Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Swedish Tax Burden

Sweden no longer has the highest tax burden in the world as reported on the radio, by some Danish media, and of course – The Local. Just the second highest. Denmark claimed the top spot after the "conservative" government here in Sweden lowered the taxes. As promised.

So Denmark sits atop the list with a tax burden of 48.4%. Sweden is reported to have a burden of 47.8%. But don't worry Reinfeldt says that that is old information and it is actually below 47%. Wooooo.

The tax burden isn't just the tax rate. It includes all the exciting taxes you might pay. My understanding that the burden includes your income tax, your tax on food, your tax on booze, your tax on everything. Which puts it up at nearly 50%. Ridiculous.

That means that a Swede is just barely living for himself. Just barely. When I say living for himself I’m talking about what a person gets to keep income-wise. Seeing as how a person works and gets paid they should get to keep some of that money. I would argue a clear majority of it. In my opinion 53% is not a clear majority. Taxes I understand. They happen. But when a tax burden is reaching nearly 50% that means that nearly half of what I do goes somewhere else. More importantly, not to me.

With a tax burden of around 47% only 53% goes to the individual, the rest obviously going to whatever the Swedish government deems fit. That blows my mind. That’s a whole lot of work that I’m doing for other people. That’s a whole lot of my hard-earned money that is going to other people.

What I wonder is if this has an impact on the working environment and a workers attitude. I would imagine it does. A sense of personal responsibility comes when you get to keep what you earn. And it follows, maybe idealistically but, that if you do good work you get better paid. Which is more money in your pocket. So if so much money is going into the governments pocket is there an economic incentive to actually do good work? Is this why customer service struggles in this country? Is this why I have had numerous people at cash registers talk on their cell phone while I paid? Is this why I am never greeted when walking into a store? Is this why I have to search for someone for help when I need it?

Welcome to Sweden. The country with only the 2nd highest tax burden.

95 comments:

  1. It's very noticeable that you're (half) American. As you said that is a whole lot of money that goes to the government but that's also a whole lot of tax money that comes back to the tax payer in numerous forms. For example, free education, free daycare centers, building of those schools and daycare centers, maintenance of streets, buildings and public spaces etc. A lot of these things Americans need to pay for. So even if it's not tax that's a whole lot of money that you don't get to keep. And that's whole lot of people who can't afford these things. Are we just going to not give a shit about these people? I'm glad this is how the Swedish society works.

    And I don't believe in the reasoning that the high taxes is worsening people's contributions at work. I just don't buy it. Besides I don't think "customer service struggles" in Sweden. What you described was a typical grocery store in Sweden (except for that talking-in-the-phone-part, which I don't see often) but mostly when you walk into a clothing store, or practically any other kind of store for that matter, you're greeted and the employees are glad to help you and will ask you if you need any. This is how it is in Gothenburg, at least. You may be hesitant to believe it since you're used to the Stockholm-attitude but you better believe it...

    RObban

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  2. Hello there! Do your really think that the taxes you pay just disappear? Seriously.

    A few examples on where your money actually goes:


    Hospital (have you ever had to pay any hospital costs?)

    education

    social care

    culture

    energy

    The whole list you can find here:

    http://www.scb.se/Grupp/allmant/BE0801_2006K02_TI_09_A05ST0602.pdf

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  3. @robban - I understand there are plenty of things that get paid for by the taxes. but I also like having the option in the US to pay for things on my own. make my own decisions about what i value most and about what I am willing to pay for.

    And I think it is interesting that the arguement is that we are always supposed to take care of those people. Those being the poor. And to an extent I agree. Which is why I choose to donate money to certain causes. Which is why I have volunteered ever since I was in high school. Which is why I make a conscious decision as to how I help. I do not think the government should always be there to bail people out. Like what you see happening in the US with the government bailing out everyone who bought houses they can no longer pay for. safety nets are good. to an extent. and 47% is way too big of a safety net.

    and about the customer service. I have never been greeted when walking into a store here in Stockholm. Never. I can't speak for Göteborg. However, if you ever read a travel book on Sweden you will find a resounding critque of Swedish customer service. Maybe Göteborg is excepted.

    @sandra - come on now. I said that it went to the government and what they demmed fit. I am well aware that those taxes pay for all kinds of different things.

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  4. Those 47% of tax money does not only go to the poor, it's not all safety net for the poor people. Most of it goes to pretty much all people. In forms of free education and all the other things I mentioned.

    As I said it is like that in Gothenburg. Well, I don't read travel books on Sweden (or any country) that often... But to prove my point (and see what foreigners really thought) in this discussion I recently read very briefly on a few travel blogs. On the topic of Sweden. And Gothenburg. One said something like "forget the myth that Swedes are reserved and unpleasant, wherever we went people were open and friendly" and nobody was complaining about any bad service.

    But I believe you when you say that you haven't experienced any of this in Stockholm. Even if "never been greeted" sounds shocking to me, I do believe you. Stockholmers aren't the most pleasant people to deal with. And I do hear often from friends and acquaintances of mine living somewhere else than Gothenburg that they're slightly amazed with how pleasant and nice people and employees at clothing shops etc. are. Anyway, I hope it's not only in Gothenburg it is like this, in all of Sweden.

    Robban

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  5. Remember that this is a country where the social democrats promise to raise the taxes again and that gives them the highest rating in years... No wonder that the conservative alliance dont want to lower the taxes too fast. You should check out www.skattebetalarna.se.

    /Daniel

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  6. So why should we employ lot of people collecting our money and then returning it to us in the form of "free" hospitals etc, when they can be spending their day being employed in a much more productive area, rather than just being the "parent" handing out an allowance!
    Is the 47.8% taking on to account the sales tax?

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  7. @daniel - an excellent point. can't imagine there are too many countries when people complain because the taxes are going down. basically what has happened is the conservative government has promised to lower taxes. and delivered on that promise. and they aren't as popular as the party that promises to raise taxes. amazing.

    @anonymous - also an excellent point. and one which I wish I would have brought up myself. the tax system in sweden does lead to a bit of an allowance system with the government acting as the parent. it's an interesting comparison. although I would imagine some people like that the government acts as a parent. it seems kind of overbearing to me.

    and my undersatnding is that the tax burden does include sales tax. and remember this is the average so there are definitely people below, and probably some very rich people well above 50%. which might be why so many rich swedes move out of the country.

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  8. Most swedes think we should aid the needing and offer good healtcare and schooling for everyone. However, these things make up for about a third of the tax. If you add necessary things like justice system and military and throw in a bit of roads and railways you still only account for about half of the total tax burden. Why not lower the total tax burden to 25%, cover mentioned things and still get money over due to positive effects such as lowered unemployment and increased competitiveness for companies?

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  9. Most people in sweden still think that "all the rich guys pay" if your taxes are high. The view is that you should be happy that the goverment gives you 53 % of you salary when you're rich... Very few realized that its the normal, average, working guy that pays the big part of the money wasted on things like hemslöjdsföreningar, presstöd, föreningsstöd, F!, genusvetenskap and other things. On your paycheck you see "income tax" and think that you got away with just 25% taxes and then laugh at all the rich guys that pay 50% and then you get free healthcare from those rich guys. But everyone forgets the whole part of taxes that your company pays on your salary already before you get it (arbetsgivaravgift) so suddenly you realize that you're the guy who pays 50%... And then 25% moms (sales tax) on everything you buy. And if you buy eletricity or gas, you pay extra tax on that. And then more moms on that extra tax again!

    /Daniel

    By the way, I hope you figured out who I am by now. Wanna grab a beer this weekend?

