During the 2016 Democratic primary, socialist candidate Bernie Sanders touted Scandinavian countries like Sweden as a model for how the United States’ economy should be run. “Democratic Socialism” was a scheme latched on to by lots of Bernie-bros who only vaguely understood it as their healthcare and education being paid for by someone else.
Using Sweden as a model continues to be an extremely bad idea, not only economically but in terms of immigration as well. But what may really stun the Scandinavian Utopianists is Sweden’s rising gun violence problem.
A recent article in The Economist asks “Why are young men in Sweden shooting each other?“ The obvious answer is that they want to kill each other. From that we can deduce that they are criminals and bad people. (The Economist would never stoop to acknowledging these simple and correct answers though.)
Gangs are nothing new: bikers and Balkan mafiosi have traded drugs and occasional bullets in Sweden since the early 1990s. But the gangs emerging today are less organised and more prone to commit petty crime. Acquiring a legal gun requires strict screening, but Kalashnikovs from the Yugoslav wars are readily available on the black market. To sweeten the deal, smugglers often throw in hand grenades (there were 43 grenade incidents in Sweden last year). The victims and perpetrators of gang violence are nearly always young men.
How to explain the rise of gang violence? It cannot be the economy, which is doing well, or Sweden’s quality of life, which is among the best in the world. And crime in general is in decline. So what has gone wrong?
When someone writes that a country has the “best quality of life” it usually means that that country has the exact policies for which the writer advocates. It’s not an objective measure by any stretch of the imagination. As Americans, we recognize—at least some of us do—that quality of life has much more to do with one’s individual liberty than it does with the government providing for all our needs.
Obviously, a country which had 43 grenade incidents last year has some serious quality of life issues. Keep in mind that Sweden’s population is roughly the same as New York City’s. If there were 43 grenade attacks in New York City last year, it probably wouldn’t be mentioned adjacent to a paragraph praising the city’s soaring quality of life.
Some blame the refugee crisis of 2015, when Sweden took in the most asylum-seekers per capita in Europe.
But shootings with illegal guns have been rising since the mid-2000s.
Shootings with illegal guns is a concept American gun control fanatics haven’t really grasped yet. For them, a shooting with an illegal gun just means a push to make more guns illegal.
Sweden accepted lots of asylum-seekers in the 1980s and 1990s from countries like Iraq, Somalia and the former Yugoslavia.
Sweden built them homes and taught them its language, but it failed to integrate them into the labour market. The Swedish welfare system offers good education and generous benefits. But for immigrants there is little social mobility. Powerful unions insist on high wages for entry-level jobs, so firms often find it uneconomical to hire immigrants with limited education or not much Swedish. Today, 16% of people born abroad are unemployed—one of the highest rates in the OECD. Gangs offer frustrated young men an alternative. “They let you feel like a king, even if for one day,” says Mr Rostami.
Sweden has essentially been the open borders social welfare state advocated by many on the American left and unsurprisingly it’s not working. Immigrants and refugees are not assimilating and are either becoming burdens on the welfare system or the criminal justice system. Sounds familiar.
Alarmed, the government has provided additional funding for integrating migrants, imposed harsher punishments for gun crimes and granted a weapons amnesty. Police have stepped up surveillance and co-operation with other European countries to curb weapons-smuggling. In January the Swedish government set up a centre to combat violent extremism.
“Violent extremism” of course means Islamic terrorism. No amount of funding will cause people to integrate if they don’t want to integrate. Many of these people want to plant the flag of their culture, not adopt a new one. There are no more melting pots when it comes to immigration.
Still, witnesses are scared to talk and the police are stretched. Not one firearm-homicide case in Stockholm was solved in 2016. The government hopes to turn that around: police wages have been bumped up, and officers who left during a reorganisation three years ago (which coincided with a rise in crime) have been re-hired. Preliminary results for 2017 show that the clear-up rate for firearm murders has risen to a (still woeful) 30% in Stockholm. But over 100 cases remain unsolved.
It seems unlikely that the police have such a woeful record of solving murders because they aren’t being paid enough. The Social Democrat answer to every problem is throwing money at it. It seldom works.
It doesn’t work in Sweden and it won’t work here.
No matter what Bernie tells you, we should avoid emulating Sweden like the plague