Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

There has been snow coming for two days although not in too large volumes. In all probability there will be a white Christmas. This will be my last post for this year, a year that has been on the whole a good one, as years go by these days.

The large problem here in Europe was the debt crisis obviously. It came a little as a shock for most people that countries starts to risk going bankupt. Someone said that to understand what is happening in Europe these days one should study history. I wonder if this is correct. The situation seems to be quite unique as the world develops right now. Sweden seems to be more and more affected by international events as the interest in national affairs seems to decrease, unfortunately.

Michael Mandelbaum called the times before the financial crisis for a déjà vu of the Woodrow Wilson era with peace, democracy and free markets. Francis Fukuyama's "end of history" now, however, seems to have ended already. I have followed the discussion on the European crisis in The Financial Times this fall and no solution is yet to be found. Frau Nein vetoed the latest suggestions of eurobonds. Fiscal union or not? We shall see.

In the US president Obama has seen some victories now in time for Christmas. Even Afghanistan does not look hopeless any longer. I hope something positive will eventually come out of this endeavor. Christmas is the season of hope even for a Religious Humanist so I wish for the best.


Cultural arrogance?

Michael Mandelbaum, the Christian A. Herter Professor and Director of the American Foreign Policy Program at Johns Hopkins University, writes in his book The Ideas that Conquered the World from 2002: "As such, the Cold War was the setting for a human practice even older, more pervasive, and ultimately more powerful than warfare; and it was this practice, the transmission of culture, that created the world of the 21st century".

What does it mean that the Muslim culture emits suicide bombers? Non-violent persons that walk around until they strike for the transmission of their culture. In the Cold War the cultural transmission of the West--Peace, Democracy, and Free Markets--conquered the world, according to Mandelbaum. In 2002, before September 15, 2008, there was a tug of war between the transmissions between the West and the Middle East. In 2010 this competition is more complicated since the rise of authoritarian state capitalism from China which probably has at least an equal allure to the Middle East.

It is possible that Muslims in Europe has lost some of the respect of the Western culture because of this which will exacerbate problems with terrorism and make proper integration into what we believe is a higher cultural reality. Because of the financial crisis there has been a seemingly diminished self confidence for Western values. The financial crisis has also meant that the US and Europe now have quite different outlooks for how the economy should be conducted.

It is unfortunate that a more detailed discussion of what multiculturalism actually means has not surfaced in Sweden. It is one thing to have immigration with proper integration and another to lose confidence in one own values and dilute them to much with Middle Eastern values. We are involved in a clash of cultures and will eventually have to accept some kind of compromise. This is a battle of ideas and values. This debate is currently acting as a force that splits Europe and works against a fiscal union situation that some people mean is a prerequisite for the survival of the EU.

Therefore there is also a confusion as to what constitute Swedish, European or Western values. Sweden will get a worse deal being only Swedish rather than Western. It would be very unfortunate if Sweden attracted for example preferentially anti-American Middle Easterners.


Potential Suicide Bombers in Sweden?

The program Studio Ett on Swedish Radio has had interviews with people on the topic of a list on 200 or so people of violent behaviors that might constitute potential future suicide bombers. However, it was also said that suicide bombers were not psychiatric cases, ie, they are not on the conventional "suicide ladder" which is used in psychiatry for determining risk for suicide.

In other words we are dealing with some kind of soldier willing to take the ultimate risk for furthering the cause of political Islam. As many wise persons already have pointed out, fear, risk causing the West to protect itself to death and suffocation having radical Muslims laughing all the way to the bodyscan. Anders Danielsson, chief of the Swedish secret police, used this argument for defending himself against a slip in the protection that caused the incidence last Saturday. Personally, I think that we just have to risk occasional suicide bombings. It is impossible with zero tolerance.

Then there is the question of Islam being prone to cause suicide bombings. What is clear is that suicide bombers are very often of Muslim faith. However, they are not necessarily devout Muslims as was revealed in a Gallup poll discussed in August this year. There is a fight right now between Glen Beck and Fareed Zakaria about the notion that 10% of Muslims are radical and sympathize with terrorists. The Economist had data showing that 50% of Palestinians sympathize with suicide bombings a while ago. In my sited Gallup poll 7% of Muslims in 10 Muslim countries thought the World Trade Center incident was justifiable and disliked the US. It is highly probable, however, that among Swedish Muslims the anger directed towards the West is much less.

My question is whether the list of 200 violent persons really is useful? It is a large difference in having an interest in being violent against others and to be willing to perform a suicide bombing. I don't know, but is there not also a new trend of potential suicide bombers not succeeding in their task? The man a year ago with a bomb in his underwear is such an example. This would have the effect of causing fear but not being so unpopular since people do not get killed in large numbers. Such events have an irritating mocking effect.

Studio Ett also brought up a small dispute between the Sweden Democrats and other parties on the content of a discussion planned for January 2011 in the Swedish Parliament as a result of the suicide bombing in Stockholm. The Sweden Democrats wanted to discuss the possible role of Islam in suicide bombings whereas others wanted to discuss also violent groups other than jihadists. Again, the relevant question is who is ready to commit a suicide bombing? I think the Sweden Democrats might have a point. Shunning this problem might just cause the Sweden Democrats to gain a few more percents in voter support.


