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— William Wilberforce

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‘Laissez-Faire’ Sweden Had the Lowest Mortality in Europe From 2020–2022, New Analysis Shows

Swedish woman in cafe

Gore Vidal once said “I told you so” are the four most beautiful words in the English language.

Perhaps this is why it’s difficult to resist sharing new data that show how Sweden’s much-maligned pandemic response was right after all.

For those who’ve forgotten, Sweden was excoriated by corporate media and U.S. politicians for its lighter-touch Covid-19 strategy. Many were downright hostile to the Swedes for refusing to shutter schools, lock down businesses, and ramp up police to enforce mandates.

Here’s a sample of headlines:

• “Why the Swedish Model for Fighting COVID-19 Is a Disaster” (Time, October 2020).

• “The Inside Story of How Sweden Botched Its Coronavirus Response” (Foreign Policy, December 2020).

• “Sweden Stayed Open and More People Died of Covid-19, but the Real Reason May Be Something Darker” (Forbes, 2020).

• “Sweden Has Become the World’s Cautionary Tale” (New York Times, July 2020).

• “I Just Came Home to Sweden. I’m Horrified by the Coronavirus Response Here” (Slate, April 2020).

This is just a taste of the reactions against Sweden in 2020. By opting to allow its 10 million citizens to continue living relatively normal lives, Sweden was, in the words of The Guardian, leading not just Swedes but the entire world “to catastrophe.”

Even then-president Trump got in on the action of smacking Sweden around.

“Sweden is paying heavily for its decision not to lockdown,” the tweeter-in-chief warned.

Despite the foreboding rhetoric, the worst-case predictions for Sweden never materialized. In fact, they were not even close.

In March 2021, it was apparent that Sweden had a lower mortality rate than most European nations. The following year, Sweden boasted one of the lowest mortality rates in Europe.

By March 2023, Sweden had the lowest excess death rate in all of Europe, according to some data sets. And though some weren’t ready to admit that Sweden had the lowest excess mortality in all of Europe, even the New York Times, which had mocked Sweden’s pandemic strategy, conceded that the nation’s laissez-faire approach was hardly the disaster many had predicted.

More recently, Danish economist Bjørn Lomborg shared a statistical analysis based on government data from all European countries from January 2020 to August 2022. The study demonstrated that Sweden had the lowest cumulative age-standardized mortality rate in all of Europe in that period.

“Across Europe, Sweden saw [the] lowest total death during and after Covid,” Lomborg said on X (formerly Twitter).

One Economic Fallacy to Rule Them All

Lomborg’s analysis provides yet more evidence that the Covid state was a disaster.

Some will say, How could we have known?

The harsh truth is that some of us did know. In March 2020, I warned that government “cures” for Covid-19 were likely to be worse than the disease itself. The following month, I argued that Sweden’s laissez-faire policy was likely to be a more effective policy than the hardline approach favored by other nations.

I wrote these things not because I’m a prophet, but because I’ve read a bit of history and understand basic economics.

History shows that collective responses during panics tend not to end well, and economist Antony Davies and political scientist James Harrigan explained why near the beginning of the pandemic.

“In times of crisis, people want someone to do something, and don’t want to hear about tradeoffs,” the authors noted. “This is the breeding ground for grand policies driven by the mantra, ‘if it saves just one life.’”

The thing is, tradeoffs are real. Indeed, economics is largely a study of them. When you choose one thing, you give up another; and we evaluate outcomes based on what we get versus what we gave up. We call this opportunity cost.

Throughout most of the pandemic, however, there were those who didn’t want to pay any attention to opportunity costs or the unintended consequences of government lockdowns—and they were legion.

This is the great economic fallacy Henry Hazlitt warned of decades ago.

Hazlitt, the author of Economics in One Lesson, claimed that overlooking the secondary consequences of policies accounted for “nine-tenths” of the economic fallacies in the world.

“[There is] a persistent tendency of men to see only the immediate effects of a given policy,” he wrote, “and to neglect to inquire what the long-run effects of that policy will be.”

This was the fatal flaw—quite literally—of the Covid state. Its engineers didn’t realize they were not saving lives, but trading lives (to borrow a turn of phrase from Harrigan and Davies).

