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August 14, 2004

Nordic Ammunition

As most right-leaning Americans know, Sweden is the nanny state to end all nanny states. Not surprisingly, Liberals take a different view, preferring to see in Sweden an example to be followed.

Now, somewhat surprisingly, this state of affairs opens up opportunities for enterprising right-wingers to score a few easy political points.

This is because Sweden has in several areas taken pro-market measures that are today considered ‘controversial' in the US. By simply pointing out that “even Sweden” has adopted the measure, a lot of the ideological tension surrounding it is likely to be dispelled.

Examples of Sweden leading the US in liberalization:

Pension Reform: A partially funded system using personal savings accounts invested according to personal preference is now in place. (This is what Democrats refer to as “Privatizing Social Security”)

Deregulated Electricity Market: No price controls, open trading-based market, etc. While I believe electricity is one of the areas where privatization brings the smallest benefits, it’s certainly worth bringing up when someone tries bashing you with the Californian energy crisis. No rolling blackouts here so far, at least.

Deregulated Railways: As above. Railroad deregulation is usually a messy business, as railroads today exist largely because of generous subsidies. Privatization can thus become a way for the government to push the ‘red-headed stepchild of transportation’ into the lap of the private sector. Still, this example can serve as a useful tool when making the case for getting rid of Amtrak.

School Choice: Privately run schools are eligible for funding on roughly the same terms as state-run schools, given that they are open to all. This includes religious schools. While funding is still largely governmental, the resulting competition has in my view been a big boon to the Swedish school system. Sweden even ran a fully implemented school voucher system, but it was deemed too radical and shut down when the Social Democrats retook power in 1994. Most of the liberalized system remains in place, however.

A few references:

Railroad deregulation
Pension reform
Electricity deregulation
School choice

Posted by dobeln at 04:40 PM