Scott said in comments to the Anna Lindh post: “They also claim that Sweden has a fairly high murder rate by European standards. Considering how often reports on this murder have evoked how safe Sweden is, and how politicians hardly need bodyguards, I found this claim very surprising.”
It turns out we’re at the EU average, but his comment did spawn these thoughts of mine:
Perhaps it wouldn’t be that surprising. The difference between crime frequency between the US and Sweden surely is huge, but I suspect the difference in how safe people feel is even greater. I know that crime was a much bigger election issue in for example France and other countries than in Sweden last year. It’s possible we have somewhat more crime than a some other countries, but feel a lot more safe and unconcerened than them.
An interesting thing I read is that residents of the poor immigrant suburbs of Stockholm felt much, much more unsafe than residents of neighbouring middle class neighbourhoods, to the point where it was seriously detrimental to their quality of life, even though the incidence of violent crimes was rougly similar.
People’s perceptions are (in this regard) more influenced by the media, by prejudice, and by the mood of the culture, than they are by actual facts.
As to not using bodyguards; we already had the Palme murder, and still it’s only the prime minister that always uses bodyguards. From what everyone tells me, most countries are different, I would guess that includes even ones without comparable experiences. It’s a cultural issue.
Partly it’s a question of our self-image and what I discussed above, but I believe it’s also because in some ways the political elites aren’t as far apart from the electorate as they are in many other countries. And what’s worth noting is that I’m not talking about the electorate’s attitude, but that of the politicians. To stop shopping in department stores and taking the train, etcetera, to stop living more or less like an ordinary middle class person, is an intolerable sacrifice for many Swedish politicians on the highest level. I’m only speculating here, but is that really as true of say French politicians?
This isn’t a minor thing, but a great strenghth of Swedish democracy, and that’s one reason why this is so horrible. On the other hand, again looking at the Palme case, maybe things will mostly stay the same after all.