Brave New Sweden, Part 4: The Plan Which Did Not Work

As mentioned in previous posts, Swedish culture does not permit non-conformity, this attitude is also extended to housing.

Home ownership was frown upon by the planning officials because it impedes the ease of mobility. It is signified by the story of Båtskärsnäs, where the local industry of timber manufactured declined in the 1960s which saw a gradual depopulation of the townsfolk. However, the closure of the sawmill in 1966 created the problem for the bureaucrats, most worker in fact had land ownership and refused to move out, instead they relied on social security and various attempts to revitalize the industry with no results while the State official wanted to liquidate the district altogether. This disastrous situation made the officials realize just how much of a burden home ownership could be for their vision of a “perfect” society.

Housing shortage was also a major problem in Sweden, the displaced Swedes who were constrained by rent control could not find a place to live, the continuous building of new state housing did not stabilize the endemic. Until late 1980s when the rent control was finally stopped, Swedes were forced to take whatever they could get, thus have been compelled to live in the way the planning authorities decreed. The idea of choice was almost unrecognisable to many Swedes for generations. Compare to Finland, a far poorer country which lost 1/5 of her territory to Russia in 1944 took in an estimated 450 thousand refugees and suffered destruction of 100 thousand houses had no difficulty in providing housing for people. Many Swedish economist have blamed the need for divestment in the industries, despite Sweden kept all her factories at work during the war with uninterrupted boom, when compared to Finland whose industries were decimated yet still have pay for reconstruction, we see that it was the rent control that created the shortage of housing. As Thomas Sowell pointed out in Basic Economics, the Swedish State interference resulted in landlords cease to supply housing for rent to curb the cost of doing so (at the expense of threats of imprisonment) while normal people who did not need to find their own places were added to the market thanks for the artificial desirability of low rent houses.

Legally speaking, to get an urban housing means the person must negotiate though municipal agencies where waiting lists are long and permanent, for a single person in Stockholm, the waiting list could make him wait up to 15 years! The forceful planning is evident in the case of Svappavaara, a northern staggering village until open cast iron mining began in the late 1950s which gave the peasant farmers employment and allowed them to own land in the vicinity. However, Svappavaara was placed under town planning despite located in a semi wilderness far from the cities. The result forced them to become subjugated by another mining town in Kiruna. The desire for spacious housing was physically restrained with unhappy occupants crowded together despite Svappavaara has a stretch of tundra, mountains and pine forest combined for a population of 1 person per square mile.

The situation was far worse in urban areas, a woman threatened by demolition wrote to the Local (Stockholm newspaper) and complained: “We who live in these condemned buildings love our scruffy old quarters and we more than willingly give up modern conveniences in order to live cheaply, centrally, and in a pleasant atmosphere. I think we who are young and healthy should have the right to give up material standards and comforts if we consider it worthwhile.” This is much like the modern socialists today who wished to sacrifice autonomy in their own version of an “equal: society despite having no consideration of the economic and social cost for their delusion. E.g. Housing warranty suggested by the labourites and greenies in New Zealand which had the aim of helping to lift up living standards but would render people who wish to live in a shabbier condition for less cost.

Not only should housing be controlled, individual behaviours were controlled too. In the 1970s, temperance boards held great power in Sweden, police were required by law to report to the board for every arrest, prosecution or contact in which heavy drinking was involved. About 200,000 entries were created annually, investigators could enter the homes of individuals and threaten them with confined to a “rehab” (sounds familiar to prohibition?) The social control of drinking was based on the belief that alcohol could cause people to behave in an “anti-social” way not beneficial to the Swedish society. As a result, 5,000 people were taken and confined to institutions in 1970 alone (that is 6 out of every 10,000 people). Since sales of wine and liquor were state monopoly, a person may enter a black list branded by the temperance board, thus every alcohol purchaser was legally obliged to provide identification before being allowed for completing the transaction. Like the invasion of privacy, an average Swede’s response was that it does not bother them because they are not alcoholic. But others must be stopped for their own good and the good of the society! As a result, underground black market thrived.

Beginning with the next part of the Brave New Sweden Series, we will look at Immigration, Crime and General trend of Sweden in the present day.

*Above post is a summary of The New Totalitarians by Roland Huntford (1971), you can find the book here:


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