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What we can learn from the Swedish paradox There's nothing libertarian about this country. So why the laissez-faire response to Covid-19?

The summer houses of the Stockholm archipelago offer a vision of the Good Life, Swedish style

The summer houses of the Stockholm archipelago offer a vision of the Good Life, Swedish style


August 10, 2020   6 mins

I am writing this from the water’s edge on one of the 24,000 islands of the Stockholm archipelago. It’s a lovely summers day, boats are coming in and out of the little harbour and the restaurant is doing a busy trade. Across the sound, the rocks slope straight into the sea and are dotted with summer houses.

The homes are not divided by fences, but sit at a respectful distance from each other, never in a row but each positioned in a particular spot of the owner’s choosing; there’s a harmony of style which still leaves room for individuation — some houses are yellow, some red, some slightly more modern, some slightly more traditional, but each adorned with a well-kept garden, a boat-house and pier, and of course a Swedish flag. It’s a vision of the Good Life, Swedish-style.

Since its lockdown-free response to Covid-19, Sweden has suddenly found itself the pin-up nation for libertarians worldwide, who see in its more laissez-faire response a defence of individual freedom and self-governance above all else. But Sweden is not a libertarian society — far from it; in reality, they are sticklers for the rules. Try putting decking on the seaside edge of your garden, or buying alcohol from anywhere other than the state monopoly — you will be met with restrictions that would be unthinkable in either Britain or the United States.

The picturesque scene in front of me speaks of a culture that some might even find oppressive. It’s the polar opposite of, say, the pleasure coasts of Florida, where sprawling mansions butt up against each other without reference to any communal style: ionic columns next to modernist glass boxes, each shouting its own taste and values in a cacophony of individualism.

So how should we understand this paradox? Six months into the Covid-19 era, Sweden remains mask-free; most businesses and schools stayed open throughout, never closing for a single day. You could argue that their more laissez-faire policy was an accident of their more independent health agency or the personality of state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, but despite a higher death toll than neighbouring countries, and some slippage over time in support, the policy remains widely popular (especially now it seems to be working so well, with case numbers and deaths falling to very low levels). As a half-Swede half-Brit, to me it feels deeply connected to the quirks of Swedish culture.

In particular, the Swedish example helps to correct a philosophical error that dominates the Covid-19 debate in the UK and the US: that if you are resistant to draconian policies to counter the pandemic, you must be a die-hard libertarian— at best, devoted to individual freedom over the common good, at worst, straightforwardly selfish. I believe Sweden shows how the opposite can be true: it is precisely because the Swedes want to preserve the common good and are proud of their shared way of life that they have been reluctant to infringe it.

I’d go further. The fragmented and highly individualistic culture of the UK and US, without much by way of universally shared values to fall back on, is a big part of why the response in those countries has been so uncertain and the debate so poisonous. Without habits and values that are commonly deemed morally good and too precious to give up, what remains when a new threat such as Covid-19 arrives? If the only unassailable moral good is saving lives, the “precautionary principle” becomes almost impossible to argue against. Well-meaning people find they have surrendered their whole way of life to its dubious authority.

So what are these other virtues, embodied in the Swedish flag that flies in every garden? To help explain I’d like to introduce you to three Swedish words, none of which has an adequate English translation, but all of which are evident in the scene in front of me.

The first is a verb, to njuta (pronounced nyoota). Most dictionaries will translate this as “enjoy” but it means more than that — something closer to “take pleasure in and give praise for the gifts of creation”. It’s what the summer houses opposite me were built for, and most of them are barely 100 years old. In a land of long, dark winters and a harsh climate, in which life was very hard for most people until very recently, the ability to njuta is a precarious civilisational achievement, something to defend and not feel guilty about.

In our Anglo culture, taking pleasure in life, even wholesomely, has become so mixed in with issues of guilt and privilege that it is considered a luxury more than a moral good. You wouldn’t catch the British or American equivalents of Anders Tegnell seriously discussing the importance of Easter skiing holidays or graduation parties for school leavers, as he did. In the debate in the UK, pubs are put in simplistic opposition to schools as a “nice to have” as opposed to a necessity, and ministers score virtue points for cancelling their holidays.

Interview
What we can learn from the Swedish paradox

By Freddie Sayers

In Swedish to njuta av vad gott Ă€r, or “take pleasure in what is good”, has an almost holy overtone —the phrase is actually a quote from the Swedish translation of Ecclesiastes 3:13. It’s not an elite pursuit: fully 20% of Swedes own summer houses, and there are plenty of public boats and beaches for families to enjoy the brief summer months, just as there are widely observed aesthetic traditions in the winter.

If the beauty and joy of life carries moral weight, it follows that things like lockdowns and universal mask-wearing will require more compelling evidence than has so far been forthcoming to win the argument. “Might as well” is not enough; if they can get by without them (which they are, increasingly successfully) they will.

The second word is more of a legal concept, but gets to the heart of the Swedish understanding of freedom as a core part of the common good: allemansrĂ€tt, meaning something like “everyone’s right to roam”. This is the real reason why there are no fences separating those summer houses. Effectively there is no law of trespass: no rich landlord can fence people off their patch of earth, every citizen has the legal right to walk anywhere they like, to pick flowers or simply enjoy the scenery.

Yet this freedom comes with clear limits: you may not disturb someone’s garden or come uncomfortably close to their house or pick their produce. It is the expression in law, universally understood, of freedom-within-limits, or frihet under eget ansvar, that in other countries is generally confined to classes in political philosophy. The Swedes are fond of their freedoms, but they are as fond of the limits to them that protect their society.

The attitudes I saw both in Stockholm and in the rural county of Dalarna over the past weeks were not in the least bit reckless. If your mental image is that of Vikings, swinging from the rafters and pretending Covid-19 doesn’t exist, you’d be dead wrong. In the supermarkets, Swedes are careful to observe social distancing, particularly with older people; at the restaurants and bars there is a queue outside until seats become available (there’s a table-service only rule in place). In the spirit of allemansrĂ€tt, people are behaving responsibly but choosing their own path.

Their behaviour is best described by a third uniquely Swedish word, which despite being something of a Swedish clichĂ© it would feel odd to leave out: lagom, meaning “just so” or “neither too much nor too little”. If there is a national characteristic it is surely this — the highest virtue in a culture where excess is frowned upon and rashness is considered dangerous. It explains why, despite a huge number of wealthy people, there are relatively few over-the-top mega mansions in the Stockholm archipelago.

It also helps explain the Swedish policy response to Covid-19 — banning gatherings over 50, encouraging home working and social distancing, shielding of vulnerable groups, while keeping society as open as possible — which can be seen as typically lagom. It was designed to be proportionate to the threat, but unhysterical, and sustainable over the long term. To rip up a long-prepared pandemic plan and impose unprecedented measures just because everybody else was would be considered reckless; to close schools would have been considered morally unacceptable.

It is notable that Anders Tegnell, who in our interview last week comes across as a perfect exemplar of unflappable lagom, naturally uses the vocabulary of the Left. The rationale behind his strategy he couches in egalitarian terms — closing schools, for example, would put unacceptable pressure on poorer and single parents as well as hitting disadvantaged children hardest, just as more dramatic lockdowns would most impact the poorest and most vulnerable in society. His most vocal critics tend to be from the Right, who see him as an intransigent technocrat standing in the way of more effective action.

Of course, the same left-liberal spirit I have described is shared to varying degrees across Scandinavia and the North Sea region. But the idea that Sweden’s approach was opposite to its neighbours is simply not true. In our interview with Norwegian health chief Camilla Stoltenberg, she was at pains to emphasise how similar to Sweden the short Norwegian lockdown was in reality, and in a recent interview the German health minister Jens Spahn insisted the German lockdown was “much closer to Sweden than Spain”.

As for Denmark, many Swedes put that country’s rush to close borders in response to the pandemic down to the anti-immigration version of the Social Democrats who currently hold power there. And the list of European countries where there is still no facemask mandate and very few people wearing them includes Denmark alongside Sweden, Norway, Finland and Holland. Clearly, something cultural is going on.

Njuta, allemansrĂ€tt, lagom — what are our equivalent values in Britain or the United States? Sweden has all sorts of problems, not least the political instability associated with high levels of immigration. But whether or not their approach to Covid-19 will be vindicated by the numbers, its consistency in the face of enormous pressure and international criticism makes a striking contrast to the jumpy and acrimonious debate in the UK and, even more so, the US. It strikes me as more a sign of cultural strength than weakness, and there’s really nothing “libertarian” about it.


Freddie Sayers is the Editor-in-Chief & CEO of UnHerd. He was previously Editor-in-Chief of YouGov, and founder of PoliticsHome.

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D Ward
D Ward
3 years ago

” Njuta, allemansrÀtt, lagom ” what are our equivalent values in Britain”

When i was growing up in the 70s we had -and were required to have respect – for orher people and other people’s property. It was basic politeness. Stand up for those who need a seat more than you do on the bus. Hold open that door for the next person. Would you dare to reprimand anyone for dropping litter these days?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  D Ward

” One thing one notices if one looks directly at the common people, especially in the big towns, is that they are not puritanical. They are inveterate gamblers, drink as much beer as their wages will permit, are devoted to bawdy jokes, and use probably the foulest language in the world. They have to satisfy these tastes in the face of astonishing, hypocritical laws (licensing laws, lottery acts, etc., etc.) which are designed to interfere with everybody but in practice allow everything to happen.”
Orwell,
The Lion and Unicorn

Let’s not romanticize the 70s (when you were young?).

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Do you remember the 70’s?

Orwell wrote that around 1940

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

The British went back to their “original” character?!

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

And what does that mean exactly???

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  D Ward

I reprimand litterers quite a lot. Sometimes they actually exhibit some shame.

Elizabeth Hart
Elizabeth Hart
3 years ago

Meanwhile, in Australia, I’m horrified by the political situation here in relation to the handling of this virus. Elected representatives of the people have grossly over-reached in exerting control over those they are meant to serve. And now unelected individuals, i.e. Federal and State medical officers, and various academics, are influencing policy with little or nothing in the way of accountability.

There is something really rotten afoot in Australia, and this has been building for some time. This is so much about ‘the vaccine’, and plans to impose this on the entire population. The groundwork has been set, with the coercive Federal No Jab, No Pay vaccination law implemented in January 2016, and No Jab, No Play laws subsequently implemented by the States. These coercive vaccination laws were campaigned for by the Murdoch newspapers, News Corp, which is also a corporate partner of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, which is involved in vaccine research and development, a massive undisclosed conflict of interest.

Coercive vaccination lobby groups such as SAVN and Friends of Science in Medicine were at the forefront of the campaign for coercive vaccination, and were privileged by representation at the Senate Hearing on this matter.

And in 2015 the Australian Biosecurity Act was enacted. My reading of this Act indicates Australians could be compelled to have vaccination in an emergency, e.g. coronavirus vaccination, with the penalty for refusal being five years imprisonment and/or a $63,000 fine. I’m seeking clarification on this matter.

It’s shocking that such legislation could be slipped through the Parliament without the general public being consulted.

These are very grim times indeed, and it’s not just about the virus…

Geoff Cox
Geoff Cox
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Hart

Elizabeth – “building for some time”. Yes indeed. My sister who has been a teacher in Aus for about 20 years, says the PC warriors in Aus are even more extreme than in the UK. The health and safety / pc culture in Aus, according to her, is far worse than back in Blighty … if you can imagine that. But developments in Aus over CV seem to be proving her right.

Naturally, along with all other white majority countries, Aus has been ruined as a homogenous, free thinking, confident country and has lost the belief that people generally do the right thing. This opens the way for authoritarians to impose rules – apparently for the greater good.

Paul Rogers
Paul Rogers
3 years ago
Reply to  Geoff Cox

“lost the belief that people generally do the right thing”

And here you have it. The ideology that has captured the Anglosphere elites does not believe that people act in their own interests. We used to call it left vs right. Now, it’s not a single axis. But it comes down to the Sovereignty of the Individual. John Anderson has done some excellent interviews recently exposing this very challenge. As we have become comfortable, some (many) at the peak of wealth (our new ambassadors) have decided they know best.

It’s a feature of our system, not a bug. And it’s a feature that needs a software patch.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Rogers

The problem is that people often act in their own interest – at the cost of the interests of everyone else. Refusing vaccination, for instance, increases the danger not just for yourself but for your neighbours. Doing the right thing is a different matter.

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Rogers

Yes, I know many dislike Peterson but I do find his ‘sovereignty of the individual’ approach to the world compelling. Nothing in it recommends selfishness, more responsibility.

Mads Naeraa-Spiers
Mads Naeraa-Spiers
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Rogers

If you read Freddie’s article, you’ll see that in Sweden it does not just come down to the sovereignty of the individual, but is a more nuanced issue.

Brett
Brett
3 years ago

Sovereignty of the individual is a more nuanced issue

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  Geoff Cox

A friend of mine lived in Perth for a year or so back in 2010 who reported something very similar. Public discourse centred around everyone getting wound up about the (ridiculously low) crime rate and making everything safer and safer. The guy is from Munich, so hardly from a chaotic and flamboyant place!

