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Son of Alfred Meidner and Elise Bandmann. Being Jewish and a Socialist he was forced to flee Nazi Germany after the Reichstag fire in Berlin 1933. In 1937 he married Ella Jörgenssen. He became a citizen of Sweden in 1943.
He was an economist and the developer of the employee funds plan proposed by the Swedish Trade Union Confederation in the 1970s. He studied under famous economist and Nobel Prize Winner Gunnar Myrdal. He got his PhD in 1954 with a dissertation labeled "Swedish Labour Market at Full Employment".
He spent most of his work life at the Swedish Trade Union Confederation as a researcher.
Meidner and another Swedish economist, Gösta Rehn, were responsible for the Rehn-Meidner model for economic growth as promulgated by the Swedish Social Democratic Party and the blue-collar trade union, the LO. The Rehn-Meidner model was first proposed in 1951, and for over the next 25 years was the basis for the low-inequality, high-tech oriented, rapid-innovation Swedish economy, which also was exposed to international trade and became export oriented. In response to the increasing demand on the part of workers, communities, and women for a share of the excess profits (permitted by a capital-labor-state wage suppression agreement) accumulated in an increasingly powerful capitalist sector, Rudulf Meidner created a proposal in 1976, published by the LO, that called for requiring all companies above a certain size to issue new stock shares to workers, so that within 20 years the workers would control 52% of the companies they worked in. This policy followed in Meidner's career-long efforts to build a step-wise, peaceful, institutionally supported transition to a socialist society whose carefully crafted incentive structure and culture would allow each member of society to work and contribute according to her or his capacity, and receive social support according to her or his needs. Supported by important Swedish policy designer Walter Korpi, Meidner's work was opposed by pro-capitalist Social Democrats, including the aggressively conservative Finance Minister Kjell-Olof Feldt, as well as Gosta Rehn (proponent of Active labour market policies) and Olof Palme. The increasing ambitions and occasional militancy of the Swedish working class in conjunction with Meidner's careful, progressive socialist institutional planning politicized the Swedish capitalist class, via the Swedish Employers Association (SAF), who joined other countries' capitalist classes ramping up their political efforts to destroy working class organizational bases and to promote the capital deregulation and mobility that began to come to obvious crisis in the 2000s. The SAF's response was to model their political and policy strategies after the New Zealand capitalist class' campaign, which had successfully destroyed a labor movement of similar strength to the Swedish labor movement.
The Rehn-Meidner model resulted in Sweden having a very egalitarian wage system, so that wage differentials between professions was very low, fortifying a low Gini coefficient. However, in the absence of the socialist steps urged by Meidner in the 1970s, the economic model resulted in capital concentration (Despite a very active social policy, Sweden has one of the highest percentages of private ownership of capital in the world.) to the point where in the late 1970s, 25% of share capital was held by the top 0.1% of shareholders and 75% by the top 10%. For the time being, the progressive taxation and pro-middle class state institutions promoted by the model extensively ameliorate this capital concentration, as can be seen in comparatively successful, egalitarian outcomes.
- Olsen, Gregg. The Struggle for Economic Democracy in Sweden.
- Vogel. Fluctuating Fortunes.
- Schmitt, John and Ben Zipperer. 2006. "Is the U.S. a Good Model for Reducing Social Exclusion in Europe?" The Post-autistic Economics Review, 40 (1).
- Socialism: A Very Short Introduction, Michael Newman (Oxford University Press, 2005)
- Rudolf Meidner, Why Did the Swedish Model Fail? (Socialist Register, 1993)
- Robin Blackburn, Rudolf Meidner, A Visionary Pragmatist