May 05, 2002


VICTIMS OF FALSE CONSCIOUSNESS: Though they think of themselves as prosperous, Swedes as a group are actually worse off than black Americans, according to this Swedish study. Swedes are trained from birth to view their society as a compassionate one in which everyone prospers, while the harsh capitalism of the United States makes some people rich and leaves other people destitute. Er, except that what it really does is make some people really, really rich, and leave other people just, well, richer than the Swedes. Best excerpt, highlighted by reader Todd Bass who sent this link:

"Black people, who have the lowest income in the United States, now have a higher standard of living than an ordinary Swedish household," the HUI economists said.

If Sweden were a U.S. state, it would be the poorest measured by household gross income before taxes, Bergstrom and Gidehag said. . . .

The median income of African American households was about 70 percent of the median for all U.S. households while Swedish households earned 68 percent of the overall U.S. median level.

This meant that Swedes stood "below groups which in the Swedish debate are usually regarded as poor and losers in the American economy," Bergstrom and Gidehag said.

Between 1980 and 1999, the gross income of Sweden's poorest households increased by just over six percent while the poorest in the United States enjoyed a three times higher increase, HUI said.

Hmm. Maybe the Mississippi Chamber of Commerce will start agitating to have Sweden admitted as a state, so that there'll be one that ranks lower than Mississippi.

UPDATE: Reader Marten Barck writes from Stockholm to say that it's worse than the statistics make it sound, since unemployment and layoffs are hidden behind disability figures:

I read your post about Sweden and would like to add some statistics. Sorry for the bad English, but I've never used these terms in English. Prepensioned means people who are pensioned before they are supposed to because of illnesses (or because they can't get jobs).

Sweden is the sickest nation in the world. At least according to statistics and costs for healthinsurances. In reality I would guess that Swedes are among the healthiest populations in the history of mankind. But the rise in costs for healthinsurances are staggering. Longterm notification of illnesses have tripled since 1997. One in six of Swedes of working age are listed longterm sick or prepensioned. That's about 800 000 yearjobs in a population of 9 million. The cost is 10 billion dollars per year. The
wellfare state has turned into an illfare state.

You'd think that the Swedes would get lower crime out of this, but as this post indicates they've got substantially higher crime rates than the United States, too.