3. Economy and sustainability
Sustainability and growth
Social progress must be sustainable over the long term, hence democracy must set limits to market forces. The nation economy must be an instrument in the service of the people, observing ecological, economic and social aspects of sustainability. Sad to say we only consider the economic aspects today when we are to judge how fit our society is. Sweden’s wellbeing is measured by growth in the gross national product (GNP); but a positive economic development does not automatically mean that people or the environment are better off. Economic-political decisions and social planning thus need to take account of all three aspects of sustainability.
Greater attention must be paid to the Eco cycle. The economy needs to become more cyclic. A start has been made but more tools must be developed to encourage re-use, recycling and the production of energy from waste products.
Shared economy, meaning that we own or use things together, is a way of using existing resources better. Sharing is nothing new, but development in digitalization is opening the door for many new share services. Cyclic and shared economy need to be developed and strengthened. This must not be brought about by undermining employer responsibility and tax avoidance.
Sweden has come part of the way towards a fossil-free society. Major parts of fossil fuels used for heating have been phased out, but in the transport sector much remains to be done. Rail traffic and the whole of public transport need to be developed and refurbished and the state must assume overall responsibility for rail traffic. Nuclear power is both environmentally dangerous and a security risk that must be removed. Children and adults alike are surrounded by noxious substance in their everyday lives, both in the home and at work. All pre-schools must become chemical-smart.
Production and consumption
Production is central to the economy and social progress; but an equally important part is human and natural capital.
Swedish environmental policy has prompted important changes, made production more efficient and reduced the Swedish release of, for example, greenhouse gases. At the same time the effects that Swedish consumption answers for are on the increase since a large proportion of the goods we buy are produced abroad. We must therefore actively seek informed consumption.
We are using up more natural resources than we can afford, and are creating irrevocable changes in the Earth’s climate. Sweden is in many ways a model in environmental matters, but this gives us no cause to relax. Much work remains to adapt to a sustainable society and preserve biological diversity both locally and globally. Climate and environmental problems know no national frontiers. International trade agreements must be designed to take account of people, the environment, democracy and women’s and girls’ rights.
A tax policy for social progress
While welfare is on the increase for most people, social exposure has become concentrated to certain areas. Sweden has seen the most rapidly growing gaps within the Organization for Economic and Social Development (OECD) in recent years. This is a long-term negative development: class differences in Sweden have been growing for decades.
Few countries spend such a large portion of GNP on joint welfare services as Sweden does. The basis is naturally political. To retain and develop a welfare system of good quality and to eliminate class differences, a sustainable tax system is required. Our economic policy must make large and necessary social investments possible.
The tax system was reformed in the 1990s but since then extensive departures from basic principles of neutrality, predictability and uniformity have been made. For example, earned income is taxed lower than pension, sickness, activity and unemployment benefits and parent allowances. This is an injustice that must be corrected.
Our tax policy must regain a clearer distribution-policy profile to reduce economic disparities and support the welfare system: this is the way to level out class differences. A policy of fair income distribution must take into account existing unfair tax differences and reduce them, a precondition for an equitable Sweden.
Activities that jeopardize the climate must be taxed harder. In some areas, raised environmental or consumption taxes may be exchanged for lowered taxes on work.
Tax evasion and tax avoidance are ever-present issues. A continual debate on tax morality is needed.
- The national economy must observe ecological, economic and social aspects.
- Sweden must become the world’s first fossil-free welfare country.
- Sweden must phase out nuclear power.
- Sweden must combat the impoverishment of biological diversity.
- A cyclic and shared economy must be developed and strengthened.
- Sweden must become a model country regarding non-toxic environments.
- A target must be introduced to reduce consumption-based releases of greenhouse gases.
- Rail and public transport must be renewed and expanded.
- The tax system must regain its clear distribution-political profile.
- Climate- and environmentally harmful activities must be taxed more severely.
- Pension, sickness and activity benefits, unemployment benefits and parental allowances must be taxed in the same way as taxes on work.
- Public procurement must take account of people and the environment.
- Consumer protection must be increased.