The noted blogger Fjordman is filing this report via Gates of Vienna.
For a complete Fjordman blogography, see The Fjordman Files. There is also a multi-index listing here.
“With law shall the land be built, nor with lawlessness destroyed.”
— from Håvamål, an ancient Norse poem with guidelines for the proper way of living. From the Viking Age, 8th or 9th century.
Dr. Daniel Pipes read one of my essays about the situation in Sweden, and asked my to explain exactly why Swedish authorities are behaving the way they are doing. First of all, maybe I’m demonizing Sweden too much. I write so much about Sweden mainly because I’m emotionally attached to the country since I’m Scandinavian myself. Still, although the Islamic situation is arguably worse in some other countries such as France, Britain and the Netherlands, I think it is accurate to say that there is less real debate in Sweden than in any other country I know of. I suspect that Multiculturalism for segments of the political Left all over the Western world is an anti-Western hate ideology and a continuation of Marxism by other means, but I will also look at some local factors shaping Sweden.
Swedes became respected for their undeniable talent for business organization and for their strong work ethic, traits which have ensured that Sweden has left a mark vastly disproportionate to its small size. The botanist Carolus Linnaeus was praised by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe on a par with Shakespeare and Spinoza. This dynamism was not in any way caused by the welfare state, rather it is these cultural traits that have kept the Swedish welfare state alive to this day. The Swedish Achilles’ heel is probably their ideological rigidity. It must be allowed to point out that Sweden appeased Fascism during WW2, Communism during the cold War and Islam today.
I can see three reasons why political debate Sweden is so censored. The historical explanation is the absence of war for almost two centuries, which makes Sweden unique by European standards, also compared to its Scandinavian neighbors. Maybe the prolonged period of peace and prosperity has created an environment in which layers of ideological nonsense have been allowed to pile up for generations without any reality check.
The second, and perhaps most important reason, is ideological. Sweden is viewed by many outsiders as a model nation. Swedes are keenly aware of this and want to keep up appearances. Since suicidal Multiculturalism is all the rage in the West, Swedes want to prove that they can be more suicidal than anybody else. It’s an ideological beauty contest, which serves Swedes fine, since they like to excel at everything they do.
It has long been claimed by the founders of the Swedish welfare state that their model would be more just in dealing with ethnic minorities than the capitalist model of the United States. Of course, since Sweden was almost 100% white they could never prove this, so the elites decided to import some ethnic minorities in order to prove the superiority of their model. This didn’t quite work out the way they imagined, though. From the Swedish point of view, this is thus an ideological contest between two model states: Sweden and the United States. Being a model state can be a great boost for your ego, but sometimes a heavy burden for your health and sanity.
I am critical of aspects of the welfare state model, but it is true that it has probably worked better in the Scandinavian countries than anywhere else. The welfare state can work to some extent in ethnically homogeneous nation states with a strong cultural work ethic and a a talent for organization, which Sweden used to be. It is totally inapplicable in less homogeneous countries with mass immigration, such as the United States. The most lethal combination of all comes from mixing the American and the Swedish models, with high taxation and high levels of immigration. This will, in effect, turn your country into the welfare office of not just your own citizens, but of the peoples of other nations as well.
Sweden is also a nation with a strong emphasis on consensus, which means that if the elites make the wrong decisions, the country has weak intellectual defenses and will receive few corrections once it embarks on the wrong course. If the state is intimately identified with a particular ideology, in this case Multiculturalism, those disagreeing with this ideology will quite literally be viewed as enemies of the state. This is a basic structural flaw of an ideological state.
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Researchers Gert Tinggaard Svendsen and Gunnar Lind Haase Svendsen have written the book Social Kapital. When general levels of trust were measured in 86 countries, the Nordic nations Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland came out on top. According to the authors, the trust among citizens and the trust between citizens and the state is very high in these countries, and this “social capital” is highly profitable and accounts for up a to a quarter of these countries’ wealth. The Danes have emerged as the happiest people in Europe. Dr. Luisa Corrado, who led the research, said: “The survey shows that trust in society is very, very important. The countries that scored highest for happiness also reported the highest levels of trust in their governments, laws and each other.” However, Svendsen and Svendsen also warn that such trust is vulnerable. A society can lose its social capital rather quickly, but it can take centuries to rebuild it.