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

The Public Sector will always find work for ‘idle hands’. They are never going to step down because their task is complete.

Here in the UK, the Public Sector is thought to be about 37% of the workforce, an unsupportable position, that will have to to addressed very soon. Their pensions alone account for £50billion per annum

Elizabeth Hart
Elizabeth Hart
3 years ago
Reply to  Geoff Cox

Geoff, observing the situation in the police state of Victoria is appalling, with people masked and under curfew, impeded from travelling from their homes, and subject to intimidation by police and the army. This is the most shocking political experience of my lifetime, and it is occurring under Australian governments, not invading powers. I’m in South Australia and alert to them using the situation to amp up authoritarianism here.

There’s a lack of transparency about the coronavirus situation, the information provided on the Department of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage is insufficient, and is beating up the number of ‘cases’ and not providing data which informs about the actual risk of this virus to the entire population. We need relevant information, e.g. what comorbidities are involved with Covid-19, across the age groups? What is the status of the people in hospital, the outcomes? We need real information, instead of media-led fear-mongering by beating up the number of ‘cases’ which is largely irrelevant.

There are no deaths reported in individuals under the age of 30, and yet the entire population of 25.5 million is being terrorised about this virus. The majority of deaths are in the age group 70-90+, i.e. the elderly. And these deaths are a tiny fraction of the elderly population in Australia. Federal and State governments have known for months now the demographic groups at risk, why have they not targeted efforts effectively to protect the elderly in aged care facilities and other vulnerable groups? Instead, untold millions are being spent on tests, with over 4.8 million being conducted, with positive tests amounting to 0.4% – what is the point of this? Millions of people with a sniffle are taking up resources in being tested, when it would be more effective for them to stay home and recover from whatever bug ails them.

The entire country is being adversely affected by the disproportionate response of governments and unelected individuals to this virus. What is the approach now, has it moved from supposedly ‘flattening the curve’ to elimination? Now what lies ahead? Are they monitoring developments in other countries such as the UK and Sweden? Are people more likely to be vulnerable being recommended to take vitamin D supplements, particularly those who are most likely to be deficient, e.g. people in aged care facilities? Is the development of natural immunity among the healthy population in Australia deliberately being hindered to facilitate the implementation of fast-tracked, experimental vaccine products, with which Australia is involved via the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)?

The situation is dire and politicians need to get this sorted before the whole country is wrecked socially and economically.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Hart

Just read a ‘typically measured’ BBC piece on its website with the following headline regarding the Victoria ‘outbreak’,

‘Coronavirus Australia records deadliest day, but with fewer infections’

Accompanying this is a picture of an advert exhorting people to,

‘Please go home and stay home’

A health message supplied by the rather appropriately subtitled, ‘Hyped Media’.

Lost somewhere in the depths of that piece is the following sentence,

‘Most deaths have been linked to outbreaks in nearly 100 aged care homes in the state’.

Elizabeth Hart
Elizabeth Hart
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

Geoff, as you can, see my response to you has been marked as spam…this is happening often on ‘UnHerd’…

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Hart

To me too, Elizabeth. It’s seriously off-putting, especially when, having logged a request for correction, nothing happens. In one case a long and carefully thought-out comment of mine was “marked as spam” after it had been upvoted and commented on by several people.

And ” I too am very disturbed indeed by the coercive aspects of government responses to Covid-19. But it sounds as if those close-harnessed horses, fear and coercion, are pulling even more strongly in Australia than they are here in the UK.

Elizabeth Hart
Elizabeth Hart
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Adams

This is bad Martin. I re-posted my response to Geoff Cox, and it’s gone again, marked as ‘spam’, despite the problem being reported to UnHerd and me being assured it was going to stay up this time. Also, I think there could be serious problems at UnHerd re conflicts of interest, I’m pursuing this.

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Hart

Thank you, Elizabeth. My curiosity is up about conflicts of interest. You probably can’t say more here; but might that have something to do with the issues with comments experienced by you, me and several others I know of? I hope I’m not being dim.

Elizabeth Hart
Elizabeth Hart
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Adams

You’re not being dim Martin. What do we know about UnHerd? It claims to “provide a platform for otherwise unheard ideas, people and places”. Apart from those comments and ideas that mysteriously disappear… How is UnHerd funded? Who is behind it? At the moment it’s a ‘free’ website…but is there an agenda here? Not much transparency on this website if you go looking. Not even an admin contact email that I can find. I’ve been investigating who is behind UnHerd, and have forwarded a detailed email to Freddie Sayers on this matter. I’m awaiting a response… (Found his email via another contact.)

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Hart

Thank you Elizabeth; and well done, especially for finding that email address. One of the strangest aspects of what is, in almost all the most obvious respects (quality of writing, range of subjects etc.) one of the best things of this kind on the internet, is what you say ” “Not even an admin contact email that I can find.” Nor can I. I’m sure many of us would be interested to know if you unearth anything. Thank you!

janebrynonnen
janebrynonnen
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Adams

my thoughts exactly

Elizabeth Hart
Elizabeth Hart
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

Far from liberal Sweden, check out increasingly authoritarian Australia – see this opinion piece ‘Government must consider mandatory COVID-19 vaccination’ in The Sydney Morning Herald today, complete with a chorus of promoters in the comments section.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Hart

What on Earth has happened? Diggers replaced by Shriekers!
God help us.

Elizabeth Hart
Elizabeth Hart
3 years ago
Reply to  Geoff Cox

Geoff, observing the situation in the police state of Victoria is appalling, with people masked and under curfew, impeded from travelling from their homes, and subject to intimidation by police and the army. This is the most shocking political experience of my lifetime, and it is occurring under Australian governments, not invading powers. I’m in South Australia and alert to them using the situation to amp up authoritarianism here.

There’s a lack of transparency about the coronavirus situation, the information provided on the Department of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage is insufficient, and is beating up the number of ‘cases’ and not providing data which informs about the actual risk of this virus to the entire population. We need relevant information, e.g. what comorbidities are involved with Covid-19, across the age groups? What is the status of the people in hospital, the outcomes? We need real information, instead of media-led fear-mongering by beating up the number of ‘cases’ which is largely irrelevant.

There are no deaths reported in individuals under the age of 30, and yet the entire population of 25.5 million is being terrorised about this virus. The majority of deaths are in the age group 70-90+, i.e. the elderly. And these deaths are a tiny fraction of the elderly population in Australia. Federal and State governments have known for months now the demographic groups at risk, why have they not targeted efforts effectively to protect the elderly in aged care facilities and other vulnerable groups? Instead, untold millions are being spent on tests, with over 4.8 million being conducted, with positive tests amounting to 0.4% – what is the point of this? Millions of people with a sniffle are taking up resources in being tested, when it would be more effective for them to stay home and recover from whatever bug ails them.

The entire country is being adversely affected by the disproportionate response of governments and unelected individuals to this virus. What is the approach now, has it moved from supposedly ‘flattening the curve’ to elimination? Now what lies ahead? Are they monitoring developments in other countries such as the UK and Sweden? Are people more likely to be vulnerable being recommended to take vitamin D supplements, particularly those who are most likely to be deficient, e.g. people in aged care facilities? Is the development of natural immunity among the healthy population in Australia deliberately being hindered to facilitate the implementation of fast-tracked, experimental vaccine products, with which Australia is involved via the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)?

The situation is dire and politicians need to get this sorted before the whole country is wrecked socially and economically.

Paul Boizot
Paul Boizot
3 years ago
Reply to  Geoff Cox

You write; “Naturally, along with all other white majority countries, Aus has been ruined as a homogenous, free thinking, confident country”. There is, of course, a perspective that says that Aus. was ruined as a homogenous place in the late 1700’s when a bunch of unwanted alien immigrants arrived and essentially took the place over by force.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Boizot

The 18th century did not have any idea of preserving a Neolithic type of society.

David George
David George
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Boizot

There was no national identity, commonality or homogeneity in pre-European Australia there was Tribalism; the outfit over the hill or down the coast didn’t even speak your language.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Boizot

I had an interesting chat with a Kiwi professor a while ago and she said it was a good thing the Maoris didn’t manage to cross the Tasman Sea because if they had there would be NO ABORIGINALS LEFT. they would have been slaughtered. Because that’s what conquering tribes did. The European ‘invasion’ was a lucky break in comparison.

Elizabeth Hart
Elizabeth Hart
3 years ago
Reply to  Geoff Cox

Reposting this for the third time I think, it keeps getting removed as ‘spam’…

Geoff, observing the situation in the police state of Victoria is appalling, with people masked and under curfew, impeded from travelling from their homes, and subject to intimidation by police and the army. This is the most shocking political experience of my lifetime, and it is occurring under Australian governments, not invading powers. I’m in South Australia and alert to them using the situation to amp up authoritarianism here.

There’s a lack of transparency about the coronavirus situation, the information provided on the Department of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage is insufficient, and is beating up the number of ‘cases’ and not providing data which informs about the actual risk of this virus to the entire population. We need relevant information, e.g. what comorbidities are involved with Covid-19, across the age groups? What is the status of the people in hospital, the outcomes? We need real information, instead of media-led fear-mongering by beating up the number of ‘cases’ which is largely irrelevant.

There are no deaths reported in individuals under the age of 30, and yet the entire population of 25.5 million is being terrorised about this virus. The majority of deaths are in the age group 70-90+, i.e. the elderly. And these deaths are a tiny fraction of the elderly population in Australia. Federal and State governments have known for months now the demographic groups at risk, why have they not targeted efforts effectively to protect the elderly in aged care facilities and other vulnerable groups? Instead, untold millions are being spent on tests, with over 4.8 million being conducted, with positive tests amounting to 0.4% – what is the point of this? Millions of people with a sniffle are taking up resources in being tested, when it would be more effective for them to stay home and recover from whatever bug ails them.

The entire country is being adversely affected by the disproportionate response of governments and unelected individuals to this virus. What is the approach now, has it moved from supposedly ‘flattening the curve’ to elimination? Now what lies ahead? Are they monitoring developments in other countries such as the UK and Sweden? Are people more likely to be vulnerable being recommended to take vitamin D supplements, particularly those who are most likely to be deficient, e.g. people in aged care facilities? Is the development of natural immunity among the healthy population in Australia deliberately being hindered to facilitate the implementation of fast-tracked, experimental vaccine products, with which Australia is involved via the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)?

The situation is dire and politicians need to get this sorted before the whole country is wrecked socially and economically.

evelynbirch
evelynbirch
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Hart

At this stage I’m happy to watch it burn, only then will we come to our senses

William Johnston
William Johnston
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Hart

Might there be a connection between what is happening in Australia politically, and the panic buying of toilet rolls there which seemed to kick the whole thing off?

At the risk of a gigantic generalisation – but generalisations can occasionally be helpful – Australians and Americans, who regard themselves as the ultimate “go-get” people on the planet (unlike the “whingeing poms”) are also those most likely to fly into panic when something unexpected happens. We witnessed something very similar at the time of the attacks on the twin towers. And that did not exactly end well.

Robin Taylor
Robin Taylor
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Hart

If I remember correctly Elizabeth, your post that has been marked as spam touched on the lack of research into Vitamin D & Covid-19 relative to the effort being put into finding a vaccine.

As you know, there has been much research into Vitamin D and respiratory diseases generally and Sabastian Rushworth MD (Do vitamin D supplements protect against respiratory infections? 03 Aug 2020) has now produced a good summary of an article in the BMJ, published 15 February 2017, entitled:- Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data.

His conclusion of all the research is: Vitamin D isn’t going to magically make you immune to respiratory infections, but it will likely decrease the frequency with which you get them by a bit if you are not deficient, and by a lot if you are deficient.

What we now need to know is whether Vitamin D deficiency is linked to poor outcomes for those that contract Covid-19 and, somewhat separately, whether the flu vaccination impacts adversely for Covid-19 bearing in mind that there are already studies to suggest it makes people more susceptible to other respiratory diseases.

Elizabeth Hart
Elizabeth Hart
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Taylor

Robin, my comment that has been marked as spam contains more info about the dire authoritarian state of Australia and its response to coronavirus, as well as a reference to vitamin D. It seems to me common sense to make sure people in aged care facilities are having the option to have at least the recommended dose of vitamin D supplements. Despite living in sunny Australia it’s possible to have low vitamin D. Due to Irish heritage, I have pale skin and am always covered up outside, and have often been victim to respiratory ailments, and I’m tucking into vitamin D now. Likewise people in aged care facilities might not get much sun exposure, and are likely to be vitamin D deficient.

Re flu vaccination, I’m also very interested to know if flu vaccination might be making people more vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19. I’ve written to Anders Tegnell and others about this. The elderly are pressed to have regular flu vaccination, even though it’s known it’s not likely to be effective in this age group…and that’s why now apparently children are vaccinated against flu, to protect the elderly. And they’re planning to do likewise re coronavirus. In my opinion this is unethical – see my rapid response published on The BMJ – ‘Is it ethical to vaccinate children to protect the elderly’, 5 August 2020.

