Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Swedish Model Gone Awry

I was on the subway today coming back from Stockholm University and heard a Swede complaining about a class he had taken that was just too hard. Another student had complained to a higher-up that there was too much work. Apparently this started a sort of e-mail campaign between all of the students and they went back and forth. Finally, a student apparently decided to throw his two cents in and say that he thought it wasn’t too hard and that everyone else was just not willing to put in the work. Manning up if you will.

The Swede who was relaying this story came with a perfectly Swedish remark, calling this “an asshole response.” His reasoning was that if it is too hard for someone then they should be offered help, not told to work harder. So if just one person complains about something being too hard this Swede believed that everything should be brought down to that level. The lowest common denominator if you will. Dumb everything down until everyone can succeed. Or at least think they can. It’s an incredible mindset and one that I just can’t agree with.

When I overheard this story my reaction was exactly the opposite of the storytellers. Now granted, I wasn’t in the class, hell, I was just eavesdropping so I may have missed some important details but the basic premise remains that Swedes all too often expect their problems to be solved, not through hard work, but by someone helping them. It’s incredibly interesting to me; maybe it’s the stereotypical American ideal of hard work leading to the perfect life and the American dream. I believe in that to some extent. I’d much rather work hard for something than have someone come bail me out when things get a little tricky. It’s a much more satisfying way to live.

I think this all goes back to the Swedish Model, the social welfare state that Sweden has tried to create. While there are obviously definite benefits like free schooling, there are drawbacks in that the people that make up this welfare state too often expect someone to bail them out if things get tough. There has to be a limit to how much help people receive because otherwise people take advantage of the system. Sweden just had to enact tougher checks on one of their programs involving paid leave for parents of sick children because too many parents were lying about their kids being sick and taking advantage of the system. Ridiculous.

Now obviously there are a lot of Swedes who toe the line and only use the assistance offered when they really need it. But at the same time, some don’t. It’s just abuse of a system that is too intent on making sure everything is fair and caters to the whim of anyone who thinks life is just a bit too hard.


  1. A good article there!

  2. Some people might not agree, but I just think it is an interesting phenomenon that seems very "Swedish"

  3. It all goes back to the idea that everyone in Sweden should be the same so that everyone can be lagom and not too clever or too dumb (not too rich, not too poor etc..).

  4. It's true. I think an entire social dissertation could be done on the Swedish phenomenon of being "lagom".

  5. Why are you obsessed with stereotypes? If i go to america and see a fat man with a cowboy hat
    screaming: "FAGGOT!!" at me, im not going to assume all americans is like that. And what is this "lagom"? I know what it means but ofcource that is bullshit. I don't want to be "lagom" I want to be rich as hell and live a life in luxury and so would 99% of other swedes, that is just another stereotype.

  6. because stereotypes are intriguing. sometimes based on truth. sometimes complete nonsense. they give an interesting view into a country's culture.

    lagom is inherent in life here. maybe it takes getting away from this culture to realize that but Im going to stick with it and say that stereotype is most definitely based on some truth.