Swedes are less jealous of the rich peoples of France, Spain and Italy. The German sociologist Rainer Zeittelmann wrote, that the people of Sweden have more in common with the British and the Americans.
Swedish Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson has proposed reintroducing the wealth tax or, as she calls it, the millionaire tax. But does her proposal really reflect the mood of the Swedish population? An international survey showed that Swedes have a more favorable attitude towards the rich than residents of France, Spain and Italy.
Ipsos MORI conducted representative surveys of 7,644 people in seven countries to find out the public’s attitudes toward the rich. The results of these surveys form the basis of the Sentiment Richness Index, which describes whether the population in a particular country has a positive or negative view of the rich. The survey, which defines the “rich” as having assets of at least 1 million euros (in Sweden: 10 million kroner) in addition to basic housing, shows that the French have the most negative opinions of the rich, followed by the Spaniards and Germans. . The Swedes, on the other hand, have a lot in common with the Americans and the British, who have a more positive attitude towards the rich.
Swedes are also less jealous, which is confirmed by the analysis of “social envy” in each country surveyed. Magdalena Andersson’s polemic against the wealthy is likely to have the approval of, above all, a group of socially jealous, yet in Sweden they make up only 21 percent according to the survey. The survey data also made it possible to calculate the “social envy coefficient” which showed the prevalence of social envy in a country – the lower the value, the less the nation’s jealousy. In Sweden, the coefficient is 0.44 which is as low as the USA (0.42) and Great Britain (0.37), while those in France (1.26) and Germany (0.97) are more jealous.
Swedes don’t want to tax the rich
In all of the countries surveyed, most people think it is right for the rich to be taxed more than the poor or middle-wage people – and this is how tax systems were designed in all the countries surveyed. But opinions differ on how high taxes should be on the rich. In France and Germany, for example, the majority of respondents say that taxes on the rich should not only be high, but also very high.
At this point, it is interesting to note that Sweden is the only country surveyed where a majority of those surveyed oppose the suggestion that the rich should pay very high taxes. While the percentage of respondents in favor of very high taxes on the rich dominates in all other countries, Swedes reject the concept of very high taxes on the rich. In fact, half of Swedes (49 per cent) believe that “the taxes on the wealthy should be high but not excessively high because they generally worked hard to earn their wealth, and the state should not take away so many of them”. However, only a third (32%) agree that “the rich should not only pay high taxes, they should pay very high taxes. In this way, the state can ensure that the gap between the rich and the poor does not become too large here in our country.”
In comparison, the majority of respondents in France (53 percent) are in favor of taxing the rich with very high tax rates, and only 19 percent of French respondents oppose taxing the rich too high.
Another interesting observation for Sweden is that there are majorities in all income groups who oppose very high taxes on the rich. Of course, opposition to very high taxes on the wealthy is particularly strong among those with high incomes, 65 percent (family income 800,000 SEK and more). But even among Swedes who earn less than 300,000 SEK per year, the proportion of those who reject very high taxes on the rich is much higher (47 percent) than the proportion of respondents who prefer very high taxes on the rich (37 percent).
The Swedes seem to have “vaccinated themselves” against punitive taxes on the rich thanks to their own experiences of imposing very high taxes on high-income earners in the 1970s. Then the Swedes realized that the country’s tax system affected not only the rich, but harmed society as a whole. Older Swedes may remember that some of Sweden’s richest citizens like Ingvar Kamprad actually fled Sweden to escape the country’s excessive taxes, and even a Social Democrat like Astrid Lindgren protested loudly about the then-high tax levels.
Rich personality traits
In all seven countries, respondents were given a list of seven positive and seven negative personality traits and had to answer which traits were most likely to fit wealthy people. In Sweden, 36 percent of the wealthy surveyed described them as “materialistic”, 33 percent as “sighted/far-sighted”, 32 percent as “greedy”, 32 percent as “indulgent” and 31 percent as “hard-working”. These answers are more interesting compared to the traits given by the Swedes who personally know at least one person who owns more than 1 million euros. When asked what qualities would apply to a rich person who knows him best, 50 percent chose “intelligent,” 46 percent “hardworking,” 35 percent “sighted/far-sighted,” 35 percent “honest” and 34% are “widespread resourceful”.
This finding also applies to other countries: when people are generally asked what characteristics they would say to the rich, they become more negative than if the same question were asked to the group of respondents who personally know at least one wealthy person.
This is especially evident when it comes to above all a quality: “honesty”. In Germany, for example, only three percent of respondents believe the rich are honest, compared to 42 who said this about the rich person they know personally.
Economic freedom and attitude towards the richأغني
Each year, the Heritage Foundation assesses levels of economic freedom in countries around the world. In the latest Index of Economic Freedom, Sweden was ranked 21st out of 178 countries. On the other hand, France ranks only 64th. It is noted that in countries with higher levels of economic freedom (Great Britain, USA and Sweden), attitudes towards the rich are generally more positive than in countries with lower levels of economic freedom (eg France and Italy). In some ways, the Swedes seem to have more in common with the British and Americans than they do with the Germans and French. However, it remains to be seen whether there is a general relationship between attitudes towards the rich and economic freedom. The study will soon be continued with studies in four Asian countries: China, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam.
German historian and sociologist. His book “The role model and scapegoats –
Opinion of the wealthy in Sweden and other countries” published by Svenske Tedskrift on June 22.
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