In the aftermath of the European countries ridding themselves of their former monarchies, a new form of neo-aristocracy has risen: the Political class. This class has built a virtual fence to separate themselves from the citizens of their nations and the evolution of this fence-building has been ongoing for centuries in Europe.
In this essay, I’m highlighting how this has turned out in a fairly bizarre way in Sweden. I’m giving my view of what I’ve found out when I peeked behind the curtain: In the court without a king, the jester has taken the throne.
A few months ago I stumbled upon a 2016 24/7 Wall Street article on who the world leaders with the biggest paychecks are and I was surprised to see the Swedish PM ranked so high (getting ahead of the Norwegian, Japanese and UK prime ministers for example), coming in at place 11. It is very hard to compare salaries between countries, there are infinite variables to consider when doing that. What is easier to review though is the mechanics behind the salary:
The salary of Swedish politicians is essentially set by other politicians, via the detour of the Commision Board. A Commision Board that consists of other politicians. Why this extra step you ask? The board got cooked up in the 1990’s after heavy critique from the public and the press that the politicians could set their own paycheck through parliament decision voting and discussion. So in order to appear to get a neutral pay raise, the board was installed. It is essentially a smoke and mirrors show and a sign of arrogance, at least in my book.
Let’s look at this from another angle: Politicians salaries are purely paid for with tax money so the taxpayers can be seen as the bosses over the politicians. Their job is organizing the country for the citizens of the nation. In what other lines of work is it acceptable that the employees decide their own salary without negotiating the terms with the business owner? Is the payraise leading to more productivity, better services, and a more satisfying result? Arguably not, unless I’ve missed the positive outcome of any pay raise in the past. I’m not holding my breath waiting for statistics to show up and prove me wrong.
In one of the kingdoms of the north, the court has made their King toothless – Banished him to sit isolated in his castle. As the aristocrats and neo-elites play the theater called election and democracy for their ticket holders, the court jester introduces the next act:
“Dear fellow brothers and sisters, it is with a heavy heart I have to announce what is coming! We have made calculations, night and day! We have decided the court needs a larger cut of the coffers, it is only right! The country would turn to chaos and anarchy without us, surely! Who will build the roads and make the milk rations? Who will organize the police and the military? It is, after all, for the greater good”
But questions regarding politicians salary is just the tip of the iceberg: In 1975 the ability to take any Swedish government official mismanaging their jobs to court got severely cut, via a reform aimed to make politicians and bureaucrats in state service a little bit more untouchable. The old laws got replaced with a more limited amount of tools – You can mess up the lives for a lot of people in a position of power and there have been cases of so-called “friendship corruption” where politicians have given privileges in the form of state contracts to drinking buddies and relatives, and the harshest punishment you can realistically expect is a ‘stern warning’.
The public should expect better and than that, any mismanagement of taxpayer money should be a punishable offense, with real consequences for the person put in charge. It’s time for the ones that support the circus, through monetary means, to erase the virtual fence set up by the political class and start demanding better results. Hopefully, voters from all political sides can agree upon this simple premise.
For people like me that want to shrink the government, this is the fundamental first step. Even for you who want to keep the state around, a better use of common funds and better performance from people that you buy services from should be the basic expectation. The expectations you have for privately owned companies should be more important in regards to the public sector; The public sector is yours!