The sun rose at 4:35 this morning and set at 9:36. That is 17 hours and one minute of daylight. It has been in the high 80s – low 90s of late, which is too hot for nearly every Swede I talked to. Above 28 C., which is 82 F., they start keeling over. Basically things could not be better here weather wise. Of course, if we don’t get some rain like at least once a week, things will begin to dry out and that’s not good. People here don’t really have sprinkler systems or even sprinklers but the lawns are green so there must be the occasional rain. Seventeen hours of sun on the water heats it up and today when I went swimming for the first time this year the water seemed considerably warmer than last week even. Of course further north the days are even much longer. In Kiruna, for example, the sun rose at 1:24 a.m. and set at 11:50 pm. Hope the folks there have good dark shades in the bedrooms.
The balance between the long summer days and the long winter nights must affect the politics here in Sweden. Tonight on the news there was a guy from the Moderate Party, which is the Swedish equivalents of the Republican Party in the U.S. (though the most moderate Moderate is still so far left of Obama that he would need a drone to even find them). The news reporter asked this Moderate his opinion about the new leader of the Social Democrats, which the Swedish equivalent of the Democratic Party in the U.S. In answer to the question, the Moderate did not take a shot at the Social Democrat, challenge his birth certificate, question his views on gay marriage or other sound bite material. Instead he said he thought he was doing the right thing by focusing on job creation. These are the two largest parties in Sweden and in the next election (which campaigns last only 6 weeks) they will be competing for control of the government and thus Sweden’s political future, and the guy is praising the opposition. Maybe he would’¨t have been so complimentary in the dead of winter when a storm has stopped the trains from running, but his response was in keeping with the weather.
Which brings me to something I have been meaning to get to: Sweden’s economy. Like most countries, Sweden’s economy is a mix between free market and state control. Most industry is private, unlike other European nations such as Austria, Finland and Italy.
Sweden was neutral in both world wars so was not a pile of rubble after 1945, which left it in great shape compared to the rest to Europe. Things rolled along rosily until a real estate bubble burst in 1991 which caused a serious recession. Everyone suffered, except of course the people who created the problem–bankers and financial institutions. Yes, Sweden is afflicted by the same parasites as the U.S. though they haven’t caught casino fever like the guys on Wall Street. Swedish banks are much more conservative and there was a flap on the news tonight that criticized banks for making most of their income from mortgages and not other services and this has the citizenry upset.
A big difference between Sweden and the U.S. is that unionism is very, very strong here. 70% of all workers are unionized and there has to be strong cooperation between government, unions and corporations. In the U.S. the cooperation is between the government and corporations only and that is causing big problems for workers. White collar workers in Sweden are as unionized as blue collar workers and the strength of unions guarantees that the social welfare programs are not going anywhere, even in a globalized economy.
What all this proves, I don’t know, except maybe that I have a touch of sunstroke.