Friday, May 1, 2020

Look Out, Sweden -- The World Is Gunning For You

Friends, if this keeps up, the Swedes might have to fight their first war since 1814. The entire world seems to have united to oppose Sweden's relatively laissez-faire approach to fighting the coronavirus.  Even President Trump let the Swedes have it on Twitter.  My latest article rallies to the Swedes' defense.  Their approach has strengths and weaknesses, but we should be willing to admit that, given that there's so much we don't know about the disease, the Swedish "cure" may end up being better than our own.

Look for this article at WorldNetDaily this weekend.

Lay Off the Swedes, Mr. President!

Not since Viking marauders terrorized the coasts and waterways of Europe in the Middle Ages has Sweden attracted so much international condemnation. The reason is simple: the Swedes have had the temerity to buck the Western world's consensus on the need for strict lockdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. What cheek!

President Trump joined the fray on Twitter, declaring: “Despite reports to the contrary, Sweden is paying heavily for its decision not to lockdown. As of today, 2462 people have died there, a much higher number than the neighboring countries of Norway (207), Finland (206) or Denmark (443). The United States made the correct decision!”

For a variety of reasons, the President's tweet was misguided, and we conservatives should not hesitate to say so.

For one thing, Sweden has a larger population than any of the other Nordic countries, so comparing raw numbers of the coronavirus dead doesn't give an accurate picture of these nations' relative success in stemming pandemic-related mortality. When we consider that every country has its own methodology for reporting (or concealing) coronavirus deaths, these raw numbers become even less reliable as benchmarks.

President Trump could have pointed to population-adjusted mortality rates, however, which do indicate that Sweden is suffering more coronavirus-related deaths, proportionally speaking, than other Scandinavian countries. 

RealClearPolitics reports that, as of April 30th, Sweden had a rate of deaths per one million in population of 253.9. That's worse than the U.S. at 193.4, and much worse than Germany at 79.1, but far better than a variety of countries with much stricter lockdowns in place, such as the U.K. (402.6), Italy (462.8), Spain (525.3), and Belgium (664.9). 

What can one conclude from this data? Very little, since there's no clear correlation between the rigidity of a country's lockdown measures and its susceptibility to COVID-19 deaths. The truth is that there are many factors affecting pandemic mortality, so even a comparison of death rates only gets us so far.

What President Trump is also missing is the fact that Sweden's less stringent approach to imposing social distancing was never designed to prevent all coronavirus deaths, or even to achieve a lower death rate than other countries might have. It was designed to minimize mortality and protect the most vulnerable, while at the same time requiring realistic, sustainable sacrifices from the general population — sacrifices that would not bankrupt private businesses, wreck the economy, paralyze the health care system, or ruin lives and split apart friends and family. Sweden's model, in short, was meant to be a proportional, rational response to a virus that Swedish epidemiologists and public health authorities predicted (rightly!) would not be as deadly as some models suggested.

Did Sweden get it right, or did Sweden get it wrong? The truth is that, despite President Trump's tweet, we don't know, and we probably won't know for months or even years.

That's because we can't say with any certainty how this pandemic will affect overall death rates both in Sweden and elsewhere in the West. We don't know, for instance, if Sweden's relatively high mortality rate now will be balanced by lower rates later. That might be the case, because a side-effect of the Swedish strategy might be the achievement relatively soon of a degree of herd immunity to COVID-19. If that supposition turns out to be true, then theoretically this Fall the disease could make a comeback in the United States and elsewhere, killing thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or...well, you get the picture. Meanwhile, the cantankerous Swedes would be immune. Few would die there.

In short, those who pass judgment on the Swedes now do so at their own peril. The Swedish pandemic gambit has already paid some dividends, while still arguably exposing the Swedish population to higher than necessary mortality in the short run. In the long run, who knows? Maybe the Swedes will have the last laugh.

Of course, as we all know, that's a contradiction in terms: Swedes don't laugh. They do, however, go out to eat and enjoy an occasional beer at a sidewalk cafe. 
That, in itself, makes them remarkably brave, in this day and age.

Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy is an Associate Professor of History at SUNY Alfred and blogs at: He appears weekly on the Newsmaker Show on WLEA 1480.

And here it is at WorldNetDaily: 


  1. The Chinese Government must be loving the propaganda attack on Sweden. After all, such attacks take attention away from the PRC, which is the real culprit in this Corona Virus pandemic. The virus originated in China, NOT Sweden. Sweden has a right to do what it wants about this pandemic. The PRC is still liable for failure to warn the world of the virus, and then to lie about it when they could hide it no longer.

  2. With President Trump on Twitter blasting Sweden, it is important to remember that another President, George W. Bush, read "The Great Influenza........" (longer title) by John W. Barry which examines the 1918 flu pandemic that killed 50 million people world wide. President Bush read the book during the Summer of 2005. In November 2005 he gave a speech which set forth plans for the federal government to prepare for future pandemics. So, the question now, instead of worrying about what the Swedes are doing, should be: Was the United States of America prepared? I wonder what former President Bush is thinking now?

  3. Dr. Waddy: The Swedes; a consequential civilization. They were a major power in the late 1600's and in the 1700's, against Russian expansion.

    In the 20th century, they did what they had to do to keep the Boche and the Bolshevik out of their country. I own a Swedish military rifle from that time and it is constructed superbably. And that is a telling image of their military. They would have been an exceedingly "poisonous shrimp" for either of the monstrous dictatorships that obviously threatened them. Yes, they made concessions but understandably in order to save their country and they lent considerable material aid to their geographically fellow Finns in their struggle against subhuman Stalin. They are an admirable country.

  4. Ray, it's true: the Swedes have every right to chart their own course. If they get things wrong in part, well, they'll be in good company! We haven't exactly nailed this whole "pandemic thing" ourselves. Of course, hindsight is 20/20. I think we've done the best we can, given our limited understanding and our very human penchant for hysteria. It makes me wonder: what happens when a REALLY nasty pandemic rolls into town? A less than 1% fatality rate isn't exactly a worst case scenario...

    Jack, I admire the Swedes too. Sure, they're lily-livered socialists, but they've been minding their own business and prospering for two centuries, and it's hard to find fault with that. No one should underrate how challenging it is to chart a neutral course in a contentious neighborhood either. That takes guts of a sort.

  5. Dr. Waddy: In preparing for a public debate with a leftist professor several years ago I researched Swedish socialism and found very much doubt about it from prominent Swedes themselves. I've always thought Scandinavia a discredited example for the American left to present as proof of its principles. How would they respond if I suggested Cambodia alone in condemnation of their beliefs? But I wish in vain; the left, not the Swedes, have no sense of give and take and I should know that. Overwhelming force is their byword and we must not ever forget that!

    Swedish government did its job and protected its population from 20th century chaos across the board. Are we then to doubt their effort today, as credited as it may be? We cannot gainsay it, based on past credited efforts. Lets see what may; they are a formidable civilization.

  6. Jack, the relative success of "socialism" in Sweden tells us little about socialism, in my view. It tells us a lot more about the Swedes!