eurozone contracts.

Anyone remember when the standard right wing story on Sweden was that it was a socialist hellhole with extraordinarily high taxes that destroyed the work ethic and routinely pushed people to commit suicide? Now suddenly they’re claiming that Sweden is an example for other governments. So let’s take a look at some of the issues they talk about here:

Low debt: Maybe they have a relatively low public debt because they have one of the highest effective tax rates in the world, which means they actually pay for the government programs that conservatives hate so much.

Economic Freedom: Sweden actually ranks below the United States on the Heritage Foundation’s Economic Freedom Index, and they’re actually trending down (becoming less economically free, by the standards they use) rather than up.

National currencies: This actually does matter, and it’s accurate. Neither Sweden nor Switzerland use the euro, which means they have avoided most of the underlying problems behind the European economic crisis.

Work ethic. Workers in both Sweden and Switzerland work fewer hours annually than those in the United States (1644 and 1632, respectively, vs 1787 in the U.S.).

And then there are the contradictions in the article. Near the top they say:

In Switzerland, the unemployment rate is hovering at about 2.7 percent. Sweden, even with its nightmarish regulatory regime over the labor market, has a stable unemployment level of about 7 percent.

While at the bottom it says:

Despite a large government with high taxes and spending, Sweden has strong respect for property rights, low levels of corruption, an efficient regulatory system and open-market policies that contribute to large flows of trade and investment, Heritage explained.

So there are two countries, one with low taxes and a high degree of “economic freedom” (by the standards of their own source, the Heritage Foundation), and the other with high taxes and a relatively low degree of “economic freedom.” So what exactly are other countries to learn from them? The lessons that the Worldnutdaily want them to learn, even if the facts don’t support it.

Comments

  1. StevoR says

    Well at least they still hate those cheese eating surrender monkeys in France right?

    Er, they do, don’t they?

    Nobody is mentioning or aware at all that Mittens Rmoney parlez francais, c’est nes pas?

  2. dingojack says

    And WND – note the 3rd highest in the Economic Freedom Index is headed by an atheist, female PM.
    Guess god just isn’t as into you as you are into him.

    :) Dingo

  3. jnorris says

    All that good stuff about Sweden despite same-sex marriage in Sweden has been legal since 1 May 2009.

  4. laurentweppe says

    National currencies: This actually does matter, and it’s accurate. Neither Sweden nor Switzerland use the euro, which means they have avoided most of the underlying problems behind the European economic crisis.

    Actually… No: both countries have the Eurozone as their main trading partner, which means that the Euro crisis does hurt them.
    Also, since Switzerland is an enclave surrounded by Euro countries, the Euro has become the de facto currency of the country with a fixed exchange rate and a growing number of private businesses and public services using the Euro… It’s just impolite to say so in public to avoid hurting the delicate sensibilities of the Helvets by rubbing in their nose the fact that they are barely more independant than Porto Rico.
    Furthermore, the underlying problem of the European economic crisis does not come from the common currency itself, but from the lack of a federal government: Spain’s economy is not worse than, say, Florida, but Florida can count on Washington to bail it out: on our side of the pond, Bruxelles and Strasbourg would be willing to step in, except that many heads of member states have for decades been refusing to move, either because they acted like feodal lords unwilling to give up their power and prestige to an higher assembly or because they were afraid of becoming the targets of demagogic nationalistic campains.

  5. Abby Normal says

    National currencies: This actually does matter, and it’s accurate. Neither Sweden nor Switzerland use the euro…

    What’s this, a point on which everyone agrees?! Well then the lesson is clear, each state should have its own currency to help isolate it from the economic troubles of the rest of the union.

  6. StevoR says

    @5. jnorris :

    All that good stuff about Sweden despite same-sex marriage in Sweden has been legal since 1 May 2009.

    B-b-butt That’s unpossible!

    Men who love men marrying men who love them and women who love wimmen marrying wimmen who love them equals teh end O’th’ Werld!

    Amirite?

    No?

    Oh yeah.

    That is NO. Not at flippin’ all!

    Love is love.

    People are people.

    Equal rights are equal rights.

    Equal marriage rights are good and flippin well overdue.

    I wonder how long it will take fore that sinks in for some fools.

  7. Abby Normal says

    Okay, maybe “everyone” was a bit of an overstatement. Way to ruin the joke Laurentweppe.

    (Can someone offer advice? Apparently someone superglued my tongue to my cheek this morning.)

  8. says

    @6 laurentweppe

    And might the fact that Switzerland is a place where rich people like to stash their money be a factor? I was just thinking that maybe their banks would be a bit safer from a banking crisis because they might be more careful with the money they have with a reputation to protect and all. But, I admit, economics is not a subject I know much about…and on which I really need to learn more.

  9. Larry says

    despite same-sex marriage in Sweden has been legal since 1 May 2009

    Only because their psychotic sky fairy hasn’t yet gotten around to smiting them. When it does, they are doomed, I tells ya, doomed!