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Hart

I agree with you, Elizabeth. I’m troubled by the well meaning efforts to greatly extend vaccination to flu without much thought to the risks if done while cov2 is endemic.

Jane Jones
Jane Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Yeadon

Not so sure it is actually “well-meaning.”
Since when have our “governors” prioritized the health of the citizens? I write from the USA. The answer is: Never.
Why should we think they are starting now?

Re Bill Gates: He is totally unqualified to play any role whatsoever in setting health policy. The fact that this “foundation” head does so merely serves to highlight the intertwining of “nonprofit” with very profitable ventures. Profitable for his foundation trust’s investments in Big Pharma, and profitable for his tech company, Microsoft (development of nanotech related to vaccines). When the obvious is roundly shouted down as “conspiracy theory” in a coordinate fashion, you know you are on to something. Like, asI say, the obvious.

Great, articulate comments, Elizabeth Hart! Very worried to read of the dreadful poliitical climate in Australia, at least, Victoria. Worse even than in the USA. And that is saying something.

Steve Dean
Steve Dean
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Hart

Maybe the spam deletions, whilst very interesting, are being deleted because they are being posted under an article about Sweden? I am sorry if someone has already said this, but, well, half the comments are about Australia…

Elizabeth Hart
Elizabeth Hart
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Dean

Steve Dean, the article is about Sweden’s response to Covid-19, which has been substantially less dire than that in countries such as the US, the UK and Australia.

I wonder if Sweden has a fear-mongering media and government determined to frighten everyone about the virus, despite the fact most people aren’t at risk?

In Australia we have endured relentless scare tactics across all media for months – who is driving this and why?

Where I live, in South Australia, restrictions have been lessened. But the state of Victoria is back in draconian lockdown, with people masked, under curfew, impeded from travelling from their homes, and at risk of intimidation from the police and the army if they don’t toe the line. Epidemiologist Tony Blakely has suggested Victoria could be isolated from the rest of Australia for up two years if COVID-19 numbers “are not brought under control”. Blakely says, assuming “Victoria doesn’t get rid of this virus…Victoria will have to function in isolation from the rest of Australia until such time as we get a vaccine”.

It seems it’s all about ‘waiting for the vaccine’. Cobble together a few ‘cases’ in other states, and it’s possible these could be used to impose further lockdowns too, as is also happening in New Zealand now.

We’re being set up for fast-tracked vaccines, with CEPI chair Jane Halton, a direct advisor to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, calling for coronavirus vaccination to be compulsory.

There is already scope for this to be imposed via the Biosecurity Act 2015, with vaccine refusers possibly subject to five years imprisonment and/or a $63,000 fine. I suspect not a lot of Australians are aware of this, and how did this coercive legislation get through the parliament?

So things are rather different here than in Sweden… We can’t talk about this publicly in Australia because such discussion is hindered and often outright censored. Hence my raising it on UnHerd – it’s a call for help!

Steve Dean
Steve Dean
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Hart

Doesn’t sound good. Like I said, I think it was why you were getting taken down. Has this appeared in the press at all?

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Taylor

Yes, on your last point, I’m concerned that extending the flu jab could end up being a mistake. It maybe that vaccinating against the most lethal virus is the best option when there is more than one in circulation.

Lisa
Lisa
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Taylor

I tried to reply with a reference to another detailed review paper on vitamin D which discussed the biological mechanism in detail, and some further facts supporting the case for vitamin D but the comment was rejected. Why is this considered spam? Who is doing the moderation?

John Ottaway
John Ottaway
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Taylor

Many many reports around the world , originating from the epi centre of the pandemic in New York hospitals clearly show, the lower the vitamin D levels in the blood , the worse the outcomes. A level of 30 song/ml seems to be the magic point. The higher above 30 the better the outcomes. Below 27 and outcomes were gradually worse.
Check this out on the internet but beware , many search engines , particularly google, are censoring this potentially life saving info.They are all in the pockets of Big Parma, Bill Gates, et al.

For top quality scientific links check out Mercola.com.

John Ottaway
John Ottaway
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Taylor

30ng/ml. Sorry predictive text changed my original post.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Hart

How very encouraging this must be for ‘Fu Manchu & Co in Peking to read this.

One must ask is Australia worth saving?ie, worth a full scale nuclear war? Based on what you say, definitely not!

In fact all Australian schools should immediately start teaching their children how to Kowtow, it may prove invaluable for the eons of slavery that are to come.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Hart

Granted, Australia’s performance has been truly pathetic!

What on Earth has gone wrong?

They will have to ” man up” unless they wish to be hoovered up by the ‘Chinks’.

crawfordwright
crawfordwright
3 years ago

The role of the media in the U.K. would be an interesting comparison with Sweden? Here the bbc and the Guardian my “go to” for news has wallowed in the hype and fearmongering. I have been banned from commenting on the Guardian as I kept imploring them to stop printing new articles which stoked irrational fear and to always put new data in context, ie deaths.

Clach Viaggi
Clach Viaggi
3 years ago
Reply to  crawfordwright

Same with me with my default Italian media.
If I am learning something from this madness, it is experiencing the life of an outcast.
Being labelled, isolated, derided as a gullible negationist, conspirator, intellectually idiot, even if I don’t believe in anything but science, just because I had enough time, intelligence and critical spirit to do my research and don’t buy in all this narrative

E. E.
E. E.
3 years ago
Reply to  Clach Viaggi

Same here in Canada (with the mainstream media). I reserve the right to question the government’s reaction to the COVID-19 situation without having to be called a conspiracy theorist, right-wing zealot, or crank – and indeed, I dare say I am not any one of those things! It definitely has been four months of living like an outcast in many ways (and it’s getting worse, as masks are becoming mandatory in a growing number of venues).

Robert G
Robert G
3 years ago
Reply to  Clach Viaggi

A couple weeks ago, Forbes published an article entitled “You Must Not ‘Do Your Own Research’ When It Comes To Science.” The media is now actively discouraging the populace from engaging in critical thinking. It’s absolutely disgraceful and more than a little frightening.

Rickard Gardell
Rickard Gardell
3 years ago

That was impressive. Subtle and sensitive view of Swedish culture, Freddie. Didn’t realise you were half Swede. I am also a Swede living in Australia and also lived in the UK. It has always confounded me with Anglo people’s fascination with politicians at the same time as they hold them in utter contempt. In sweden, politicians are pretty boring just there to serve the people. In schools the emphasis in anglo is debating(I am right you are wrong), in sweden it is group work(let’s find a compromise). A combination of these dynamics are playing out real time in covid. As you say, covid is revealing a lot about societies.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago

Revealing not just societal attitudes. I suspect the fundamental difference in outcome between the UK and other European countries will have a lot to do with our very unhealthy population.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

Your point is spot on. A good Swedish friend of mine worked in London for over 10 years and for the last 4 years lives and works in Frankfurt. He points out how boring the political debates are in Germany/Sweden (technocratic points) compared to English debating performances.

Mike Hearn
Mike Hearn
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I believe that may be an artificial projection of the media.

The official opposition party in Germany has become the AfD, which is definitely not a result of politics being about boring technocratic points. In Sweden their equivalent party got roughly 18% of the vote.

However you wouldn’t know this from reading German media. I can’t say for Swedish but I’ve heard it’s no different. British media is significantly more politically balanced than most European countries, where journalists have decided pretty much uniformly to act as if certain political issues just do not exist at all.

Chuck Burns
Chuck Burns
3 years ago

I am an American. I am relating your description of how the Pandemic was handled in Scandinavian countries to what is going on in my country, the USA. One phrase that sums it up for me is “designed to be proportionate to the threat, but unhysterical”. This suggests the response to the threat is based on rational logic and science. In the USA, the Pandemic was seized upon in January as an “opportunity”. Ever since, the virus has been used as a political weapon. There is no rational logic or science at all being considered when authoritarian commands are dictated from State Governors, City Mayors, and government bureaucrats. There is no concern at all given for the well being of the people, the economy, and the actions dictated on us are purposely designed to prolong the situation.

Elizabeth Hart
Elizabeth Hart
3 years ago
Reply to  Chuck Burns

Exactly Chuck, same thing in Australia. Have you watched the Event 201 videos – A Global Pandemic Exercise run by the John Hopkins Center for Health Security, World Economic Forum, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation? These are a must watch. If you have time constraints, watch the Highlights Reel and Segment 4 – Communications Discussion, and Segment 5 – Hotwash and Conclusion. These are the blueprint for what’s gone on re the current coronavirus debacle. This virus was just the mechanism they wanted to push a huge business and control agenda. Check out the videos and see how they planned to manipulate the media etc, it’s all there.

Robin Taylor
Robin Taylor
3 years ago

In his blog, How bad is covid really? (A Swedish doctor’s perspective), Sabastian Rushworth MD states that his experience of working in a large hospital in Stockholm has been one where virtually every patient seemed to have Covid but now he hasn’t seen a case for over a month. He makes a convincing argument to suggest that more than 50% of Swedes probably now have immunity. He explains that the 50% could have been achieved as follows:-

This number is perfectly reasonable if we assume a reproductive number for the virus of two: If each person infects two new, with a five day period between being infected and infecting others, and you start out with just one infected person in the country, then you will reach a point where several million are infected in just four months. If only 6000 are dead out of five million infected, that works out to a case fatality rate of 0.12 percent, roughly the same as regular old influenza, which no-one is the least bit frightened of, and which we don’t shut down our societies for.

[I have avoided quotes & direct reference to the blog because posts often end up in spam or get delayed. Google to get the link.]

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Taylor

No offence, but the mortality rate of COVID-19 is heavily studied in mainstream science. And the consensus I hear keeps hovering around 0.6%-0.8%. As for immunity, I was not aware of any reliable figures – people did not even know for sure if there was any lasting immunity, last I saw. It is not settled yet, to be sure, but if you actually want to argue your case, how about engaging with mainstream debate, finding some peer-reviewed article that tilts your way, and maybe explains why the others get it wrong? Skipping the science publications in favour of one blogger with an MD and a back-of-the-envelope calculation is not serious. It is the kind of thing that will not convince anybody, but ony confirm those who have made their mind up in advance.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

‘And the consensus I hear keeps hovering around 0.6%-0.8%’

Never quite sure, but is that an example of irony?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

No, from what I have seen, 0.6-0.8% is still the best estimate of the COVID fatality rate, even if the debate is far from over yet. I would love to see any solid evidence to the contrary, if you can point to it.

martin.gorne
martin.gorne
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Stockholm county, which is a severely hit region, has had almost exactly 0.1% fatalities, counted as dead WITH Covid compared to population, (which is not necessarily the same as dead FROM Covid). Lombardia reports about 0.16% fatalities of its population. If you look at country wide statistics fatalities drop even more than that. 0.6%-0.8% would mean that even in these regions, still quite few have been subjected to the virus, which does not seem to make mathematical sense, given how drastically the rate of infection has decreased. My guess on how to make the figures add up – more people have been subjected to the virus than shown by anti-bodies tests and more people being immune or not showing any symptoms than previously thought. This is an optimistic view – I do not believe in any substantial second waves in the regions that have been severely hit.

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago
Reply to  martin.gorne

On antibody tests underestimating those previously infected you’re right.
1. Early assays were set up to avoid false positives so they are low sensitivity and very high specificity. Anyone with lower levels of antibodies will be negative. A high sensitivity test was used in a town in Austria which is a famous ski resort & 70-75% were positive.
2. Some unknown fraction of people shrug the virus easily & quickly, using innate mechanisms such as release of IFN. This is part of immune surveillance & kills cells infected with virus or transformed by cancer. These people develop no or little antibodies because there was neither time nor need, but they probably have T-memory through antigen presentation.
For clinical evidence of how powerful IFN is, see Synairgen press release
https://www.synairgen.com/w

Kelly Mitchell
Kelly Mitchell
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

0.6-0.8% of what? This stat is meaningless. Of those tested positive? Those who are symptomatic? The entire population?

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I can’t recall any paper with an IFR as great since the Diamond Princess study. This of course is heavily biased to the elderly cruiser demographic and is much an overestimate when including the 80% younger & less vulnerable demographic.

Robin Taylor
Robin Taylor
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

If you read his article he has a link to a study by Karolinska Institet entitled: Robust T cell immunity in convalescent individuals with asymptomatic or mild COVID-19. This scientific study suggests that in May 2020 some 29% of people in Sweden may have had immunity.

I try not to “skip the science publications” which is why it is helpful to get information from people who are also looking for the data. You say that “the mortality rate of COVID-19 is heavily studied in mainstream science” but you can only get the mortality rate if you know the incidence, for which there is very little hard data.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Taylor

@Kelly Mitchell. I am talking about the infection fatality rate,effectively “If you get it, how likely are you to die”? Hard to estimate, but the number you want.

That said, I did a quick Google. The Karolinska iInstiture paper was about looking for T cell immunity. They may have made conclusions about overall mortality (I did not read through), but it is not their main point, or expertise.

