InDepthFriday – Sweden – The Definition of Freedom

There are many fundamental things that need serious change in America. The damage done to our country in the last four years makes that pretty obvious, but many of the needed changes have been ignored for our entire history. These InDepth Friday series of posts are my meager attempt to bring some of them to your attention. Let’s start off with a very different country than ours and try to learn some possible lessons from them. Of course, you already know that the first series in this new line of thought at RJsCorner is about Sweden. I chose this at the topic because so many different polls have shown that the Swedes are the happiest people in the world. Shouldn’t we try to learn why that is? Can’t all of us use a lot more happiness?

In this first post of this serious, we will try to understand a very basic difference about the definition of the word freedom between the two countries. Freedom, of course, means many things to different people. I can still see the image in the movie Braveheart about William Wallace. That was his last word before the freedom seeking Scottish rogue was literally torn to shreds by the Great British Empire.


Let’s get on to the subject at hand. The Swedes like to split freedom into two broad categories that are defined as “negative freedom” and “positive freedom”. Negative freedom is basically freedom from interference while positive freedom is freedom for everyone to be able to do live up to their potential/dreams. Positive freedom can be enhanced when negative freedom is limited. For Swedes, it is not a matter of trade-off between freedom and security but the two kinds of freedom. I know these different definitions of freedom can be somewhat esoteric so, let’s look at some examples.

Sweden’s enabling social democracy certainly does restrict some negative freedom through its high taxation and regulation. But this in turn enables some greater positive and negative freedoms. Healthcare, education and social security give people the positive freedom to fulfill their potentials. But the Swedish State also stays out of many areas of life, such as how people behave in a pandemic, and so it scores surprisingly well on negative freedom too.

  • Wouldn’t it be so satisfying to be able to follow your passion even if it didn’t pay as well as some other occupation that you didn’t have to worry about so many things?
  • Wouldn’t it be nice to know that you can pursue your education and build your knowledge to its highest level without being burdened by heavy future debt?
  • Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see that even if you should lose your job you wouldn’t have to worry about feeding your family?
  • Wouldn’t it be so less stressful to know that even if you had a serious health situation that it would be taken care of without piling up massive debts?

These, and many other things, are possible if you are a Swede. Not so much if you are an American.

Freedom loving peoples of the world should take note that those “socialist” Swedes may be among the freest people on the planet. They are certainly some of the happiest.

In the coming weeks I will be getting into the details of what makes Swedes happy. That will include topics such as:

  • Medical care
  • Pensions
  • Education
  • Family Care
  • Taxes
  • Housing
  • Wages
  • Income Equality
  • Transportation

Check back next Friday for the second post is this “learning from others” series on Sweden.

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