Conservative Americans see coronavirus hope in progressive Sweden (Politico)

But Swedes are quick to note their hands-off coronavirus approach relies on a concept antithetical to American conservative philosophy: extreme trust in government.

Conservatives have developed a fascination with Sweden’s hands-off approach to the coronavirus — an unexpected twist for a country that once served as a Republican punchline for Bernie Sanders jokes.

On the surface, Sweden’s approach to containing the coronavirus pandemic is a libertarian dream: Restaurants remain open, as long as they adhere to social-distancing rules. Schools are in session. Salons are in business. And by some metrics, Sweden has fared roughly as well as many of its European neighbors, all of which have instituted much stricter lockdown measures.

The combination has made Sweden an object of curiosity — and a possible model — for conservatives and libertarians pushing states to relax the strident social-distancing guidelines that have shuttered much of the American economy. Some on the right have called Sweden an example of what happens when Big Government leaves citizens alone. President Donald Trump himself grappled with Sweden’s approach while talking to reporters on Wednesday, musing that the Swedish leader doesn’t have to tell people, ”stay in your house. The people stay there automatically.”

But Swedes are quick to point out that their model relies on elements that are antithetical to American conservative philosophy — namely a high degree of trust in government — in addition to natural factors such as a less dense population.

“It is interesting to see that the Swedish stress on what we call ‘freedom under responsibility‘ is getting picked up by the libertarian right in the U.S.,” said Lars Trägårdh, a history professor at Ersta Sköndal Bräcke University College in Sweden. “The big problem with all of that is that Sweden is all built, ultimately, on a very strong alliance between the state and the individual.”

Over the past several weeks, libertarian-leaning conservatives monitoring Sweden have drifted from abject horror over their decision to not lock down — Breitbart, for instance, ran an article warning about a “coronavirus ‘tragedy’” in Sweden on April 11 — to a cautious consideration of the country’s model, debating whether the approach helped avoid economic devastation without increasing the number of deaths…

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