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corporate dominance | legacies

Sweden: How the welfare state was stolen

The entrance of private equity from 2005-6 was a big shift. They created a totally different logic, where short-term extraction of profit was the only goal. In 2011 the shit really hit the fan.
to read Adam Bott's article "Sweden: How the welfare state was stolen" published in April 2014, click on


Sweden's welfare system is famously extensive: long parental leave, free childcare, free tertiary education, generous social security. After the economic crisis of the early 1990s successive governments have reduced entitlements and cut public spending, but what has changed the most is the incorporation of the private sector at every level of the welfare state. All public contracts are subject to competitive tendering and most new clinics and hospitals are built with private funds. Communal clinics, nursing homes and schools compete with private firms for pupils and patients. Last year the state paid almost 100 billion kronor (11 billion) to private welfare operators, overwhelmingly to 10 large corporations all owned by private equity funds.

The transformation

How did Europe's most successful welfare state come to be rebuilt from the inside out according to the principles of the Chicago school? I spoke to Kent Werne, whose new book, The Great Transformation, sets out to answer this question. Werne never uses the word "conspiracy" - nor could that be appropriate, if the Swedish experience is to be properly understood as part of a global shift in economic power - but the story he tells often comes close..

The business lobby changed tactics. The focus was to be not on private alternatives but choice within the state system. The slogan was "freedom of choice". Breaking the "public monopoly" would mean greater choice for citizens and the chance of higher salaries and greater autonomy for public sector employees. They accused the government of arrogance and intolerance, of fear of the new and ably adapted the language of progressive politics, calling for democratisation and the disruption of hierarchies. Opinion polls were commissioned to show that, if the right questions were asked, a majority favoured opening up to private providers.

more at www.nextnewdeal.net, www.foreffectivegov.org, www.storyofstuff.com, www.therealnews.com, www.worklessparty.org, www.steadystate.org and www.submedia.tv

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