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Condemn the Swedish model, not Kamprad

The Local · 2 Feb 2011, 09:25

Published: 02 Feb 2011 09:25 GMT+01:00

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The criticism of Ingvar Kamprad and his empire reveals ignorance and repeats the old Swedish scorn for business owners. The criticism should instead be turned against the Swedish model, which forces those who run successful family business into exile in order to secure their legacy. The view of family-owned businesses is not that they bequeath, but that they borrow that company from their children! Even the Rausing family realised early on that the family business centred on Tetra Pak would be put at a disadvantage if the company remained in Sweden.

The cases of Kamprad and Rausing show that Sweden must adapt its rules so that new family dynasties can emerge in Sweden based on the groundbreaking innovations that spring from advanced research and development. The quid pro quo is to make charitable donations tax deductible and thus provide an incentive to private capitalists to give back some of what they earned as a show of thanks to their homeland.

The world is full of dynasties, many of which we find in the business world: Rockefeller, Rothschild, Morgan, Ford, Porsche, Agnelli (Fiat), Toyoda (Toyota) and Bombardier. Many have started in trade and finance, as trading houses, brokerage firms, and investment banks. Other family dynasties have built their fortunes around the exploitation of natural resources during the industrial revolution, such as oil in the case of Rockefeller. We also find several family dynasties from the expanding automotive industry of the 20th century.

Sweden has a few – but sizeable – dynasties. If the requirement is at least four generations, we’re talking about Bonniers, the Wallenbergs and Johnson. Thus, we consider Kamprad and his sons as a potential dynasty.

The debate surrounding Ikea’s billions must be seen in light of the spirit of family-owned enterprises. Let us first note that Kamprad has been a pioneer and catalyst for a new view of industrial logic in his field, characterised by flat packages and new distribution technologies. Instead of battling for better market conditions and tax laws in his home country, Kamprad decided early on to challenge his competitors by placing a large part of his production abroad, at first to low-cost Poland. Kamprad had no state monopoly to contend with and the Ikea profit machine wasn’t dependent on the highly regulated credit market in the postwar period or on access of capital via the stock exchange.

A common feature of Swedish family dynasties is that they broke with the usual rules of the game and the logic in the market in their field. They have in opposition to or cooperation with the powers that be changed market conditions and created room for opportunities from which they could grow. In order to bring about these changes in market conditions, they had to act lobbyists or create strong ties to political powerbrokers.

With their companies, they have created new markets and the economy has been rewarded with a growing number of jobs. As companies have grown into major employers and thus become important for the country's labor market, they have also ended up operating in the interests of politicians. The owners have become part of the establishment and developed goodwill with both politicians and the public, which in most cases, helps to strengthen the brand for both business and the family dynasty.

In the Anglo-Saxon world, family dynasties and major financial titans have always been expected to return some of their wealth to society through donations: in the United States, the volume of annual donations reaches levels comparable to Sweden's gross domestic product.

Sweden had a donation culture in the early 1900s, but after World War II it became extinguished by government transfer systems, high income and corporate taxes, and the regulation of capital markets. Recent deregulation and the abolition of the inheritance and wealth taxes lays the groundwork for a donation culture renaissance in Sweden.

Story continues below…

What that cases of Percy Barnevik and now Kamprad show is that Sweden needs to build a thriving donation culture. Role models can be found in the United States, with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet the most shining examples. The means is a the creation of tax- deductible donations for research, education, hospitals and infrastructure. And increasing pressure on Kamprad and other newly rich to donate. Doing so would then transform self-made business tycoons from the victims to the heroes of the welfare society.

Hans Sjögren is a professor of economic history and institutional economics at Linköping University as well as director of the Institute for Economic and Business History Research (EHFF) at the Stockholm School of Economics.

This article was first published in the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper on January 29th, 2011. English translation by The Local.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

10:55 February 2, 2011 by bob3000
..."the old Swedish scorn for business owners."...

