While Sweden’s death numbers compare favorably to the U.S., they
stand in stark negative contrast to our Scandinavian neighbors who
introduced lockdown measures: Per capita, we have nearly five
times as many deaths as Denmark, nine times as many as Finland,
and more than ten times as many as Norway. In total, as of this
writing, 7,514 Swedes have lost their lives to Covid-19, which
works out to a death rate of 742 per 1 million citizens. The
equivalent numbers for the other Scandinavian countries are 164
per million (Denmark), 83 per million (Finland) and 72 per million
(Norway). There is, in other words, no doubt that Sweden’s
approach has led to excessive deaths.
Why did Sweden adopt this approach, and why was it not rapidly
abandoned in April when it was clear that our neighbors were doing
far better than we were?
While there are many reasons, I believe a significant part of the
answer lies in Swedish exceptionalism. Whereas American
exceptionalism is about America’s unique place in the world,
Swedish exceptionalism is about being immune to any disasters
that may happen in the rest of the world.