NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

In The 21st Century, Sweden Embraces Even More Socialism

July 20, 2000

While most of the rest of Europe is trying to slash away at the public sector and privatize, Sweden is trying to expand its already substantial welfare state. For example, there is a move on to provide every Swedish senior citizen with a personal assistant.

  • During the past 30 years, the country's annual tax receipts increased to 51.6 percent of gross domestic product -- the highest in the world -- from about 40 percent.
  • Nearly one-third of the working population is employed by the public sector and an estimated 20 percent of the nation's corporate revenues are generated by state-owned companies.
  • The average Swedish worker pays 64.4 percent of combined direct and indirect taxes on his salary -- while the capital gains tax is 30 percent.
  • A 1998 report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranked Sweden number 15 on its list of the world's richest nations -- down from third place three decades ago.

Most of this can be explained by the fact that the country's Social Democrat Party has had a virtual monopoly on political power for the past five decades. "So many people wrongly think that taxes are a bad thing," comments a Swedish millionaire. "But if you use tax money carefully, if you spend it wisely, it can help business," he adds.

Source: Almar Latour, "The Outlook: Sweden Seeks Utopia From Tech Boom," Wall Street Journal, July 17, 2000.


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