Miscellaneous: February 18th, 2009 by JS
Don’t know about you, but when I peer into other people’s baskets in Systembolaget, most of them aren’t buying fancy wines. Kopparbergs cider, yes. Sofiero beer, check. Mauro wine, by the carton. The Swedish booze monopoly might boast of its wonderful selection, but relatively few of those shopping there take advantage of this.
The big threat, then, to Systembolaget’s continued existence, is the potential for people to get already cheap booze even more cheaply. Smuggling is one worry for monopoly defenders; another is people buying their six-month supply of booze in Denmark, Germany or Estonia and ignoring Systembolaget altogether.
On the scale of threats to Systembolaget, Aussie vintner Mark Majzner must rank pretty low. Majzner is not funneling cheap booze over the border; his company, Antipodes Premium Wines, simply sells interesting wines otherwise not available in Sweden. He’s not aiming at the street drinker or the schoolkid – he’s targeting that endangered species: the Swedish bon viveur.
Why, then, has he been treated so unprofessionally by Kooperativ Förbundet, one of Sweden’s largest supermarket operators? Majzner explains the whole episode in The Local’s opinion section, but to give the short version: KF, owner of Coop, had signed a deal with him that would allow people to order his wine via their website. After months of preparations by Antipodes Premium Wines, the service was days from going live when KF pulled the plug. He says they did so unilaterally and basically with no more detailed explanation than ‘the members wouldn’t wear it.’
Majzner, rightly, smells a rat. The stench got stronger when Posten also refused to continue delivering his wine, despite having done so for months.
The extraordinary question is, was a cartel of self-interested organizations within Sweden’s ‘Folkhem’ working to protect Systembolaget – one of its own? That’s the question being asked by the Financial Times. Their Stockholm correspondent David Ibison points out:
It is easy to forget the depth and breadth of Sweden’s leftwing heritage, but the fact remains that it has been ruled for most of the past 70 years by the Social Democrats, who set up most of the state-run monopolies. The country’s right-leaning government is a rare exception to the rule.
Media: February 11th, 2009 by PO
The Local’s Managing Editor James Savage has just had an article published on Swedish opinion website Newsmill. “Your neighbour’s income is none of your business“, he argues.
At the bottom of every Newsmill article, readers are asked for their opinion. In this case, the question up for “milling” is: How do you feel about publication of income details? Angry, bored, curious or happy [Arg, Uttråkad, Nyfiken, Glad].
For those of you who speak Swedish, we recommend you have a read and have your say.
The article will also be published in English on The Local next week. But even if you don’t speak Swedish, here’s the central argument if you want to pop over to Newsmill and give your view:
The purpose of the principle public access to official documents is for citizens to hold the state to account, in the public interest. The way politicians and state employees use their power and the public’s money should, of course, be open to public scrutiny. Finding out other people’s incomes might be interesting to the public, but that does not mean that it is in the public interest.
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