All Commentary
Tuesday, December 1, 1964

No Place To Live

Advocates of the Welfare State are forever citing Sweden as the perfect example of democratic socialism in practice, especially for housing and city planning. They proudly proclaim that there are no slums in Sweden and that everyone has adequate living space. And they recommend the Swedish way as the proper solu­tion to our own housing and ur­ban development problems.

The picture painted by the lib­eral-socialists of a paradise in Sweden is persuasive indeed. And when I finally visited that coun­try, I admit that I was quite im­pressed by those attractive gov­ernment housing projects—sur­rounded by lovely parks with happy children playing in them. I didn’t see a slum anywhere.

Since I try to be a reasonably honest person, I had no alterna­tive but to give credit to socialism for the housing situation in Swe­den. Further, I was faced with the possibility that housing might be an exception to my long-held the­ory that the results of socialism will always be undesirable in the long run. As the months and years went by, however, I began in­creasingly to encounter statistics on the Swedish experiment like these two items from The New York Times:.. the waiting time for an apartment in Stockholm continues to be six or seven years.” (Octo­ber 21, 1962)

And two years later (Septem­ber 20, 1964): “At present, Stock­holmers must wait up to 10 years for an apartment.”

Thus I have no logical choice but to stay with my old theory—that is, when government assumes responsibility for any product or service that has (or can have) a price in a peaceful market, the result will eventually be bad.

Under governmental responsi­bility for housing, there is now no place to live for a young couple who would like to get married and set up housekeeping in the capital city of Sweden. The social­istic housing and investment laws effectively discourage private in­vestors and contractors from pro­viding adequate free-market hous­ing in Stockholm. Thus, most Swedes have no alternative but to wait on their paternalistic gov­ernment to award them space to live. That is a degrading relation­ship that will never be tolerated by a proud people.

This same thing happens—must eventually happen—when­ever and wherever the government usurps the functions of the mar­ket place wherein peaceful persons can voluntarily exchange their goods and services. Socialism (whether in Russia, Sweden, or the United States) is necessarily destructive of individual freedom and personal responsibility; for when the government moves in, those character-building attri­butes are automatically displaced by force and compulsion. I am convinced that any law that de­prives a peaceful person of his freedom and responsibility (as socialism does) is clearly immoral. Thus, no one should be surprised that, over a period of time, the results of socialism in practice are always universally bad.