Why America Should Be More Like Sweden (It’s Not What You Think!)

“the Swedes feature partial privatization in their pension system, tie benefits to contributions, and vote each year on supplemental benefits based on demographic and economic conditions, all while balancing their budget.
By rejecting socialism and embracing privatization as well as mechanisms to prevent overspending, the Swedes demonstrated that reforming entitlement programs in a fiscally prudent way is not a pipe dream after all.

Conversely, U.S. Social Security benefits are guaranteed regardless of economic or demographic conditions. Social Security, among other programs, is deliberately excluded from our government’s normal budgetary process. Social Security and other entitlement programs are considered “mandatory spending,” in which funding is provided without congressional debate or action.

Putting entitlement spending on autopilot means the federal debt, currently standing at $34 trillion, will only grow. Mandatory spending, which includes, but is not limited to, Social Security, accounts for about two-thirds of government spending. The annual total dollar amount of mandatory spending increases by an average of about 10 percent per year.

The level of automatic mandatory funding demonstrates the staggering extent of the federal government’s spending problem. Last year’s tax revenue, about $4.4 trillion, just barely pays for mandatory entitlement spending. Therefore, much of the remaining $1.7 trillion we spend on our military and other programs is funded with borrowed money.”

“Sweden previously promised a socialist pension program similar to Social Security. Under that retirement system, Swedish citizens were, subject to certain requirements, entitled to a universal basic and supplemental income.

Facing alarming projections of insolvency in the 1980s, Sweden established a commission to review the pension program’s fiscal sustainability and develop options for reform.

Sweden’s efforts were not immediately successful. The pension commission presented its recommendations during an economic downturn in 1990, which the Swedish parliament rejected. But Sweden continued to seek a solution. A new working group, comprised of representatives of each of the seven political parties, found that the aging Swedish population, inflation, and rising unemployment eroded the sustainability of the Swedish pension system. The working group also found that, barring reforms, the payroll tax would need to rise from 18 percent to 30 percent to support the program. The Swedes rejected both an initial set of reforms and a confiscatory tax increase.

So how did the Scandinavian country get back on the path to a sustainable pension system?

The Swedes’ pension reforms worked because they abandoned many of the socialistic aspects of its previous system. Sweden rejected Social Security–like defined benefits in favor of a defined contribution rate. Sweden also introduced some privatization into the system, which empowers beneficiaries to determine how to invest their retirement funds and take an active role in planning for their own future.

Critically, the new system features a mechanism called the “brake,” which is designed to prevent overspending by automatically preventing benefits from growing quicker than contributions.

The new Swedish system was fully implemented in 2003, and it has withstood the test of time. Swedish benefits have consistently increased, and their pension program has featured a surplus in all but three of the last 20 years. For the last 10 years, the program experienced a consistently growing surplus. Even during the 2008 financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, the Swedish pension system remained strong. Conversely, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that the Social Security’s retirement account will be depleted in 2032.

Today, the Swedish system consistently ranks among the world’s best-performing retirement income programs. This feat was accomplished because Sweden recognized the most socialistic aspects of the program were failing and implemented reforms to avoid the same problems that plague Social Security: unsustainability and passing the costs of overspending to future generations.

America’s officials should act like adults and acknowledge that Social Security can only be strengthened by ending the problem of uncontrolled costs. In this sense, maybe America should be more like Sweden.”

https://reason.com/2024/01/13/why-america-should-be-more-like-sweden-its-not-what-you-think/

When Karl Marx Made the Case for Capitalism

“According to Marx, history unfolded in a grand series of stages, each defined by its dominant mode of economic production and each specifically arising to replace the one that preceded it. “In broad outlines,” he wrote in the preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, “ancient, feudal, and modern bourgeois modes of production can be designated as progressive epochs in the economic formation of society.” Capitalism, in other words, was a historically necessary step in human progress.
The great revolutionary forces unleashed by capitalism, Marx thought, would in turn form and shape a self-aware proletariat class that would ultimately lead humanity into a glorious communist future. But that would happen only after capitalism had worked its magic. “No social order ever perishes,” Marx maintained, “before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed.””

“Marx not only welcomed capitalism’s creative destruction of feudalism and slavery; he recognized and even championed capitalism’s essential role in human advancement. With free labor on the march, Marx argued in his 1861 essay “The North American Civil War,” the peculiar institution faced ultimate extinction “according to economic law.””

Declining Faith in Both Capitalism and Socialism Leaves … What?

“”I know that some people in the U.S. associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism. Therefore I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy,” then-Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen commented in 2015. “The Nordic model is an expanded welfare state which provides a high level of security for its citizens, but it is also a successful market economy with much freedom to pursue your dreams and live your life as you wish.”

“So, what is the catch you might ask. The most obvious one, of course, is the high taxes. The top income tax in Denmark is almost 60 percent. We have a 25 percent sales tax and on cars the incise duties are up to 180 percent. In total, Danish taxes come to almost half of our national income compared to around 25 percent in the U.S.””

Why investors suddenly care about saving the environment

“Here’s a big number: $44 trillion.

That’s how much of the world’s total economic output is dependent on animals and ecosystems, according to the World Economic Forum. Insects pollinate commercial crops, coral reefs protect coastal buildings, wetlands purify water, and all of those services — and more — help fuel economic growth.

If the economy is embedded in nature, then the global decline of wildlife and ecosystems is a risk for companies and investors alike. If insects vanish from farmland, say, farmers might have to pay to import pollinators or produce less, which hurts their bottom lines. That’s one reason why WEF ranks “biodiversity loss” as the third most severe risk to the economy over the next decade, after failure to act on climate change and extreme weather.”

“Three-quarters of the world’s food crops (and a third of global crop production) depend to some extent on pollination from birds, bees, and many other insects and small animals. And some insect populations have fallen by more than 70 percent in just a few decades. In fact, there are farmers in California who already pay to import bees because there aren’t enough local pollinators. That could eat into investor returns.”