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The Swedish Lesson: Welfare States Create Moral Hazard




The welfare state erodes responsibility. Nima Samandaji writes:

The World Value Survey gives strong support for the claim that norms in the Nordic countries have eroded. In the 1981–84 survey, for example, 82 percent of Swedes agreed with the statement “Claiming government benefits to which you are not entitled is never justifiable.” In the 2010–14 wave, merely 55 percent held the same view. The pattern is found in the other Nordic nations as well. This fall in responsibility seems to be stabilizing lately, following tax cuts and significant reductions in welfare-state generosity.

A number of attitude studies in Sweden conclude that a significant portion of the population has come to consider it acceptable to live on sickness benefits even if you aren’t sick. A survey from 2002, for example, showed that 60 percent of Swedes believed that it was acceptable to claim sick leave when you were not sick. Four years later, a center-right government was elected on the promise to cut the welfare benefits and taxes significantly. In fact, Swedish governments on both the right and the left have reduced the generosity of the welfare system. Additionally, gatekeeping functions have been introduced, mainly for sick-leave claims, to limit over-utilization and outright cheating.

[Nima Sanandaji, “The Swedish Lesson: Welfare States Create Moral Hazard,” National Review, May 17]


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