More to the point a paper by John Ioannides, 14 July 2020, MedArxiv, not peer reviewed. This is a meta-analysis of COVID infection fatality rates (IFR, what we want to know). Not perfect, but less uncertain than a single study, and a little harder to bias. IFR ranged from 0.0 to 1.3% across studies, and was found to be quite a bit higher in places where there had been a lot of deaths. So, a lot of variability between different locations, not well understood, could depend on a lot of factors, but OK, from that study the ‘idiots resume’ would now be around 0.3-0.4% rather than the 0.6-0.8% that was estimated earlier. I stand corrected (by a factor of two).

This is as far as I have time to go. Considering how important this is, and how hard to get right, I would leave it at this, complete with uncertainty, and refrain from making my own rough calculations that compete with the professionals. I certainly hope that decision makers stick to the kind of probabiliy distribution this kind of numbers give, rather than trying to guesstimate their own certainties.

If anybody can give a reasoned literature analysis and come with more precise numbers, by all means let us hear it.

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I applaud your logic & I don’t disagree with where you’ve landed. It’s actually very difficult to work out the ‘correct’ number, if such a concept holds water anyway. I edge to lower, but can live with your pick, too.

stephen archer
stephen archer
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Well Rasmus, if you want to refrain from making your own calculations you could also start by not quoting diverse statistics. You’re just muddying the waters and creating both confusion and irrelevance.

Rickard Gardell
Rickard Gardell
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

The IFR for the working population below 50 years of age is as close to 0% as you can get. That is a FACT as very few people below 50 has died.
The very old and sick in age care homes, just like with flu, dies at a greater rate. Most of the deaths are very old and very sick people in these homes. The same happens with the flu season every year. The seasonal deaths in age care homes are not that different from what we see in covid. Flu also doesn’t kill(or contribute to kill) people below 50.

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Taylor

Robin, I wholeheartedly agree with your post. I use an infection fatality rate of 0.25% as CDC displayed that for weeks before increasing it. It’s a median from dozens of estimates so it may be wrong. U.K. had 47,000 deaths so around 19million infections, so about 28% of population. If 30% were resistant to start with & 5% youngest not susceptible & an unknown % able to clear virus speedily leaving no trace, we’re at a much lower remaining % susceptible than the published herd immunity threshold papers suggest fit the data well (Gupta & Gomez research groups included). Imperials model infamously assumed 100% initial susceptibility which is silly. No virus ever infects close to that. They also assumed complete homogeneity of transmission, also dubious. The more thoughtful groups developed models of differential rates of transmission & allowed for some prior immunological resistance. HIT ranged consistently from 15-25% infected. I think that’s what we’ve had and the pandemic is ebbing away.
Also note the incredibly similar daily deaths timecourses across U.K., Sweden, France, Belgium & others. We’ve to believe these v similar profiles arose by chance despite differences in lockdowns, adherence to guidance & population demographics or we could accept the in my view more likely explanation that all flowed from developing equilibrium between a novel virus & it’s human host.

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Also see Drosten et al, in Germany, who showed at least 30% had virus-reactive T-cells, same as the Karolinska study. https://www.medrxiv.org/con

rollo110.rt
rollo110.rt
3 years ago

is the swedish media more measured ??- it seemed to me that UK almost went the swedish way then the politicians got spooked by media stampede inevitably based on thin evidence but max emotion

Lennart Johansson
Lennart Johansson
3 years ago
Reply to  rollo110.rt

Its similarly alamistic. Always finding some failed professor in xxxx-ology to shout “lockdown!” or “facemask!”, in order to increase anxiety and get the precious clicks they crave.

Clach Viaggi
Clach Viaggi
3 years ago

So refreshing and instructive to read this.
Unheard is really one of the few oasis of human rationality in this driven by fear madness we are living

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago

A timely article, Freddie, although in truth we could have done with it about three months ago. I hope the personal liberties lobby read it.
With the exception of schools and hospitality, not trivial exceptions I grant you, the UK and Swedish lockdowns have been quite similar. The essential difference is the degree to which the UK Government felt it had to use compulsion, rather than encouragement.
Boris, of course, started down the encouragement route but was savagely criticised for it by a media with an agenda and was forced to alter his approach. Perhaps correctly, as the hysterical response to l’affaire Cummings demonstrated unequivocally our nation’s inability to operate a version of lockdown in which people were trusted to make difficult decisions that balanced their family’s welfare with the public good.

Olaf Felts
Olaf Felts
3 years ago

Is Freddie going mainstream and hoping for a job at the BBC? Hope not. Using the term laissez-faire? Why not pragmatic or egalitarian? In truth this is all getting very tedious – basically we are dealing with a respiratory virus that for the vast majority is mild and not life threatening. We can argue/discuss endlessly about this bug, but one clear reality is that the cost of lockdowns will be enormous in cost, jobs, futures, and lives (cancer not being treated etc.). I have a privileged insight into this because of the work I do; and it is truly terrifying. I have not been at least concerned about contracting covid – why? Simply I look at the chances of my catching it and then dying. Re-markedly low, even using the most pessimistic of forecasts (Imperial College take a bow). As one person I know who was tested positive said, ‘I would not have realised I had it but for my partner being routinely tested because of his job’. Perspective, perspective please.

Andrew Shaughnessy
Andrew Shaughnessy
3 years ago

Britain used to have universally shared values, but they’ve been eroded by decades of enforced multiculturalism. How long does the author believe things will go on the way he describes when ethnic Swedes look set to be a minority in their own country by 2050?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

c.87% of British people are white. Check out Clapham Common during a sunny weekend; litter everywhere. And the people are all white British and middle class. Plenty of Aussies too – so may be they are to blame?

Don Holden
Don Holden
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

87% ? Not apparent if you were born and bred in the East End of London. See your Clapham Common and raise you Notting Hill Carnival or any temporary traveller site post departure.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Don Holden

Victoria Park, East London, very clean BTW. Check it out.

Don Holden
Don Holden
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Not without a stab vest !

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Don Holden

I run from Angel to Victoria park every day. For the last 10 years.
Still alive and unstabbed.

Don Holden
Don Holden
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

So you’re afraid of getting stabbed on the underground between Angel and Bethnal Green ?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Don Holden

How did you come up with that reasoning?

Lou Campbell
Lou Campbell
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

In 2011 census white British was 45% of London. On a downward trend

steve dutch
steve dutch
3 years ago
Reply to  Lou Campbell

Sieg Heil!

Lou Campbell
Lou Campbell
3 years ago
Reply to  steve dutch

Hell Steve, where did that come from?
I had been reading about the census and thought that fact was interesting and relevant over impression.
I state a fact and you call me a Nazi…wow, just wow.
Another fact: Nazi was short for national socialists and they didn’t like facts much either.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago

My take on the erosion of shared values (in the last 40 years) would be that it’s more down to decades of the deliberate destruction of the political, cultural and social institutions and organisations that supported those shared values. At the same time ‘the other’ – in terms of ethnic minorities, migrant workers and immigrants have been blamed for failures of the economic system. Saying ‘I blame multiculturalism’ is the polite way of saying ‘I blame the foreigners’. The erosion of shared values has been deliberately undertaken to enable a political structure that promotes individualism over group responsibility and allows the powerful to consolidate and increase their wealth and power.

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

All that is solid melts into air.

Paul Boizot
Paul Boizot
3 years ago

Hmm…”universally shared values”….democracy and pluralism, yes…..but my feeling growing up in the ’50s and ’60s was that those in favour of militarism, monarchy, and christianity also though that we should all buy in to that too. Those who sounded a different note did not quite get the media coverage that their numbers deserved, I think.

Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
3 years ago

I’m not convinced that it’s immigration that is the issue. A heck of a lot of immigrants have something closer to what were previously considered the shared values of the communities they join. It’s part of the reason that the newcomer’s communities are often so close knit.

It’s the people who have been around for generations who have lost a lot of their ancestors previously held cultural values.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
3 years ago

Njuta, allemansrÀtt, lagom ” what are our equivalent values in Britain”…
An interesting article, but I am not convinced that – even though we do not have those terms in English – there is truly such a stark cultural difference between Sweden and Britain in these respects. How about the concepts of fairness (widely regarded as being a British characteristic) and being reasonable (closely related to fairness and consideration for others). Similarly, you can walk through private farmland as long as you don’t damage crops or disturb livestock, and the concept of established right of way over private land is centuries old. And we are world-class at queuing: that everyday example of fairness, consideration, equality …

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

“And we are world-class at queuing…”
As a Swedish friend of mine once said ” we queue too, we just don’t talk about it. It is the English that endlessly talk about their queuing”

Frederik van Beek
Frederik van Beek
3 years ago

In general I consider scandinavian countries to be the richest and most developed civilizations on earth at this moment but unfortunately it doesn’t seem like the world is heading towards the so called Swedish model (which isn’t so different from the neighbouring countries). If global mass hysteria could have been avoided anywhere then Sweden , Norway, Finland, Denmark, etc., were the most likely candidates to avoid it. I wouldn’t call the Swedish policy laissez-faire in any respect. It’s just common sense based on the available science, plain and simple. Act on what you do know from scientific experience and do not act on the basis of irrational emotions.

Remember what Johan Giesecke said. Some countries do this, some countries do that and in the end it’s the same ball game everywhere (virologically speaking that is). The virus will eventually spread like wildfire (or already has), it is endemic.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

I would agree that the Scandinavian countries were the most civilized nations the world has seen, but for obvious reasons that will change in the years to come. Sweden, for example, is probably too far gone to be saved.

Silke David
Silke David
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Can you explain your last sentence? In which way is Sweden too far gone to be saved from what?

Olaf Felts
Olaf Felts
3 years ago
Reply to  Silke David

Stupidity – their looking lonely in that respect. The lowest denominator obviously. How dare they pursue common sense and pragmatism? Being provocative. Apologise – the covid factor.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
3 years ago

I agree, ‘laissez-faire’ suggests lack of care or committment. In reality the Swedes have demonstrated far more real rigour to their deliberations. It would be more accurate to label the shut downs as laissez faire because little real thought or care has gone into those decisions and they have just lazily gone along with the dominant media-backed voices.

Ken Charman
Ken Charman
3 years ago

I am a Brit who worked for a Swedish tech company for five years and have also headed up EMEA for US companies, where I had to explain variations across the many EU cultures in the “single” market (where one EU wide approach is not viable). “Lagom” was my go to word, and to Anglo-Saxon culture it seems designed to suffocate individuality and competition. However, it obviously has compensations that Covid has highlighted. As the UK lurches towards 4 or 5 million unemployed and continues to argue from polar opposites about lockdowns, in much the same febrile atmosphere we suffered over Brexit, we look on in envy.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Ken Charman

I don’t think Anglo-Saxon really understand individuality.

Dave Tagge
Dave Tagge
3 years ago

Very interesting article by Mr. Sayers.

I will pick a couple nits with one comment that he makes about the U.S.: “Try putting decking on the seaside edge of your garden, or buying alcohol from anywhere other than the state monopoly ” you will be met with restrictions that would be unthinkable in either Britain or the United States.”

In the case of the U.S., he might be surprised by the number of places with similar restrictions on putting decking on the seaside edge of one’s garden. It certainly wouldn’t be close to everywhere, but plenty of places in the U.S. have such restrictions imposed either by local government or a home owners’ association. HOA’s are admittedly private, non-governmental entities. In form, however, an HOA for a large subdivision ends up looking a bit like a small-town government, and (usually retired) busybody HOA board members are a common stereotype. I hadn’t made the connection previously, but the personality type is quite similar to a lockdown-crazed governor or mayor.

Also, seven U.S. states have state-run liquor stores with monopolies on the package – i.e., retail for off-premises consumption – sale of spirits.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave Tagge

Exactly, I grew up in NY suburb, all middle/upper class. My neighbor got in trouble with HOA because his US flag was too big. And you had to cut the grass too – my parents got in trouble because it was “overgrown”.
In USA you can not but alcohol unless you are 21, so we all had fake IDs.
You can get married at 18, die for your country, breed, pay taxes, borrow money BUT you can not buy a six pack.

Dave Tagge
Dave Tagge
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Yes, stories like that are common, as well as complaints about dealing with architectural review committees. (To be clear, I’m not saying all HOA’s are that way. I’ve lived in a condo with an HOA for 10+ years. The board and other residents have pretty much always been reasonable.)

The bad situations on occasion get really bad, though. Here’s a WSJ article from last year about one where a homeowner and the HOA ran up combined legal bills of almost $800,000 in a 7+ year dispute that clearly turned into a contest of wills – https://www.wsj.com/article… .

A few quotes:

“Soon after Jim Hildenbrand arrived in Avignon Villa Homes, a community for older adults in a Kansas City suburb, the homeowner association disputed the placement of his satellite dish. It cited him for parking cars in his driveway overnight and placing a St. Francis statue in a flower bed. He was later written up for a dead cat in a window well”which Mr. Hildenbrand suspects was planted by a neighborhood enemy.”

