Understanding Systembolaget: Sweden’s state-owned alcohol monopoly

Systembolaget (literally “The System Company”) is a government-owned chain of liquor stores with a monopoly on all retail sales of alcohol with above 3.5 percent ABV (alcohol by volume).

One of the main goals of the institution is to limit excessive drinking in a country where alcoholism has been a problem historically. In the 19th century, Swedish liquor consumption per capita was as high as 46 litres annually.

Instead of imposing a total prohibition on alcohol sales, like the United States, in 1917 Sweden instituted the…
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