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  10. I may be the only american responding to this post (i can't really tell) except for the halfy, Hairy Swede. Here's the deal--I'm a democrat, I'm voting for Obama God willing, I think Sweden is great for a myriad of reasons, I don't have health insurance, and I'm self-employed. I feel that all this needs to be said, mostly so you all won't think I'm a gun nut holed up in some bunker in western Idaho. As far as taxes are concerned, I agree with Hairy--leave it up to me to pick and choose where I see fit to place my monies. Being poor is a huge motivating factor for me. I should point out that I'm not poor, but the thought of being poor is a huge motivating factor for me. And I have to say, if I didn't have crushing student-loan debt, the cost of purchasing my own health insurance, the cost of presumed child care, etc, etc, I don't think I would be very motivated to change my situation. However, this is all kind of a personal assessment. I definitely wouldn't presume to speak for all americans. Or even the halfies. Although I do agree with them.

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  11. @tobias - good call. focus on the necessities.

    @daniel - also a good point. its amazing how people can trick themselves into thinking that they are getting a free ride. and I'm definitely down for a beer. give me a call.

    @the good dr. - once again some good points. there's nothing wrong with a bit of financial incentive to get you working just a little bit harder. knowing that there is always a government safety net isn't always the best thing for a productive and self-sufficient society.

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  12. A fine example is Astrid Lindgren, the famous Swedish author. She began interested in taxing after she found out her tax rate was more than 100%!

    Personally I pay 5-10% more taxes here than I would in Finland.

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  13. @smek - good point. granted that was a clerical error but still hilarious. and actually led to her writing about the ridiculousness of the tax system in Sweden. I think she turned it into a short story but I'm not entirely sure on that count.

    Now if you're paying 5-10% more here do you think it is worth it? Has your quality of life increased by the 5-10% that you are paying in taxes? Because that seems to be the idea behind all of these taxes. Increasing quality of life.

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  14. I agree that it might be a little much taxes but I'm definitely glad for the free health care, education etc. and I don't want that to change.

    Robban

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  15. I don't really understand or sympathize with hairy's and dr Knightfish's reasoning that you want to choose what you pay for. Tell that to someone who is in huge need of health care but couldn't afford to pay for it. I know a friend who got his leg operated because he couldn't walk normally (don't know the name of what he had). He got a lot of medication and health gymnastics (?), or sjukgymnastik in Swedish. It took him a long time to be able to walk normally. This would have cost a lot would he have been forced to pay for it all. Thanks to the Swedish system where everybody pay taxes so everybody can get free health care he didn't have to pay for anything. If some people didn't "see it fit" to pay some of their income on free health care for everyone and chose not to do so (would they have been able to) free heath care for everyone wouldn't work. So then, I guess you think the American system is better. A system that has led to millions of people with no chance of getting health care or crappy care at the free clinic.

    As I said I agree that the tax burden could be a little lower because not all the tax money we pay goes to stuff like free health care for everyone.

    Robban

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  16. I'm not really itnerested in individual cases of health care problems. because obviously very few people are going to say well tough luck for your friend. but the overall tax burden that the social welfare state creates here in Sweden is mind boggling. So much money that I have earned goes to the government. So much more than is necessary.

    There will always be individual cases, like your friend, or a little boy with cancer, or a young mother who can't pay for medical care. and when looked on at an individual basis then of course everyone would want to help out. but that's not economically feasible unless you tax the hell out of your citizens. which Sweden does.

    and personally Im a fan of the free market. a little competition is good for things. government run organizationa get entrenched in a certain way of doing things.

    plus, I am a healthy person, I make healthy choices. I'm not obese, I don't smoke, do drugs, and hardly drink. so why should I pay for with my taxes for all the dumb choices other people make and then put a huge financial burden on the health care system? I shouldn't.

    and your argument about health care in the US not being availbe to millions of people is just ridiculous. can't always trust the internet. or the media. especially the media here that reports on the US. and also Michael Moore and his shockumentaries. Like Sicko. There are plenty of non-profit options, government run options many of which have excellent doctors, excellent nurses, and excellent treatment. Plus the fact that it is illegal to refuse care to anyone in the emergency room.

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  17. I'm not for a total free market in anything, especially not something as vital as the health care. I wouldn't feel comfortable knowing that my life, if something bad would happen, hangs on private bussniesses that don't have their clients as their prime priority, but their profit.

    One thing I'm totally for, though, is humanism. Your comment about paying for other people's stupid choices actually, almost, chocks me. If someone gets cancer is that due to that persons choices? Well, could be but they're not necessarily stupid ones and there are too many diseases that we as ordinary persons can't control if we get or not. You see paying taxes for free health care for everyone as paying money for other people's stupid mistakes? I can't even begin to understand how you can make that comparison. The idea that all people are equally worth and should all be cared about equeally much is a good enough reason for me to pay taxes for free health care. Even if some of those people has ended in the hospital because of a dumb choice they've made. Not to mention that it has come to handy a lot of times both for me and other people I know.

    Ok, sure, not everyone gets cancer or needs to operate a leg but the free helth care isn't only for such serious diseases or injuries as those.

    Your comment about the media was kind of ridiculous. i don't believe that the Swedish media's reporting is any less trustworhty than the American media's reporting of their own country. Especially not some channels or some documentary filmers, such as Moore that you mentioned yourself. Even if he has some good points. There are a lot of people, even millions, that don't have health insurance in the USA. And a lot of people that can't afford private health care, which by most Americans is believed to be way better than the free clinics in USA. Of ocurse, the better doctors will choose the private clinics - they probably get a lot better paid for less work. Btw, where have you gotten all the inforamtion about the great doctors?

    Robban

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  18. I am not sure why everyone refers the Swedish Health care as "FREE"???
    You are PAYING taxes, which means that it is not free!!
    I agree with Hairy that a little competition would do wonders for the Swedish system, but you have to have the choice of not paying taxes and pay for private sercive or pay taxes and use the Government run system.
    I have to wonder why we have to have the Government as a parent handing out what is best for us...
    You earn money by working and then the government hires a lot of people to collect and redistribute that money back to you, so in other words I am not trusted to spend my own money thet way I see fit. I have a problem with that!!
    BGC

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  19. @robban - Generally speaking, customers are key to improving profits. And the good companies that continue to grow and develop take that into account.

    My comment about paying for the mistakes of others was directed at those who overburden the system with poor choices. As I mentioned those choices include, smoking, drug use, excessive drinking, and obesity. And so yes, some cancers are due to personal choices. Like smoking. But there are multitude of health issues that go along with those choices I just mentioned above. Again. If those people made healthier choices, there would be much less need for the huge tax burden. There is no arguing that. Because a lot of health issues do come down to choice.

    And the media reporting of the US here in Sweden is ridiculous. The majority of major news outlets in Sweden have only mentioned in passing the Republican side of the election in the US. What gets reported here I liberal stuff, that is to say the Democrats view, and anything that is sensationalized enough to make people shake their heads at the US.

    And of course there are some skewed views in the US, like Michael Moors shockumentaries and some of the stuff on the big news channels, but there are so many more choices. And here in Sweden, unless you search through American news outlets, you only get what the Swedish media decides is worthy of the news. Which means the sensationalized stuff. Because it sells. And often times that will include the thing that Sweden believes it does better than everyone else. Like health care. Or the rest of the social welfare system.

    My information about the doctors come from people I know personally who have actually used free services. And you’re right, private health care is believed to be better than free health care in the US. I never said otherwise. Because they are being paid. And there is competition. And it is a free market.

