Learning from the Swedes

Americans, as a rule, believe against all evidence to the contrary that they live in the greatest country on the planet. I doubt, however, that Americans can articulate why, other than to parrot tired platitudes that are much more myth than reality. Worse, in our patriotic cocoon, we cultivate a pervasive ignorance of alternative viewpoints and practices, believing that we have nothing to learn from others.

It is refreshing, then, to encounter different perspectives from those with direct experience by which to compare the American way from a more rational, sensible approach to living life. For example, we have this essay posted in Vox by a retired professor who divides his time between Sweden and Wisconsin. Tom Heberlein punctures a few misconceptions about Sweden, especially tax policies, while also pointing out obvious deficits in America’s approaches.

Take health care, for example. Heberlein writes:

The 33 million Americans who are still not covered by health insurance don’t have much choice when they get sick, unless you think, “Your money or your life?” is a choice. Paradoxically it turns out the bloated, heavily lobbied, privatized US system spends more tax money ($4,437) per person than Sweden’s socialized health care ($3,184).

This is due to Swedish efficiency rather than poor service. I do get to choose my doctor, have high-quality care a short walk from my home, same-day appointments and short waits when I walk in unannounced. And one day my physician himself phoned to tell me I had left my gloves in his office — it was my choice to walk back and get them.

The rest of the essay is worth the read. Fair warning, you may become further depressed by the yawning chasm between a society that works and a country, our own, that conjures new opportunities to transform basic necessities into profitable extractive enterprises. Somebody has to get rich. Why not you?