  10. StevoR says

    @ ^ Larry *: Just like everywhere else in teh Rapture end eh?

    * Not wearing a leisure suit by any chance are ya?

    @9. Abby Normal : Try not to add your foot to your mouth?

  11. StevoR says

    By “add” I meant stick, durnnit!

    (Slow brain always thinking of things after the button is clicked. Dangnabbit!)

    can we swear properly here?

  12. busterggi says

    Wonder if the fact that neither of these countries spend ~40% of their national budget on the military could be part of it?

    Oh, and I don’t believe either of them has launched a pre-emptive war for the past century or so.

  13. says

    jnorris makes a good point that I should have included. Remember, these are the same people who say that same-sex marriage and other liberal ideas bring down the curse of God and that’s why our economy is bad. So why isn’t Sweden being cursed?

  14. says

    “Nobody is mentioning or aware at all that Mittens Rmoney parlez francais, c’est nes pas?”

    Well, it really just means that Mittmoroni can have his “Cheneyesque–”Go fuck yourself!*”–moment with Jules Gaspard d’Estaing** or whatever commie dictator is runnin’ france this week; without offending the tender sensibilities of his profanity averse KKKristianist base.

    * va te faire enculer (according to this site: http://www.youswear.com/index.asp?word=go+fuck+yourself

    ** https://www.google.com/search?sourceid=ie7&q=jules+gaspard+d'estaing&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&rlz=1I7_____en

  15. Blattafrax says

    #6 Hardly fair on the Swiss franc, considering it had a noticeable effect on the value of the Euro (upwards) when the Swiss government pegged the value of its currency to the Euro. The tail wags the dog in this case. Not much, but it does mean Switzerland can carry on as it wishes and any devaluation of the currency only means that they don’t have to print as much to buy Euros with.

    #10 That does have something to do with it, yes.

  16. StevoR says

    Fuck yeah!

    (Some FTB blohgs let ya fucken swear like Pharyngula. But others don’t. Hard to be sure which is which sometimes.)

  17. Michael Heath says

    IIRC my econ lessons correctly, you can’t do a meaningful comparison of the most popular U.S. unemployment rate with northern European economies’ similar rate. That’s because their natural rate of unemployment rate is higher given the bigger social safety net they employ. So the Europeans who are unemployed are more deliberate in what jobs they accept in those European countries in order to minimize their level of under-employment when they accept a job and go off the unemployment roles. Where these Europeans can afford to take more time given that a bigger social safety net allows them to do so.

    Our natural rate of unemployment used to be theorized as 4.4% and was for a long time; I’m not if sure if that’s still the rate or accepted as the past rate. Let’s assume that Sweden’s is 7% and 4.4% still holds for the U.S. (I doubt it does). So if the the U.S unemployment rate is 8% and Sweden’s 9%, Sweden actually has way less people per capita seeking work that would be inclined to take a job which makes them more under-employed than the U.S. does.

    The fact their stated rate is less than ours is evidence of how weak our labor market remains. I find it interesting how the liberal economists mostly claim our labor market isn’t structurally weak but instead the result of a lack of demand. While I’m a hybrid Keynesian/Monetarist all the way when it comes to Keynesian fiscal policies, I think the more conservative economists who see a structural problem caused by weaknesses on our supply-side are more correct. I wouldn’t be surprised to find some of those conservative economists argue this premise because they don’t like the conclusion if their premise is wrong, we need more expansionary fiscal policies. However that doesn’t necessarily mean that bias makes them wrong.

    I happen to argue we need to address both the demand side as liberal economists argue and the supply-side as sane conservative economist with integrity argue:
    1) more expansionary fiscal policy, actually far more important – eradicating the cyclical contractionary policies at the state level instituted by conservatives over the past couple of decades.
    2) Supply-side policies which better match the supply of labor to the U.S. global competitive advantages. Like better education, more liberal immigration policies for educated professionals and college students, more job retraining, tax reform that attracts business which require intellectual capital, and tax reform which attracts more capital.

  18. jonathandelafield says

    Switzerland also has universal health insurance – it’s obligatory – kinda like Obamacare that the wingnuts hate. It’s implemented through private companies, but it is required.

    I guess that’s been a job killer in Switzerland and destroyed their economy, huh?

  19. Reginald Selkirk says

    At least Sweden has never interrupted the Super Bowl with a broadcast of a singing mountain tot.

  20. yoav says

    @#23
    If I remember correctly another issue is that most European countries count anyone of working age who is unemployed, whether they actively look for work or not, so the US number is an under estimation in comparison.

  21. wscott says

    National currencies: This actually does matter, and it’s accurate. Neither Sweden nor Switzerland use the euro, which means they have avoided most of the underlying problems behind the European economic crisis.

    That cuts both ways tho. Iceland was not on the euro either, and their economy tanked even worse – the krona lost like 50% of its value overnight and still hasn’t recovered.

