I am persuaded that what distinguished various groups (communities and nations) is the set of rules that they choose to impose on themselves and follow. People as individuals are fairly indistinguishable across the world, save for their history, their culture, the geographies and so on. But as groups, their destinies are astonishingly diverse. I believe that this divergence is due to different set of rules. Rules and norms matter enormously.
Historical accident bears that out. The fortunes of East and West Germany diverged post the 2nd World War, even though both had inherited the same culture, history, climate, language, and so on. The different outcomes were the result of different set of rules imposed by the US and its allies on West Germany, and by the Soviet Union on East Germany. One prospered and the other did not. A similar story can be told about North and South Korea.
Today I learned about the Riksdag, the legislature and the supreme decision-making body of Sweden. I was wasting time on twitter as I usually do. I came across this video. (Caution: Please mute your speakers — the sound track is bad.)
I am naturally skeptical, especially when it comes to social media content. I had my suspicions about the validity of the claims made. As it turned out, it is mostly true. I searched the web and found this piece titled “No Perks for Swedish MPs” from May 2019. Here are selected bits from that article, for the record. Begin quote:
Odd as it may sound to the many representatives of the people elsewhere, Sweden does not offer luxury or privileges to its politicians. Without official cars or private drivers, Swedish ministers and MPs travel in crowded buses and trains, just like the citizens they represent. …
“I’m the one who pays the politicians,” says Joakim Holm, a Swedish citizen. “And I see no reason to give them a life of luxury.”
… Swedish parliamentarians live in tiny apartments in the capital, where they wash and iron their own clothes in communal laundries. … Up until the end of the 1980s, all parliamentarians slept on sofa beds in their own offices.
No one in public life earns an obscene multidigit salary: the take-home pay of a member of the Riksdag (Parliament) is about two times more than that of an elementary school teacher … Swedish councillors do not even earn a salary, nor do they have the right to an office — they work from home.
Sweden’s experience subverts the unhinged concept that politicians should be accorded reverential treatment worthy of a higher caste, consisting of ladies and gentlemen who are more illustrious than the average citizen and therefore deserving of an almost divine right to benefits and privileges that those living below the political Olympus could never attain.
… according to the Swedish system of values, nobody is above anybody else. Not even politicians, who should live in conditions similar to the reality of the people who elect them.
I still remember the strange feeling of witnessing an extraterrestrial phenomenon when I saw the Swedish minister of foreign affairs and the prime minister pushing a shopping trolley in a supermarket in Stockholm. Or the mayor of Stockholm standing in a queue at a bus stop. Or the speaker of the Parliament sitting in an underground train.
Free from major social imbalances, Sweden is undoubtedly a safer and less violent country, where politicians and citizens alike don’t usually need to travel in bullet-proof cars. But, more importantly, this is a society that elects politicians who must be in touch with the day-to-day realities and pains of citizens. … In the justice system, the logic is the same: no judges have the right to official cars, private secretaries or perks.
Those in authority must be held accountable, and all information must be freely available to the public … In 1766, public access to official government documents became a constitutional right for all citizens, enshrined in a special chapter of the Swedish Freedom of the Press Act.
One of the most emblematic political scandals of the country took place in the 1990s. The deputy prime minister, Mona Sahlin, bought a bar of chocolate, nappies and some other personal items with a government credit card, and paid dearly for it: she lost her job. …
In little over 100 years, Sweden has transformed itself from an impoverished, agricultural society into one of the wealthiest, most socially just and least corrupt countries in the world,where nobody is above anybody else. The Swedish experience demonstrates perhaps more than any other how change is possible.
End quote. I am sure most of us (in the US, India and elsewhere) are keenly aware that politicians are the ruling class and the citizens are second-class people. Especially in India, politicians inherited the privileges that the colonial rulers of British India had given themselves. Free palatial housing, free first class travel, free security, free everything, including life-time pensions are a burden on a deeply impoverished population.
What hurts the most, in the case of India, is that the reason the people are pathetically poor is precisely because of the corrupt, blood-suckers that the majority of the politicians are. Knowing that the people actually elect the politicians is cold comfort for those who understand the injustice built into the system.
The set of rules that Indians chose and abide by is what keeps them poor and underdeveloped. It’s all karma, neh.
3 thoughts on “Riksdag”
Unlike India, the US chose a pretty good set of rules to abide by for themselves. Then what explains the VIP culture among politicians in the US?
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