An interesting discussion popped up in a Swedish Libertarian Facebook-group I’m in, where the topic creator asked if it would be possible for liberty-minded people to move to a commune and crank out some freedom, similar to the American Free States Project in New Hampshire. Sadly, the discussion died out pretty quick, mostly because the thread starter didn’t do some research on the topic beforehand and couldn’t put some basic meat and potatoes on the discussion table. That’s where nerds like me come in. Welcome to part 1 of the Decentralize Sweden article series.
The plan with this article series is to take a look at the theoretical possibility to create a somewhat Free Commune in Sweden, where the state is less involved in the everyday life of the ordinary citizen and the economic freedom is greater than in the rest of the country.
First of all, we need to look at the political power structure within Sweden, to get a clearer picture (this is heavily simplified):
The Monarch. The Chief of State in Sweden is the King but in this day and age, its merely a ceremonial and representative role and the King has no political power. The fact that Sweden is a constitutional monarchy will have little to no impact on anything in this article series, but its good to have this fact in the back of the mind.
The Parliament. The creator of laws, the “Riksdag” (as the parliament is called in Swedish) consists of 349 commissioners that are elected representatively by the country’s citizens every 4 years. This is one of the instances of state-power the theoretical project wants to restrict the power over “our” communes citizens.
Administration. The Administrative authority of Sweden led by the Prime Minister and a cabinet of around 20 ministers. The Prime Minister is usually the leader of the biggest political party, but variations have been used.
County Councils. Sweden is divided into 20 County Councils (as seen here on the left) and these are responsible for the following public welfare programs: Hospitals, Culture, Public transport, and regional planning. Another government instance we want to restrict in influence over “our” community. Publicly elected politicians are the governing unit of the County Councils.
Municipalities. Or more commonly referred to as Communes. The most local part of the government and are by law required to provide its citizens with Sanitation, Emergency Services (except for police, which is the central government’s responsibility) Schools, Social Service, Elderly Care, and Urban planning. This is the main object of tinkering with of this article series – The easiest one to configure to our theoretical needs. Again, democratically elected representatives are the rulers of the Communes and will be our foot inside the political door.
How realistic is it to get control of a commune through elections?
Considering we want to go the peaceful route of getting political power through democratic ballot boxes, we need to take a closer look on some numbers. When we look at the data, voter participation for the communal elections is quite high in Sweden, clocking in at 84% on average. That is quite a steep hill to climb. This means we need to find a commune that is small enough to target for a “hostile takeover”.
Using the Swedish Bureau of Statistics population statistics we can dig up some potential candidates and take a look on solid numbers:
Bjurholm Municipality – The smallest in Sweden, with a population of under 2500 positioned at the north-east of the country. With voter participation of 84%, the political compass is split between the Social Democrats (31.5% of the votes, 512 voters), conservative Moderate Party (24.2%, 393 voters) and the Center Party (18.5%, 301 voters).
Arjeplogs Municipality – Far to the north we have Arjeplog, a very left-leaning commune where 711 people (39.6% of total votes) went to Social Democrats and 486 voted the Left Party (27% of total votes). The total population of Arjeplog: 2800.
Munkfors Municipality – With a population of 3800, Munkfors is located in the mid-west part of Sweden with a clear-cut political party leaning with 63.2% (1513) votes going to the Workers Party-Social Democrats. This community is very hard left!
Other Important factors to consider
Of course, there are other important things that need to be checked off other than population and how realistic it is to get voted into commune council: Geography is important, work market matters, ease of building new housing, how bad any policy changes would be received by the locals and a ton of other things. But, this overview gives us a few numbers to play with at least: We have looked at solid data on how many people it would take to have a chance at a commune council seats. Next time we will take a look at laws and their interactions with our theoretical project.
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