I defended “socialism” – meaning the Swedish welfare state – pretty strongly the other day. And I meant it, though in a point-making blog entry for the Huffington Post, perhaps one leaves out the occasional subtlety.
Such as, you know the problems that conservatives have with the welfare state? That it saps initiative, kills drive, breeds a society of people dependent on big brother?
Well, that can be, ummm, exactly right.
The Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported today that threats against employees of the social service agency, Försäkringskassan, are growing rapidly, from 53 in 2003 to 250 in 2008 and with 181 already in 2009.
“Threat” in this case means either a threat of violence against staff or threatening to commit suicide if benefits are cut. Most of the incidents come after someone is told they will no longer get money for being on sick leave.
Now, the issue of longterm sick leave and the amount of people on it is a huge issue in Sweden. The government is trying to cut it down, which probably explains some of the pressure. I won’t go there right now.
For me, it is how the people deal with the pressure. The government is cutting them off, fairly or not, and what do they do? They fall apart.
You can’t blame them, really. Swedes expect to be taken care of. For most, this does not become debilitating. The society remains productive.
But, obviously, more and more people are unable to make it on their own.