Ernst Johannes Wigforss (January 24 1881–2 January 1977) was a Swedish linguist (dialectologist), mostly known as a prominent member of the Social Democratic Workers' Party and Swedish Minister of Finance. Wigforss became one of the main theoreticians in the development of the Swedish Social Democratic movement’s revision of Marxism, from a revolutionary to a reformist organization. He was also inspired and stood ideological close to the ideas of Fabian Society and the Guild Socialism and inspired by people like , R. H. Tawney, L.T. Hobhouse and J. A. Hobson.He made contributions in his early writings about Industrial democracy and Workers' self-management.
Born in the town of Halmstad in Halland in south-western Sweden, Wigforss studied at Lund University from 1899 and completed a doctorate in 1913 with a dissertation on the dialect of south Halland, becoming docent in Scandinavian languages at the university the same year. He taught at the gymnasium in Lund (Lunds högre allmänna läroverk) 1911-1914 and as lecturer of German and Swedish at the Latin gymnasium in Gothenburg from 1914.
Wigforss had published on political issues before completing his dissertation work and was in 1919 elected a social democratic member of the First Chamber of the Swedish Parliament, representing Gothenburg, where he became member of various committees. He was appointed member of the third cabinet of Hjalmar Branting in 1924, after Branting's resignation in January 1925 that of Rickard Sandler, and was made temporary Minister of Finance on 24 January, 1925 when Fredrik Thorsson fell ill, succeeding Thorsson on 8 May of the same year, following his death. The Sandler cabinet resigned on June 7, 1926.
Some say that Wigforss' economic policies were strongly influenced by John Maynard Keynes, but it's more likely to argue that he anticipated Keynes, as he proposed counter-cyclical economic policy before becoming minister of finance from 1932 until 1949. But it is perhaps more accurate to claim that his main economic influences came from Knut Wicksell and he inspired the younger people like Gunnar Myrdal and the Stockholm school ,that worked in the same direction as Keynes at the same time. John Kenneth Galbraith writes in his book A History of Economics: The Past as the Present, 1991, that it would be more fair to say "The Swedish Economic Revolution" than the "Keyneisan revolution" in economics, and that Wigforss was first in this transformation of the economical thinking and practice.
In his pamphlet Har vi råd att arbeta? (can we afford working?), widely believed to have won the 1932 elections for the Social Democrats, he made fun of the Liberal theory that cuts is the proper remedy of economic downturns. Although he is considered as the creator of the Swedish high-tax economy, controversies with Minister for Social Affairs Gustav Möller (who would have preferred taxing to have been even higher) prevented both from being elected party chairman and Prime Minister at the death of Hansson.
After his resignation, Wigforss continued until his death to write and speak of political issues and was considered as one of the most innovative and daring Social Democrat politicians. For example he supported the anti-nuclear movement of the fifties and contributed to the discontinuation of the Swedish nuclear arms programme in 1962.