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    UnHerd | 8/9/20 | 9 min
    35 reads15 comments
    9.2
    UnHerd
    35 reads
    9.2
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    • jeff
      Top reader this weekReading streakScribe
      1 month ago

      Some very interesting insights into Swedish culture and how it impacted their government's response to the Coronavirus. My only nitpick is that the author seems very confused about libertarianism.

      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.

      This is just wrong. Libertarians aren't devoted to individual freedom over the common good, they reject subjugation of the individual for the common good. The fact that njuta, allemansrätt and lagom are not laws but shared cultural norms that are practiced voluntarily makes them pretty libertarian in nature. And yes, we could certainly use more of all three of them in the US!

      • thorgalle1 month ago

        The fact that njuta, allemansrätt and lagom are not laws but shared cultural norms

        That’s true for njuta and lagom, but allemansrätt is a right by constitutional law! The article covers it from another angle though, I had previously on interpreted it as “you can pitch your tent everywhere!”.

        • SEnkey
          Scout
          1 month ago

          This brings up an interesting debate about constitutions: Are constitutions prescriptive or descriptive? I used to fall in the prescriptive camp, ie the 'founding fathers' protected free speech therefore we should protect free speech. Now I fall much more into the descriptive camp. The culture of the founding so valued free speech that they put it into the constitution, but without the culture behind it - the words themselves have very little power.

          For example, read the constitution of Russia (or the USSR before it). Both extol great rights for the worker and individual, neither delivered without the culture to back up the words. It seems in Sweden there is a culture (as described here) and that culture is reflected in the constitution. This is the challenge of immigration - you get cultures that may not match the constitution. Luckily, that challenge isn't insurmountable.

          • thorgalle1 month ago

            Really interesting. I've never read a full constitution or thought about this distinction. It only makes sense that they should be living things compatible with a cultural context.

          • jeff
            Top reader this weekReading streakScribe
            1 month ago

            Super interesting. I'd like to believe constitutions are, or at least could be to some extent, prescriptive but it seems like there's unfortunately a lot of evidence to the contrary.

            In addition to your example this makes me think of what an outsized role corruption plays in hampering economic development and prosperity. A country can pass all the laws it wants but when there is a culture of bribery or looking the other way they're not going to have much of an effect. Thinking about that makes me nervous for the US. Not that we've ever not had corruption, but I feel like the trajectory isn't heading in the right direction. How can any country ever hope to recover from that?

        • jeff
          Top reader this weekReading streakScribe
          1 month ago

          Good catch! Totally makes sense. That's a great Wikipedia article. Really interesting to see how different countries and US states approach the issue.

    • thorgalle1 month ago

      Having lived in Stockholm for a year now this article rang true in many places. The introduction about the summer cabins on the archipelago made me reminisce a kayaking trip I had the luck to do several weeks ago. The writers' description could have been my journal entry for that day (if I would be better at writing). On that trip, the (Canadian) guide also diligently followed corona precautions.

      It's true, the Swedes keep some social distance inherently. They take rules seriously (except red lights on pedestrian crossings). And yes, in stores, people really watch out. But not always, and not everywhere: friends are picknicking huddled together on a blanket in parks, to njuta the sommar. Face masks are a surprising sight. For days now students in the neighborhood have been partying to celebrate the start of a new academic year. They have little apparent regard for distancing in their (semi-drunk) games & activities.

      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.

      While this seems true for the archipelago, I wouldn't directly generalize it to Swedish society. There is extreme segregation with poor suburbs of 90% non-Swedish natives, there is an upper class that displays upper class tastes and lives in appropriate neighbourhoods.

      • SEnkey
        Scout
        1 month ago

        Are you a native of Sweden? Or are you visiting? Either way how cool to get to live in such a beautiful city.

        Sadly I don't think I've come across a government that knows all the best policies for the poor suburbs. Let's hope we things keep improving.

        • thorgalle1 month ago

          I'm a Belgian native, came to Sweden to study, stayed to work. And yes, it's pretty nice living here now!

