The Public Interest

Sweden: Libertarianism on Rocky Soil

Elisabeth Langby

Summer 1985

EVER SINCE Marquis Childs wrote Sweden: The Middle Way almost 40 years ago, reports from Sweden have been glowing. Once Europe’s poorest, this ancient but peripheral country of only eight million became the richest in the world. With the newly gained wealth of the post-war era, a new species of nation was created: the modern welfare state. And from this novel political construct seemed to come all kinds of magical wonders affecting sex, death, peace, high-mindedness, equality, and beauty. While Volvo became the quintessence of quality in cars, Saab made the most advanced war planes, and Sweden became the world’s second largest shipbuilder. Vilgot Sjoman let naked people behave both unashamedly and playfully in I Am Curious Yellow, Olof Palme became the magnanimous voice for every just cause, income differences virtually disappeared, and long-legged female Vikings raked in gold medals in Miss World contests. There was highbrow drama, too. Swedes committed suicide like crazy, and Ingmar Bergman, in the tradition of August Strindberg, gave the world the images of deepest darkness.

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