What he is specifically referring to is the way socialism radicalised, spread and morphed in the 70's and 80's

Even before 1900, it can easily be argued by example that prior to this period, Sweden did not have scorn for private business and in actual fact did have a culture of charitable giving, from the 1800's.

Göteborg is a good example; we have the city library, originally founded in Haga and funded privately, Chalmers, which was founded as a result of a bequeath. Dickson, David

Carnegie, Chalmers, Gibson, etc. all helped the city through donation.

It is the scorn that parts of the SD have for businesses, that he refers to....surely?

He fails to clearly identify that the high taxation and sharing of the welfare burden placed upon the businesses in Sweden is quite different from charitable donation.

The country needs significant tax revenue in order to support the immense level of services provided by the government and kommuns using tax money.

The broader economic issue being side-stepped is that Sweden must have significantly greater exports than imports (basically cash inflow) - trade within the country is only re-circulating money from a finite pot.

If he expects charitable donation in order to fund welfare services, surely this is tax by a different name.

Or is he suggesting that for example that welfare services like education and daycare or even health care be re-classified from state provided services to charities that would be funded from this new culture of charitable giving.

Absolute Balls.
11:29 February 2, 2011 by Nemesis
This article is nonsense.

Kamprad is a tax evader, plain and simple.

If Sweden follows the advice of Hans Sjögren, then the only cultural renaissance Sweden can expect is similar to that which occurred in Scandinavia around 1000 when christianity was imposed at the point of a sword. That allowed rulers and priests to get rich and the poor, to become poorer than they had ever been.

If a poor person was to avoid paying tax, the authors of this same article would demand a jail term for the tax avoider.

Recently on the local, there has been a series of articles that read as though they are lifted from Irish newspapers from 4 to 8 years ago, with only the names, places and dates changed.

The articles about the economy, self praise form the politicians about how good things are and now a rant from the lunatic right wing neo-liberals, is an exact replica of what we had in Ireland before the economic crash.
13:05 February 2, 2011 by adiz0r
Haha, just like if I heared the liberals in Hungary. No surprise they're sooo despised here.
14:01 February 2, 2011 by Arturio
In this pic the old guy seems to act like Silvio Berlusconi
14:19 February 2, 2011 by Nemesis
@ Arturio

Thats the founder of IKEA, Ingvar Kamprad.
15:57 February 2, 2011 by Garry Jones
> The criticism of Ingvar Kamprad and his empire reveals ignorance and repeats the old Swedish scorn for business owners. The criticism should instead be turned against the Swedish model, which forces those who run successful family business into exile in order to secure their legacy.

Yes, okay, granted. But he could have been upfront about this. That's the problem that he has lied. That and the 3% tax-free levy. People are not begrudgning a genius his fortune, but the icing on the cake, peanuts for him, a significant amount for the tax system.

It doesn't help that IKEA have been accussed of not employing many black people or other ugly people. (He was thought to be a Nazi).
16:12 February 2, 2011 by jackx123
screw the swedish taxes.

i admire a man who came from nothing and created everything. more than you envious morons can ever accomplish in 100 lifetimes. you are just pitiful and reflect a typical communist mindset. steal from other hard work what you cannot or are to lazy to work of yourself.
16:39 February 2, 2011 by BobWas
The IKEA founder is doing the only logical thing -- when taxes reach a confiscatory level, then you go through the tax laws with a fine tooth comb to see how you can legally minimize the amount you owe. In Sweden, apparently, the only thing you can do is leave Sweden.

This happened in Britain in the eary 1970s, when the top marginal rate of income tax went up to 98%. What chump is going to hand over 98% at the margins, to fund some government's expansion program? Well, all the would-be chumps left the country, and the tax revenue was lost to Britain. The lesson: 'tis better to get 30% of something, than 98% of nothing.
16:55 February 2, 2011 by 2394040
Poor, poor rich folks. I know I'm supposed to cry, but I just can't seem to shed the first tear. Wonder why?:):):):):)
16:57 February 2, 2011 by Civical
I thought the notion that 'the poor' could depend on the generosity of charity from the rich went out at the end of the 19th. century not the 20th. It is admirable what Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are doing but I fear they are outnumbered by dynasties that hang on to their wealth.

