Sweden’s Approach to Covid-19
Many of us say claim to value non-conformity but prove otherwise. Voltaire observed, “Our wretched species is so made that those who walk on the well-trodden path always throw stones at those who are showing a new road.” In the Covid crisis, Sweden was internationally stoned for taking a “new road.”
Fear of the COVID-19 pandemic has driven the citizens of many countries around the world to be extremely trusting of their governments’ information, predictions, advice, and edicts, the Swedish government flipped the script by placing its trust in its citizens.
Sweden did not institute mass shutdowns or ramped up authoritative policing. Instead of closing its economy, national leaders asked its citizens to limit the spread of COVID-19 another way: by acting responsibly.
The Swedish government’s approach was not overly invasive and many “experts” considered too light. The government’s response was to limit public gatherings to 50 people, asked its residents to wash their hands frequently, encouraged remote work, and self-isolate if they feel ill or are over 70.
The Swedish people lived up to that trust, and have appreciated its leaders’ strategy. It has won the approval of Swedes, and support and popularity have soared.
The 10 million Swedes were allowed to visit libraries and pools, which remain open. People were allowed to drink IPAs in their local restaurants, children still got up to go to elementary schools in the morning, although students over 16 have been encouraged to school at home. In other words, Sweden’s economy was allowed to pump on most cylinders while people take sensible precautions—without an explosion of deaths akin to those witnessed in Italy and Spain.
Sweden’s unusual approach to fighting the coronavirus pandemic is starting to yield results, according to the country’s top epidemiologist. Anders Tegnell, the architect behind Sweden’s relatively relaxed response to Covid-19, told local media the latest figures on infection rates and fatalities indicate the situation is starting to stabilize.
Is this vindication for Sweden, which has been widely denounced for bucking the trend among governments of imposing draconian “shelter-at-home” decrees that have crippled the world economy and thrown millions out of work.
If a fair analysis of the Swedish scenario is applied we would question the “well-trodden” path taken by most countries. The Swedish model indicated that our cowering posture has proven to be counterproductive. We should demand an answer to, “Why were the experts so quick to employ force and the threat of force to impose mass shutdowns?”
“They tried to make me go to rehab, But I said, “No, no, no” Amy Winehouse
Individual responsibility used to be part of the American model. But we have developed a culture of giving up individual responsibility whenever we are shepherded into fear. Fear of terrorists, of economic hardship, of a virus has pushed us towards economic devastation.
If Americans are going to rehabilitate our thinking, we must rediscover our country’s founding principles and insist that our leaders place at least as much trust in its citizens as Sweden has. In order to accomplish this initiative, we must learn to trust ourselves as a society of individuals, have faith in our neighbors, and understand the concept of spontaneous order.
Leonard Read observed, “The more complex the economy, society, or situation, the more we should rely on the miraculous, self-adapting processes of men acting freely.”