    @BGC – well said. It’s amazing how people can forget. Paying taxes does not make anything free. And the Swedish system is very much like a parent handing out allowance as someone mentioned earlier. Your point about having a choice is excellent. AS The good doctor and I both said, we would prefer to choose where our taxes go. But as Robban has pointed out, there are clearly people who would prefer to live solely with the help of the governments health care. Which is fair enough. Having the choice then of not paying the health care taxes and instead relying on private health care or paying heath care taxes and relying on the state run health system would be fine by me. Because I want the money I earned. And I want to be able to make my own choices what I do with it. The frightening thing is that the Swedes are quite ok with not getting the money they earned. Willing to let the government say what is best, what their money should be spent on.

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  20. Have you read about the hospital or clinic in Las Vegas that in order to save money used the same sprutor over and over again. There are possibilities of thousands of people being infected with HIV or Hepatit C. That is not what I call good customer service. That boggles my mind. That is something that would never happen in Sweden, because here the hospitals don't have to bother with their profits in that way, they get tax money.

    Yeah, you're right some people's diseases or in juries were caused by their own stupid choices but does that eman that we shouldn't have to help them out? We should just say "tough break, man" and let him die in cancer, or what? I mean, it's a very inhumane idea, I think. besides there are a lot of diseases that don't have anything to do with choices, like my friend who was born with a weird leg. Saying that paying taxes for free health care (I will say free because it would cost a lot more to pay for example cancer or blindtarmsinflammation, the latter I have had myself, than to pay for it directly at a private clinic) is paying for other people's stupid choices is not only an insult to all the people who have diseases or injuries which is not their fault (for example, diseases you're born with or injuries from a car accident) it's also a very inhumane view of things. A view that it is "every man for himself". A view that characterizes the American health care system, or the whole American system, if you will.

    The coverage is ridiculous? Of course there is more focus on the democrats (which I'm sure is the case in USA,a s well) because that's where it's been most interesting this election, but saying that the Swedish media only has mentioned the Republicans in passing is not true. For example, there was (and maybe still is) a whole program dedicated to the American election, some weeks ago, on TV4 where they talked both of the Democrats and the republicans. A little more about the Democrats but the Republicans were given plenty of room and were not just mentioned in passing. And not just from a Democratic point of view. And that is not the case in most other Swedish news outlet, either.

    of course there are more choices of TV-channels in USA, it's a country of 300 million people and Sweden is country of 9 million people. That's just common sense. But I have read somewhere that Sweden is one of the countries, if not THE country, with most newspapers or papers as a whole per capita. So there are many choices, both liberal and conservative newspapers. You're making it sound like it's the Soviet Union or China or something. Like there's only one point of view that can be read in newspapaers or seen on TV. But that's bullshit, there are both large liberal newspapers and large liberal newspapaers and smaller newspapers of pretty much any political view. it sounds like the only Swedish "newspapers" you've read are Aftonbladet and Expressen and that the only Tv news you've watched is TV3...

    Your comment about the private clinics versus the free ones in USA is laughable, really. In the Swedish free clinics the doctors are paid, large amounts actually. Yes, there's not much of competition (there are some private clinics, though) but that does not mean the American health care system is betetr than the Swedish system.

    Can the AMerican people choose where their tax money goes, any more than the Swedish people can? I'm sure not it's just that w epay a lot more of them. Det kan man säga avd man vill om but a lot of it goes to good use for everyone. As I've been saying I think the government could lower the tax burden a bit. For example, I hate the high alcohol taxes (as much as I hate Systembolaget and some other alcohol laws in Sweden) and the high taxes on gorceries but the taxes that go to free health care, free education, social care etc. is well spent money in my book. i think if I and some people I know wouldn't have paid taxes for helth care but would have to pay directly when something happens it would have cost more.

    Besides, people can effect what the government spends the tax money on in dbeates, in voting and so forth.

    Robban

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  21. First off, once again we are focusing on individual events in a country of over 300 million people. Show me this happening on a widescale and we have a problem. But there will always be outliers. Sweden is no different. You’re right profit doesn’t outright drive the Swedish healthcare system, but a patient would never have to wait here in Sweden because of the long lines for treatment right? In fact the longest in all of Europe according to Health Consumer Powerhouse which is based in Europe. It would follow that people have died because of this.

    Again we’ve come to individual examples. No one wants to let another person to die. But I don’t think it is in any way fair that if I don’t smoke or drink or do drugs or eat myself to death, that I should have to pay for the myriad of health problems that those who do end up living with. Privatized health care would eliminate that. Because I pay for my own choices. And take responsibility for my own actions. And pay for my own medical expenses.

    And I actually pride myself on the American view of manning up and taking responsibility for oneself rather than relying on others to bail me out. But I do not think it is a view that characterizes the whole American system at all.

    Having lived in the US and Sweden I can say without a doubt that the Swedish coverage of America is very much left leaning. And it makes sense. It is what is interesting to the Swedes who are very liberal. But most news outlets, be it newspapers, TV, or the internet, focus on the liberal side of America. Or the ridiculousness of the right. The Swedish media constantly only mentions the Republicans in passing. The average Swede probably believes the Democrats have the next Presidential election in the bag. Just like they did last election when Bush ended up being re-elected and Swedes were outraged. If they had been given a clearer picture of what is actually going on in the US they would have understood. Regardless of which newspaper or TV. And of course Sweden has plenty of liberal and conservative newspapers. But as we’ve already pointed out numerous times. Being conservative in Sweden is very different than being conservative in the US. So yeah, Swedish news is biased.

    And to be honest, the only time I bought Expressen was when they gave me a free book, I usually stick with Dagens Nyheter online. And I usually stick with SVT news every morning as I eat breakfast. Does that suffice?

    What about that is laughable? That there are legitimate free clinics throughout the US that provide excellent service while coexisting quite well with private clinics? And the interesting thing about private clinics in Sweden is that they are on the rise. Because of ridiculous waiting times.

    And no, Americans don’t choose where the taxes go. I believe that BGC was suggesting an idea for the Swedish people seeing as how there are plenty of people, like yourself, who vigorously defend the health care system. While others might prefer to put their tax money elsewhere. Being able to opt in or out of the health care system then would be a legitimate option in Sweden if the government and the people were so inclined.

    And you’re right about people being able to change policies through voting. You see it happening right now. The original post focused on the declining tax burden. Because of the conservative government that has been voted in. Taxes are being cut. The Swedes are changing things indeed.

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  22. So, you're proud of an "American view" that it's "every man for himself" which allegedly doesn't characterize the American system (even though millions of Americans have no health insurance) and even though you just said that the American system eliminates having to pay for others diseases and injuries (in other words eliminating "everyone taking responsibilty for everyone")?

    i think it's a terrible view. Just because you're healthy you shouldn't have to pay taxes for people that aren't? So it's fair that people with diseases (who already have themselves to take care of) should have to pay taxes for other people with diseases but that healthy people also should pay is totally unfair? Again, far form every disease or injury is caused by the people's own choices so if you're lucky enough to have no inheritable diseases in your family or so lucky that you never get a disease you should be excluded from paying taxes for the not so lucky sick people?

    I'm very proud in the Swedish view that everybody takes responsibility of everybody. And as someone else said in this thread, and as you agreed, the Swedish system is not about some people getting a free ride because it's the rich people who pay all the taxes.

    Of course, the Swedish system is not spotless, no system is, and I've never pretended that it is but I do believe that it's better than the American system.

    Furthermore, I didn't say that the Las Vegas-example I mentioned is a typical example of an American private clinic but I'm sure that in a profit-driven business the companies will do what they can to make profit, if they don't they will face bankruptcy. So even if it's far from the extreme example I mentioned on most clinics I think corners will be cut and are cut in order for the companies to stay alive.

    So, because the Swedish political parties generally are more left leaning it means that Swedish news is biased? In that case, being liberal in USA is not the same as being liberal in Sweden, therefore American news is biased. It just makes sense.

    Well, I was sarcastically referring to that you were giving out a very skewed view of the Swedish media, as if you've only read crappy newspapers and only seen crappy news on TV. But yes, it does suffice...