“After he installed a decorative, shin-high wall around a plant bed on the side of his house, saying it would enhance the curb appeal, the HOA ordered him to remove it because it hadn’t been approved by an architectural review committee. Mr. Hildenbrand said he actually had the needed approval. Seven years after he moved in, the HOA and Mr. Hildenbrand are still fighting over the decorative wall in court, with no end in sight.”

“Board members and some residents said they are the victim of a rogue neighbor… Another contingent of residents supports Mr. Hildenbrand, asserting they have been mistreated by the HOA board. “They have bullied for so long so many of the residents,” said Connie Morris, 66, whose complaints include the association not allowing a decorative bench in her front yard.”

“When he installed a satellite dish next to his home in the backyard, the HOA advised him it had to be in the middle of the yard, he said. Mr. Hildenbrand refused to move it, arguing the placement of the dishes falls under federal control … The board dropped the demand after it was advised by the Federal Communications Commission that the HOA had no jurisdiction over satellite dishes.”

Donn
Donn
3 years ago

Wonderful article, of much value. Thank you!

On an exceedingly trivial matter: Shouldn’t “summers” be possessive in the phrase “It’s a lovely summers day”?

Thank you so much!

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Donn

Eagle eyes.

Cecilia Antbring
Cecilia Antbring
3 years ago

I am so happy to have found unherd, since most media coverage during this crisis has been true garbage when the World needs to be informed, not misled. Being Swedish, it has been so strange to have Sweden of all places to be blamed for Libertarianism (I have seen this in respected Newspapers like CNN, NY times etc.), when to me it truly is a country that protects human rights, and especially those of children who haven’t had their right to play, interact and go to school being taken away from them. Not choosing lockdown was never only about the economy, but about sparing society from collapse (psychological, social, educational etc. and yes of course economic). Also, importantly, our Constitution does not give the Government the right to decide over our freedom of movement. I live in Italy, and ran off to Sweden before the quarantine, sparing my children of a trauma that they would have carried with them forever I believe.

Lennart Johansson
Lennart Johansson
3 years ago

Yes I can agree that it is a lot about the children being able to go to school. And it breaks my heart to see the school closures around the world.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

‘Njuta, allemansrÀtt, lagom ” what are our equivalent values in Britain or the United States?’

The equivalent value in Britain is to go to the park or countryside and leave a lot of litter. The equivalent value in the US is to attack little old ladies with paint.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

What is up with the litter?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I’m not quite sure what you mean but, broadly speaking, the UK’s educational, welfare, judicial, social and media structures have created tens of millions of people whose only loyalty is to themselves and their appetites. Thus they happily gather to eat and drink in public places, assuming that others will clear up after them. It is sickening, especially as most of them would claim to care about ‘the environment’.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Plenty of people (northern europe – as per the article) eat and drink in public parks; the question is why the British litter?
The Germans recycle 2x of their waste as the British.

Paul Boizot
Paul Boizot
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

You write; “the UK’s educational, welfare, judicial, social and media structure” No mention of political there. Are you old enough to remember “There is no such thing as society”? Loadsamoney! I won’t go on about the detail, but Thatcher….who of course would never have had a majority in a Proportional Representation electoral system. And of course the Labour Party has continued to support the electoral system which gives us periodic Tory govnerments on a minority vote.

Go Away Please
Go Away Please
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Boizot

I do get tired of the “no such thing as society” not being put into context.
So here it is in context:

“I think we have been through a period when too many people have been given to understand that when they have a problem it is government’s job to cope with it. ‘I have a problem, I’ll get a grant. I’m homeless, the government must house me.’ They are casting their problems on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no governments can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours. People have got their entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There is no such thing as an entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.”

I personally cannot see what is wrong with what Thatcher was saying. Perhaps Paul Boizot could tell me?

Paul Boizot
Paul Boizot
3 years ago
Reply to  Go Away Please

It’s the bit that says “And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.” Do I really need to explain this? That there are also communities both geographically at various levels, and of interest and belief; and also, though I am not a nationalist, nations – a questionable one, I agree, but very fashionable in the last couple of centuries. If it is only individuals and families, why should anyone join the British army?

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Boizot

I don’t think she was expressing, perhaps clumsily, that it’s individuals & groups of them who bring things about. She perhaps didn’t know what, specifically, was meant by ‘society’, and it’s not a dumb question. She went onto to exemplify that rights & obligations must exist in some manner of equilibrium & ultimately there are individuals & groups of them exercising & discharging these rights & obligations in harmony.

Go Away Please
Go Away Please
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Boizot

In the overall context of the interview she was giving she was being asked about children and families and education and such like. She wasn’t addressing the bigger picture of the nation. It’s asking too much for her entire political philosophy to have been summed up by a few sentences.
Here’s another bit from the interview I found (it was with Women’s Own btw) where she again uses the phrase that bothers you:
“There is no such thing as society. There is living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate.
And the worst things we have in life, in my view, are where children who are a great privilege and a trust”they are the fundamental great trust, but they do not ask to come into the world, we bring them into the world, they are a miracle, there is nothing like the miracle of life”we have these little innocents and the worst crime in life is when those children, who would naturally have the right to look to their parents for help, for comfort, not only just for the food and shelter but for the time, for the understanding, turn round and not only is that help not forthcoming, but they get either neglect or worse than that, cruelty”.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

A wonderful eulogy.

Who would have thought otherwise? A country that spends half the year in darkness, invents the Sabb, Volvo, and Aga, avoided WWII, and has a proud independent History, was bound to the find the correct answer to C19.

HMG should be, but predictably isn’t, ashamed of our simply pathetic performance in the C-19 fiasco.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Love ‘the Scandinavians’ .

Though by no means perfect, they seem to have most things sussed better than anyone.

Undeniably smart, but had the UK been as ‘smart’ as them in the late 30s, the world would likely be a very different place.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

Not if Adolph had repeated his bovine interference with Operation Barbarossa.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Still an ‘if’.

A war on two fronts was Hitler’s ultimate undoing.

No Britain, then likely no USA.

‘Cosmic’ sequencing played a large part.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

We were lucky that we weren’t on his Menu.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Yep, it would only have been a matter of time for us though, I’m sure.

Thankfully impatience and hubris got the better of him.

Mads Naeraa-Spiers
Mads Naeraa-Spiers
3 years ago

Thank you, Freddie.

As a Dane/New Zealander living in NZ, reading this felt like someone actually understanding me – or, more widely, the Scandinavian DNA.

You and Bernard-Henri Levy have lifted my spirits a bit. (Next interviewee, perhaps?)

Alex Mitchell
Alex Mitchell
3 years ago

Interesting here in NZ. Had the virus taken control, I’m not sure whether people would have responded in a Swedish way or a British way. Community is probably stronger here than in much of the UK, but not all. The government response would undoubtedly have been highly authoritarian

tangosmurfen
tangosmurfen
3 years ago

Sweden lacks in abilities. Ever since the constitution was changed in 1974 and the government was allowed to appoint civil servants without giving priority to merits, incompetence is slowly taking over. The reason that Covid-19 was allowed to spread instead of being hunted down by infection tracing was because the ability to do large scale infection tracing has been lost.

This was a consequence of the Smittskydsinstitutet (The Institute of infectious protectio) being transformed to the FolkhÀlsomyndigheten (The Office for Public Health). Focus shifted from infectious diseases to PC subjects like the transgender experience of forest fires or the problem racified (people who are white but appointed to honorable Blacks) have when visiting a health care center.

Anders Tegnells job has been to retroactively explain why proper action has not been taken. When sick people arrived from the Alps he explained that COVID-19 does not spread outside the Alps. Earlier he explained that it did not spread in the Alps but only in China.

When old people with COVID-19 where sent to home for old people where care givers had no protection, Tegnell explained that protective equipment did not work.

And so on. Incompetence explain why Sweden acts differently

Geoff Cox
Geoff Cox
3 years ago
Reply to  tangosmurfen

Stefan – very interesting comment. Please expalin some more, especially your second sentence.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  tangosmurfen

Please tell us why anyone would be appointed black

tangosmurfen
tangosmurfen
3 years ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

The Idea is that muslins are black, although they are white in skin colour. Any criticism of Islam can than be labelled racism. Example: A man complained about the sounds of the Muslim all to prayer. He wrote that it sounds like a donkey in pain. He was accused of racism but not convicted.

Geoff Cox
Geoff Cox
3 years ago
Reply to  tangosmurfen

Hi Stephan – that’s a very old definition of racism. Why go that far when I can be accused of racism if I tell an Irish joke – and I’m 100% the same race as an Irishman.

But can I ask again for a bit more explanation of this line of yours:

” Ever since the constitution was changed in 1974 and the government was allowed to appoint civil servants without giving priority to merits …”

lmcelhill
lmcelhill
3 years ago

Thanks Freddie. So glad I found UnHerd. It’s saving my sanity. An excellent article that makes a lot of sense. I’m in Canada, Vancouver and I wish we’d approached Covid in a similar way to Sweden. I’m having a problem with the mask issue and I’m also concerned about all the hysteria around rising cases as restrictions are gradually removed ,(but deaths are down).People here seem to be obsessed with the mask issue. If you don’t wear a mask you’re either an idiot ( Covidiot) or a murderer! I feel increasingly defensive. I’m a retired registered nurse with years of experience and I resent being branded as some kind of nutter. Translink, the company that runs public transport, ie the buses and Skytrain, are mandating masks be worn on transit starting in two weeks time. NOT because our Public Health Officer has made it so………no. Translink’s customers have demanded it !!!!!

pallenfamily
pallenfamily
3 years ago

Once again Freddy, you prove to be an inspiration. I met with a medical doctor today who was of the opinion wearing face masks was a selfless act of care in the community and that the radical UK lock down is why the mortality rate is low. I disagreed and consider the punitive practice as pure political propaganda to encourage confidence for shoppers in order to kick start the failing and fragile economy. The aggressive UK lock down may well of prolonged the viral infection and has created unnecessary hardship for many poor people and their families. God only knows what excess deaths will occur because of suspended medical treatments. Throughout the “pandemic” you have objectively, interviewed a number of highly qualified epidemiologists, statisticians and biophysicists. The common thread is that they are all of similar opinion that the virus is mild by comparison and that herd immunity will develop over time. And, probably has already to a great degree. I become quite perplexed when the Government state they are following the science, when stellar scientists contradict. I wish we had stayed on course following in the mode of Sweden prior to Professor Ferguson’s dismal predictions. Thank you and keep up the good work, it is invaluable. An interesting insight of Swedish culture!

Dave Tagge
Dave Tagge
3 years ago

Find it interesting that the Swedish left-right divide on the issue of government-mandated shutdowns is broadly the opposite of the U.S.

Alex Mitchell
Alex Mitchell
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave Tagge

Many issues are simply framed as oppositional. If it’s imposed by Trump, Democrats oppose, if it’s imposed by Obama, Republicans oppose. Irrespective of the topic at hand. There are many gotcha videos on YouTube showing this by asking for feedback on policies when presenting them as if they had been proposed by the other party.

G H
G H
3 years ago

Well writen piece. What I missed was the narcolepsy story after the 2009 swine flu vaccination campain. Anders Tegnell was in charge of the mass vaccination in Sweden which left 500 children behind with narcolepsy after getting a hastily developed vaccine. Guess, this might have played a role in his decision making having had experienced such serious side effects after adminstering a not well developed vaccine. My assumption is that he is simply not sharing the optimism of other public-healh figures (and of interested commerical parties) that we would have a safe and effective vaccine anytime soon. So, he might have prefered to attempt reaching quick natural population immunity over waiting for a vaccine to achieve an uncertain and late population immunity

Narcolepsy is a debilitating condition that causes overpowering daytime sleepiness, sometimes accompanied by a sudden muscle weakness in response to strong emotions such as laughter or anger. So far, there is no cure.

Frederik van Beek
Frederik van Beek
3 years ago
Reply to  G H

And in addition: if ever a vaccine was NOT necessary it was for the swine flu. So it’s a good thing Anders Tegnell has learned his lesson from this. For the rest of the world apparently the swine flu was just a precedent for the mass hysteria we are in right now.

Paul Reidinger
Paul Reidinger
3 years ago

An excellent piece.

Lennart Johansson
Lennart Johansson
3 years ago

Not sure I’d buy into these cultural differences between people around the world. I mean a lot of us here in sweden have been influenced by British values for many many decades. Or French. Or German. Or Finnish. Etc.
What I think mostly differ is that here, our politicians didn’t interfere. They wisely let Anders Tegnell and his team communicate their strategy straight to us citizens.
And how he did that!
I actually didn’t like him to start with, but by pure logos, ethos and pathos he changed the whole attitude, singlehandedly..
It’s the definition of good leadership, and has little to do with national cultural differences (Shackleton would nod approvingly.)
Man of the year? That’s an understatement.
He has preserved sanity in the western world.

