A Thousand Swedes Ran Through the Weeds…

…chased by one Norwegian. When I was a kid, my idea of ethnic conflict was Swedes vs. Norwegians, and I always felt sorry for those poor effeminate Swedes, who were neutral during WWII. Sweden may be too far gone for it to matter, but its ruling Social Democrats suffered a rare defeat today, and a new government will be formed by the Moderates. The New York Times expresses the problem that gave rise to the upheaval with characteristic delicacy, where such matters are concerned:

The party’s defeat reflects a feeling not only that Mr. Persson has become complacent in office, but also that Sweden’s celebrated social welfare model, with its high tax rate and generous benefits, has encouraged too many people to stay out of work for too long.

A concrete instance of what that means comes much later:

Magnus Rosander, a 44-year-old computer engineer who said he had a nervous breakdown after losing his job four years ago and had not worked since, said he had voted for the Social Democrats and was worried about what would happen under the Moderates.

“I’m dependent on social welfare,” Mr. Rosander said outside a subway station in central Stockholm. “If Fredrik Reinfeldt wins, we will get less money and he will force me to work even though my doctor says I’m not ready yet.”

As I said, it may be too late to make much difference for Sweden, but I’m pretty sure it will be a good thing for Mr. Rosander if he goes back to work without waiting any longer for his doctor to say he’s ready.

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