    All countries' medias will be influenced by people's political (and other) opinions. It's inevitable but it's not nearly as one sided as you make it out to be.

    What was laughable was that you were trying to make some parallel between the relationship of the private and free clinics in USA and the relationship between the American system and the Swedish system. In other words comparing the free clinics in USA with the free clinics in Sweden (when, allegedly, the doctors at the free clinics in USA don't get paid but the Swedish doctors get paid quite a lot) and making it look like because the American free clinics are not as good as the American private clinics (generally speaking) the American system with private clinics is better than the Swedish system. Or did I misinterpret you?

    To sum it up, my view is that the Swedish system (not just the health care system), in which everybody takes responsibility of everybody, is better (in most ways) than the very individualistic American system, in which everyone takes responsibility of oneself. You can't deny that the American system leads to big differences between the rich and the poor people and a very unfair split of the money. There are millions of Americans who live below existence minimum. God bless America and the far superior American system.

    Robban

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  23. Come on now Robban. I do like the American attitude of taking responsibility. Manning up and getting things done without relying on the government. And I still don’t think it is a view that characterizes the whole American system. If it was there would be no social security, there would be no welfare, there would be no medicare or Medicaid. I do think there should be some form of help. But not so much that it allows people to rely on the government every time there is a hint of trouble. Be it unemployment or a health issue.

    And Im glad you are proud of the Swedish system. I love a little pride in your native country. Im proud to be American. And you’re right I don’t think in this system that people are getting a free ride. I never said that they were. In fact it is far from a free ride because of the heavy tax burden people pay. A tax burden that I think is too much. Which was the point of this post. And in the health care discussion that healthy people who make healthy choices take on an unfair burden of those who make unhealthy choices.

    In response to your comment about your Vegas example and the profit motives of companies. I find it so interesting that profit is always assumed to be at odds with the consumer. In my experiences both in working and in studying business and economics that the consumer is the best way to ensure your profits. And that means taking care of them. Not cutting corners. Not just getting them in and out. Good companies that continuously turn a profit do what they can to keep their customers happy and delivering high quality and meeting their needs. That is the beauty of competition. With other options if you don’t meet the needs of the customer you fail. Because the customer moves on.

    And in response to the discussion about the Swedish media. It means that the Swedish media will try to meet the needs of their target market Which is the liberal Swede. As they should. It’s good for competition. Because if Dagens Nyheter doesn’t and Svenska Dagbladet does, people are going to flock to Svenska Dagbladet. So yes, Swedish news is biased when it comes to reporting on the conservative side of America. I doubt there are all that many people who have spent as much time in both countries as I have that will argue that Swedish news focuses more on the liberal side of things in the US. While I don’t like it, and don’t think it is all that good for the international view of America. I understand it. And never once did I say that American media is not biased. There will always be bias in the media to some extent. I just believe it to be quite one sided. Unfortunately.

    And a further response to the discussion about free vs private clinics in the US. I think you did misunderstand me actually on that one. I said “private health care is believed to be better than free health care in the US. I never said otherwise. Because they are being paid. And there is competition. And it is a free market.” I was not comparing Sweden at all. In fact you brought up free clinics in the US and that they are seen in a better light. I was agreeing with you. And listing reasons as to why people believe the private system to be better. When I said they are being paid I meant only that they are being paid more. Not that other doctors work for free. Although some do.

    And finally in response to your summary: I won’t argue with the gap between rich and poor. I will argue with the fairness of it. Fairness is an interesting concept. I mentioned fairness earlier in a comment about it being unfair for people making healthy choices (not smoking, drinking, drugging, fatting) to pay taxes that benefit the those who make unhealthy choices and in turn use the health system the most. This was in response to the healthcare system of Sweden (something that I do not exactly agree with) in which taxes paid by everyone allows for the universal health care system. I think it is important to point that out before someone jumps all over me about what I am about to say about fairness.

    I don’t know why it needs to be fair in the division of money. If someone earns more why should they have to split that money with someone who earns less? Because it is fair? Or in my example about healthcare if someone makes healthy choices why should they pay for the unhealthy choices of someone else? It’s just something I honestly don’t understand. You work hard, you earn your money, it is yours. Whether it is a lot or just a little. You should do what you want with that money. People always bring up the gap between rich and poor. Yes it exists. It creates incentives as the knightfish pointed out. If the good doctor knew that he could just skate by and rely on other tax payers to take care of him if he falls on hard times will he bust his ass to earn more? I doubt it. People respond to incentives. It’s the beauty of economics, and a market economy.

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  24. Actually, that 5-10% off of my salary doesn't cover anything. I'm not a citizen of Sweden and I don't get all those benefits I'm paying for.

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  25. bummer. I actually thought if you had a work visa and all of that stuff you were eligible for some of those benefits.

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  26. Well, it's obvious you and I have two very different views. Not just political. I think what we can do here is simply to disagree to disagree. both systems have cons and pros, although I think it weighs over in favor of the Swedish system (väger över till det svenska systemets fördel). I can't understand how you can have your view, to be honest, but there are people who have that view and one of them obviously is you. there is no point in discussing any further. You prefer the American system I prefer the Swedish system. End of discussion.

    Robban

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  27. Thought I would come in here late and post a couple of things cause it's fun!! I start by saying I live in the US, but haven't always, so I probably don't know much of anything.

    Robban--It seems that there is a little misunderstanding regarding the clinic in Las Vegas--the problem was not necessarily caused my profit driven callousness, but by a procedural error--here is what really happend (not good, but not an overt action either)--if you went in for a wonderful colonoscopy (and already had hepatitus C)--when they gave you multiple sedative injections they unfortunately used the same syringe (changed needles everytime), but since they were using multiple use vials of the sedative, some of your Hep C could have been transferred to the vial by reusing the syringe (with a new needle). Now I come to the clinic and they use a clean syringe and a clean needle, but draw the sedative from the same vial and suddenly I'm infected.

    The point of this is that things are not always as easily diagnosed as they seem. Much like different cultures being unable to fathom how another culture can operate in a way that is so foreign to them.

    I personally think it is silliness to pay a high tax rate so that the government can provide for me, but that is the culture here. We do pay taxes (about 25%) and we do get thing provided by the government (roads, police, education etc.--but no healthcare). We (as Americans) bitch about how much tax we have to pay but we have no idea where we stand globally in how much tax we pay(only Iceland and Ireland are lower), --our culture is to "Get'r Done" and while I don't like to pay for deadbeats, it is more important for us to feel we are paying for ourselves--I don't want someone to take care of me--we're just different.....and that's OK (sometimes!)

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  28. @robban - agreed

    @anonymous - well said. a voice of reason.

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  29. Robban- This is the first time I agree with you, a hundred percent. Of course we should help one another!!

    Hairy- You are frightening me.
    First of all you are saying that you don't care about individual cases, and then all you have to come with is individual cases! Family members who knows doctors, friends who have visited nonprofit clinics and so on.

    Come on now, do you think that Swedish news are more biased than American, or any other news in the world? why?

    And as robban stated, you are one of the lucky few who never gets sick, god bless you. And may all the rest suffering from hemophilia, dementia and skin cancer burn in hell for their bad choices.

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  30. @sandra - Im all for helpingeveryone. And I thnk you should help people. I dont like the government mandating that I help people.

    and my example of an individual case was simply a response to robban asking me where I got my information. so I answered

    and I never said that swedish news is more biased than any other country. I did say that it is biased toa liberal side when reporting American news. which is very different.

    and I am very lucky abot not getting sick. but my point about other making unhealthy choices do not necessarily include those things that just happen like hemophilia for example. but it is a fact that people who make unhealthy choices burden the health care system more than others. so those people who make healthy choices, in the Swedish system, are paying more money for those people than for those who don't make unhealthy choices.

