Ratio Working Papers
Resilience through Restructuring: Swedish Policy-Making Style and the Consensus on Liberalizations 1980–2000
() and Gissur Erlingsson
Abstract: In 1980, Sweden was a highly regulated economy with
several state monopolies and low levels of economic freedom. Less than 20
years later, liberal reforms have turned Sweden into one of the worlds most
open economies with a remarkable increase in economic freedom. While taxes
and expenditure shares of GDP remain high, there has been a profound
restructuring of Sweden’s economy in the 1980s and 1990s. Furthermore, the
degree of political consensus is striking, both regarding the policies that
characterized Sweden up to 1980, as well as the subsequent liberalizations.
Since established theories have difficulties explaining institutional
change in heavily institutionalized settings, we seek to understand how the
Swedish style of policy-making produced this surprising political consensus
on liberal reforms. Building on previous research, we underscore the
importance of three complementary factors: (i) Policy-making in Sweden has
always been influenced by, and intimately connected to, social science.
(ii) Government commissions have functioned as ‘early warning systems’,
pointing out future challenges and creating a common way to perceive
problems. (iii) As a consequence from social science influence and the role
of public investigations, political consensus has evolved as a specific
feature of Swedish style of policy-making. The approach to policy-making
has been rationalistic, technocratic and pragmatic. Thus, the political
consensus in Sweden on substantial liberalizations is no more surprising
than the political consensus on the development of the welfare state.
Keywords: Sweden; Welfare state; institutional change; globalization; policy-making; policy-style; (follow links to similar papers)
JEL-Codes: H10; H11; H83; (follow links to similar papers)
31 pages, December 8, 2006
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