Sweden – Socialist Mecca, Beats U.S. In Competitiveness

March 11, 2011

Damn those socialists with their universal health care, unionized labor, spread wealth, and financial regulation, they’re kicking our competitive asses!

According to the Word Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 2010-2011, Sweden has passed the U.S. in good ol’ red-blooded down-home globalized bidness competition. Other evil socialist regimes that make Glenn Beck’s head explode, like Germany, Finland (Finland!) and Denmark are breathing down our necks, just waiting for the Tea Party Republicans to roll back all semblance of progress from the last 30 (or 150) years.

Since American public and private unions seem to be the favored scapegoat of the moment for conservatives and the MSM – unions, the Republicans claim, “are making American industry uncompetitive and busting government budgets” – let’s consider this graph for a moment:

Union Membership as % of total workers

NationMaster.com Graph
Union members as % of all employees. Figures are for 2000.
Figures are from the OECD. The figures are from EIRO for France, Ireland and Italy.

I’m not suggesting unions are the sole reason Sweden is most competitive, but workers who feel they are getting a bigger, more fair share of their output are naturally more productive, more loyal, and more likely to share their own ideas for cutting waste and improving efficiency and output in their company’s operations. The graph above at least debunks the right-wing myth that unions necessarily make companies and countries uncompetitive.

Could there be something competition-killing in the structure of American unions and their relationship with management? Maybe so. Maybe we should copy the Swedish model. Of course, there are also differences in Swedish management and corporate board of directors structure. Two labor representatives sit on the board of any Swedish company with more that 25 workers. Can’t you see American CEO’s convulsing at the thought? So American management and director structure would need to be change to match the Swedish style unions. And you can be damn sure that Swedish executives don’t take nearly as big a chuck of the profit pie as their American counterparts.

Here’s what one Swedish news site The Swedish Wire had to say about their #1 spot:

Sweden benefits from the world’s most transparent and efficient public institutions, with very low levels of corruption and undue influence and a government that is considered to be one of the most efficient in the world, the report stated.

Private institutions also receive excellent marks, with firms that demonstrate the utmost ethical behavior (ranked 1st), strong auditing and reporting standards, and well-functioning corporate boards. Goods and financial markets are also very efficient.

“Combined with a strong focus on education over the years (ranked 2nd for higher education and training) and the world’s strongest technological adoption (ranked 1st in the technological readiness pillar), Sweden has developed a very sophisticated business culture (2nd) and is one of the world’s leading innovators (ranked 5th)”, the the World Economic Forum said in the report.

“These characteristics come together to make Sweden one of the most productive and competitive economies in the world”.

A few key characteristics of competitive Sweden:

  • Universal single-payer health care. Funded mostly through taxes. About 1/2 the cost per capita of US care.
  • Universal public/private education. Government funded graduate and post-grad for all qualified Swedes.
  • World’s highest level of government social spending.
  • Among the world’s flattest income/weatlh distribution profiles.
  • High tax burden. In Sweden’s case, you get what you pay for. And still they’re #1 in competition.

Seems pretty clear to me that if America wants to keep on in global competition, we need to embrace far more liberal Swedish-style polices.


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