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  31. hairy: fair enough, your thoughts makes more sense when you extrapolate

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  32. it's true... sometimes when I respond to the comments I just respond to what has been said previously without explaining what I have responded to. in these long discussions I should probably do a better job of explaining what is being responded to.

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  33. well, Hairy I think that you are wrong in saying that those who make a lot of money shouldn't pay for those who are earn less. I don't think its fair for those who are por because they have no chance to get rich. If they have no money-they can't pay for graduation-and they get no job. So a dumb kid lite George W Bush can graduate even though he is dumb just because his daddy is rich and a smart kid from the slum can't just because he can't pay for school. Poverty leads to unemplyment, criminality and often drugs and it is not a choice you make willingly. Therefore you can't say "suit yourself, dumbass!"

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  34. so if I work hard, earn a lot of money the government should tell me I have to help other people? I would much prefer to have that choice on my own. start scholarship funds, donate money, volunteer. I don't want the government mandating how I use my money, that I earned. I feel confident that I can be trusted with it.

    and the Bush argument just wasn't that compelling. it's the standard european remarks about bush. they get old.

    and your comment about poverty - I would argue that criminality and drugs oftern are a choice you make willinglig. everyone has the capacity to make a decision. and some people choose crime and drugs. so sometimes you can say, in all fairness, suit yourself dumbass. not always. but sometimes.

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  35. I'm sorry about bringing up Bush...^^
    I just wantet to state that it's not that easy and when you are in a situation being poor it's much harder to lead a better life. I'm not saying that it's impossible just that there is so much that comes with povety. It's not a coincidence that a lot of undeveloped poor countries have a lot of drugs and criminality. The thing is there got to be a way to help these people climb up from the bottom. Not just give them money. But a way to help them help themselves. But if you have to pay for the school to get an education it leads to a dead end. So the rich becomes richer and the pour stays poor and its not like all your dreams can come true. USA has a lot of pour people and thats a fact but it seems like a lot of people seem to ignore it and say
    "suit yourself dumbass".

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  36. @anonymous - the whole thing about bush is just a bit ridiculous. He averaged a C+ at Yale. One of the best universities in the world. Granted, not hugely impressive grades. But not the marks of an imbecile. And in the old Swedish system that would be a G bordering on a VG. He later received an MBA from Harvard Business school. Just something to think about.

    are you suggesting then that we not give them money as long as education is free? because earlier you said that those who make al ot of money should pay for those who earn less. I just want to clarify. they are two very different statements.

    and I would argue that if everything was handed to those less fortunate there would be no financial or economic incentive driving people to want to pull themself out of poverty. and financial incentives are very powerful.

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  37. I just can't give up on this discussion. Sorry, hairy...

    I got to agree with anonymous here. i do think that richer people should have to pay some tax money to those less fortuned. I think this is part of the foundation of values on which the Swedish society stands. It's just basic. In Sweden that is and am I glad that it is.

    How many do you think donate money to poor people? Not nearly enough, that's for sure. If a lot of people were doing this the situation would be a lot better.

    As for the "suit yourself, dumbass"-discussion that you're having, I agree with anonymous. Most poor people do not want to be doing crimes or dealing drugs. They're practically forced to. If you can't afford education and it's very hard to get a job and they have to provide money for their entire family what are you supposed to do? You can't say "suit yourself, dumbass" unless you give these people other options. I really don't care for that kind of attitude. Arguing that if we help those people with money bidrag from the state, from our salary, they will lose the will to fight on to make their situation better is just plain selfish and lazy, I think. And a bit ignorant and even mean, actually. Do you know how hard it is to get out of situations like that? Is it fair to demand that they have to work like crazy to get out of poverty and get a "more normal" life, and a lot of the times not even succeeding, just because they were born into a poor family in a poor neighbourhood filled with street criminality? I can't see how, at least.

    Laqst but not least, you argue that you want to help people in need for yourself, by making your own choices, but later on you argue that giving them money would give the poor people less will and determination to get out of poverty. then why should you pay money to them? Why should you even give them money, of your own free will, when doing so will make them less eager to get out of poverty and thus, worsen their situation? It seems like you don't even think you should donate money to poor people , by your own choice. It seems like you don't want the government to take part of your salary and use it to give bidrag to poor people because you just want to keep your money. Then why do you argue that you want to keep it so you can choose your own ways of giving money or reaching out to the poor? What way did you mean?

    Robban

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  38. Oh man you’re killing me Robban. But no worries. But this is probably it from me on this discussion.

    I’m all for some taxes, There has to be some sort of safety net. I mentioned that earlier. I just don’t think that burden should necessarily fall so heavily on the rich. Seems like the old Robin Hood steal from the rich and give to the poor and somehow that is ok. While a romantic story, not really how I would like to live my life.

    Plenty of people donate, but you’re right. Probably not enough. Not going to argue with this at all actually. Donating money was a personal opinion of mine, but there are plenty of other ways to help improve poverty. Volunteer. Donate food, clothes, books, anything. Or innovate. Make the world a better place by busting your ass and coming up with something cool that makes life better for people.

    I’ll be honest here I was just assuming that anonymous meant using drugs. Which drove me nuts because everyone has a choice when it comes to that. But dealing drugs is something I didn’t consider. But there have been a some studies done, most notably in the book Freakonomics, about drug dealing. Turns out it’s not very lucrative for the majority of drug dealers. In fact only a select few make a lot of money. So clearly, instead of just handing out money to try to avoid drugs problems and poverty, Freakonomics should be handed out.

    Anonymous was the first to use suit yourself dumbass. I only referenced that when I said “some people choose crime and drugs. so sometimes you can say, in all fairness, suit yourself dumbass. not always. but sometimes.” And sometimes you can say that. And should. Some people make dumb choices. And some people need to learn to get themselves out of it rather than looking for a handout. I like self reliance. I value it.

    And I still do believe that economic incentives play a powerful role and that handing out too much money will lead to a benign group of people who aren’t willing to work quite as hard to better their situation as they would if they received less. You don’t agree. That’s fine. I don’t know how to prove it. Although economics on a whole does wonders for proving the power of incentives. Especially financial ones.

    In response to getting out of a situation of poverty. No I don’t know how hard it is personally. But I am of the opinion that everyone has choices to make and can work there asses off to make things happen. The American dream. And sometimes it doesn’t work. But a lot of times a whole hell of a lot of work and determination does pay off. I just don’t buy into this idea that there is always something bigger at work in certain issues, like poverty, that are working to keep people pushed down. But I also don’t think the best way of solving it is to just hand out a bunch of free money. I don’t know what the answer is.

    The job thing has always kind of bothered me actually. There are always jobs available. Sometimes it is harder to get one than other times. But when it comes down to it there are always some sort of jobs available. Sometimes really shitty ones. But jobs. And of course there are going to be people who just can’t do it. For various reasons. Or choices. But the American unemployment rate generally hovers around 4-6%. That’s pretty low so people are finding work. So it comes down to what you are willing to do. And in my opinion a crappy job working for minimum wage is better than crime.

    In regards to helping people on my own and my comments about the impact of the Swedish system on incentives. I want it both ways. And I think I can have it both ways. Knowing that the government is always there to bail someone out is a lot different than knowing that I might be there to bail them out depending on my personal choices. So while I might be willing to start a scholarship fund, I might not be willing to hand out a bunch of money because you are unemployed for 6 months. Or I might be willing to fly around the world with it. But it is my choice. But the Swedish government will make sure that you have money for school and for unemployment and for any other mishap that might befall you. And that could lead to some serious lack of drive. Or at least an overreliance on the government safety net. And here is a nice post by TigerHawk which was recently brought to my attention by JEP about risk and social welfare and all sorts of other exciting things (more in line with what I believe but you might get a kick out of it Robban)

    I think I might have to bow out of this discussion gracefully though. My views are clearly not going to jive with most Swedes. And that’s fine. I don’t understand how you could live your life wanting to always have help from the government and being willing to pay so much money just in case you are the one to need it. And it seems like plenty of people won’t understand why I am willing to take my chances and don’t want that safety net there and would rather spend my money as I please. Some people don’t agree with me.

