Today, Sunday 17th January 2010 is a historic date. It is the day that the first non state-owned pharmacist opens its doors to the public. This marks the start of the dismanteling of a government-owned monopoly and is designed to give the public more freedom of choice and improved customer service. I applaud it.
This is indicative of the changing culture in Sweden – a move from state control to a privatised market defined by competition. It’s a move from collective control to individual choice.
However, Sweden’s national culture of collectivism sits deep and isn’t changed over one night.
The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority demanded this week that all local councils should immediately shut down their solariums due to health risks and prevent people from sunbathing. This is a clear example of the Swedish state attempting to control the choice of the individual citizen. Surely people have the right to choose if they want to visit solariums, no matter how unhealthy it might be, especially if it helps them get through the dark half of the year? Not everyone can afford a winter holiday abroad.
In the debate about privatisation of pharmacies, some Swedish politicians argued that releasing medicine freely on the market would turn Sweden into a nation of drug abusers. As if the average Swedish citizen is too simple-minded to handle the overwhelming access to paracetamol.
I guess it’s the same with sunbeds.