Earlier this blog reported that Sweden had rejected GM's plea for a government Bush/Obama-style bailout of GM subsidiary SAAB. We also noted the irony that a country known for its Socialism had reject the sort of policy adopted by a country known for its Capitalism.
Now comes word that Sweden has taken another step toward a free society, just as America seems poised to lurch toward more central control of our health care sector. That is, Sweden has announced plans to privatize its pharmacies, previously owned by a state monopoly Apoteket. That's right, until now, a private Swedish citizen, no matter how qualified, could not open a Pharmacy. (Sorry Sweden's equivalent of Linus Pauling !) Instead, someone who wanted to pursue the pharmacy vocation would have to apply for a civil service position with Apoteket.
Here's the story about the end of Apoteket's monopoly, July 1.
At the same time, it does not appear that Sweden's decision was entirely voluntary. Apparently Swedish citizens challenged the state monopoly as a violation of Article 31 of the European Community Treaty. One Swedish retailer simply wanted to sell some non-prescription Nicorret Gum but was with threatened with criminal prosecution for selling a product over which Apotekek had a state-conferred monopoly. In 2005, the European Court of Justice held Sweden's state monopoly violated Article 31 of the EC Treaty because there was no mechanism in place for assuring that Apoteket's purchasing decisions were free of bias against non-Swedish manufacturers. Bascially, the opinion, located here, requires such monopolies to adopt a transparent system of competitive bidding, so that manufacturers whose goods are not purchased will know why, say, Sweden has excluded their products from the market.
Apparently Sweden decided to privatize its pharmacy system instead of keeping its monopoly and implementing the sort of reform necessary to comply with the Court's ruling. Of course, a truly free market will do a better job of ensuring that manufacturers have access to Sweden's markets, anyway.