Some things in Sweden are indistinguishable from the U.S. This post is not about that. There are three recent developments that seem to contrast very greatly with life as we remember it in America.
Item #1: One of the largest political parties in Sweden is the Social Democrats. They basically were the leading party in Sweden since the 1930s and they more or less established the free market socialism that exists today in the country. Today the Moderates are in power and they are slightly right of center. The Social Democrats are slightly left of center. Anyway, the leader of the Social Democrats is a guy named Håkan Juholt. He is currently on a tour throughout the entire country (each major city) on a “forgiveness tour.” He will be in Halmstad this Saturday and people are invited to come and pepper him with questions about his recent misdeed. The misdeed? Some of his staffers used his expense account money to pay for a second apartment for him in Stockholm. There are no political contributions in Sweden. All money used to campaign for office is taxpayer funded. All money to run the government is taxpayer money. So, using this money to pay for Juholt’s second apartment really put the country’s collective knickers in a twist. There were demands for him to resign and he had to face a long meeting with the party’s leaders and barely held onto his position. One of the stipulations to permit him to remain in office, evidently, was to take this forgiveness tour to make it up to his constituencies across the country. So, he is going from city to city where meetings are held in arenas and theaters and people can come and talk to him and ask him embarrassing questions. I cannot conceive of something like this happening in the U.S. First of all, something like an apartment expense pales in comparison with the daily corruption that goes along with the morning coffee in Washington. Second, anyone who is found out for something is hounded out of office unless they have industrial strength chutzpah like David Vitter the senator from Louisiana. This guy Juholt not only retained his job but he is making amends to the entire country on a personal basis. Unbelievable to me.
Item #2: I learned today that it is illegal to direct ANY advertising of ANY kind to children under the age of 16. A local preschool, where, incidentally, Mariette has worked as a substitute teacher, was just nailed for sending out advertising to kids to entice them to come to their school. Not only do they have a preschool but have older kids that go up to age 15 or 16. The school sent out invitations to kids of that age to come to a party at the school and some kid’s mom saw that this was just an attempt to lure kids to the school and get them to switch to that school. This was in the paper this morning and is a huge flap. No advertising to kids below 16. Come to think of it I have yet to see a commercial for Cocoa Puffs on Swedish TV. And Joe Camel was probably skinned alive at the border if he ever tried to get into Sweden.
Item #3: Many people have a perception of Sweden as being a morally liberal country. And in a sense, i suppose it is. In fact it is not illegal to be a prostitute in Sweden. Apparently there was one in Halmstad. This woman and her pimp boyfriend came up with the genius plan of selling sexual favors for money. World’s oldest profession type stuff. Somehow they got busted by the cops. They are not going to trial, however. But the police found records of 17 men who visited the woman and paid her for sex and all 17 of them ARE going on trial, publicly, for paying money for sex. In Sweden, that is a crime, but furnishing sex for money is not. I think this is a reflection of Sweden being the most egalitarian society on earth. Fully half of all elected officials are women. Sweden’s policy seems to be an interesting deterrent to prostitution.
Oh, yeah, Item #4: I just read a poll on Yahoo! saying that 25% of Americans say they are going to have to work until the are 80 before they can retire. For most Swedes, life begins at 65 and Mariette is going to write about that soon. Hopefully tomorrow. People here retire at 65 and then party for the next 20 (or 30) years it seems.
This just in, Item #5: Elder care. For years and years, elder care in Sweden was state run. No one made a kronor from it. In more recent years, private elder care companies were allowed and are state funded. The viewpoint that people ought to have a choice prevailed and private companies came into existence. Now, things are blowing sky high because some of these private companies are making profits. Because these private companies are state funded, people are up in arms. In the interests of cutting costs, one company was not changing patients’ diapers until they were completely saturated with urine. Yuk! A guy at another company was found funneling company profits to a vacation paradise somewhere. Again, knickers became twisted all across the land. The Christian Democrats and Moderates (those to right of center) are really taking heat because they were the ones supporting the privatized facilities. Mariette was watching a show on this just now and there were retired people in the audience really ticked off about people making a single kronor of profit off the elderly. How different from the U.S. where old people are fish in a barrel.
Okay, that is enough for one day’s news from here in the Worker’s Paradise.