If Kamprad is following the Gates/Buffet model then he has some excuse otherwise he is just another tax dodger.

Either way I would prefer not to have to rely on charity to provide for schools, hospitals, support in old age etc. but on a system provided by fair taxation.
17:55 February 2, 2011 by Mib
As far as I can tell, he is legally avoiding tax. If people want to stop these loopholes, then they must presure the EU and other continents to put up trade barriers with low tax havens and/or impose higher taxes on businesses that want to trade in the EU etc, but have a HQ in a low tax haven. Even better, close the tax loopholes. However, Ikea's founder has built a vast business from nothing and created thousands of jobs in Sweden and elsewhere, which contributes to taxes and builds a positive brand for Sweden!

In terms of charitable donations, I have read that he doesn't own Ikea and that it's under the umbrella of a trust, which I presume will be set up as a charity when he is dead. Also, Americans have a tradition of giving , but then they have a lower social framework in helping people. If they had a heavier Social structure like Sweden, then it would be the Government taking over some of the financing for charitable organistaions via the taxation route. However, would the US spend the money on good deeds or just spend in on weapons and other things that some people on principle would never want to pay for. At least if you are giving to charity rather than via taxes, you are supposedly more adept at spending your money than a Government.
19:38 February 2, 2011 by Zala Russe
People have choices, and rich people get to make LOTS of choices. He has made his and put personal wealth accumulation above national affiliation. Lots of people in his situation DO that. That is their right in free-market economies. Others DON'T.

J.K Rowling of 'Harry Potter' fame has chosen to remain UK resident, paid millions in taxes yet still has acquired a fortune in excess of 400 Million GBP. To most of us it's silly money. In the old adage, no matter what your choice, just how many shirts can you wear at one time Ingvar? Does a flash shirt buy you back your youth?

Take the money and run, but spare the rest of us a lecture on how tax avoidance is somehow a patriotic gesture.
19:51 February 2, 2011 by engagebrain
1 SEK is more tax than the seriously wealthy will pay - given half a chance.

Even after paying the due rate of tax, he would still be one of world's richest men.

A starving man has an excuse for stealing, what excuse can be offered for the world's richest
21:26 February 2, 2011 by mkvgtired
@Nemisis, Anybody, including poor people, is allowed to move out of a country. I dont think anyone besides you would want to throw them in jail for moving to Switzerland.

@BobWas, perfectly stated. We have ample examples of how the government mismanaged funds/policy. From the monetary stock issues during the great depression to the over confiscatory tax policies of the 60s and 70s. There are countless studies, books, and other highly informational resources to help us avoid making these mistakes again. Unfortunately we seem to be ignoring all of them, as we do most works written about the mistakes of the past.
22:27 February 2, 2011 by Syftfel
Do not condemn the "Swedish" model. Why should we punish success? Instead we must condemn the pseudo-marxist social democrat riff-raff and their useless rabble rousers. It is they who have created a nation in civilizational decline, hostile to business. Hughre taxes. More welfare. These socialist masters of deceipt give me constipation just thinking about a certain Palme and other social dem botom dellers. Is there any wonder Kamprad fled with his honestly earned pesos?
22:36 February 2, 2011 by Birbun
Kamprad is a good man that makes all his fortune only by himself.

Clearly the social communists and the losers hate him because they're jealous.

Jealousy is the worst primordial instinct of the man.

