Once Sweden looked like the closest thing to a real utopia. How did it turn into a dystopia of burning cars?
Tino Sanadaji looks at the problems that led to the recent riots. Sanadaji, by the way, knows whereof he speaks: he’s a Kurdish immigrant in Sweden.
First: Islam is not the main problem.
Radical Islamism is a problem, but it’s not related to this unrest. Most rioters appeared to be secular, even atheist. Some were Christian Assyrians. Frankly, most young immigrants in Sweden today do not care much about Islam. A far more potent influence than Islam on the Swedish ghetto is American gangster rap.
One problem is the generous welfare state:
In addition to free health care and other services, a family of four in Sweden is entitled to around $3,000 in welfare benefits each month.
Hence many immigrants, lacking the strong work ethic of Swedes, never enter the labor market.
Partly it is the sheer scale of immigration.
Non-Western immigrants were 1 percent of Sweden’s population in 1980 and have since increased to 10 percent of the population. Today, 60 percent of total welfare payouts in Sweden go to immigrants.
Partly the low human capital of many immigrants.
Resentment toward the West makes integration harder. Immigrants learn — and make use of — the message of victimhood, which fosters hostility toward their host society. And claiming victim status is appealing from a psychological perspective, as it confers moral superiority.
Partly it’s the globalization of US ghetto culture:
Immigrants who wish to integrate and adopt a Swedish identity are accused of “acting white” or being “an Uncle Tom.” The latter is not a translation from Swedish; the American phrase “Uncle Tom” is the actual term of abuse.
Partly too the high cohesiveness and high social capital of Swedish culture.
Keep in mind that Sweden was never an easy country to integrate into culturally. Swedes tend to be reticent, solitary, and reserved. Theirs is a complex culture, full of subtle rules and opaque codes of conduct. Lutheran Sweden is defined by strong behavioral norms enforced through social pressure. Swedes are conformist and quite intolerant of deviation from group norms, whether it’s immigrants or Swedes who break with protocol. Immigrants who do not conform to expected behaviors are looked down upon and often sense low-level hostility in their private encounters with Swedes.
That social capital made the social democratic experiment work well in Sweden, but the multiculturalist experiment is not working.
Icy Scandinavia was never a particularly well-chosen testing ground for the multiculturalist experiment.