In a little while, I will compare the King of Sweden to Donald Trump. And not in a flattering way.
Hang on, wasn’t there a line in a song about him?
She had a dream about the King of Sweden // He gave her things that she was needin’
Who would have thought that Cab Calloway was being prophetic when he wrote Minnie the Moocher back in 1931?
Scandinavia has attracted the attention of left-leaning politicians in the U.S. for a while. The ‘social democratic’ generous welfare states inspired both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton and some of their supporters.
While the attention is flattering, it is also not entirely true. In the book Debunking Utopia, Nima Sanandaji – who migrated from Iran to Sweden as a child – argues successfully that the success of Scandinavia is due more to culture and homogeneity than to generous welfare; in fact, the success of these countries was in place before the mushrooming of welfare, and was severely hampered when public spending was at its highest, in the 70s and 80s.
The threat of immigration
Furthermore, he argues that the welfare system, especially in Sweden, is under threat by heavy immigration. It is no wonder that large swaths of refugees (like Minnie the Moocher) would flock to the place where the King gives you the things you need. But immigrants actually fare and integrate better in America, where the incentive to work is higher.
In Denmark, immigration and integration of foreigners has been on the political agenda for decades. But in neighboring Sweden, the discussion was ignored, explains Sanandaji: “Being against open borders became synonymous with being a racist. […] favoring open borders was the only legitimate political view in the country.”
The only political party who attempted to raise the issue, was ignored by the political elite. As were the issues, such as crime and financial strains. Gang violence and shootouts have been significantly higher in Swedish cities than in Denmark and Norway, for instance. And more and more people have become wary of the situation.
Of course there is a case to be made for the humanitarian cause of helping people in need. But ignoring the costs – monetary, and societal – in the name of political correctness is ridiculous.
Trump and the King
So when Donald Trump mentioned problems in Sweden last week, some were quick to dismiss him as making up things again. It also didn’t help that Fox News featured as expert a ‘Swedish defence and national security advisor’ that nobody in Sweden had heard of.
But Trump-bashing aside, international media did start looking into Sweden and found that their rosy image did not hold true any longer.
And that’s when King Carl XVI Gustaf entered the debate. “Without media that works seriously and carries out good criticism of its sources, that doesn’t work,” he said. Fair enough.
But he went further than that: “It is important to present the good examples. There are so many positive developments.”
With all due respect, Your Highness, that is not within your mandate. Dictating what the media should and should not report on is exactly what Trump has been doing the last month. And while his attacks are more brash, the danger is the same. People in power should never interfere with the press, no matter their agenda.
William McRaven, a retired Navy SEAL, recently called out Trump’s attacks on the press, calling them “the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime”.
I agree. More than ever before we need a free press, with investigative reporting that highlights real issues and challenges prevailing sentiments and political correctness. In Sweden, as well as in America.