New Thinking in Political Economy series
Chapter 1: Introduction
Despite its modest population size, Sweden is an interesting country for social scientists worldwide. Some look at Sweden and see a frightening example of high taxes and a much too generous welfare state. Others point to largely the same things and see a role model. Sweden is or has been known for many different things. Some are myths: for example, Sweden never had the highest suicide rate in the world, but is in fact very close to the OECD average. Others used to be true but are no longer so: Swedish taxes were the highest in the Western world until around 2001, when Denmark overtook us. Recently, one of the most prominent features of Sweden has actually been rapid change: taxes have fallen, globalization has increased, unionization has fallen and inequality has increased. At the beginning of the 1980s, the Swedish economy was a highly regulated and closed economy. Today, Sweden is one of the most globalized countries in the world. Over the past few decades, Sweden has been subject to one of the most rapid increases of globalization and economic liberalization in the world. When a great deal of change takes place over a relatively short period of time, it is easy to lose perspective. Outside Swedish borders, the perception of Sweden is often rather dated and, to some extent, still characterized by the Sweden of yesteryear. Then again, Swedes also become blind to their environment.