Variant
Variant
3 years ago

It would seem there are mixed inputs here. Some parts informed by leftish community-oriented thinking, cultural homogeneity and a deference to experts (which can work out when, as in this case, the experts end up being right), but also by a constitution with aggressive limitations on government’s ability to infringe on rights of individuals.

Whatever the reasons may be, it’s been extremely valuable to have a state-level “control” on the effectiveness of lockdowns.

Is it too late to trade Fauci for Tegnell?

Alka Hughes-Hallett
Alka Hughes-Hallett
3 years ago

I am so glad I found Unherd since March . I look forward to your articles and interviews and they reflect my own views and observations. I particularly enjoyed this one – searching for society’s values and putting a finger on why it does what it does . Respect is a word that comes to mind. Swedes clearly seem to respect themselves , each other and their environment. I think we have a lot to learn there.

Michael Koch
Michael Koch
3 years ago

A very interesting and thought provoking article, as are the comments and discussions. I am very happy to have “discovered” Unherd. A few comments of my own would be that culture most certainly will have an impact on how a society responds to crises. I have read of similar responses to that by Sweden in countries like Taiwan and Japan. Relative uniformity in social standing and cultural values means the population regulates it own response without excessive intervention from government.The fore-mentioned countries were of course more practiced in dealing with viral outbreaks and in addition it appears that previous exposure to SARS may have resulted in many Pacific Rim countries higher levels of immunity to Sars Cov-2. In the case of the US, a volatile social and political environment, the media abetting and cheer-leading the intensity and antagonistic nature of opposing (and sometimes aligning) political goals with respect to internal and external (China) agendas have greatly influenced government at every level, public discourse and uniformity of response and outcomes.

janebrynonnen
janebrynonnen
3 years ago

A very inspiring piece. It reminds me of Jonathan Haidt’s analysis of the left wing in the US and UK, which is that they only take notice of the care/harm aspect of morality, and neglect other values to do with having the collective work together (which include loyalty, sanctity and authority). Continental Europe it seems has a much broader view of well-being.

Lockdown in the UK has been depressing for the sterile government message to ‘stay home and save lives’, followed by ‘buy stuff you don’t need and save the economy’, when it could have been calling on us all to pull together and create a better society. Fortunately many of us have been doing just that. But we need a new story too, where we take a long-term view of health. It is about so much more than not catching a virus. We should not let ‘stay safe’ be the highest value.

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
3 years ago
Reply to  janebrynonnen

It’s probably not the moment to point it out, but I find Jonathan Haidt’s analysis of the left lacking in one key caveat. Their priority for “care/harm” aspect applies *only* to their chosen in-groups, and is not universally applied. When it comes to the out-groups, they often don’t even want them to receive a trial most of the time, much less a fair one.

Everything else you mention, I couldn’t agree more.

janebrynonnen
janebrynonnen
3 years ago

Interesting – do you have an example?

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
3 years ago
Reply to  janebrynonnen

An example would be Harvey Weinstein – rich, white, male – outgroup. The left did not ask for a trial to establish his guilt, but assumed that he was guilty, and attempted to punish him extrajudicially. This is a very different reaction to, say, Shamima Beghum, who, for the most part, was held up as an example of someone who was entitled to a fair trial before being judged guilty. Two different reactions depending on whether the alleged criminal is a member of the in-group or out-group.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago

Trying again – first one got swallowed up.

Nice article by Freddie Sayers, but (being half Swedish?) he left some aspects out. First, Sweden is known for a quite heavy social control. If public opinion and peer pressure are strong enough to control people’s behaviour you can indeed get reliable results without explicit rules. But the individual (lack of) freedom is not necessaryily much better in one case than the other.

Second, Swedes seem to be much more deferential to authority than some other Scandinavians. Immigration policy is a good example. If Sweden is rather more welcoming to immigrants, it is unlikely to be because Swedes are inherently nicer than e.g. Danes. Both countries started in the same place, with an educated elite strongly committed to tolerance and welcoming foreigners, and a population increasingy seeing it as a problem. Only in Sweden the elite managed to ostracise dissenting voices and impress its values on the populace, whereas is Denmark they tried and failed. The ‘version of the Social Democrats curently in power’ in Denmark is tough on immigration – reluctantly – because they know that any other policy would mean they could not get elected. Except for some progressive hold-outs, ‘tough on immigration’ is for good or ill the Danish consensus.

When Anders Tegnell decided that skiing holidays and graduation parties were more important than additional public health measures he was making a trade-off: That it was worth some extra deaths to let the Swedish people continue to ‘njuta’ in peace. No complaints there, that is exactly the kind of trade-off governments are supposed to make. But it does rather depend on how many avoidable deaths we are talking about. And here Tegnell basically took it for granted that the pandemic would not reach Sweden or was not very lethal, and that anyway there was nothing that could be done about it. He may yet be proved right (though it does not look like it from Denmark or New York) but whatever he thought *there is no way he could have known from the data then available*. In effect, he was gambling. Public health authorities in Denmark also wanted to keep to their prepared pandemic plans (even if they were prepared for flu, a rather different disease), stick to their comfort zone, and avoid drastic measures. Only in Denmark the government decided that this was not enough and took some action – and thank God for that. In Sweden the government deferred to the health authorities, the populace deferred to the government, and if that meant that Sweden did it differently from eveybody else – on the same data – people were happy to see this as one more proof of Swedish superiority. To each his own – but I am not moving to Stockholm any time soon.

peter.ljung3
peter.ljung3
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Hey Rasmus.
Your obviously Danish but why so angry at Sweden? Chill brother, we are trying to do the best we can, just in the way we think is best.
You should read the very good article in danish newspaper that former danish prime minister Lars lokke Rasmussen wrote in may. He said an important aspect is economy over time and Sweden’s strategy may work best there. Not in short terms.
EU has just taxed all countries with billions of extra euros. But the pandemic is not over by far. There will be need for more taxes this anfall and winter. Is it worth it when the number show that a smal % dead are +70-80 years? I got 2 kids that are 16 and 18. What is their future if we don’t have jobs?

very interesting article. I’m been following Freddie and I like the way he interview professionals and let them speak their mind in lots of topics.
So many news just write war headlines to sell a quick story. We need more refreshing analyzing journalism like Freddie’s .
Am also half Swedish btw.
Hope I can take a trip to some other countries soon without people freaking out.
Pardon if I miss spell. 🙂

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  peter.ljung3

Well, I am not surprised if the Swedish approach is better for the economy. After all you made a conscious decision to accept additional deaths to keep the economy running. Now if that had been said straight out, I would disagree, but I would respect your choice. What I find hard to take is the Tegnell approach, not just his immense superiority, but insisting that *he* knows that this is not much worse than flu, and the number of dead would be the same regardless. He might be still proved right, but there is no way he (and he alone) could have known that for sure. If he wants to gamble people’s lives on his estimates he can at least have the grace to be humble about it. There was a time when UK policy was also to do nothing much and wait for herd immunity, and people kept asking how come Britain could be following a different ‘science-based’ policy when the science was supposedly the same everywhere. I find it significant that Sweden could adopt a policy that was so different to everyone else without ever wavering in the conviction that of course it was Sweden that was right and the rest of the world that was wrong.

Also I admit I am a little tired about the Swedish refrencees to the racist Danes. Of course we are ‘Brodrefolk’. Which I guess gives Sweden the kind of patronising superiority that big brothers feel towards younger siblings, and Denmark the resentment and irritation the younger siblings feel in return.

stephen archer
stephen archer
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

If you two could lighten up on the DK/SE bickering and focus on the reality as opposed to the strategy, imagine if the Swedish care homes and home help services had been running as they were in the 70’s/80’s. The number of deceased in Sweden would probably have been at least 50-60% less than it turned out to be. Take away the immigrant communities and it would be 70% less. My wife who’s worked in the home care sector for 40 years has witnessed at first hand the gradual deterioration and profit-orientated decline of this sector : privatisation, exodus of experienced swedish staff, recruitment of immigrant staff with limited language and social culture experience, younger swedes who would not dream of taking such demanding employment. Before Covid-19 old people in care were dying of malnutrition, lack of care, private enterprise focus on profit. The only difference with Covid-19 is the acceleration in time of death.

peter.ljung3
peter.ljung3
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I never heard that Tegnell knew exactly how the flu would be, what I heard Tegnell said was that all indications pointed that the flu had low effect on children and mostly was dangerous to elderly.
The Tegnell strategy has been to keep the number of infected and in need for hospital treatment at such I low level that the medical system could handle it. With as low impact as possible for the rest of society.
I totally respect countries like Italy and UK who went in panic and lockdown because the elderly was dying at a high rate and the medical system could not handle all.
But that was not the case in Sweden.
I definitely don’t Tegnell gambled any strategy, he worked with this is whole life internationally and nationally. He made a calculation what would work best for Sweden.
As Tegnell had said it very unfortunate that the disease spread to some elderly homes, but some elder homes have managed to handle it very well. They took the decision to close the homes and have zero dead.
I find it interesting to se that in Danish news paper there are reports of a high mortality among Danish Somalis like we’d seen in Sweden with Swedish Somalis. Maybe the reason for that is that when Somalis get sick, their whole family come’s and visit. I don’t know if that is the case but that’s a discussion in the Swedish media. In Italy where children, mom, dad and grandparents live in the same home, could that explain the rapid spread there?
I get it that UK and US bunch the Nordic countries together and treat us like we are all fairly the same. We are too small countries and population and not that interesting to get in all the details. But we who live here know there’s a lot of different.
I don’t think there’s a right and wrong way in this pandemic. Every country has to make their own decision based on where they are economical, flu spread and health system. But I’m glad Sweden has stayed open as much as was possible.
As for the racist Danes I don’t know what you mean. I like Denmark and it’s very popular among all my friends and relatives.
Pardon if I misspell

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  peter.ljung3

Well, as it looks from here, Tegnell judged that everybody was going to get it anyway, and it was not too dangerous so that was not a problem. Just like the flu. The only thing needed was to to spread out the process so that the number of acute patients was not too big at any given time, and just accept that a limited number of people was going to die. The Danish Sundhedsstyrelse had similar ideas, as had some authorities in Britain. If it had been seasonal flu (I notice you called it ‘flu’, BTW) that would have been correct for sure, they had pandemic plans prepared specifically for flu. Countries that had experience of SARS went active straight away – they did not assume it was just like flu. China and Italy fairly quickly noticed that people were dying at an unprecedented rate and did not feel like assuming that you could treat it like another seasonal flu. But Tegnell just doubled down. He did not see any need to consider that this might be more dangerous than he had first thought. This is where I blame him. He may have been right or wrong, but on the available data there is no way he could be sure his first assumptions were correct. And if COVID proved to be more contagious and more dangerous than he first thought, at some point his policies could prove disastrous.

In fact this whole episode has made me think that maybe scientists are not the best people to take this kind of decision. It goes against the grain – I am a scientist myself, and believe firmly in evidence-based policy making, but it looks like scientists are not that good at taking decisions under high uncertainty. Politicians might be better in that respect (those that actually care about getting it right, as opposed to protecting their ego or getting the right headlines tomorrow, of course). In Denmark, for instance, the prime minster decided that the risks were too high to keep things nice and low-key as Sundhedsstyrelsen wanted, and took some action. In case this was not quite like the flu after all. And god on her.

Science remains sovereign (if you do it right) but you can see where scientists might be biased. We devote our careers to becoming certain, to understanding things, to making sure. So in a new and uncertain situation we are probably prone to assuming our known models remain good even when we are beyond the area where they have been tested. For one thing it feels acutely uncomfortable to admit that you do not understand what is happening. For another, how do you take reliable decisions when you have no model to work from? Even in uncertain situations we tend to make a hypothesis and go with that. Whereas what you really need to do is to get a realistic idea of the range and probabilities of possible outcomes, and then plan for alternatives.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  peter.ljung3

Second try.

As it looks from here, Tegnell assumed that COVID was about like the flu, not much more dangerous, might never get to Sweden anyway, and anyway there was nothing one could do. So he went for the standard flu pandemic plans, doing just enough to slow the pandemic down so that the system was not overwhelmed, and aimed for minimum disruption while he waited till herd immunity kicked in and the unavoidable deaths had happened. He may have noticed that elderly people were more vulnerable, but I am not aware that he did anything particular to protect them. The Danish Sundhedsstyrelse started with a similar approach, as did some UK authorities. If those assumptions had proved right (and the jury is still out) that would be the best approach – but there is just no way Tegnell could be particularly sure from the data available then (or even now?). Countries with experience of SARS (and access to the same scientific data) preferred a much more active approach. China and Italy noticed that people were dying at an unprecedented rate and did not choose to wait for herd immunity. Various countries proved that you could actually stop the epidemic locally. And countries like Denmark and the UK decided that it might be wiser not to just do the minimum and trust their health bureaucracies that it would be all right regardless. Tegnell just doubled down. I do not doubt that he sincerely believed that his assumptions were correct, and everybody else was just panicking, but to me that looks more like hubris, or gambling, than superior intellect. If you believe that Tegnell simply drew the correct, rational conclusion from available scientific data, you ought to explain why Sweden was about the only country to take a rational decision to that effect. Was the Swedish situation essentially different from that of all other countries? Or was Sweden the only country capable of drawing an obvious conclusion from sufficient data? And in either case: what is it that makes Sweden so unique among the nations of the world? Anyway, I am glad that Denmark decided to prioritise people’s lives over the economy in an uncertain situation – and that Denmark seems to have had rather fewer deaths for whatever reason.

