Advanced

Liberalization without Retrenchment: Understanding the Consensus on Swedish Welfare State Reforms

Bergh, Andreas LU and Erlingsson, Gissur LU (2009) In Scandinavian Political Studies 32(1). p.71-93
Abstract
In 1980, Sweden was a highly regulated economy with several state monopolies and low levels of economic freedom. Less than twenty years later, liberal reforms turned Sweden into one of the world's most open economies with a remarkable increase in economic freedom. While there is resilience when it comes to high levels of taxes and expenditure shares of GDP, there has been a profound restructuring of Sweden's economy in the 1980s and 1990s that previous studies have under-estimated. Furthermore, the degree of political consensus is striking, both regarding the welfare state expansions that characterized Sweden up to 1980, as well as the subsequent liberalizations. Since established theories have difficulties explaining institutional change,... (More)
In 1980, Sweden was a highly regulated economy with several state monopolies and low levels of economic freedom. Less than twenty years later, liberal reforms turned Sweden into one of the world's most open economies with a remarkable increase in economic freedom. While there is resilience when it comes to high levels of taxes and expenditure shares of GDP, there has been a profound restructuring of Sweden's economy in the 1980s and 1990s that previous studies have under-estimated. Furthermore, the degree of political consensus is striking, both regarding the welfare state expansions that characterized Sweden up to 1980, as well as the subsequent liberalizations. Since established theories have difficulties explaining institutional change, this article seeks to understand how the Swedish style of policy making produced this surprising political consensus on liberal reforms. It highlights the importance of three complementary factors: policy making in Sweden has always been influenced by, and intimately connected to, social science; government commissions have functioned as 'early warning systems', pointing out future challenges and creating a common way to perceive problems; and, as a consequence, political consensus has evolved as a feature of Swedish style of policy making. The approach to policy making has been rationalistic, technocratic and pragmatic. The article concludes that the Swedish style of policy making not only explains the period of welfare state expansion - it is also applicable to the intense reform period of the 1980s and 1990s. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
in
Scandinavian Political Studies
volume
32
issue
1
pages
71 - 93
publisher
Wiley-Blackwell
external identifiers
  • wos:000262487600004
  • scopus:58449100923
ISSN
1467-9477
DOI
10.1111/j.1467-9477.2008.00210.x
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
1307d4d1-86f7-4a31-8518-9e2b03b61183 (old id 1312400)
date added to LUP
2009-03-13 13:54:35
date last changed
2017-07-30 03:42:12
@article{1307d4d1-86f7-4a31-8518-9e2b03b61183,
  abstract     = {In 1980, Sweden was a highly regulated economy with several state monopolies and low levels of economic freedom. Less than twenty years later, liberal reforms turned Sweden into one of the world's most open economies with a remarkable increase in economic freedom. While there is resilience when it comes to high levels of taxes and expenditure shares of GDP, there has been a profound restructuring of Sweden's economy in the 1980s and 1990s that previous studies have under-estimated. Furthermore, the degree of political consensus is striking, both regarding the welfare state expansions that characterized Sweden up to 1980, as well as the subsequent liberalizations. Since established theories have difficulties explaining institutional change, this article seeks to understand how the Swedish style of policy making produced this surprising political consensus on liberal reforms. It highlights the importance of three complementary factors: policy making in Sweden has always been influenced by, and intimately connected to, social science; government commissions have functioned as 'early warning systems', pointing out future challenges and creating a common way to perceive problems; and, as a consequence, political consensus has evolved as a feature of Swedish style of policy making. The approach to policy making has been rationalistic, technocratic and pragmatic. The article concludes that the Swedish style of policy making not only explains the period of welfare state expansion - it is also applicable to the intense reform period of the 1980s and 1990s.},
  author       = {Bergh, Andreas and Erlingsson, Gissur},
  issn         = {1467-9477},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {1},
  pages        = {71--93},
  publisher    = {Wiley-Blackwell},
  series       = {Scandinavian Political Studies},
  title        = {Liberalization without Retrenchment: Understanding the Consensus on Swedish Welfare State Reforms},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9477.2008.00210.x},
  volume       = {32},
  year         = {2009},
}