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  39. No system is perfect !-remember that. I am origianly from Serbia and I have been in the United States for 6 years. The country that I am comming from has been destroyed with war and economic santions. I am sure that you heard about Milosevic and his regime. 10years ago an average worker is Serbia use to make $60/Month after tax. Which is below the line of poverty. Now, I am in the United States, the richest county in the world and I see Los Angeles full of homless people, Santa Monica full as well. I didn't see homeless in Serbia... something is wrong !?!#$ People work 50-60 hours per week just to pay the bills.
    America is for "swimmers". If you don't know how to swim..you will stay on the street. America is about "business owners"(employers), not about slaves (employees). A business over with income of $450.000/year pays less taxes then me who makes $40.000, because the business ovener can "write-off" all expences: food, gas, car maintanace etc as a "business expences" and I can't. What is so United about United States? When you are healty you don't care about health insurance, but when you become 70 y/o and no one want's to sell healt insurace to you..then you will understand what "social-democracy" is. When you become 55y/o and you stay without job, because your employer hired someone younger and cheeper..and you stay homeless because you cannot aford your mortgage..you will understand what "social-democracy" is. When you work 50-60 hours a week as a "worker" and you can not send your kids to good school, because you don't have enough money for it..then you will understand...
    The problem with healt insurace in the US is that they don't see it as a something humain..something needed. They see it as a "business" and that is wrong.
    Someone said "the capitalist will sell rope to you..when he sees that you are about to hang yourself". Should I talk about level of crime in the US? Can you let your kids play apfront of the building?

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  40. and yet you still made a choice to move there. interesting. but as you point out, no system is perfect.

    as I've already mentioned, I believe in the individual. I don't like the idea that someone needs to take care of me.

    while I don't really agree with your comments a lot of people would. especially swedes. so fair enough.

    your comment about crime levels and letting kids play outside is absurd though. some areas you can't. you're right. but I would say that the majority of the US is perfectly safe for a child to play outside.

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  41. oh yes, the tax IS ridiculous in sweden, in my opinion, especially when i come from a very low-tax country in asia. with almost 50% of income taxed, i do not see how me and my child will gain from the benefits in sweden. well, unless i get very very very sick eg needing organ transplants every year! or are there any other benefits that i can claim that i do not know about? ;P maybe that can be an idea for your future posts. :)

    newbie

    p/s: i absolutely love sweden so far, except the tax.

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  42. In study after study the scandinavian countries tops lists of being "best country to live in" and a big part of making that possible is the tax system. Now well to do people will always complain about the unfairness of income redistribution (and they do have a point) but I don't see any reason changing a winning formula.

    Furthermore Hairy don't dismiss the Serbian guy with "yet you choose to live there" thats, besides being incredibly ignorant, exactly what you are doing.

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  43. you're right. plenty of people like ths system. and in plenty of comments I acknowledge that and simply state that I dont agree with the high taxes or the heavy use of social services. and if it the swedish people like it then by all means, stick with it. but I will continue to disagree with it. Id also like to point out that at this point in my life I am anything but well to do. Unfortunately.

    in regards to the serbian guys comment, you're right. I am living here. And taking it all in. for better and worse. And commenting on it all in this blog. I try, however, to not make blanket statements like it is unsafe for children to play outside in a country of 300 million people. There is a difference.

    but it was maybe a bit harsh. Ill admit that. Becuase no one likes hypocrisy

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  44. Hello there:

    I'm so glad to find an American's commentary re: Sweden, as I've scoured and scoured expat sites looking for help, and cs.com is a little frenzied. I'm working in Arvika, and having just received my visa and work number, I am looking for the appropriate manner in which to file my income tax. Sweden or America? Advice?

    Best,

    Christy

    P.S. I'm a little embarrassed to be asking this question even though I haven't read your blog yet - but because I don't have wireless, I always take care of what DEPENDS on DSL first, then I just read e-mail, news, et cetera later. Thanks again - hope your travels are treating you well.

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  45. oh wow... good question.

    here is my suggestion, and keep in mind I am in no way qualified to answer this, but my understanding is that income should always be filed with the country that is paying it out. so if you are working in sweden and earning money in sweden then that needs to be filed in sweden. and the swedish filing system is very easy. they send it to you and you can do it online even.

    but if there is really any confusion check with skatteverket (http://www.skatteverket.se). sweden's friendly neighborhood equivalent of the IRS.

    hopefully that helps a bit.

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  46. I wonder what's your reaction to Agenda Partiledardebatten (if you saw it)? Taxes were talked about almost throughout the whole thing.

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  47. I actually missed the whole thing. To be honest, I had plans to watch some of it but it just didn't happen. I lost focus if you will. Unfortunately.

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  48. @The Hairy Swede: By taking care of yourself you will actually be a bigger medical burden to society, so it is in fact the fat ones that pay for you. Medical treatment for the elderly cost huge amounts of money and from a tax point of view it is good to be a fat but productive smoker.

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  49. so your theory is that the best way is to live an unhealthy life and die young?

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  50. No, you have to work until you have paid off the costs for your upbringing first. For a normal worker the optimal would be to die just as you hit retirement.

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  51. fair enough. thats actually how the retirement age came about. I believe it started ingermany and was set to the average lifespan so that people, in theory, would work until they died.

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  52. Stumbled over your blogg when I was searching for something else on Google. This post is interesting. I left Sweden about a year ago, for Germany. While the tax in Germany is lower than in Sweden there are so many other mandatory fees that you pay that the total sum - Sweden calls it tax, Germany calls it tax plus fees - that you pay before you get your salary in your bankaccount is considerably higher in Germany. Which goes to show that it is as always a matter of how you count, and with statistics you can prove whatever you want to prove...

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  53. that's a good point, I'd be interested to know how Germany defines its tax burden.

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  54. im just browsing through this blog and yes i do not know the exact ins and outs of the american or swedish tax system but just wanted to add my 2 cents in. If i have got it right, the american is living in sweden complaining about the tax system etc etc etc. My questions is why on earth are you living in sweden then (or working) if your so 'unhappy' there. Go back to america then. And yes you are giving the good old american stereotypical speal. After doing studies in psychology I was astounded to learn how individualistic America is it rates as one of the highest countries. So it is very interesting to see when americans speak it is always me me me me and this is what i want and why should i do this and that. Which is why european countires work differently from america in every which way. thank god.

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  55. if you contiue browsing through this blog youll find that I rarely complain about the tac burden. although I will say, even if I did, I would fit right in with most Swedes, who also complain about the tax burden.

    The whole point of this blog is to look at the differences between Sweden and the US. That means sometimes I will complain. And sometimes I won't. And sometimes I will just write about ridiculous things.

    You are absolutely right about the differences in American vs European society. In America, that individualism leads to people standing up for themselves, getting things done for themselves, not constantly waiting for big brother government to help them. Its something I value quite a bit.

    In terms of your question about why I am here. I am here to test out living in Sweden. Don't worry. I don't intend to stay. Thatbeing said, I never said I was "unhappy" here as you say I am.