This social capital is now being squandered as a matter of official state policy all over Western Europe, accompanied by wild cheers from the media and the intelligentsia. Although high levels of trust are in many ways attractive and desirable, they also contain some potential pitfalls. People’s trusting nature makes them easy targets for outsiders from more cynical cultures, who view them as gullible fools, and it also makes them potentially vulnerable to betrayal from within.
Western Europeans were used to laws being passed with their consent and with their best interests in mind, because by and large they had been. Within a few years, all of this has changed. Laws are now passed by EU bureaucrats who don’t give a damn about their interests, and by elites who don’t care about their own people, who in fact view them as potential stumbling blocks for the new Multicultural society. Yet Europeans, by and large, still adhere to the laws and regulations that are passed by the state because they are culturally accustomed to doing so. Ordinary Europeans are thus held hostage by their own law-abiding nature while the state is turning increasingly hostile.
The third reason behind the totalitarian nature of Sweden is high tax rates. Neighboring Denmark and Finland are also welfare states, yet have proved somewhat more resistant to Multiculturalism. Cultural and historical factors thus play a significant role in this. However, I do believe there is a connection between lack of individual liberty and high tax rates, although not an automatic one. Sweden is a great example of why we need limited government, a state that only upholds law and order and does not concern itself with pushing a particular ideology on its people.
Why does the government dispense with the social contract and attack its own people? Well, for starters, because it can. The state has become so large and powerful that is has become an autonomous organism with a will of its own. The people are there to serve the state, not vice versa. And because state power penetrates every single corner of society, there are no places left to mount a defense if the state decides to attack you. Its representatives are no longer leaders of a specific people, but caretakers preoccupied only with advancing their own careers through oiling and upholding, and if possible expanding, the bureaucratic machinery.
As Alexander Boot writes in his book How the West Was Lost, “a freely voting French citizen or British subject of today has every aspect of his life controlled, or at least monitored, by a central government in whose actions he has little say. He meekly hands over half his income knowing the only result of this transfer will be an increase in the state’s power to extort even more. […] He opens his paper to find yet again that the ‘democratic’ state has dealt him a blow, be that of destroying his children’s education, raising his taxes, devastating the army that protects him, closing his local hospital or letting murderers go free. In short, if one defines liberty as a condition that best enables the individual to exercise his freedom of choice, then democracy of universal suffrage is remiss on that score.”
Friedrich A. Hayek warned in The Road to Serfdom against all collectivist ideologies, and feared that the social democratic welfare state would eventually propel society in a totalitarian direction. He has been dismissed as wrong, but was he? In Western Europe, it is difficult to imagine that we would have accepted the massively bureaucratic European Union if we hadn’t already been conditioned to accept state intrusion on all levels of our lives in our nation states. The EU became just another layer of bureaucracy. We now have a situation where a massive, inflated national and transnational bureaucracy runs our lives, and even writes our laws. We have become serfs, just as Hayek warned against.
It is possible to argue that this is a built-in flaw in the democratic system. As blogger Ohmyrus has shown, democracies will tend to expand into high-taxation welfare states because, simply put, there are more low-income people than rich people, and it is possible for politicians to stay in power by giving people access to other people’s money. But if individual liberty diminishes with high taxation and intrusive bureaucracy, and if democracies have a built-in tendency to gradually increase taxes and create more state jobs, does that mean that democracy will, over time, diminish individual liberty? Is democracy bound to go through cycles of bureaucratic inflation and collapse? This could well be a basic flaw in democracy, but I still believe we need a system where the majority population have a genuine say in politics.
When the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank in 1912, the Third Class passengers, who were closest to the water level, could quickly see the water pouring in. They also suffered the highest casualty rates since they were closest to the problem and had the least amount of resources at their disposal when shipwreck occurred. Meanwhile, the First Class passengers were drinking brandy. They still suffered the lowest mortality rates because they had privileged access to the lifeboats. For this reason, we need to have a political system that takes into account the people at the grassroots level, or it will lead to needless human suffering.
A characteristic of the situation in Western Europe is that we have more and more laws, yet at the same time more and more lawlessness. The German journalist Jens Jessen claims that his country has been gripped by a “prohibition orgy” regarding tobacco, cars, cheap holidays and computer games, television and fast food. The process is “disconcerting and almost grotesque in its systematization.” He believes there is some level of compensation going on for the powerlessness of politicians.