Lockdowns weren’t scientific and proved ineffective at slowing the spread of Covid, but even if they had worked, they came with severe collateral damage: cancer screenings plummeted, drug use surged, learning was lost, and global poverty exploded. Depression and unemployment skyrocketed, businesses went bankrupt, and high inflation arrived. Babies were denied heart surgery because of travel restrictions, youth suicides increasedthe list goes on and on.

The dark truth is that lockdowns were not based on science and came with a rather unfortunate side effect: they killed people.

‘A Giant Experiment’

The secondary consequences of lockdowns and other non-pharmacological interventions (NPIs) did irreparable harm to humans that will be experienced for decades to come.

In the words of New York magazine, lockdowns were “a giant experiment” that failed.

Sweden’s top infectious disease expert, Anders Tegnell, was one of the few people to understand that lockdowns would probably not work. And though Tegnell is not a professional economist, he seemed to understand the lesson of secondary consequences better than many economists.

“The effects of different strategies, lockdowns, and other measures, are much more complex than we understand today,” he told Reuters in 2020, when his strategy was under fire.

By understanding this basic economic principle and having the courage to stand by his convictions, Tegnell was able to avoid the pernicious effects of lockdowns, a policy that seduced so many central planners.

Today, many more people in Sweden are alive because of it. And Anders Tegnell should not be shy in saying, “I told you so.”


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This article was reprinted with the author’s permission. It was originally published by the Foundation for Economic Education. Jonathan Miltimore is the Managing Editor of FEE.org. His writing/reporting has been the subject of articles in TIME magazine, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Forbes, Fox News, and the Star Tribune.

2 Responses

  1. Thank you for this wonderful read. Because of research like yours, I am more aware of the shenanigans, manipulation and gaslighting that allows for this non-sensical culture of people that trust others in charge merely because of their title.

  2. Article quote: History shows that collective responses during panics tend not to end well, and economist Antony Davies and political scientist James Harrigan explained why near the beginning of the pandemic.

    You think the morons in government and silver spoon insiders in corporate board rooms are intelligent enough to consider those guys opinion? That’s clearly too much credit. We’ve never heard of them but their theories appear sound. One does not need to be a philosopher and an economist to understand basic constitutional principals and the adamant need to extract ourselves from persistent taxation without representation. Repeat this simple slogan until your mind is freed; No taxation without representation. Teach this simple lesson to everyone in your life. Live for liberty and accept no substitutes. Believe this with your heart and soul, lead by example. Life is ours we live it our way. Also remember not to steal, because the government hates competition.

    There was no grand experiment. The covid event was a pre planned heist and largest wealth transfer in world history, designed specifically to erode if not eliminate individual human freedoms and national sovereignty on a global scale. Everything from the war gaming to the pre patented technology and scripted syndicated media responses was in place years before anything went live in the public realm. It was a grand conspiracy from the klepto-governance class and their string pulling corporate globalist masters. And it’s no coincidence the event happened in the midst of the greatest migration debacle in world history either. Most people are more comfortable by not considering how incredibly corrupt these governments and corporations have become, or recognizing the ultra wealthy class whom stages most major world events and outcomes. Ask yourself if the whole world is in debt, to whom are we indebted?

    Heck, we were thinking of moving to Sweeden for a while just to ride this out, until we learned about their open door migration policies. Nobody is ever going to go to jail, because criminals do not jail themselves and the good honest people of this world are hopelessly naive and propagandized. The power of social networking and digital mediums. The influence of long since eroded educational standards. The ongoing health crisis of excess toxicity which riddles peoples minds, lowering their intelligence levels. The mechanisms of propaganda so far reaching and so commonly pervasive, the majority of people acclimate to lies and consider them truths, then parrot the slogans of the party themselves with fervor and conviction.

    Want relief? Keep pushing the old issues and seemingly simple local solutions. Get the fluoride out the water. Fight against migration, demand deportations. Push back on taxation in order to defund these mechanisms. Stop supporting global corporations when possible. Be a contentious consumer. Eat organic. Plant a garden. Plant fruit bearing trees and shrubberies. Learn to say no more than you say yes. Put down the technological devices. Limit their use.

    When all the tools of control collectively create the optimum conditions for tyranny, well, you already know what happens. Maintain your subscription to the new world order if you choose but do not say you were never warned of the longer term outcomes and opportunity costs of your own personal decisions… Wouldn’t it be so easy if we could collectively just blame the government or the evil corporations? Well, how do you think they came in to power, and still remain there to this day? As they say; There is no greater objection than absence. Keep on subscribing to their systems, see what happens next.

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