    @ Michael Heath

    and the supply-side as sane conservative economist with integrity argue:

    Which one would that be? ;)

  22. thisisaturingtest says

    WND- the home for people who want what other people have, but can’t be bothered to understand why they have them. IOW- children.

  23. jonathandelafield says

    If you read the comments on this WND article and others, you’ll see instantly how over-the-top their readers are. Does anyone know how widely read and accepted WND is? Or are they just the truly loony fringe that is not worth wasting time on?

    If I have to prioritize my “debunking time” is it worth spending time over there?

  24. says

    “Does anyone know how widely read and accepted WND is? Or are they just the truly loony fringe that is not worth wasting time on?”

    When that “truly loony fringe” covers not just the top, but the whole fucking surrey, it’s time to call in the fire and piss on the dogs.

  25. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Iceland was not on the euro either, and their economy tanked even worse – the krona lost like 50% of its value overnight and still hasn’t recovered. – wscott

    The krona may not have recovered, but the Icelandic economy has. The Icelandic people refused to pay the price for Icelandic bankers’ reckless greed, and seem to have got away with it.

  26. jonathandelafield says

    @democommie

    Yeah, but you can’t piss on all of them. I don’t want to piss on the campfire when I could be pissing on the house that’s burning behind me.

  27. laurentweppe says

    The krona may not have recovered, but the Icelandic economy has. The Icelandic people refused to pay the price for Icelandic bankers’ reckless greed, and seem to have got away with it.

    Iceland is a particular case: like Argentina, they have enormous natural ressources and unlike most countries they also have total population similar to a middle sized town, which allowed them to maintain a decent influx of foreign cash to rebuild their economy. If, say, Greece tried to pull the same trick…
    Well, in fact, Greece did try it, once, in the 19th century, and they ended up directly administrated by their main creditors with one tenth of the population immigrating because starvation was a very real threat.

  28. wscott says

    @ Nick Gotts: Thanks. Unable to watch the video at work, but glad there’s some good news.

    Tho laurentweppe has a point that Iceland has some unique advantages. For one thing, they’re almost completely energy-independant, since they have so much geothermal available. They’ve also based a large chunk of their recovery around tourism. (I actually just got back from vacation there, and highly recommend it!) Not sure how sustainable that is in the long run, especially since one of the current draws is that it’s so cheap right now; so the more their economy recovers, the fewer tourists can afford to go there.

    My understanding (from folks I talked to there) is that Iceland is planning to convert to the euro soon. So I infer they don’t believe that not being on the euro was a net-positive.

  29. Michael Heath says

    me earlier:

    sane conservative economist with integrity argue

    wscott responds:

    Which one would that be? ;)

    More than you’d think. The crux of the problem is that conservative politicians now ignore even their own economists as well. Another result of merging a fundamentalist/evangelical religious movement with a political movement.

  30. wscott says

    @ Michael: I know, and agree. I was just poking fun at your using economist rather than economists.

  31. martinc says

    laurentweppe @ 6 described Switzerland with: “the Euro has become the de facto currency of the country”. I was there for a month last year and did not conduct a single transaction in Euros, and I was only a few kilometres from the Austrian border. Yes, Switzerland depends heavily on trade with the Euro-zone around them, and I agree with your basic point that they are therefore not immune to effects from the European monetary crash, but to suggest that their internal currency is a de facto Euro is directly contradicted by my experience. I’ll repeat: zero percent of my monetary transactions were in Euros, nor was it ever suggested Euros were required or even preferred. My brother lives there, and travels throughout Europe (~10 countries a month) and has Swiss francs for Swiss purchases, and Euros for the rest. I had little experience with public services so I can’t refute you directly on that score, but your claim sounds highly dubious.

    Oh, and if anyone wants to know the REAL reason the Swiss economy is doing so well, I can only say it will continue to roll along as long as my brother keeps paying his speeding fines.

  32. Michael Heath says

    wscott wrote:

    I was just poking fun at your using economist rather than economists.

    I didn’t notice my clerical error until your post I quote here. So there was an opening for a joke there even if I had correctly noted ‘economists’ in the plural.

  33. laurentweppe says

    I was there for a month last year and did not conduct a single transaction in Euros, and I was only a few kilometres from the Austrian border

    Sure: just like you can spend time in Grand Cayman and pay everything in Cayman Island dollar.
    Or, before the introduction of the Euro, you could spend years in France without spending a single Deutsche Mark, and pretend that the country enjoyed some independance regarding its currency despite the fact that the french central bank had virtually no autonomy toward the Bundesbank. In fact, Jean Claude Trichet, who was governor of the Banque de France before becoming the ECB president described during the 90′s the worthelness of the french money thus:

    This monetary secret is more important than the nuclear secrets, including on the pillow

    Same thing with the Swiss Franc, and it won’t be aknowledged by any official any time soon.

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