An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Sweden: A Path from Poverty to Prosperity

“Without economic growth, there is no wealth to share.”

Johan Norberg

Lessons for America?

Welcome to another edition of Friday’s Philosophical Foray beyond Healthcare!

One of the most important history lessons in the power of economic freedom to alleviate poverty and improve the lot of the ordinary citizen did not occur during the industrial revolution in America.  It has its roots in a relatively obscure Swedish leader & political philosopher. He was a Finnish-Swedish clergyman, writer, and political philosopher, whose ideas and advocacy pre-dated that of Adam Smith. 

The freedom of Swedish people to pursue self-determination which empowered individuals to trade, act and associate voluntarily with others was championed by the words & deeds of Anders Chydenius (1729 – 1803).

After his death in 1803, Chydenius’s libertarian ideas where perpetuated by the Aftonbladet news publication in Stockholm, a news outlet started by Lars Johan Hierta, which was instrumental in spreading the message of economic freedom against the guilds and mercantilism which dominated Swedish economic policy under the King.

In 1840, the new Finance Minister Johan August Gripendstedt, the architect of Sweden’s new market economy, continued the market reforms. His policies ignited economic expansion and growth based on free trade, sound monetary policy and modicum of govt regulations. 

Between 1850 – 1950, Sweden’s per capita GDP increased almost seven-fold.  Infant mortality improved by 86% and life expectancy increased by 26 years!  By 1950 Sweden was one of the richest developed countries and had one of the most open and deregulated economies in the world; with tax rates LOWER that the United States and most European Countries.

Until 1960, Sweden had low taxes, minimal gov’t intervention in the economy, free trade and strong private property rights.

To explore this subject in detail, please watch Johan Norberg discuss Sweden’s rise to prominence in his video below.