2012 November 22 Thursday
Since We Aren't Swedes We Can't Be Governed Like Sweden

The Swedish left-liberal utopian dream of Paul Krugman et. al. is out of America's reach says Ross Douthat (my terminology, not his).

First, even though Sweden is more egalitarian than the United States, the link between child poverty and family structure is still very much present, and non-intact families produce worse outcomes for their offspring in Scandinavia as well. Second, Swedenís high out-of-wedlock birth rate notwithstanding, Swedish children are more likely than Americans to grow up with both parents in the household: The marriage rate may be lower, in other words, but Swedish families are more stable even when the parents are cohabitating rather than joined in matrimony.

In Sweden dad actually wants to raise the kids. Mom and dad can stand each other's company. How, er, un-American.

Gotta have lots of social capital to run a Swedish welfare state without social pathology.

The Swedish experience does demonstrate that itís possible for a welfare-state society to survive the waning of religion and the decline of traditional marriage without sacrificing middle class prosperity. But this success is founded on a level of cultural homogeneity and an inheritance of social capital that simply isnít available in a polyglot republic-cum-empire like our own.

We do not have the right stuff. We'll have even less of the right stuff every year for years to come. My fear: the dysfunctional people will come to way outnumber the responsible. Then the dysfunctional will vote for such large expansions of the welfare state that it'll become easier to be dysfunctional, more will make irresponsible choices, and it'll be a vicious circle. When we make it easier to be a single mom we get more single moms. Then they vote for policies that make it easier to be a single mom

You know how diversity is celebrated by left-liberals as delivering great benefit? Diversity is another word for heterogeneity. Diversity reduces the trust and civic engagement that enable Sweden's social welfare state to function in spite of its assorted harmful effects on society.

Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam -- famous for "Bowling Alone," his 2000 book on declining civic engagement -- has found that the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings. The study, the largest ever on civic engagement in America, found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings.

The Swedish model isn't sustainable in the long run, even in Sweden. Immigration is one reason why. The Swedes are importing a dysfunctional lower class.

In January 2005, 22 percent of those out of work registered at the employment service were born outside Sweden. That figure has now reached 35 percent, according to Dagens Nyheterís report.

Social capital in Sweden is very strong. Though likely lower since this book was written.

The book is packed with many intriguing revelations. The contributors note, for instance, that waning participation in unions, churches, and political parties seems to be virtually universal, a troubling discovery as these forms of social capital are especially important for empowering less educated, less affluent portions of the population. Indeed, in general, the researchers found more social grouping among the affluent than among the working classes and they find evidence of a younger generation that is singularly uninterested in politics, distrustful both of politicians and of others, cynical about public affairs, and less inclined to participate in enduring social organizations. Yet social capital appears as strong as ever in Sweden, where 40% of the adult population participate in "study circles"--small groups who meet weekly for educational discussions.

To get a good contrast in how America's doing read Charles Murray's Coming Apart. Short answer: not so good.

Will the welfare state in America start growing again as the single moms grow in number and vote for the donkeys? Will social pathology in America therefore grow? Higher crime rates in the offing? I know too many people where married couples are helping to raise their grandkids. What happens when the broken home pattern stretches across too many generations for there to be an older and more responsible and financially resourceful generation to step in and take on the adult responsibilities?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2012 November 22 05:20 PM 

Now I do said at November 22, 2012 6:51 PM:

One day, perhaps one day I will live in Sweden. I can only dream for now, though. Nevertheless, it suprises me to see you praise the left for once. It was becoming pretty obvious by now, wasn't it, Randy?

Good to see yo-all still around. Cheers.

Randall Parker said at November 22, 2012 7:27 PM:

Now I do,

I missed how it is I praised the left. I think I praised Swedes.

mencken said at November 23, 2012 10:53 PM:

Want a scary glimpse at one possible future? Imagine you're a young, debt-free, skilled, high-income American bachelor who is "awared" on all these various issues. What do you do? Mayhaps you leave. I predict you're going to see a lot of that in the coming years. It will have the effect of culturo-genetically decapitating the next generation of America's leaders.

Randall Parker said at November 24, 2012 10:38 AM:


Where do you think people will go? East Asia isn't going to welcome white immigrants. The list of suitable destinations seems short. Australia? New Zealand? Where else? England already has an outflux of the talented. Most countries will not open their doors.

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