Much of what the outside world thinks it knows about the Swedish model is wrong. When American politicians like Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez are asked to name an example of a successful socialist economy, they often point to Sweden.
But Sweden only began to experiment with socialist ideas after it was already one of the world’s most successful societies. Its success was based on a free market model developed after an episode of radical liberalization between 1840 and 1870 and the rapid growth it unleashed. As early as 1950 Sweden was the fourth richest economy in the world, and it was also one of the freest, with public spending below 20 percent of GDP. Government was smaller than in other Western European countries and taxes were slightly lower than in the United States.