Karl-Göran Algotsson and the rule of law in Sweden

This quote is from a monograph by a Swedish political scientist about legal preview in Sweden. Karl-Göran Algotsson is one of the few political scientists in Sweden who has studied topics with a relation to liberal democracy in Sweden.

Algotsson, Karl-Göran 1993. Lagrådet, rättsstaten och demokratin under 1900-talet. Stockholm: Norstedts juridik, p 397. From his summary in English:

“The debate concerning the Law Council [an assembly of high court judges that can preview laws] can be seen in a wider perspective. It shows up the far-reaching and diametrically opposed views of the non-socialist parties and the Social Democrats on constitutional politics. Their differences of opinion can, with some ovestatement, be described as follows.

The non-socialist parties espouse a state bound by law, a limited state with a system of checks and balances. The Social Democrats uphold the power of a democratically elected Parliament to carry through effective reform policies, which involve more extensive state intervention.”

Two things are interesting about this quote:

1. The political party that has dominated Sweden for almost a century, has not been in favor of a state bound by law.

2. There seems to be a fundamental rift in basic democratic values in Sweden between the opposition parties and the dominant social democratic party. Are there rifts of the same kind and degree in other countries?

However, Algotsson is too coarse in his analysis, to the point of being misleading. Reality is more complex, and less democratic:

1. The opposition, when in power, has shown much less interest in the rule of law. Their interest has also mostly been in the area of property rights, rather than such rights as family rights or personal integrity.

2. The mayor opposition party, the centre-conservatives, do not have a strong ideological foundation in liberal democracy. Their view of state power and prerogative is in reality not much different from that of the social democrats.

3. The environmental party, which should be categorized as a leftist party, has the strongest and only real ideological comitment to liberal democracy, among the Swedish political parties. (To a limited extent, also the Christian-conservatives).

4. The farmer’s or centre party has for most of the 20th century had the exact same view as the social democrats. This was especially clear in the 1950s.

 

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