TCS Daily

Tales from the Fringe

By Kristian Karlsson - October 12, 2004 12:00 AM

Should men pay an extra tax, just for being men? The Swedish post-communist Left Party thinks so. The extra tax is meant to compensate women, all of whom are thought structurally oppressed by the male collective. All men are responsible for the actions of some, especially for those who physically abuse their wives and girlfriends. We should all therefore take collective responsibility for the financial costs of male violence toward women.

I'm not joking.

A few days ago, the idea resulted in a bill to Parliament. Its main sponsor is Gudrun Schyman, the former leader of the Left Party. Ironically, she had to step down from the party leadership last year after a tax scandal. She tried to make large deductions for trips, car rentals and such that had been paid in the first place by Parliament or her party. She was convicted of tax evasion and had no choice but to step down.

She was nearly forced to resign seven years earlier, when she got spectacularly drunk at a movie premiere. Quickly, she admitted to being an alcoholic and checked into a rehab center. After that incident she bounced back. The party soared in the polls.

Even after she resigned from the party leadership, however, she kept her seat in Parliament and has managed to hang on to it while spacing out completely. She is now talking about starting a new party, a one-issue party that would only deal with feminist issues. The tax on men might be a step in that direction, as was a speech a while ago, where she compared Swedish men with the Taliban. Same oppression here as there, so to speak.

The new proposal calls for an investigation into the costs of male violence against women. With a clear price tag on the problem, the government can figure out a way of transforming collective guilt into cash flow. "Men cost society more. Is it unreasonable that they take collective responsibility?" Schyman asked. "When it comes to the environment it is self-evident that those who pollute should pay."

It's funny in a way, mainly because of Schyman's inability or unwillingness to pay her own taxes, yet hardly a laughing matter. It signals a fierce collectivism that you certainly wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of.

The bill is not going to pass, but many left leaning talking heads defend the underlying thought. So far, no one has commented on the fact that men's violence more often is directed at other men than at women (should men then pay extra taxes for the structural oppression of men as well?) or that there are other groups far more overrepresented in criminal statistics then the overall male population. Poor people, for example. There is a strong correlation between poverty and violent crime -- in the United States domestic violence is five times more common among families below the poverty levels, according to the National Organization for Women. But Schyman isn't proposing an abuse tax on the poor.

Some say the proposal is a tactical diversion. The same day the proposal was released, the party suffered a major blow when the government-owned TV network SVT aired a hard-hitting documentary on the Left Party's intimate connections with the Soviet Union and the other communist dictatorships -- all throughout the 70s and 80s, even days before the wall fell.

For many reasons, most importantly the Left Party's ties to the Soviet Union, the Social Democrat party that has ruled Sweden more or less since the introduction of democracy, has refused to negotiate with it on defense policy. That makes sense -- why have a military if the enemy's fellow travelers are making decisions on defense strategy. A few weeks ago, however, Prime Minister Göran Persson reversed this policy. For the first time, the Left Party is allowed to the table at defense discussions.

You would think that the Left Party's peculiar collectivism and tax on men should propel it into orbit far from the political power center. But the party is more influential than ever. That's distressing.

The author is a writer for the Swedish free-market think tank Timbro.


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