How very strange it is to see the American left turning on their formerly beloved Sweden.
Touted as a model of moderate socialism (this approach was fraught with misapprehensions), Sweden is now coming under attack from progressives.
And what is Sweden’s sin? Well, not being instantly willing to destroy her economy in the name of fighting COVID-19.
Sweden has taken a relatively permissive approach to controlling the infection.
As the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal points out this morning, Sweden’s approach hasn’t shut down the nation’s economy. It has also treated its citizens like adults:
While its neighbors and the rest of Europe imposed strict lockdowns, Stockholm has taken a relatively permissive approach. It has focused on testing and building up health-care capacity while relying on voluntary social distancing, which Swedes have embraced.
The country isn’t a free-for-all. Restaurants and bars remain open, though only for table service. Younger students are still attending school, but universities have moved to remote learning. Gatherings with more than 50 people are banned, along with visits to elderly-care homes. Even with relatively lax rules, travel in the country dropped some 90% over Easter weekend.
Officials say the country’s strategy—which is similar to the United Kingdom’s before it reversed abruptly in March—is to contain the virus enough to not overwhelm its health system. Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, said the country isn’t actively trying to achieve broad immunity.
But he predicted late last month that “we could reach herd immunity in Stockholm within a matter of weeks.” Some British public-health officials reportedly leaned toward less restrictive measures before the country’s leaders imposed a harsh lockdown.
Yes, Sweden has angered its former boosters by not enacting a harsh enough shutdown. Sweden has tried to balance the economic needs of its population with the need to keep COVID-19 controlled. The editors admit that the approach isn’t perfect:
Sweden has been clear it is aiming for a “sustainable” strategy that it can practice until there is a vaccine or cure while also being economically tolerable. The lockdown countries have held the virus in relative check for now, though probably with less broad immunity in the population. They appear to be delaying some deaths but at the risk of a larger outbreak once they open up if there is no cure. In any case we won’t know for months, or years, how Sweden held up by comparison in lives lost.
“The important thing is that you make sure you keep the disease under control so that the health-care system isn’t overloaded,” the director general of Sweden’s public-health agency observed. “So far we’ve managed that.”
We don’t know yet which approach—Sweden’s or the harsh lockdown—will prove better. One thing we do know is that plans in some states to extend harsh shutdowns have triggered fear from ordinary Americans who worry they will be ruined economically, perhaps for the rest of their lives.
In a post on the extension of several state shutdowns (Oregon’s governor has said she will keep it in place until July 6), PJ Media’s Stephen Kruiser observes:
I can’t wrap my head around what it must feel like to be casually told that you can’t get a paycheck for another two months after having gone two months without one already.
Kruiser also notes the hostility in enlightened quarters (presumably those who are working from home) to reopening the economy. But, according to Rasmussen, more people now want to go back to work than do not.
The latest Rasmussen telephone and online survey has 43 percent of likely voters think it is time to go back to work, while 38 percent want to continue in lockdown. The partisan breakdown is interesting:
Republicans (61%) are a lot more likely to agree with Kushner about a return to normalcy by June than Democrats (25%) and those not affiliated with either major party (32%). But then only 24% of Democrats are ready to get back to work, compared to 67% of Republicans and 41% of unaffiliateds.
There may be a number of reasons for this partisan divide. John Hinderaker of Powerline puts forth an alarming one:
One wonders what the Democrats are thinking. Perhaps a disproportionate number of them are government employees who continue to draw a paycheck, likely for not working. Perhaps some of them didn’t much like working in the first place (not that we would want to stereotype Democrats). In any event, it seems that a lot of Democrats are under the delusion that wealth comes from the government, which can just keep mailing out checks indefinitely.
Unfortunately, this has become yet another one of those questions that Americans with differing views have a hard time discussing calmly.