          I recently heard of a Finnish "mixed housing policy". Guaranteeing that some affordable homes should always be available in more affluent areas, entry with a lottery, to prevent segregation & gentrification.

          It seems mostly discussed in academics but here's an article pointing to it:

          It has also worked to decentralise housing, to make sure that homes based on different forms of ownership or rental policies are sprinkled equally throughout the city.

          The 33% max immigrant concentration in Turku seems better than the 90% cited of Rinkeby in Sweden, although those numbers can't be compared directly. No perfection, but indeed, local improvement should always be possible.

    • SEnkey
      Scout
      1 month ago

      This highlights two related points. One, the US is exceptional. I mean this in the old way it was originally used ie America is weird. We are more religious, and more violent. We are wealthier, and less satisfied. This is why sociologist have been writing books on the US exceptionalism for hundreds of years (think Tocqueville). Two, localities will have different responses, and we should judge them for how they work there, not what we think we should be doing here.

      For example, in Sweden they don't need a mask order. In Florida they may need to close bars. In Montana they might not need to do anything (other than social distance). In Japan they are really good at contact tracing, in Utah they built in communities that check up on eachother. Each place is different, each response will be too.

      I'm not in a rush to condemn or praise any response, I'm hoping they all work for the best. The response I'm most interested in is my local one - and that is where I am going to put my energy.

      • bill
        Top reader of all timeScoutScribe
        1 month ago

        For example, in Sweden they don't need a mask order. In Florida they may need to close bars. In Montana they might not need to do anything (other than social distance). In Japan they are really good at contact tracing, in Utah they built in communities that check up on eachother. Each place is different, each response will be too.

        Great comment. People keep asking me, "So wait - you're against the masks?" And I'm like, "What kind of question even is that?" It's like asking if I'm for or against charter schools, public schools, guns, going to church, abortions, condoms, pharmaceuticals, football, coffee, alcohol, social media, journalism. With all of this stuff, I can think of examples of feeling strong pro and strong con. To me, the only ethical response to binary thinking is, "I can't answer that question, because it depends."

        And yes yes yes to this:

        The response I'm most interested in is my local one - and that is where I am going to put my energy.

        • dane1 month ago

          binary thinking

          It seems this disease is rampant and more contagious than SARS-COV2. I think this is one of the biggest hurdles we face as a society. We've seemed to have slipped into a dark hole of political categorization. There are very few conversations I have with people that border on nuanced discussion.

          As to the article:

          Sweden has all sorts of problems, not least the political instability associated with high levels of immigration.

          This is was unaware of. I had read many times, but not verified, that Sweden had very strict immigration policies.

          • bill
            Top reader of all timeScoutScribe
            1 month ago

            I think this is one of the biggest hurdles we face as a society.

            Me too! So many things in life are fluid, abstract, changing, on a spectrum. And yet humans desire certainty. Clarity. Even when it’s not possible. And, like some kind of cruel joke from God, the most important matters are the hardest ones to pin down: love, spirituality, the meaning of life, etc.

            I’ve been thinking recently that I play the role of devil’s advocate too often and I think it’s because I like exploring all sides of all arguments. But sadly the result is often a deeper trenching of the two-sided mentality. To truly break through the binary thinking — as an individual and in conversations with others — is really quite challenging. You really need to put yourself in the other perspective. It helps me at least to remember that everything is always changing, including my own opinions.

            Also, there’s really not a darn thing I need to convince anybody else about at this point because I have so much of my own figuring out to do.

    • bill
      Top reader of all timeScoutScribe
      1 month ago

      Excellent! I've been wanting to read about the Sweden situation for months and this zippy little article is dense with cultural insights that really help explain the situation. The way these Scandinavian countries hit such epic home-runs every now and again is (1) truly admirable and (2) becoming a meme at this point. 😂

      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.

      That is so right on. It's about candor. It's about honesty, vulnerability, and having the guts and conviction to have real conversations, in public, instead of just joining (and hiding behind) the pseudo-virtuous mob. Us 'Mericans sure do love our mobs, which might not be that big of a deal if we weren't downright deluded about being a nation of rugged individualists and independent thinkers.