What’s the Matter With Sweden?

The following story was related to me by a former Governor of Minnesota, who was of Norwegian descent. A number of years ago, a Norwegian dignitary (the Prime Minister, I think) visited Minnesota. Talking to our governor, the Prime Minister tut-tutted about Minnesota’s crime rate, saying that there was much less crime in Norway. Minnesota’s governor replied, “We don’t have a crime problem with our Norwegians, either.”

That anecdote came to mind when I read, in the London Times, “Sweden’s slide from peaceful welfare state to Europe’s gun-killings capital.”

Today, Sweden is Europe’s capital of gun homicide. Last year, according to the Swedish national council for crime prevention, 63 people were shot and killed: more than double the European average and, per capita, multitudes higher than London or Paris.

… The effect on Swedish society has been striking. As well as the lives lost, the violence has brought down a government, changed laws and policies, and become the biggest talking point in a country that once prided itself on its reputation as a peaceful welfare state.

Violent crime will do that, although, to be fair, Sweden’s homicide rate is considerably lower than ours. But it is now significantly higher than homicide rates in quite a few other European countries, including Norway. Why is that? Have Swedes suddenly started getting violent? No.

It has also kicked the hornet’s nest of integration. Today, one fifth of all people living in Sweden were born outside the country.

That is an extraordinarily high number.

The overwhelming majority of the people involved in gang crime are young Swedish men who were born abroad or whose parents or grandparents emigrated to the country.

So Sweden’s crime problem isn’t really about the Swedes. This culprit, though, is familiar:

For too long, many have argued, the authorities ignored the rising problem with gang violence because they wanted to avoid being seen as racist, or because it simply felt as if it were happening in the highly segregated suburbs, far away from the comfortable lives of policymakers.

Some other Scandinavian countries have seemingly done a better job of dealing with crime and immigration issues:

Some have seized on the example of neighbouring Denmark, which has had some success in combating gang violence. In the past decade, according to the authorities, the number of gang members has fallen by a third. Swedish politicians have argued that Denmark, which has a much more openly hardline attitude towards immigration and integration, beat the gangs through harsher sentencing and the introduction of stop-and-search zones.

Of course, a liberal paper like the Times can’t sign on with that approach, although it does later give space to a Swede who says that more social programs are not the answer.

On the whole, one gets the sense that the crime issue is of concern mostly because it favors “right wing” political parties:

Even before the conservative Moderate Party, in alliance with the populist right-wing Sweden Democrats, toppled the Social Democrats in elections in September, every other politician and authority figure had been falling over themselves to appear tough on crime.

Because voters foolishly believe that being tough on crime will lead to less crime.

Western Europe’s crime problem is largely a consequence of those countries’ immigration policies. When voters have had an opportunity to express an opinion on whether the benefits of mass third-world immigration outweigh the costs, their answer has usually been “No,” as was recently the case in Sweden.

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