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  56. It's Very interesting to see how people seem to be threatened and take offence when something like high taxes is pointed out to them- something Swedes themselves often complain a out. I am probably the same and get defensive. What I doubt though is the figure, just my income tax plus other mandatory fees in Germany comes down to that - but of course it's how you name it. I'd be more interested in what you get to keep than what the tax is. The US would be lower on that list, but so would Germany. Sweden would be Betteroff I believe. In US it's thesystem with mandatory tip that throws me off every time, and all the taxes that are added onto the listed price, which totals up to quite a bit. In Germany we don't have that but instead additional mandatory charges from you salary - things we can opt out of in Sweden.
    Every country has it's issues. All in all I think it adds up to around the same. I am happy to live in Europe because I think we get a lot for our taxmoney but the main reason is much more basic: I likely holiday, 5-6 weeks for everybody is great. That is seriously the main reason why Iwould find life in US hard.

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  57. its true, there ar eplenty of other things that bit einto how much money you actually get to keep. but thats the nice thing about the tax burden calculation. it takes into account all of the various taxes the average person pays. everything from income to taxes on food. it gives a nice base to work from.

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  58. Hairy Swede: See, that is where I spot something strange... It seems the figure is to low to actually have taken everything into consideration. And interestingly enough I have read other reports where other countries are on the top list. There is always a question of HOW you calculate and what you look at. What kind of consumer products the average shopper buys? What some buys? Living situation? Etc... There are separate - additional - taxes you pay if you own a car, there are taxes you pay if you use "luxuary goods" like cigarettes, perfumes etc, but not everybody does - and so forth.

    And regardless, something I wrote about on my English blog just a few days ago; The tip system. This is not a tax but if you are in US you spend a fortune tipping people, while waiters etc Sweden as well as in Germany make enough money to live on. Tip is something you give if someone has done more than you expected, or you round up. In US I always feel cheated because the tip (as well as the tax which is not advertised) is added onto the price I have already based my calculations on...

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  59. @ann-katrin – well the number does come from each countries tax authorities.

    Usually though, Sweden and Denmark are in the top five positions when it comes to taxes from all of the different rankings I have seen. But you’re right, they are most definitely not always ranked as numbers one and two.

    In terms of tipping though, tiping is a choice from a couple of different angles. One is the choice of if and how much you tip. But also it is a choice of whether you go out to a retaurant in the first place.

    I also think it is interesting about the tax not being advertised. And this is most definitely because I grew up in the US. But I feel like here in Sweden, the amount of tax that people pay on goods gets lost a little bit. Whereas in te US, when the tax shows up at the end you know exactly what the rate is that youre paying. Very American, I know. But there you have it.

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  60. I realize that I'm not part of any majority here in Sweden, but I actually want the government out of most things. First off, it's really hard to fire someone here. The fact that you might not be doing your job doesn't cut it, but in my mind it absolutely should. Also, the unions act like they own the businesses they harass. It's disgusting to see unions blocking off peoples businesses when all they're doing is tending to their financial investments in the way that they see fit.
    I want to get out of this country as soon as possible, maybe to the Netherlands or some other place that's a bit more free. To be honest I think we're incredibly dependant on the state here, and it saddens me.

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  61. I definitely agree with the dependence on the state. I think it is unfortunate. I like seeing people tkaing responsibility for themselves rather than always falling back on the government.

    Sweden has a lot of good things about it. But it can be a horribly frustrating country at times. Especially, in my opinion, when it comes to things like employment and union issues.

    Once you have that full time employment status, it seems like you damn near have to kill someone before you get fired. Because you're right. Ive seen first hand how not doing your job isn't enough to get you fired. Unfortunately.

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  62. Check out The Economist "Quality of Life Index" here:
    http://www.economist.com/media/pdf/QUALITY_OF_LIFE.PDF

    Check out Sweden's, Denmark's, and the U.S.'s rankings. If you feel that the way things are done in other countries result in better outcomes, then get the hell out of Sweden.

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  63. now thats the kind of blind devotion I like to see. and people say only americans are nationalistic and unable to see fault in their own country.

    and don't worry, I will get out. eventually. but until then I will continue to form opinions about this country. some good. some bad.

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  64. There's no doubt that Sweden is more successful relatively. No much point in discussing that.

    But US system serves a certain taste. Some like it hot, and want some tension in the society. Want what the rich have, be better than the others and become one and then start fearing the poor.. I think there was some study about the general stress levels in society, scandinavia was low stress, US very high.

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  65. thats the thing... it depends on what people value more. personally I like the individualism, Swedes might not agree.

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  66. Sorta all boils down to control...

    Decisions/control = government or individuals or a mixture

    Money = power of control

    Supplying one side with money hands off responsibility of control. Whomever you trust to manage your life should be given money (which means control).

    Personally, rewards (financial, spiritual, emotional) are awarded to responsible stewardship of resources/time/money/power and it would be a shame to miss out by letting the "sea of mediocrity" (mass majority) collect on them.

    ~Andy~

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  67. absolutely right, and it manifests itself in so many different aspects of life. but the tax question is one of those big ones. how to best spend the money. how to best allocate the money. sweden likes the government. the us likes the individual. both seem to have worked pretty well (aside for a couple of hiccups on both sides).

    two and a half years of being here though and I still like the individual idea.

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  68. Wow, thats awful. I hope I never have to pay that much taxes for anything. Its not my fault other people have a hard time.

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  69. they do take a solid amount of money. its not so fun seeing the paycheck.

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  70. I've read through this post and all its comments and found it very interesting. As a Swede living in the US I think I can relate to the different attitudes and views brought forward here.

    What strikes me the most is why the government is referred to as "they" and not "us" because thats really what it is, its us as a collective society. True I do realise that this might be a very idealistic view but I rather have that compared to a view where the government is something bad.

    On the point of "quality of service" in stores and shops in the US compared to Sweden, I do agree, I can completely understand how americans portray Swedes as very rude. However, remember that this is also a cultural difference of how you expect to be treated, when I arrived here I found it quite uncomfortable having someone waiting my table making sure that my pint was topped up and with my Swedish standards being hypocritically friendly, "sure they just don't care they just have to get a brown nose to get tip". Anyhow, after a while here, coming back to Sweden I kinda miss it. So remember that we are always wearing what Anthropologists call "Cultural Glasses".

    Anyhow, keep up the writing, really enjoy the blog.

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  71. its true, the you vs us phenomenon is a great wya to distance yourself from whatever it is youre criticizing. it happens all of the time and in so many different countries. I suppose sometimes there is an argument to be made for it, but I do quite like your idealistic view.

    and you're also right about the different cultures. but that is what makes it so fun. because no matter where you come from or where youre going, you always have some point of reference. whether that be the customer service of the us as compared to sweden, or the health care system of sweden compared to the us.

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  72. Haaa...ok, no bashing on the American perspective. You say that the taxes comes back to you hogwash. Someone else decides what should be done with your work..not you. And there the objection lies. While I realize that many swedes feel you work for society, it assumes that society as given back to it's people. In the USA, nothing is farther from the truth. School is not free, insurance is insanily expensive, health is not free, retirement certainly is not..you do not have enough money, you are on the street and it is your own darn fault. That is how we look at it.


    What many of us object to is that some people work really hard and others do not. Those who do not work hard, should not receive the same equal portion.

    But there lies the difference in the cultures...but with that said, you can go as high and do as well as you are willing to try for. You want more "fretid". Fine...but do not expect someone else to carry you. Harsh..we do not think so....we think taking someone's money away from them, after they have worked really hard is harsh...OH..just for the political record, I am what they call in Independent in the USA. I belong to no parties...that is big and important.

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  73. hi all, sorry but i haven't read all the comments, but i have recently moved to sweden from the uk, i had to go to hospital and was sent a letter asking for 300kr for visiting, but at the top people are talking about health care being free, i am stuggling to find out where all that tax money goes, obviously some on schools but after that it seems to go thin. also road tax pays for roads, so they arn't covered by income tax

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  74. @Debbie - absolutely right, and therein lies the difference. it is a mindset.

