Redefining the state’s role

Many times I get asked why Sweden is one of the top countries internationally to live in and why Swedes care so much about human rights and for me the answer is always simple: it is primarily about solidarity and compassion. When most people have enough to live a comfortable life, like Swedes do, sharing it with the rest of the population and with the rest of the world becomes obvious. Swedes are willing to share what would otherwise be excess to them so that others can have more, making solidarity and compassion a norm instead of a simple act of kindness. The result is that enough is enough, and although minimalism is often used to describe Scandinavian design, I suggest it also captures this Swedish mentality of something being just enough, or as Swedes say ‘lagom’.

In any country, be it Australia or Sweden, the local community is only as strong as it’s people, and in Sweden they have cleverly figured out how to use the best of socialism and capitalism to enjoy an innovative and prosperous society that at the same time is equal, fair and compassionate. Of course, as with any trade-off, this inevitably suggests that wealthy individuals contribute more to the economy in tax while the rest of the people receive social benefits. But as a result of this income parity across social classes we get a society that is inclusive and equal. Life suddenly includes something more than just self-interest, seeing generosity and welfare as a foundation for a pleasant local community which we all are a part of. Self-interest is still a driving-force for humans and it is a survival instinct, but the question we need to ask ourselves is what kind of community do we want to live in and what we are willing to give up for it?

These questions become increasingly interesting when we realise that the change in future jobs will impact the way we think about the society and the state, and how it will affect the working class in developing countries. As we see in recent government trials implementing a Universal Basic Income (UBI), people are beginning to realise that some form of socialism is inevitably the answer to these future challenges, even if the implementation will be differently targeted. While the developing world focuses on poverty alleviation in the absence of a substantive middle class, the developed countries will struggle to cope with mass unemployment, as most of the traditional professions become useless.

Meanwhile this might lead to a shift in jobs to include more freedom of choice, which together with a UBI and a rising state wealth means less work for humans when machines slowly take over the production market. But for many of us the work we do is a big part of our personal identity and if you think about it we spend our whole childhood educating ourselves to become a certain profession, only to retire and finally be able to enjoy other activities if we are lucky enough to have an adequate pension. Without somehow mitigating this loss of identity for people, and to some extent our ‘purpose’ in life, we might fall into a deep depression. Although a slow introduction period for UBI is thus important for our health, it would also be beneficial for it’s implementation to follow the change in technological advancement and higher state wealth, otherwise we might have an imbalance of state expenses and state revenues, making it’s immediate value less obvious.

On the positive side of things the future might lead to a complete new way of thinking about jobs, which together with a UBI will make our working hours more flexible and more enjoyable, limiting any signs of depression. Instead we could be spending less time working and more time doing other activities, which might give us other priorities in life that replace the old ones. But how this change will impacts people’s identity and ambition should still be carefully investigated, because it will not only re-invent our understanding of traditional jobs in the future, it will also completely re-define what it means to be a citizen and what the relationship between the state and the citizen will be in terms of individual responsibility.

Socialism together with a low individual responsibility towards the state might need to see the state itself redefined, taking into account citizens’ lack of reciprocity and higher state spending. So if we really want to evaluate the commitment to socialism in the future, which I have connected to a UBI in this article, and look forward into the effects on society, then we also have to include the estimated higher wealth of states to understand it’s full potential. Seeing the whole picture with the effects on people’s identity, citizenship and statehood and how these aspects interact with the future changes will be crucial to any policy development.


One thought on “Redefining the state’s role

  1. Pingback: What history and context can teach us about populism | The Fake Times

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