Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Death of the super model

Via Marginal Revolution I found this piece lamenting the decline of the Swedish welfare state. While worth reading in its entirety, here is the relevant bit about health care:
Take healthcare. Swedes do not enjoy free public care: it costs to see a GP. That is, if you manage to see one. Queues are long and scandals rack the system. Psychiatric care, the source of many such scandals, has a near-medieval penchant for authoritarianism with few European equivalents. People are locked up for months for not taking medicine, given no therapy, and spat out of the system into despair and destitution. The mentally ill die in wards and in outpatient isolation. And they do not even have charities to turn to because state-run healthcare is supposed to work: this is Sweden, after all.
The author concludes by citing Sweden as a failed experiment in "neoliberalism" -- typically used as a pejorative term for free market economics. A few points:
  • The implementation of economic reforms did not occur in a vacuum. Rather, impetus was provided by a severe economic crisis in the 1990s that was seen by some as the end of the country's welfare state.
  • It's hard to blame free market reforms for the state of Sweden's health care system given that the government pays 95 percent of health care costs.
  • Areas that were reformed include social security, where recipients can now invest in the stock market, and education where school choice was implemented. These are not cited as problem areas in the column.

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