Pictured: Assar Lindbeck, laureate of the Global Economy Prize for 2017. Photo by Kielinstitute, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

No Canadian public intellectual has exercised the influence that Assar Lindbeck enjoyed in Sweden, where he played a prominent role in academic and public affairs over four decades. The obituary published in the Financial Times of London on his death in 2020 spoke to his reputation in Europe.

Lindbeck combined advocacy for generous social programs with insistence on containing what he described as “hazardous dynamics.” The most prominent manifestation of his public role occurred in the early 1990s, when he chaired a commission that redesigned many core Swedish social and economic programs.

At the time, both Sweden and Canada were experiencing financial crises, brought on by the bursting of respective speculative housing bubbles and the general recession in Europe and North America. Those of us over 50 can recall Canadian initiatives in the 1990s equivalent to those Lindbeck championed in Sweden. Ottawa limited access to unemployment insurance, reduced conditional transfers to provinces and doubled Canada Pension Plan premiums. The provinces closed underused hospitals, rendered welfare assistance more difficult and severely constrained civil servants’ wages.

We invited Inroads contributor Richard Murray, a protégé of Lindbeck’s, to write a personal note on his career.

Click to read Assar Lindbeck 1930–2020: A Personal Reflection.