Learn from Mr. Kamprad to produce something in your life a part to go alcoholic at the parties you damned reds!
08:57 February 3, 2011 by Leonardo A. Romero
Well, it is really confusing. Is there a question about who should pay or not taxes? By watching the TV program yesterday channel number one [there you can watch by repriss in SVTplay] about Mr. Kamprad moral wished behaviour. It seems to me that customers and society deserve a kind of indirectly help from people who sell products to them. I mean, if I would have the chance to buy in another store similar to IKEA but at the same time different from it (the second store really pays real taxes) I would not buy IKEAs product. Just like that. IKEA is going to lose its customers. At least those who feel and are convinced that moral is important in life, family and in the country they live, too. Is there another way to be real proud of being swedish?

19:40 February 3, 2011 by AHA
Some years back I remember there was much talk about Kamprad Nazi leanings in his youth. Now he is a capitalist devious man. What will be the next revelation, a communist in a sleeping cell? But honestly, he should be ashamed of the way he plans avoiding taxes. Is there no end to greed?
22:12 February 3, 2011 by mikewhite
I don't remember seeing that in the Communist maxim, "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" - that seems to be quite the opposite in fact.
23:36 February 3, 2011 by alecLoTh
There is some element of truth here. Im looking into starting my own business....one does after about application number 400 hehe - but was shocked to see the tax laws.

I dont know how people manage their first year or two self-employed. So extending this to large corps I can understand the desire to 'break free' from such a system....as for me I don as greatt mind chipping in as my needs are not
05:13 February 4, 2011 by technoviking
Like it or not if you overtax people, make it hard to do business and make it a huge pain to hire people, businesses will leave along with jobs.

It's a reality of life and measures must be taken if the country wants to keep jobs and stay competitive.

Especially in a globalized world where no business is going to voluntarily pay for the Swedish welfare state when there are numerous other more tax friendly options. A a result there are eventually diminishing returns for govt as taxes increase.
12:08 February 4, 2011 by alpierce
"Doing so would then transform self-made business tycoons from the victims to the heroes of the welfare society. "

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are atypical examples. I recognize why Kamprad has made the choice to avoid taxes, and perhaps certain policies should be re-examined. However, the idea of moving into a reliance on tax-deductible donations is short-sighted, especially considering your idyllic example of the US.

If the US´s level of inequality grows larger, its income discrepancy will be like that of Brazil by 2050. Let us take a moment to remember how these "trickle down" policies worked so well under Bush, as the American middle class continues to disappear and health care is a wreck. Sweden may be a long way away from becoming America, but I dont see any reason to start moving in that direction.

Put away your Friedman inspired drawing board, and take a look at how things really are. Sweden has a lot going for its current system, and allowing tycoons to become superheroes is juvenile, self serving, and lacks regard for the true complexity of economic systems.
15:39 February 4, 2011 by cblanquer
Saying that Kamprad evades taxes because of the Swedish model means to ignore that this is a widespread strategy in great fortunes, would they be grounded in Sweden, Greece or USA.

They are a consequence of the (natural) goal to maximising the quantifiable benefit.

They miss the drawbacks, read @alpierce comment.


Clap, clap, clap! Bravo!
17:39 February 4, 2011 by nagrind
obama = Stalin = bush or ussr = usa http://avsecbostjan.blogspot.com or http://avsecbostjan.areavoices.com/ and watch videos in sequence.
03:54 February 7, 2011 by Karl Pentel
There is a lot of LOSERS in Sweden!!! How do I know? Easy, losers always criticize and pour scorn on WINNERS like Ivar Kamprad.

This man has done more for fellow Swedes that one million LOSERS, even when living and maintaining his hard-earned fortune abroad.

I ask the looser - If you had 10,000.00 kronor, wher would you invest them?

1) With IKEA if you could? 2) With The Swedish Tax System?

I rephrase that - where would 10K do most good? Get it? Not? Well, let's just say that any money with Ivar is doing some good, but most do not in the government coffers. TOO MUCH WASTE!

By the way, since I'm unknown incognito, I now announce that I have donated $2,000.00 Australian dollars to Australian flood victims via uncorrupted Salvos. I'm not a frigging looser man!! I'm GOOD so I quietly do good things, (not tel;ling friends) even if I also may get scorned.

