"When my connection to Sweden began, in 1996, I was struck by the civility. In the US, political adversaries are demonized, whereas in Sweden they are treated like one’s sister’s friend’s former housemate, which is what they are. Being a fellow Swede is much different than being a fellow American. Almedalen is emblematic—nothing like it in the US, or even conceivable.
Americans do not understand that in Europe a nation is a “folk,” a people. The United States has “being American,” and we root for the Williams sisters, but it’s not so much a folk. The population of the US has always been too large, too spread out, too new, too rootless, and too diverse. Also, Americans think of the language that they speak as the language of planet Earth. Americans don’t understand how language is important to a country like Sweden. When a Swede hears someone speaking Swedish, she knows it’s a fellow member of Club Sweden, and they’re prepared to discover someone who knows someone they both know. In politics this means that when Kristina says, “really, the government policy has perverse effects in my workplace,” people on the other side actually listen to Kristina, and take what she says under advisement, and feel a little guilty about their policy doing that to fellow Swedes. Policy implementation and enforcement is softer and more moderate, and policymaking is actually open to correction—relatively speaking, of course. Also, it means that Swedes are more willing to trust fellow Swedes to take care of themselves. A major area of government intervention, occupational licensing, is much lighter and less extensive in Sweden than in the US. Swedes figure that fellow Swedes can figure out which haircutters don’t do a good job of cutting hair. It even goes for lawyers. Sweden enjoys greater economic freedom in this important respect."