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September 18, 2006
Has Socialism Started Retreating In Europe?

Two weeks ago, I wrote about Nicolas Sarkozy's electoral strategy to run against the "60s mentality" in France and support market based reforms of the French socialized economy and government. Yesterday, Europe's most socialistic government fell as economic moderates beat them in national elections, promising to scale back the nanny-state programs that have created widespread unemployment and malaise:

SWEDEN’S centre-right alliance won a narrow general election victory to end 12 years of Social Democrat rule last night after a campaign dominated by the future direction of Europe’s most generous welfare state.

Fredrik Reinfeldt, the youthful right-wing leader likened to David Cameron for the way he dropped traditional policies to modernise his party, saw off the veteran Göran Persson, Europe’s second longest- serving Prime Minister.

Mr Reinfeldt, 41, based his appeal around reforming rather than overhauling Sweden’s social welfare system, with plans to cut the sickness benefits that account for 16 per cent of public spending.

His attack on Sweden’s hidden unemployment among the long-term sick, the early retired and those on pointless government schemes struck a chord with younger Swedes struggling to find work.

Mr Reinfeldt’s campaign was watched closely by centre-right parties across Europe, who will have been buoyed by the way that he beat the left on their home territory of popular state-funded health, education and social care services.

After a generation of socialism, Europeans may have discovered the benefits of investment and personal responsibility. Of all the European nations, only Norway can afford their nanny-state structure, which floats on an ocean of oil revenue. All of the other highly-socialized nations survive on deficit spending despite restrictions on red ink from the EU. France and Germany reneged on fiscal-responsibility requirements, and the rest of Europe didn't do much better.

The Swedes apparently want a new direction. Reinfeldt's opponents, the Social Democrats, offered new taxes to pay for the expensive programs that have stultified the Swedish economy. Their leader, Goran Persson, didn't learn any lessons from the election, promising to generate a "powerful opposition" to stop "right-wing welfare shifts". Swedes voted for just that -- a modernisation and scaling down of their creaky social welfare programs.

Sarkozy and Reinfeldt may herald a new direction for Europe. If France and Sweden start retreating from socialism, the rest of the Continent may rethink their love affair with cradle-to-grave welfare structures that take money out of the marketplace and hand it to bureaucrats, stripping culture of any production incentives. If the Europeans seriously embark on this kind of reform, the EU could seriously compete against the US economy.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 18, 2006 5:54 AM

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» Center Right Candidate Wins Election In Socialist Sweden - Guess They Got Sick Of Not Having A Job from Diggers Realm
It seems the Swedish voters are sick of high taxes, high unemployment and watching their tax money being fed from their pockets to those of fraudsters. Whenever you set up a massive welfare program for "cradle to grave" care like... [Read More]

Tracked on September 18, 2006 8:29 AM

» Socialism's Decline from Appalachian Scribe
Is socialism on the decline in Europe? The Cap'n thinks it just might be. [Read More]

Tracked on September 18, 2006 11:45 AM


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