What The Hell Is Happening In Sweden?

There has been rioting in Sweden for the past five nights (NYT):

As the unrest spread from the outlying district of Husby, where it was apparently set off on Sunday by the fatal police shooting of a local man wielding a knife, gangs of youths have torched schools and other public buildings and set alight scores of cars. The rioting, for which the authorities have sought to blame a small group of troublemakers, has been focused in areas with a majority population of poor immigrants and asylum-seekers.

The Guardian adds that the rioting has “exposed a faultline between a well-off majority and a minority, often young people with immigrant backgrounds, who cannot find work, lack education and feel marginalised.” Niklas Pollard and Phillip O’Connor find that the violence shows the “ugly side of the ‘Nordic model'”:

Conversations with residents of this immigrant neighborhood soon bring tales of fruitless job hunts, police harassment, racial taunts and a feeling of living at the margins that are at odds with Sweden’s reputation for openness and tolerance. … The Swedish model of welfare – such as its 480 days of parental leave for each child – hides another side. Some 15 percent of the population is foreign born, the highest in the Nordic region. … [And e]ven second generation immigrants struggle to find white collar employment. As one Asian diplomat puts it: “On the one hand Sweden has all these immigrants. On the other hand, where are they? It sometimes seems they are mostly selling hotdogs.”

Elias Groll records the reactions of the politicians. Samuel Goldman examines the implications for Americans:

What’s happening around Stockholm, then, can’t be explained away as a reaction to official neglect or poverty. Rather, it’s a predictable consequence of mass immigration from the Third World into a small, ethnically and culturally homogeneous society.

Immigration critics on this site and elsewhere worry that the United States is failing to assimilate the millions who have come here, legally and illegally, since the 1960s. I think those fears are mostly exaggerated. Although fashionable multiculturalism can inhibit assimilation, American life has proven to be an reliable solvent of foreign identities. As Christopher Caldwell has argued, however, the classic nation-states of Europe lack the cultural resources to absorb an influx of population from some of the poorest and most backward societies in the world. I’m glad I don’t live in Stockholm tonight.