WINNERS never criticize Losers, but I make an exception for you...
04:54 February 7, 2011 by wishUlistenup
FAQs ;

Why is it that successful people like Bjorn Borg, ABBA, Ingemar Stenmark are seeking ways to make their activities OUTSIDE Sweden? If you recall they move to Monaco, Switzerland or other places.

Why is it that the Swedish government is doing all they can to squeeze any and all dimes and pennies out of the SUCCESSFUL people who work hard?

Why is it that any new business starting up is seldom going with any profit the first 3 YEARS? You are working THREE years paying taxes and in the red before you can make a profit for your hard work! It's no wonder so many business go under and down in their first years as they are heavy in debt trying to make anything profitable.

Why is it almost impossible to hire any "black labor" to fix your broken car or leaking roof without the frenzie and paranoia of being discovered by the Swedish IRS (Riks Skatte Verket) ? You need "papers", "receipts" or "evidence" or you could get really in "trouble" and fined beyond your imagination.


The government is supporting useless and complete insane programs to accommodate poor war victims.

They "import" any refugees out of sympathy to advertise a false haven for victims. Who gets annoyed? The people that have to support and pay for it - the TAX PAYERS!

There should be a happy balance and if the goverment would be smarter, they should SUPPORT and back up hard working business owners andgeniouses like the IKEA inventor Mr.Kamprad. Not sure how many know about how he started out. He built his business from his garage in Smaland where he started to put together "build it yourself" packages for cabinets and shelves.

No matter how smart and how successful you are - when you make millions the greedy governement can not stand seing a hardworking individual not being willing to share 80% of their profits.

Crazy - sick - aweful!

But who would otherwise pay for all the "free" hospitals and the "fantastic" support we give to the "poor immigrant refugees"?

There must be another solution of financial punishment other than to squeeze the successful ones to death or to the point where they leave the country to make any profit and export their business to China, India or Taiwan.
06:09 February 7, 2011 by MarkinBoston
When, exactly, did envy become a virtue?
07:12 February 7, 2011 by wishUlistenup
1913 - When the Federal Reserve was founded!

The billionare junkies can just not get enough. They want more and more.

"Quantitative Easing" is the term for when they print new pallets of billions of dollars. What happens? INFLATION!

Hope Sweden stays out if this trap as long as they can.
11:34 February 7, 2011 by Borilla
Not being an expert on Swedish tax law (except for payments thereto) I can only surmise that what Mr. Kamprad is doing is not illegal. It must be remembered that tax avoidance is not illegal. Tax evasion is.

That being said, the argument that taxes that pay for services to the Swedish people should be reduced by allowing the elite to contribute tax deductible mounts to "charities" with the hope that those "charities" would then pay for those same services seems to be of questionable merit.

This is particularly true when one considers that "family dynasties", or any other "dynasties" for that matter, are not favored by most free and thinking societies. Those dynasties and their "charities" end up paying stipends to family members and supporting their "meetings" in Barbados and similar boondoggles. "Charities" established to provide reasonable housing for working women end up being let to the friends and families of the parties and unions that established them.

Most of us living here choose to avoid "dynasties" and elites where possible. Nothing could better exemplify that than the current difficulties in Tunisia and Egypt resulting from the establishment of family dynasties.In a time when free people everywhere are concerned with the destruction of the middle class and the redistribution of wealth to a very limited upper class, let's not contribute to the problem by encouraging more "dynasties".
14:09 February 9, 2011 by Leonardo A. Romero
"Tax evasion is" I certainly completely agree with this thought.

I know that I may be not have the exact words to explain what that is. But, If you work hard and want to have a benefit, well paying taxes is part of that benefit.

Please, do not say that rich people help poor people. I mean it´s always the opposite. Who do you think buys in IKEA´s stores? "poor people" Not rich people. Well, You rich people try to help back poor people by doing the right things when it comes to do what law demands.

