That placid Scandinavian country full of big-breasted blondes (its only aspect that has remained etched in my memory after a visit some 20 years ago) is betraying the ideals of European federalism.
The most cherished of them is that of uniformity. European countries should become so thoroughly homogenised that they’ll become identical. Greece would get its fair share of big-breasted blondes and Sweden of swarthy beauties, Dutchmen would be pinching women’s bottoms on public transport, Italians would start eating mountains of bland cheese.
That’s why Sweden is risking international – well, certainly European – opprobrium, possibly ostracism. While other countries are desperately looking for something to do about the pandemic of coronavirus, the Swedes have chosen to do precisely nothing, or as near as damn.
All they’ve done so far is ban gatherings of more than 500 people and close universities. Other than that, life goes on: schools are open, bars and restaurants are doing brisk business, as are ski resorts, people are going to work, the economy is ticking along nicely.
And what do you know, so far Sweden (population 10 million) has reported 33 coronavirus deaths. By contrast, 6,000 have died in a quarantined Italy (population 60 million), whose economy is a basket case, just like everyone else’s.
“Sweden,” said Johand Carlson, head of the public health agency, “cannot take draconian measures that have a limited impact on the epidemic but knock out the functions of society.”
What on earth does he mean? Every other country can commit economic suicide and Sweden can’t? Who do the Swedes think they are? Well, let me tell you… sorry, I stopped myself just in time from saying something unprintable.
European governments are both aghast and fearful. Sweden, they say, is playing Russian roulette with people’s lives, staking her hopes on ‘herd immunity’. That’s tantamount to experimenting on humans, Dr Mengele-style.
All well-meaning Europeans are scared – but not because they think the Swedish experiment may fail. They are terrified that it may succeed.
You’ll notice that, ever since the pandemic struck, the EU has insisted that all its members adopt exactly the same measures. This even went for Britain that may be on her way out, but is still technically a member.
They all had to take exactly the same sledgehammer to their economies, incarcerate their populations, close their borders and contribute to the upcoming recession from hell.
Rather than protesting, all Europeans were supposed to genuflect and worship the state, national and especially supranational. All of them were expected to rejoice at the sight of the state hijacking many of the powers that used to belong to individuals.
Such pan-European levelling was never guaranteed to achieve the best results. We’ve never had a pandemic of Covid-19 before, so there are no guarantees. (Come to think of it, there’s no guarantee that Sweden’s experiment will succeed either.)
But that’s not the point. The point of enforced uniformity was to eliminate comparators, countries that would go their own way and conceivably do better than everyone else. If one country refused to adopt what Mr Carlson called ‘draconian measures’ and came out better, or at least not worse, off, that would show the folly of all other governments.
More than that: successful unilateral action would cast doubt on the very legitimacy of European governments. This, though people have been house-trained not to question their rulers’ wisdom too much, not too fundamentally at any rate.
However, looking at the smouldering ruins of their livelihoods destroyed by state action, they might not be able to stifle their screams. You did this, you, Messrs Ministers! And for what!? Just look at… . Well, in this case Sweden.
I pray for the success of the Swedish experiment. Its success would spell the failure of the post-war corporatist model shoved down the throats of Europeans. Sooner or later reflux was inevitable, and it’s possible this situation will act as catalyst.