Rioting last week in Sweden suggests there might be something rotten there, in spite of the country's high "happy country" rating.
On the just released "Better Life Index" of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Sweden ranked second, behind only Australia. The United States ranked sixth. The index rates the quality of life in the top developed countries on the basis of employment, income, environment, health and other factors,
Sweden is also known for its liberal policies in cradle-to-grave social service attention to its citizens and, as well, for its generous approach to welcoming immigrants and asylum seekers from world trouble spots such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Syria.
Yet last week Sweden experienced six days of rioting and destruction of cars and buildings, including schools in some of the suburbs of its capital, Stockholm. The rioters were largely young immigrants, although there were Swedes among them as well. Sweden's population of nearly 10 million includes about 15 percent immigrants and their Swedish-born offspring.
So what was it about? Europe watchers also wondered if there was any relationship between the unrest in Sweden and the killing of a British soldier by two men of immigrant origin in London and an attack in Paris on a French soldier. There is also growing anti-immigrant sentiment in Greece, based on that country's high unemployment and the miserable state of the economy.
One theory is that immigrant disorder is based on discontent due to discrimination and poor living conditions, but this would seem to be challenged by the situation in Sweden. The country has 8 percent unemployment overall, about the same as in the United States. As in America, Sweden's joblessness is substantially higher among youth. Wealth is unequally distributed in Sweden, but not as extremely so as in the United States.
Sweden is led by a center-right coalition government. A party further to the right, the Swedish Democrats, is seeking to take advantage of last week's troubles in advance of next year's elections. Mostly, the Swedes -- and everyone else -- are just trying to make sense of the rioting. How could it happen in a place that, backed up by the OECD index, is supposed to be a social paradise?
Why are some of its inhabitants wrecking it? It is a question to ponder.