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A fantasy land… September 29, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Thanks to the person who sent me a link to this, an actually pretty good piece by Nick Cohen on the ‘libertarian Covid fantasy land’ that is Sweden for Tories and libertarians, at least in relation to the pandemic. It makes one realise just how much of a loss his near-Blairite tilt in the last ten years has been for left journalism.

But the substance is particularly solid because he doesn’t just dismiss the overheated claims about how Sweden has tackled the virus, noting that:

The fantasy land of Sweden where sickness never comes is a fairytale. By not locking down in the spring, Sweden had a more protracted outbreak with far more deaths per capita than its neighbours. Admittedly, its death rate was not as bad as Britain’s. But then no European country had a death rate as bad as Britain’s because no other European country put the village idiot in charge. Nor did the “mastermind” Tegnell save the Swedish economy. Spending fell by nearly as much in Sweden, which did not lock down, as in Denmark, which did. As for the claim that Sweden would avoid a second wave, Swedish health officials are now proposing local lockdowns of a type we know too well.

And of course restrictions in Sweden are very real in advance of those proposed lockdowns. But he also points to a reality about Sweden that in all the hype is forgotten. While a pale shadow of the social democracy it once was there are tangible aspects of the politico-societal mix that have a real impact too.

You never hear the Telegraph or the Mail say that we need Swedish levels of sickness benefit to ensure that carriers stay at home and quarantine. Or Swedish levels of housing benefit to ensure that they aren’t evicted from those same homes. The knights of the suburbs do not insist that the hundreds of thousands who will be thrown on the dole in the coming months need Swedish levels of unemployment benefit and an interventionist Scandinavian state to retrain them.

It may well be some or all of these that have in part blunted some of the worst aspects of its approach hitherto. And in any event, these are key aspects of any progressive dispensation. Whereas in Britain:

Rishi Sunak says there is no point in subsidising many of the pre-Covid-19 jobs in the high street and hospitality because they are not coming back. But, like the Tories of the 1980s, he is not offering retraining to prepare the unemployed for the jobs of the future. Once again, unemployment is the responsibility of the unemployed, even though it’s a stretch to see how they are responsible for a virus jumping species in Wuhan.


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