Zakaj je propadel švedski poskus?
The most famous social wealth fund in history was the one briefly established in Sweden in the 1980s.20 The Swedish “Wage-Earner Funds,” as they were called, were the brainchild of trade union economists Rudolf Meidner and Gösta Rehn. Meidner published a book on the idea in 1978 titled Employee Investment Funds: An Approach to Collective Capital Formation and then a retrospective paper in 1993 titled “Why Did the Swedish Model Fail?”21
The Meidner plan, as it came to be known, proposed using a scrip tax to gradually transfer ownership of Sweden’s corporations away from private shareholders and into wage-earner funds administered by the country’s labor unions. Under the plan, Swedish companies would be required to essentially pay a 20 percent tax on their profits. But rather than paying that tax in cash, they would instead issue an equivalent amount of new company stock to the relevant Wage-earner fund.
Meidner calculated that, with an average profit margin of 15 percent and a continual reinvestment of profits back into buying more shares, the wage-earner funds would have majority ownership and thus control of Swedish companies after 25 years.
When Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Olof Palme adopted the Meidner proposal ahead of the 1982 Swedish general election and then won, the whole world took notice.
The New York Times declared that it could be the end of the “middle way,” which they clarified as “the socialism carried on in Sweden from 1932 to 1976” that mostly left ownership in private hands. They went on to note the irony of the fact that the plan’s “transition to collective ownership” relied upon the country’s stock market, “the heart of capitalism.”22
The Christian Science Monitor called it a “Socialist program masterminded by Marxist economists of the Swedish Confederation of Trade Unions” and quoted various critics of the plan. Economist Per-Martin Meyerson is quoted as saying that, after the plan, “the market economy would cease to exist.” Stig Anderson, the manager of the Swedish band ABBA, is reported to have organized a concert “to help finance the fight against the Socialist takeover” and was quoted as saying an SDP electoral victory “might be the first time that a country will freely vote to go behind the Iron Curtain.”23
Despite the hysterical response, the plan was implemented in 1984, though in a diminished form. Under the program, the government imposed a relatively small excess-profits tax on companies rather than requiring them to directly issue new shares and created regional funds to hold the assets rather than the wage-earner funds originally proposed by Meidner. Nonetheless, the cash received from the excess-profit tax was used to purchase shares of Swedish corporations and the program managed to buy up 7 percent of Swedish company stock by 1991.
Unfortunately, after the country’s 1991 general election, Sweden formed a conservative government that put a halt to the program.
A lot of attention is paid to Sweden’s experience with the wage-earner funds. Leftist thinkers in particular often lament it as the last great push for practical, democratic socialism.24 But this mourning is mistaken. As noted already above, the world of social wealth funds is more vibrant now than it has ever been. In fact over the past few decades, Norway, Sweden’s neighbor, has quietly put together the largest complex of SWFs in the world, dwarfing what Sweden’s Wage-earner funds managed to achieve.
Vir: Matt Bruenig, People’s Policy Project