Critics of the Obama Administration have been complaining that the President's policies are designed to make America more European. Maybe that's not such a bad idea, provided we follow the example set by Sweden. For years Sweden was often referred to as a model of modern socialism. However, the Swedes have been quietly turning to the free market to revitalize and renew their economy and culture. According to the Christian Science Monitor:
There is a long tradition of using Sweden as a socialist model to highlight social shortcomings in the United States. Recent tax change proposals by the Obama administration, for instance, had conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly asking his viewers, “Do we really want to change America into Sweden?”
Yet if the Scandinavian model were shipped across the Atlantic, the changes would have little to do with socialism, say analysts here. In fact, some believe it should be held up as a bastion of market capitalism.
Last week, the country’s center-right government began selling off state-owned pharmacies, one of the country’s few remaining nationalized companies, as part of an ambitious program of liberal economic reforms started in 2006. State pensions, schools, healthcare, public transport, and post offices have been fully or partly privatized over the last decade, making Sweden one of the most free market orientated economies in the world, analysts say.
“Sweden has always been on the side of the market economy. This is not socialism,” says Olle Wästberg, director of the Swedish Institute in Stockholm, and a former Consul General to New York. “In many fields, we have more private ownership compared to other European countries, and to America. About 80 percent of all new schools are privately run, as are the railroads and the subway system.”
Stereotypical images of Sweden as a socialist utopia date back to the 1930s, when a best selling book by Marquis Childs lauded the country as a middle way between capitalism and socialism.
“Eisenhower also helped to propagate a number of myths in the ’60s when he said that Swedes were ‘addicted to sin, socialism, and suicide,’ ” says Brian Palmer, professor of anthropology at Sweden’s Uppsala University. “To speak of Sweden as socialist today is pretty far off the mark,” he says. “Neoliberal reforms have gone much further here in some sectors than in the US. Sweden has become a sort of laboratory for privatization in a way that the Heritage Foundation or the American Enterprise Institute could only dream of.”
It looks like the Europeans do have something to offer us after all. If President Obama and his supporters are so fond of European policies, let them follow the lead of Sweden and privatize the post office, 80% of our public schools, and sell Amtrak. That would be at least a start towards adopting the Swedish model.
And while we're at it, let's adopt the Swedish attitude towards nude beaches!
While in Holyoke's Veteran's Park this week I stopped to check out how the old Holyoke Catholic High School complex is holding up. Frankly, not too well.
It's sad to see these proud Victorians falling into ruin.
Someone dropped off some boxes of food at the Amherst Survival Center. We were intrigued by what was written on one of the boxes.
Upon investigating we discovered nothing inside but boxes of breakfast cereal. Hey, whatever turns you on.
At the Amherst resevoir a treecutter left a chair carved into the stump of a cut-down tree.
Totem poles at Amherst's Wildwood Elementary School.
Urkel stenciled on the wall of Herter Hall at UMass.
An antique car zooms down King Street in Northampton.
A romantic exchange on a Hamp walkway.
Monique came over today. Here we are on my back porch.
Later we went to the Evolution Cafe.
We noticed that this place called Pivot Media, located behind the Cafe, was open with a sign urging us to enter.
We did so and saw a wide range of photos on display, ranging from presidential portraits....
....to psychedelic weirdness.
Check it out sometime.
The Music Section
Our Valley is very proud of the band Sonic Youth. According to the Wikipedia:
Sonic Youth is an American rock band formed in New York City in 1981. In their early career, Sonic Youth was associated with the No Wave art and music scene in New York City. Part of the first wave of American noise rock groups, the band carried out their interpretation of the hardcore punk ethos throughout the evolving American underground that focused more on the do it yourself ethic of the genre rather than its specific sound. As a result, Sonic Youth was pivotal in the rise of the alternative rock movement.
In modern times they are no longer associated with New York City, but have transplanted themselves to our own Northampton. One day Jim Neill caught their lead guitarist Thurston Moore leaving Raven Books in downtown Hamp.
Rolling Stone magazine rated Thurston Moore the 33rd greatest guitarist of all time. Here is Moore playing in a hole in the wall artspace in the Florence section of Northampton.