Swedish exceptionalism and progress with dew

Sweden’s divergent approach to dealing with the pandemic has attracted a lot of international attention. But I’ve seen nothing written about the Swedish form of government, which differs from arrangements elsewhere in Europe (I’m not sure about Finland). Government agencies in Sweden have much more autonomy and even power than those in, for example, the UK, where a government minister can and will intervene in the day-to-day work of agencies subordinate to the ministry.

In Sweden, such intervention would be unconstitutional (see Chapter 12, Article 2 of the Swedish constitutional document Regeringsform). Ministries in Sweden, with few exceptions, have a small number of employees and are predominantly policy-making bodies, while the government agencies perform the everyday work in their sphere.

Thus in the UK a government minister might resign (at least in the old days…) if there was some spectacular inadequacy in an agency subordinate to hisher ministry. This wouldn’t happen in Sweden – the Director-General of the agency might go but not the minister.

The government can influence the agencies by its power of appointment and dismissal of the senior figures in the agency, the Director-General and his assistant. It also sets the budget for the agencies. And can engage them in dialogue if it considers that the agency is straying from the adopted policies but it in principle doesn’t intervene in the day-to-day work of the agency (or has to be rather discreet if it intends to do so…).

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I suppose the ideological justification of this would be the division of powers where the legislative and the executive are separated. However, it’s also interesting from the point of view of the influence of the electorate over the government in universal suffrage (shielding activities of government from popular influence).

International commentators have remarked on the apparent hands-off conduct of the Swedish government in the pandemic, where the Public Health Agency has been in the forefront of attention. This may have suited the politicians (trust the experts) but it’s not just a political wheeze but part of the Swedish way of doing things.

I haven’t seen much, if anything written about this in more popular sources but there is an interesting article by Lars Jonung “Sweden’s Constitution Decides its Covid-19 exceptionalism” (June 2020). published by the Department of Economics at Lund University (Working Paper 2020:11).

Apart from dabbling with the Swedish constitution, I have been fine trimming my organisation of time, with a regular (4-5 hours) session of commercial work or work on one of my projects, the afternoon spent on working with languages and exercise, and the evening on lighter reading. My plan is to repeat this structure every day (inspired by Trollope of all people…). My aim is to counter my tendency to drift away from commonly accepted notions of time (uphold the Circadian rhythm); and to use time more efficiently.

Among my new word acquisitions for the week are “ligature” and “endogamous”. I  knew the binding and connect meaning of ligature but didn´t know that it was the formal word for “joined letters” such as the “ae” written together in Danish or conjoined letters in Bengali.

And “endogamous” as the practice of marrying within a specific social group (endo (within) + gamous to do with marriage). Rather obvious just that I hadn’t reflected on it before.

And I made a small step towards improving my disastrously low knowledge of things natural and scientific. If the answer sheet to an exam paper for entry into the Uttar Pradesh civil service is correct,  dew does not form on cloudy nights (as heat leaving the earth is radiated back by the cloud). I haven’t thought much about dew before and it´s nice to be able to think about that when wandering around early in the morning after a cloudy night…

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