The Swedish Social Democratic party is in a sense unique in the West. As they have held the power during 65 of the past 74 years, the party has more or less integrated itself in the state. The labor unions have close ties with the party and supply funding and manpower during the elections years. During the 2002 elections LO, the largest labor union in Sweden, contributed with direct and indirect aid to the Social Democratic party that have been estimated to a value above 500 million Swedish kronas. This is about five times the total election budgets for all of the other six major parties in Sweden put together. The Social Democratic government repays the labor unions by giving them legal privileges and often follows their line of policy.
Not only do the Social Democrats have the advantage over their competitors when it comes to funding and manpower, they have also successfully turned many government agencies into ideological think tanks. Massive sums of money are used for "information campaigns" towards the Swedish population. This information is quite often simply promotion of the ideas of the left. For example, the Taxing agency has paid for TV commercials advocating a high-tax society and Systembolaget, the government monopoly on alcohol distribution (run by the prime minister’s wife), has run full page ads in the biggest magazines directly attacking neoliberal ideology. According to a report by the Swedish think tank Timbro, each year over 2 billion Swedish kronas are used by various agencies on such campaigns, dwarfing any of the few think tanks that exist in the country.
The government’s control over the political debate does not stop there. In almost every stage of education, Swedish students are indoctrinated with the ideas of the left when it comes to economy, social issues, environmental policies and leftwing feminism. The two former fields, a doomsday view on environmentalism and a feminist ideology strongly influenced by postmodern Marxism, have almost risen to the rank of state ideology. Efforts are being made to integrate these two fields into virtually all fields of study in Swedish academia. In a study of the political attitude among the members of the boards of Swedish universities it was shown that over 60 percent had outspoken support of the Social Democrats and 75 percent had connections to the party.
But it doesn't stop here. The Social Democrats actively attack those powers in the country that strive for political liberalization. The current Social Democratic Prime Minister, Göran Persson, recently threatened one of the biggest financial spheres in Sweden, that he might abolish their right to have weighted shares if their directors say in public that they want a change of government. As Swedish writer Johan Norberg points out, Perssons government a couple of years ago flew to Brussels and aggressively defended the system with weighed share (that give some stockowners control without the majority of the shares). The party secretary of the Social Democrats has gone as far as claiming that Swedish corporations have gone together in a conspiracy to reduce investments so that the economic situation is bad during the election year, threatening the Social Democratic parties' chances to cling to power. This is no joke, but the sad realities of Swedish politics where the leading party has become addicted to power and developed paranoia against the few enemies it has left.
The Swedish Social Democrats are perhaps the best illustration of the big problem of the welfare state. The big state exists for the sake of political interest groups who wish to regulate the economy and the working market, such as unions who shut out the unemployed from the jobmarket or the workers who fear competition from abroad. The big state exists for the politicians and bureaucrats who live of it. And the big state has become integrated with the big party, spending massive amounts of resources in forming public opinion for the ideas of the left. The advocates of the big government should take a good look at Sweden and realize something; they are seeking their self-interest as much as any corporate leader, but they do so by enforcing their will on others.
February 17, 2006