    @Ralph - there is no such thing as a free lunch. or free health care.

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  75. Taxes is an endless discussion in Sweden, we are now again the highest taxed people in world, before Denmark.

    First in the 1950-is taxes in Sweden was 25% of GDP, even lower than USA at that time. We had schools, hospitals, police, military (the 3rd or 4th strongest in the world, could withstand an tactical nuclear attack). Sweden was on it's way to build nuclear weapons but abandoned the project in 1968.

    In 1968, during the Vietnam War, there was a socialistic youth revolution in Sweden and most of the western world, plenty of the 1968-ers became journalists in radio, TV and newspapers, 25% of them communist, but the communist party had only 5% in parliament. Today SVT (Swedish Television) still has many socialist, environmentalist and feminist biased journalists and it shows.

    I agree completely with Tobias comments far above:

    "Most swedes think we should aid the needing and offer good healtcare and schooling for everyone. However, these things make up for about a third of the tax. If you add necessary things like justice system and military and throw in a bit of roads and railways you still only account for about half of the total tax burden. Why not lower the total tax burden to 25%, cover mentioned things and still get money over due to positive effects such as lowered unemployment and increased competitiveness for companies?"

    Most Swedes believe we must have these extremely high taxes to pay for schools and healthcare and they believe the rich are paying for them. That is not true. There is an enormous waste of taxpayers money, plenty of useless programs, red tape, subsides. Well, I can go on and on about it.

    There should be a law that no one should have to pay more than 25% of income in tax and no more than 25% of GDP in tax and then the politicians could fight it out as they like.

    Taxes is not a freedom of choice it is forced on the individual with the threat of violence, jail.

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  76. sorry, but again i just moved here, is the health care system "free" as in paid for by tax here? i went to the hospital in the night, came home with a nice 300kr bill that i cant afford to pay. from what i hear if you don't pay bills they black list your personal number and basically shaft you for life. but i am seriously poor with no job and no money, i cant afford to pay for basic things..

    oh and one last thing, back in the UK we don't pay tax on essentals like childs clothing, bread, etc very basic stuff, is that the same in sweden?

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  77. @Per - that's a program I can get behind. It frightens me when the tax burden starts oving to that 50% mark and people aren't even working for themselves anymore.

    @Ralph - yeah when health care is discussed as free there is the taxes to consider, there are also bills that are included in everything from visits to prescriptions.

    the government though does offer other social programs though.

    as far as I know, everything in this country seems to be taxed.

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  78. Well...the solution is quite simple: move back to America, post haste :)

    Actually, I plan on leaving the good ole US of A and abandoning the joys of competitiveness, rugged individualism, and self-reliance

    We should trade places :)

    As with America as with Sweden:

    LOVE IT or LEAVE IT

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  79. eventually I will leave, but I must say, that I do not agree with the love it or leave it idea. you can love a place and still not agree with every aspect of it and you can love a place and still be critical

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  80. Well, tell we when and we'll switch places ;)

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  81. make me an offer. I need to evaluate what I am getting in return. obviously.

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  82. Well, its only fair that i tell ya. I'm a running from a bookie who's going to break my legs unless I come up with 50G

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  83. I appreciate the honesty. May I suggest however, that you not try to work in marketing, it does't really seem to be your calling.

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  84. There is one aspect of taxes that needs to be mentioned. Not every country in the world has the same GDP per capita. Even when you look at the top 15 countries in the world by income, depending on tax and living expenses, the monthly cash flow varies. What I am trying to say is that, even though people in DK and SWE pay high taxes, the overall medium income is on par with what you get in similarly developed countries. It might even be more than, say, what you get in Germany, Italy or France. So do you lose anything significant by paying high taxes? When you have comparable living expenses and the same medium income, this becomes less and less of a problem. On the other hand you gain many theoretical freebies provided by the state. Maybe I'm wrong, so I would like some input from strret level. I for one was always interested in my netto paycheck, as opposed to the gross income. 50% tax doesn't seem that much of a deal when I am in a position to earn as much as other western (or nordic) Europeans. Here's a decent link on median European income - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/archive/5/59/20080413152822!GDP_nominal_per_capita_world_map_IMF_2008.png

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  85. you lose the autonomy of deciding what you want to do with your money.

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  86. I think Sweden as you described it is like a country version of a university in America. In America, you pay for the universities, but you won't to use all the facilities, or all the school clubs that is subsidized by your own tuition money, and so on.

    American pay less tax, but aren't healthcare cost, gas, schools, and transportation paid from your own pocket a form of tax as well?

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  87. one more thing:

    American system assumes that everybody is just as smart and as capable.

    Swedish system assumes that everybody is just as hardworking as the next person.

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  88. ooh I like the comparison. but you are right, when it comes down to it, they are two very different systems that value very ifferent things.

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  89. There has been an argument in The New York Times where one idea is that having private health insurance will lower mobility, both geographicly as well as workwise. There is no effect of increased risk taking, beacuse you're locked in a job because of the insurance.

    The difference innet income, after taxes and private insurances, isnt't that big when Sweden is compared to the States. You might have an income tax of 37%, and then you have to pay for your kids school etc.

    On the other hand I understand that high taxes aren't good for you personally, since you're probably not going to raise kids and get old in Sweden...

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  90. very true. and when it comes down to it, Im kind of selfish. but, even if I had decided to grow old in Sweden, I really do like the idea of handling my money on my own. I like to decide where that 37% goes as much as I can and within reason. just a personal opinion I suppose.

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  91. Hi everyone. I have enjoyed reading your discussion about healthcare, taxes, etc. My husband and I have been doing some math on the subject to try and compare living in Stockholm, Sweden versus Seattle, washington in the U.S. Some interesting finds:
    Living in Seattle Costs: Federal income tax for our income bracket is 25%, so say $25,000 on an income of $100,000. WA has no state income tax. The cost of healthcare approx $9,000 USD per year for a family of 4 people who use it on an average level. Then preschool costs for 3 hours per day, 5 days per week will run $565.00/mo or about $6,000 per year. Then of course the cost of university, yikes I don't even want to think about it but I am personally carrying $43,000 USD debt for my masters degree. That doesn't include how much I will have paid back after interest. Then the pension system in the U.S. is about 20% social security and then you and your company pension plan has to cover about the other 80%. In Sweden the government gives you 30% and you and your company cover the other 70%. So when we did the math, Sweden only cost about 7% more than the cost of living in Seattle, WA. When you consider that you have to pay for your own university and NO public transport currently available in Seattle, then Sweden looks pretty good. I too really like a more socialized system. It's just my personal preference having lived most of my life in America and now 5 years in England. I am researching schools in Seattle and am worried about the giant gaps in performance between the "haves" and "have nots." If your child does not participate in AP (Advanced Placement) or IB International Baccelaureat program, then the only alternative is to take mediocre classes with underperforming kids, mainly minorites. I know Sweden has this gap too, but they seem to have more of a middle class due to it's socialized structure. I think America is loosing it's middle class. There is no perfect place and in the end we all pay for those who cannot. Perhaps a better solution would be to manage costs better and keep them more affordable. Thanks again for a great discussion. I have appreciated reading all of your opinions.

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  92. "you lose the autonomy of deciding what you want to do with your money."

    perhaps people have decided they want to pay these taxes and have this kind of society?

    perhaps they just got their priorities straight;)

    MrGlove

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  93. Yeah, actually my views on taxation have changed a bit over the years. I still really like the idea of being able to choose yourself where to allocate your money, but I just don't think it works all that well and is not the best for society as a whole.

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