Sweden’s grand bargain and the loss of a “fair and reasonable” America

David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter and prominent conservative, wrote a surprisingly moving piece in New York Magazine about how Republicans have gone off the rails.  This paragraph stuck with me:

Yet, for the most part, these Republican billionaires are not acting cynically. They watch Fox News too, and they’re gripped by the same apocalyptic fears as the Republican base. In funding the tea-party movement, they are ­actually acting against their own longer-term interests, for it is the richest who have the most interest in political stability, which depends upon broad societal agreement that the existing distribution of rewards is fair and reasonable. If the social order comes to seem unjust to large numbers of people, what happens next will make Occupy Wall Street look like a street fair.

I think this impacted me because this is exactly what Sweden has.  There was a grand bargain between Swedish industry and the government/labor unions way back in the 20s or 30s.  And Swedish social democracy was born.  And it still survives, transformed but healthy, I think.  Of course, this meant that Swedish industry got to keep much of its behind the scenes power, ensuring the survival of a hidden patriarchy in what is supposed to be the most equal society on earth.

But still, the country has done well by it.  And regardless of the Swedish bargain, at least there is one here.  The American one has dissolved in these decades of hyper-individualism, hyper-consumerism, and eternal war.  And that scares me.


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