Parallel with an explosion in street crime, the state turns on its law-abiding citizens with a proliferation of regulations and an inflation of laws. The less control the state has over the the most important tasks of society, the stronger its desire to assert its power over the tiniest details becomes. Or is it a subtle show of force, a constant reminder to the average citizen of who’s boss, a sign that resistance to state policies is feared?
As Jessen points out, the dangerous thing about this spirit of prohibition is that “once it’s out of the bottle, it spreads like an infection” whose first casualty is tolerance: “The fettered citizens are going to loll in security; the more unbearable the state regulations, the more relaxed they will feel. But such a society, one that makes the individual citizen and he alone responsible for all possible environmental sins, can easily become the blind accomplice to the worst catastrophes on the international stage.”
As Alexander Boot writes: “Parliaments all over the world are churning out laws by the bucketful. Yet, they fail to protect citizens so spectacularly that one is tempted to think that this is not their real purpose. […] Governments are no longer there to protect society and the individuals within it. […] For that reason a crime committed by one individual against another is of little consequence to them.”
Theodore Dalrymple has noticed the same trend in the United Kingdom, where Tony Blair’s Labour government “has created 3,000 new criminal offences in ten years, that is to say more than one per working day, when all along the problem in Britain was not a insufficiency of laws, but a lack of will to enforce those that we had. The law is now so needlessly complex, and so many laws and regulations are promulgated weekly, daily, hourly, without any parliamentary oversight, that is to say by administrative decree appropriate to a dictatorship, that lawyers themselves are overwhelmed by them and do not understand them. There could be no better recipe for the development of a police state.”
The state interferes in all aspects of life, and contributes to breaking down the nuclear family. Later, it creates expensive social programs to try and remedy the problems it has itself partly created. Whether this dynamic is part of an intentional policy or the result of a dysfunctional ideology is debatable, but the result is disastrous either way. And it becomes even worse when you add an additional layer of transnational regulations. As the British reader Archonix comments on the Gates of Vienna blog:
“In order to install an electrical socket in my kitchen I must comply with at least eleven separate regulations. Some are sensible, governing the type of wire to use and the general direction that wire should go in. Others are nonsense; in order to comply I have to place my sockets a certain distance from the floor no matter what their purpose. EU regulations now mandate by law the kind of taps I’m allowed to use in my bathroom. They mandate the height of my door, the height of the gap between the door and the ceiling and the angle of my stairs, to millimetre precisions. Every day I break about 30 laws whilst engaged in what were previously lawful activities. Most of these laws are EU-inspired regulations prescribing the details of how activities are to be carried out. My computer does not comply with regulations on lead content, electrical output or anything else, despite being perfectly safe. The lights in my house will soon be made illegal. None of this was done with the consent of Parliament. None was done with the consent of the people of this nation.”
Also in Britain, polygamous husbands settling with multiple wives can claim extra welfare benefits. A spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain said it was quite common for men to undergo more than one Nikah (Islamic marriage contract) with different wives. This does not count as bigamy since only the first marriage is legally recognized. Islamic law is gaining a foothold in Britain, with sharia courts now operating in most larger cities.
Meanwhile, real criminals who actually do get caught receive lenient punishment. Dutch Justice Minister Hirsch Ballin is to introduce house arrest, monitored by an electronic bracelet, as a main punishment for the majority of criminals. Those convicted will be able to leave their homes for two hours every day for shopping, sports activities or a visit to a mosque. They will also receive welfare payments.
When does the rule of law break down? It breaks down when laws are no longer passed with the consent of free people, when citizens no longer feel that the law is just, when regulations become so numerous that it is virtually impossible even for decent individuals not to break the law on a regular basis and when the authorities are incapable of protecting their country’s borders while criminals rule the streets. It breaks down when the law appears increasingly arbitrary, when it invades the most intimate details of the life of law-abiding citizens while it allows great freedom to criminals. In short, it breaks down when it no longer corresponds to reality and to the sense of justice experienced by ordinary people.
Unless current trends are changed, I fear parts of Western Europe could reach critical mass soon.