Actually, this whole affair has made me think that scientists may not be the best people to take this kind of decision. It goes against the grain ““ I am a scientist myself and I firmly believe in evidence-based policy making. But it looks like scientists may not be the best to take decisions under high uncertainty. Of course you need to get what data there are, and science is sovereign for that. But it is easy to see why scientists might be biased:
As scientists we have dedicated our career to producing ordered, reliable understanding of the world. I suspect that leaves us with a need for understanding and a bias towards trusting our models regardless, sometimes way beyond the range of situations they have been validated for (which is something I seem to have noticed a lot under the COVID epidemic). For one thing it can be acutely uncomfortable to consider that we may not actually understand what is going on. For another, how can we decide what to do if we do not have any model to work with? Even where the science is uncertain, I think we tend to make a hypothesis and go with that till something better takes its place. Unfortunately, what is needed under high uncertainty is something else: A fair appreciation of all the alternative possibilities and how likely they are, and a policy that takes all of them into account. And here other profession ““ even politicians – might have more experience to draw on.

As for the racist Danes, Freddie Sayers kindly suggested that the Danish ‘rush’ to close their borders was best explained by the ‘anti-immigration version of the Social Democrats who currently hold power there’. I thought that was worth a comment.

Olaf Felts
Olaf Felts
3 years ago
Reply to  peter.ljung3

Seems a lot of us about, which statistically seems strange – time for a lockdown on us half Swedes to reduce transmission.

Frederick Hastings
Frederick Hastings
3 years ago

“Politics is downstream from culture,” postulated the late Andrew Breitbart, to which this most edifying essay lends credence.

rperkins
rperkins
3 years ago

Each population has a proportion of people not susceptible to Covid-19, probably because of genetics and/or previous exposure to other Coronaviruses. I guess this proportion is more than 70% in the UK. We can ‘flatten the curve’ but without a vaccine the virus will persist somewhere in the World and eventually infect nearly every susceptible person.

Scott A
Scott A
3 years ago

Well put, and interesting throughout. I’d only argue with the idea that these concepts are ‘not libertarian’. American libertarianism, broadly understood, is a mess of conflicting ideas and ideologies, but the older, intellectually coherent concept of libertarian society revolves around the kind of shared cultural norms you talk about in the article. Freedom within limits (the limits, in your example, being voluntary and amounting to not violating others’ freedoms by encroaching on their space) sounds like a idyllic libertarian concept to me.

More generally, Sweden is fascinating in that it is simultaneously extremely libertarian and not at all libertarian. Locally, it’s quite close. High levels of local autonomy, relatively limited interference in people’s lives, etc. Nationally, it’s the opposite; massive taxation and welfare state structures, etc. It’s an interesting balance. I don’t really have a conclusion; just find it to be a fascinating country.

Peter Collins
Peter Collins
3 years ago
Reply to  Scott A

I came here to say what you said. Some libertarianism – the kind of libertarianism with which Freddie is familiar – is akin to libertinism. But traditional, well-understood libertarianism is perfectly compatible with a cohesive society in which people self-govern around shared cultural norms. Bravo for the Swedes!

blatnick39
blatnick39
3 years ago

Wonderful article that gave me a gut level feel for why Sweden reacted as it did during this time, as well as a feel for the Swedish people as a whole. Beautifully explained.

And in regard to the US, one sentence stood out to me: “The fragmented and highly individualistic culture of the UK and US, without much by way of universally shared values to fall back on, is a big part of why the response in those countries has been so uncertain and the debate so poisonous.” Yes, we have always been a highly individualistic society. But through generations, we did have universally shared values. To be American meant something. People would come from all over the world to live here and blend into what was referred to as a ‘melting pot’. No longer. It has been ‘educated/indoctrinated’ out of our young for a few generations now. There are no longer universally shared values. There are only shifting values now that are created out of thin air that no one can keep up with them. And the commonality that was our melting pot has been turned into a collectivist platter with each tribe demanding their rules, for their purposes. We are in a fight for our soul here. We can barely agree on what to call a woman or man, let alone how to deal with Covid. While individuals may have ideas on what our response should have been, the collectives have taken over to push and pull us all into a mass of ridiculous poses and pointing fingers.

Sweden sounds pretty nice to this American.

Lennart Johansson
Lennart Johansson
3 years ago
Reply to  blatnick39

Much of our policy was inspired by the american optimism after ww2. Our main politicians loved the american energy and attitude. If one reads modern history, one can argue that the goal of the swedish ‘strong state’ was to give e
veryone in sweden the opportunities to succeed. To level the chances . Sadly we’ve become more segregated the last 30 years thanks to insane privatisations, of housing, schools and social care, more than even in Britain I guess.

Andrea X
Andrea X
3 years ago

Nothing to add, except, thank you!

T J Putnam
T J Putnam
3 years ago

Helpful introduction to some key elements of Swedish culture to bear in mind along with Constitutional limitats on the powers of central government in getting your mind round their approach to CoVid 19. The idea that freedoms entail responsibility is not uniquely Swedish or even particularly left wing, nor is a broader awareness of the need to respect objective processes and the consequences of human action. Such principles were very much part of the picture in small town Vermont when I was young and are also evident in rural France where I live now. Regular engagement with natural processes, eg through agriculture, is one helpful element, another is education emphasising principles and responsibility.

Mike Ryan
Mike Ryan
3 years ago

Great piece. Thanks Freddie.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
3 years ago

NZ has also lost its culture to the US media/corporate/PC liberal onslaught, and since education has also been captured the number of NZers truly able to form an informed opinion about anything is low. I am gobsmacked how useless Phd’s are around the world. During our lockdown the number of people ‘informing’ on neighbours for pushing stupid boundaries sadly reminded me of how easily stupid anxious people roll over before a quasi legal entity..nuff said

Andy Ward
Andy Ward
3 years ago

So I am currently living in the Canary Islands – we were supposed to be going to the Uk for a few weeks this Summer to see family, we go every Summer. But the insistence on quarantining for two weeks upon arrival (even though the incidence rate of Covid where I live is almost 0) has put the kerbosh on our plans.
So given Sweden is open for business and very much aligned with my own thinking on this nonsense, any suggestions of where two forty something adults and one 10 year old could spend 4 or 5 nights in Sweden – having never been before?
I like to relax, chill out, my wife does prefer the cities / more cosmopolitan areas…

mikael.wiberg
mikael.wiberg
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Ward

My hometown Stockholm of course! Welcome to one of the safest places to travel. Most of the population is immune to Sars2. No facemasks required and no risk of lockdown/quarantine AND the hotels are really cheap this summer……

klauskroy
klauskroy
3 years ago

njuta (av vad gott Àr), allemansrÀtt, lagom – like spring water high up in the mountains – how wonderful! Thank you for your precise and powerful prose

Paul Lock
Paul Lock
3 years ago

Nationalism is all the rage because it gives the common man a sense of ownership and identity. But if he can’t roam the land, what’s that ownership worth? The Swedish idea of allemansratt complements nationalist politics perfectly. But the chances of Bunter and his pals extending the right to roam across the 50% of England that’s owned by less than 1% of its people are zero – it’s the 1%, the corporations and oligarchs that fund the Tories.

perrywidhalm
perrywidhalm
3 years ago

Interesting and well-written essay. Thanks!

Nick Whitehouse
Nick Whitehouse
3 years ago

A very depressing article – from a British point of view.

We seem to have lost the ability to be considerate to others here.
Does anybody have any ideas as to why?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

British sits somewhere in between Northern Europe and Latin Europe – culturally speaking.
@Mark Corby
Sweden/Germany/Netherlands are far more “socialistic” than UK, if your definition is the welfare state.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

The culture of envy spread by that pernicious virus, normally known as socialism.

Paul Boizot
Paul Boizot
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Well envy may also be spread by TV advertising and all those awful “my wonderful house” programmes too. I would say a culture of greed and selfishness has been encouraged, particularly since 1979.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Boizot

It had already started when Macmillan told us “you’ve never had it so good” in the early sixties I’m afraid.

Hosias Kermode
Hosias Kermode
3 years ago

I honestly think that’s more true on social media Or in public groups. On their own and in their homes Brits seem far more relaxed. During recent walking holiday this old woman was constantly fetched bottles of water, welcomed into homes to rest without any thought for masks etc and driven to destinations when weather became just too hot. Britons are for the most part tolerant, sensible and kind. They enjoy the richness of their countryside and their freedom to roam. But for good or ill, most seem prepared to go with the flow and follow government regulation rather than stand up and challenge whether the erosion of freedoms is worth it. The current measures will probably just slowly crumble away, as people realise that a rise in cases isn’t a necessarily rise in deaths or serious illnesses, and as they learn more about the resilience of their own immune systems, built up over millions of years of inhabiting the same world as viruses. I’d advise starting by listening to Sarika Gupta on Lockdown TV or Dr John Lee on the Brendan O’Neill
Show. The later also has an excellent interview w Lionel Shriver recorded about three months ago.

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago
Reply to  Hosias Kermode

I think you’re spot on. Our neighbours & little village street have all being very concerned about one another. Narrow, medieval street, no paving, gutters Or streetlights. Some weed the common frontage, I cut neighbours hedges and chatted on Thursday claps for a while. Just 5 miles to the nearest city & no one is considerate. Which is more characteristic of U.K.? Perhaps it’s both!

Paul Boizot
Paul Boizot
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Yeadon

But isn’t that community spirit in places outside the UK also generally more prevalent in smaller and/or rural and/or island and/or less modernised areas, and less prevalent in cities? When I first holidayed in Symi, a small Greek island, the man who drove our, and several other people’s, luggage up from the ferry unloaded it in the square and left it to bring along the narrow paths on foot later. No problem, it will be safe, he said. And it was. But I suspect he would not do that in Athens.

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Boizot

Yes, I think you’ve alighted on the heart of the matter. We lose trust in larger groups, and they in us.

Olaf Felts
Olaf Felts
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Yeadon

That’s the most odd thing about all this – I rarely encounter someone who does not think that the response to covid is bonkers (the technical term). Yet they are not rebelling and just accepting the diktats thrown at them. Mind my Gran always maintained we were all going soft.

Steven Sieff
Steven Sieff
3 years ago
Reply to  Hosias Kermode

This is well said. In general I find my fellow Brits to be respectful of each other face to face but social media would give a very different perspective. Perhaps smaller rural communities are better at appreciating that we all have to live together harmoniously than bigger urban ones – maybe partly a consequence of having more ‘personal space’ in the countryside.

I agree with you that in time there may well be a gradual erosion of the perceived importance of distancing etc, on the proviso that we do not see a large increase in deaths/hospitalisations.

Also that for the majority of people in the UK the path of least distress is to go along with what is being asked of them, irrespective of the rights or wrongs. They do not consider it worthwhile to invest huge energy in researching or questioning the messaging. I suspect that the commenters on this board represent the minority, in that we probably on the whole are either frustrated by what we see as a disproportionate reaction to CV or frustrated by those who deny that the response was warranted.

Unfortunately, for those of us who do perceive the government response to be inappropriate, waiting for the gradual erosion of measures seems a very unsatisfactory outcome. That is why alternative approaches like https://greenbandredband.com are needed.

T Doyle
T Doyle
3 years ago

Interesting article. Could anyone write a similar piece about the U.K. or England? What are our values? How do we preserve our freedom, our sense of enjoyment? Do we have words that encapsulate how we think and feel?

graham9
graham9
3 years ago

I am married to a Swede and have a beautiful house up in Orsa, Dalarna. However, my viewpoint is very simple in that it does not really matter about your culture, social norms and behaviour of the majority of the population, since in every country/society, you will unfortunately find a minimum of 10% of the population who are total morons and mess it up for everyone else. Even in lovely Dalarna (countryside/middle of nowhere) I was sent videos of huge parties in doors with over 500 people drinking and dancing like sardines and no masks and the same in Stockholm for graduation parties etc,etc. It will spike again in Sweden due to this and lack of masks etc. Sweden will face a horrible Autumn/Winter as everybody has to go inside and the bug will spread (don’t believe the herd immunity claims either). I missed my summer holiday in Sweden this year thanks to the idiotic policies of the government since I refuse to put my family at risk. And P.S it is not doing so well. https://www.ft.com/content/

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago
Reply to  graham9

On the winter resurgence risk, are you concerned theoretically, or have you seen or read something that prompts you to regard it as likely, or worse? I think it’s unlikely. In U.K., our massed infections look to have really got going in late Feb & peak death rate was Apr 8-10, followed by 15 weeks of steady decline. Gupta et al show that a low herd immunity threshold would fit the data better than other explanations for the 99% fall in all endpoints.

martin.gorne
martin.gorne
3 years ago
Reply to  graham9

It will spike again in Sweden due to this and lack of masks etc. Sweden will face a horrible Autumn/Winter as everybody has to go inside and the bug will spread (don’t believe the herd immunity claims either).” On what do you base this claim? How do you explain that severely hit regions in Italy see very few new cases despite having much less harsh restrictions in place?