I hope that we start being honest and not businees people. Have a heart!

18:59 February 9, 2011 by jack sprat
Such is the nature of Kamprad,that he would likely have ploughed the same furrow, even under a less punitive taxation regime.
22:50 February 9, 2011 by justagurlfromSeattle
Had he been born and lived in Mexico, do you think he would have had this same success????

Had he been i any of these really low tax countries, do you think he would have had the same success????

My family here is well off.... so this is by no means envy.... I think what he did by avoiding taxes in the country that allowed his success is deplorable..... and yes.... countries do allow success.... they do this by having strong economies.... by having rich infrastructure..... transportation..... the education systems.... all of these things contribute to a persons success.....

so to avoid taxes after you become wealthy.... is to spit in the face of the country that provided you with the building blocks to succeed......
14:08 February 10, 2011 by Streja
The Abba members live in Sweden except for Anni-Frid.

Björn always talks about how great it is to pay taxes.
04:29 February 11, 2011 by Nomark
Streja - I assume you're being ironic wrt Björn's attitude to taxes:

14:13 February 11, 2011 by Caliope
justagurlfrom Seattle

Had he been born in Mexico,do you think he would have had this same success? what a stupid question, there are several Mexican billionaires(in US$DOLARES por favor). Ingvar Kamprads success comes from himself, not from any society helping him in anything. Ingvar Kamprad had lousy grades in school, he is a dyxlectic for gods sake...you mention swedish education and swedish railways..from swedish newspappers you can read about how well swedish railways work, SJ a diseaster in summer and winter. Swedish education is substandard,swedish students have problem with high school maths in University. The swedish public is concerned with the 3% royalty that IKEA don t pay tax on..not the other Billions of SEK it pays worldwide in taxes.

Stop insulting my native Mexico,Carlos Slim Hernu, a Mexican is considered richer that Kamprad okey.
19:01 February 11, 2011 by Pacey
Is he groping this woman or are both of them loving it!!
20:25 February 16, 2011 by jack sprat
Kamprad is about as akin to Swedish ideals, as chalk is to cheese.

The leopard very clearly hasn't changed it's spots from it's nazi days.

However as long as he is smart enough to use Sweden as his main marketing ploy, while the Swedes having little of note left to hang on to, are dumb enough to fall for it, then I'm sure they'll continue to get along just fine.
18:49 February 18, 2011 by hammad674
What is so special about this report .... I am bored of looking it at the main page for So long :(
03:33 February 25, 2011 by wishUlistenup
@ Caliope

Last time I checked when I was in Cancun, there was no Ikeas to be found! Is there one anywhere i Mexico?

There is a strong reason why Ikea has stayed of of Mexico - they can not even afford the cheap help yourself assemble furniture! LOL

If you are bragging about millionaires in Mexico it is the fat ones that squeeze out the ones that are poor - or they make money on drug and human trafficing.

Either way - there is so much corruption that is is not even possible to pick apart

If Mexico was so great - why are they all trying to flee over the boarder to the US ??? Hombre!
07:17 February 27, 2011 by Lavaux
Isn't it interesting that in order to build a family-owned business empire in Sweden, one has to first buy off the political class? Why is this system to be preferred over other options, e.g. constitutionally protected private property rights? And do you lefties out there really believe you get a peice of this aciton?

"Say, that's a nice company you got there, Ingvar. Be a shame if something were to happen to it. Now pay up."

This isn't just socialism. It's also a protection racket run by a greedy, thuggish political class tolerated by an ignorant, envious population who get nothing in return for tolerating it. Worse, once the Kamprads and Rausings emigrate to protect their businesses from their countrymen, they take their fortunes with them, along with the jobs and prosperity said fortunes would create if only the political class could keep their hands to themselves.

Who is hurt worst by this vicious cycle? As always, the little guy who can't find a good job and so spends most of his working life scraping by on public benefit and hating the Kamprads and Rausings for their wealth. Sad.
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