Ombytta roller

Marknadsliberaler och statsaktivister 1939


  • Benny Carlson


Reversed roles

For extreme liberals (libertarians), government intervention is taboo under almost any circumstances. For devoted state activists, it is the right medicine in almost any situation. The purpose of this article is to show, through an historic example, how market liberals with one foot in principles and one foot in reality are prepared to let government intervene forcefully when extraordinary events threaten society whereas state activists may have hard to distinguish between ‘normal’ and extreme situations. The example is taken from Sweden in 1939, when dark clouds of war gathered over Europe. In this situation, Sweden’s two leading market liberals, Gustav Cassel and Eli Heckscher, demanded economic planning, whereas two leading state activists, Bertil Ohlin and Ernst Wigforss, displayed an attitude of “wait and see”. This was “a reversal of roles” from which libertarians as well as state activists may have something to learn in the face of future crises.