Brian Bieron
Brian Bieron
3 years ago
Reply to  martin.gorne

There is a growing collection of thinking related to the percentage of the population that appears to have some underlying immunity to COVID 19 based on factors such as how their immune systems dealt with other coronaviruses, genetic differences and past immunizations. An article in this weekend’s Washington Post put the number around 40%, maybe a bit higher. If you add that to the percentage of people who got the virus in hotbeds like Northern Italy or the New York metro region this spring (20-30% is not an unreasonable estimate based on antibody tests, which increasingly appear to under-count, as well as extrapolations from fatalities) then you start to get hotbeds with 60-70% immunity at this point. That is something like “herd immunity” and I bet those areas won’t have big new spikes.

Now, does that mean most areas are bound to have the virus run through 20-30% of the population, meaning nearly half the people not harboring preexisting immunity? If yes, filling that “quota” with people under 50, who have VERY LOW death rates, and keeping them away from those who are older, plus getting better and better at treating those who are sick, seems smart.

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Bieron

Agree with you completely. It’s a relief that my views along these lines, developing in me since late April, are now commonplace if not yet mainstream.
Meanwhile our stupid U.K. government is going round mass testing healthy young people then locking down when they find ‘cases’. It’s an act of self Harm which will increase deaths. Each easy survivor acts as an additional immunological firebreak. We want lots of them, so closing schools was idiotic.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  martin.gorne

Italy was the first country in EU to get hit (bad luck) . Sweden had time to prepare, it did not.
If you judge Sweden by its own GOV publicly stated goals, the government has failed
1) protect the elderly – it failed
2) test and track – it failed (gotten better may be)

And its economic hit is as bad as Norway/Denmark/Finland.

Paul Boizot
Paul Boizot
3 years ago
Reply to  graham9

Sorry to be flippant, but I am amused by the idea of “drinking and dancing like sardines”. 🙂

geoff.graham1
geoff.graham1
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Boizot

..

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Boizot

I didn’t notice at first but it’s rather good. I’m not sure if it’s just the dancing that is sardine-like, or the drinking as well. A bit oily for my tastes.

Stephen Kennedy
Stephen Kennedy
3 years ago
Reply to  graham9

I think the chances of that are … zero. If you are infected your response will be in a week or so. For most people the response is … nothing, asymptomatic, no symptoms. The fact that reported infections and deaths are rapidly approaching zero, all the while no masks and not much social distancing, is concrete evidence that there IS immunity. There is no other explanation.

Dave Tagge
Dave Tagge
3 years ago
Reply to  graham9

I won’t categorically rule out some sort of second wave during colder weather, given that many respiratory viruses have a strong seasonal pattern.

Graham’s broader argument, however, if anything argues against such a wave in Sweden.

For the time being, Sweden has reached a very low level of transmission of this virus. Reported COVID fatalities (per Worldometer) have steadily declined and are now at approximately 1 per day.

And that’s with the people who would “mess it up for everyone else” doing whatever they’re going to do, with the coronavirus circulating for several months. It’s logical to think that a disproportionate number of that sub-group of the population already got infected at some point, because they’re the ones who are going to keep socializing while ignoring social distancing rules. Or, at least, they’re going to keep doing that unless they’re stuck at home due to a combination of (1) legal penalties and (2) every place they’d want to go being ordered to close, neither of which occurred in Sweden.

The places to worry most about a big resurgence of transmission are countries where the virus was suppressed without many people infected. Those are the places where even so-called superspreaders likely haven’t had the virus. (And Graham is describing a subset of people as likely superspreaders due to lack of caution in their behavior.)

Niels Georg Bach
Niels Georg Bach
3 years ago

I’m sorry Sweden are in many regards extreme laizzez faire. In regard to crime the ruling left wing middle class don’t care if young immigrants murder each other, the number of shootings and bomb donations is scaring, as is the number of armed robberies, where young peoplerob other young people, The number of burned down pre schools is the highest in Europe. The number of corona dead is by English numbers small, but the percentage is among Europes highest. One reason is that elderly care home management is beyond par. The municipalities has no control manegement or they don’t care because they don’t have the money.
And the economy is going downwards. Too.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

They are not just killing each other. A 12 year old Swedish girl was killed in a drive-by shooting last week while walking the dog.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago

Unfortunately for me Holland should not be included in the no mask group. Prior to my journey to Holland I have been sent a list of what masks are acceptable. Apparently my self made cotton scarf type is not, neither is my bought one with a ventilator. If I fail to wear one, even in the family car I can be fined several thousand euros. It seems much more stringent than the U.K.

Clach Viaggi
Clach Viaggi
3 years ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

Sad to read this (it was originally referred to Giulia comment, but it applies for Frederick too.
I was talking to a German friend living in Amsterdam few days ago and she told me her perception it is like life goes on as normal

Frederik van Beek
Frederik van Beek
3 years ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

I am from Holland and like always in Holland we don’t look at the facts (we couldn’t care less) but we make compromises. So the mayors in Holland have been granted the right by the central government to experiment with mouthmasks. Some cities do, some cities don’t and if they do, than usually it’s only a few shoppingstreets and in Amsterdam ofcourse the redlight-district. It’s still in a very early stage and for now it’s mainly Amsterdam and Rotterdam who have some kind of regime/regulation but in a few weeks it could be total chaos from one city to another. Only in public transportation it’s mandatory on a national level. Personally I think the world has gone mad, the Netherlands included.

G H
G H
3 years ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

Not sure who has been sending this list to you. As Frederik pointed out below, it is only mandatory to wear facial masks in public transportation. We have just been spending a weekend in Zeeland as an escape from the Belgian madness: I have seen only 4 people within 2 days wearing a mask.

Robin Bury
Robin Bury
3 years ago

Very good article. The strong individualistic culture in the USA and dreadful leadership from the GOP highlights the essential selfishness of US society and of course the appalling health care system built on care for the wealthy. Unlike Canada and Sweden. But please use the term ‘physical distancing’, not ‘social distancing’, as recommended by the World Health Organisation…I mentioned this before. Take note!

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Bury

“… strong individualistic culture in the USA”
Americans love the “free” welfare state as much as anyone else. Look at Medicare and old white people that vote.
As a Tea Party member said “keep your government hands out of my Medicare”.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago

I have a lot of time for Freddy, and the Swedes. But I think he’s wrong that Britain (and the US) don’t have shared values. If you’re a Brit you know exactly what it means and you feel it in your blood and guts (as I think everyone feels it about their country otherwise people wouldn’t cling to those identities so much when they emigrate). Individual freedom is also chained to personal responsibility, or as us Brits call it ‘manners’ and ‘duty’. If we’ve lost that at all it is due to the splintering of our nation by globalisation, multiculturalism and mass immigration. Brexit is a perfect example of a very British resistance to those things (politely, at the ballot box) because we DO have a sense of self as a nation and we want to preserve it before it’s too late. And don’t forget that the UK initially took the same view as Sweden, but the political pile-on, shaming and accusations of murder, plus the ICL scaremongering report, forced a change of course which is now hellishly difficult to extricate ourselves from and is being used as a political brickbat by the (Remain, it has to be said ) opposition and MSM who can sit back and say whatever they like. And do. I’ve been watching and studying the media reporting – and I will not forget.

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
3 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

This sense of manners and duty is being rapidly diminished. I note, for example, the huge quantity of litter now apparent in almost every British town, and along every motorway without exception. This to me seems symptomatic of the break of a social contract: when even basic aesthetic regard for your environment, alongside the sentiment, “to hell with anyone who finds my litter disgusting”, is sure sign that there fewer and fewer social bonds that unite the British.

Dan Poynton
Dan Poynton
3 years ago

So enlightening, thank you. And it makes me almost weep to think that the day is fast approaching when the Swedes’ innate sense (therefore largely self-policing, no doubt) of Lagom will be crushed mercilessly by a hyper-immigration system which can never produce integration fast enough to keep up with its rate. A type of enlightened and compassionate cultural suicide.

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3 years ago

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Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago

Freddie Sayers (being half Swedish?) is missing a few aspects. One is that Sweden is known for a very high level of social control. If moral pressure and social disapproval are strong enough to control people there is less need for regulations. The (lack of) freedom for individuals can be about the same in either case.

Another is a much higher Swedish deference to authority. I do not believe that Swedish immigration policies are more welcoming because Swedes are inherently nicer than Danes. Both countries started with an educated elite in favour of immigration, and much popular discontent. Only in Sweden the educated elite managed to impose itself on the population in a way they failed to do in Denmark. The Social Democrats ‘who currently hold power in Denmark’ are tough on immigration – reluctantly – because that is the only way any party can get a majority. Except for some progressive hold-outs ‘Tough on immigration’ is for good or ill the political consensus in Denmark.

In prioritising skiing holidays and graduation parties over precautionary health measures, Tegnell is making a trade-off: letting Sweden continue to njuta in peace is worth some people dying. That is the kind of trade-off that governments are supposed to make. But the balance depends rather critically on how many people are likely to die, and how effective the health measures can be. Tegnell has from the beginning taken for granted that it was not going to be very dangerous, and there was nothing anybody could do anyway. He may still end up being proved right, *but there was no way he could know that from the available evidence*. He was, in effect, gambling. Danish health authorities too would have liked to stick to their prepared plans (even if they were prepared for the flu, a different disease) assumed they already knew all they needed, and gone ahead without rocking the boat. But Danish politicians, maybe more used to decision making under uncertainty than the scientists, decided to take more drastic action – and thank God for that. In Sweden the government deferred to the health authorities, the population deferred to the government (even as the death tolls mounted) and people happily assumed that if Sweden is out of step with the rest of the world it only proves how superior Sweden is. To each his own, I guess.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

https://www.youtube.com/wat
A good explanation of C19 policy in Sweden (IMHO).

daledykes
daledykes
3 years ago

It seems increasingly evident that everybody panicked, including Sweden. Whereas there were fewer mandated restrictions in Sweden, nonetheless, Swedes locked themselves down. Do they do this every flu season ? Have they done this for pandemics past ?

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago
Reply to  daledykes

I’m not sure panic is a reasonable description for what happened. In some cases, sure. Same in U.K. where my wife & I have friends where both of a couple have insisted that they won’t return to prior behaviours until there’s a vaccine, even if it’s years. We’ve already gone back to normal as much as is possible. That’s because my family benefits from me being an experienced life scientist so I’ve been able to review all the published source documents upon which SAGE made its recommendations. Thereafter to read all papers & interviews including on Lockdown TV with many experts. It’s clear that the virus has moved through all the European populations. In U.K. we’re in the last 1-2% of events in this pandemic. It’s theoretically possible there could be a winter resurgence but no data anywhere indicates that as a likelihood.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Yeadon

Last 1-2% of events in this pandemic? Really? What is the cause? Have we reached herd immunity now? References welcome. Meanwhile I shall keep to social isolation as much as possible (to be fair, not a great hardship i my case).

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

@Michael Yeadon.
OK, I saw your post above. I cannot evaluate if it makes sense to assume that, essentially, about half the population was immune or not bothered by the virus in the first place. But in a crowd of people who all assume the best without evidence and who are furious that anyone dares interfere with their freedom of movement just becauset there is a lethal pandemic, well, you are the first, Tegnell included, that I find worrth taking seriously. I shall still keep isolated till we know that the pandemic has abated, but let us hope you are right.

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Thank you for your uncommon courtesy. For myself, I was at first very frightened. I’m just old enough to be at 1% risk of dying if I caught the virus & my reaction to this told me I’m nowhere near ready to go!
I have always fully complied with lockdown, social distancing & masks, even though I’m as sure as I can be that they have no protective benefit to others. I know it’s a different setting, but this is the only peer reviewed, randomised controlled trial & it looks like medical mask vs usual practise didn’t protect. Face cloths were slightly worse than the other wo groups. The endpoint is respiratory virus infection, some of it clinically confirmed. The subjects, though working around hospitals, are most likely to be the sources as much as the targets of viruses. It’s really a complex workplace study.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.go

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I think it’s an understanding which requires a lot of reading to bring together the elements making that the best explanation of the overall profile. The best references include Drosten on preexisting T-cell reactivity
https://www.medrxiv.org/con
And Ioniddes on infection fatality ratios:
https://www.medrxiv.org/con
Finally, Gupta or Gomez on how low the herd immunity threshold is likely to be. https://www.medrxiv.org/con

Joe Smith
Joe Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Yeadon

You don’t need to read lots of papers to decide to live a normal life. It’s obvious that the increased mortality risk over a lifetime from Covid is miniscule, so why live in fear?!