Does Sweden want a European Germany or a more German Europe?

"Today, a lack of political courage is endangering the euro. Germany is not innocent in this regard. For the first time in decades, German isolation has become a real concern. Now we need a signal that Germany wants a more European Germany, rather than a more German Europe."

The above was published in The Financial Times today by former Merkel coalition partners Frank-Walter Steinmeier, foreign minister, and Peer Steinbrück, minister of finance. In other words the SPD is attacking the ruling CDU coalition by being decisive on Europe. I'm getting a feeling that the future of EU is being decided in a current debate in Germany.

If a state in the US is doing well, my guess would be that others tries to copy their way if the character of their states allows this. This would speak for a more German Europe. However, the above authors argue for a more European Germany? The populace in Germany seems to say that they don't want to pay for others any longer. Interviews advocating this way was recently aired on Swedish television from Germany and the debate turned vicious during the Greek bailout crisis this spring.

Sweden is also a net contributor to EU and a surplus country highly dependent on exports. We lack a debate such as the one in Germany on whether or not we want to stay in the EU or break away. Perhaps because we are not members of the EMU but we are still involved and will definitely be involved now when tighter control and federalization is being performed on the EU.

There has been a continuous debate in the press lately with an overweight on federalization since the original critique of the Euro was that a lack of a political union would make the currency impossible. Wolfgang Schäuble, the current minister of finance in Germany recently said that there will be something like a political union in ten years time. Markets are apparently waiting for a "signal" of political will. How will other countries than Germany interpret such a signal? Is such a signal in reality possible?


Is it possible for a manager, such as the US President, to be a highly moral person?

People write about Obama as a person who is mired in the polarized climate of US politics. He just had to infuriate the left of his party to appease the Republicans in a tax deal.

Today it is possible to select a person earlier and better than before as a highly moral mind. In fact people can be coached through life as to be very "clean". Such people are in their forties today. It has occurred to me that the young present president, without management experience of a governor of a larger state, could have been thus selected. That is, it is judged that morals trump management skills. The Economist wrote that neither Obama nor McCain would have gotten a job in a large corporation.

I admire Bill Clinton a lot for what he achieved during his presidency and his approval polls rose steadily during his tenior, unique for recent presidents. He was a popular president despite the curious incident with Ms. Lewinsky. But it is not this kind of moral slip like, Mona Sahlin's Toblerone, that I'm thinking of when I discuss morals of a manager in action. Hard choices, tough action, wheeling and dealing, threatening, cajoling etc. It so happens that threats are illegal, at least according to Swedish law.

Well, this is just a thought. Or could it be that the mechanism by which moral persons is selected is tainted by immoral minds? It is often said that power corrupts?

Reading the papers in Sweden recently it has been impossible to avoid information regarding the selection procedure of the new party leader for the Social Democrats. Apparently this person should not be selected according to the same fashion as in the American Idol-type contests, says the chairperson of the committee that is responsible for the selection. Last time around, however, the Social Democrats selected Mona Sahlin, who therefore must be regarded as a moral person, since the behind closed door procedure of the party did select her. The problem was that people in the party did not like her. Her approval polls in the last election were very low. Is a highly moral person really that popular? Unless they reach sainthood, other people perhaps feel a little put off by the bliss.

So perhaps it is possible to be a highly moral person in one's forties but what is really needed is a more experienced and revered manager in his fifties, or God forbid sixties.


What is the fight about: Power or The Holy Graal?

Well, seventy years ago Einstein 'insinuated' that science and religion are tight. He famously said: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. As you saw in my last post, he was not pleased with the response to this thesis. The rise of psychology and especially the psychology of religion has made it more feasible to state the same today. It would be of great interest if the various religions fused with science. Because, science is universal.

Fareed Zakaria writes in his book The Post-American World from 2008 that his Ph.D advisor Samuel P. Huntington wrote that modernization and Westernization are wholly distinct. Modernity is generated by industrialization, urbanization, rising levels of literacy, education, and wealth. The Western society, on the other hand, is created by the classical legacy, Christianity, separation of church and state, the rule of law and civil society.

Westernization created something universal for man, science, ie, The Holy Graal. I guess what I have been trying to dissect out of the corpse lately is whether we actually discuss what is really important. Because it is not evident that power will maintain science. The Roman Empire forgot about Aristotle.

A while ago I read in the Swedish press that the soldiers in Afghanistan wondered if what they did was meaningful. It is very difficult to answer this question if you don't analyze the situation top-down. Einstein was a pacifist, so the following might not have made him particularly content but it was important from the point of view of moving the perhaps greatest scientist on Earth out of Nazi Germany. The following was written on September 11 1940, before the US had entered World War II:

A totally disabled veteran of World War I and, as he called himself, a patriotic citizen of the United States of America, wrote from Rochester, New York: "The great leaders, thinkers and patriots of the past who fought and died for free thought, free speech, free press, and intellectual liberty arise to salute you! With the great and mighty Spinoza, your name will live as long as humanity." (From Einstein and Religion by Max Jammer, 1999)

Freedom of thought, freedom of speech which leads to science is what is important. You tell me if our soldiers in Afghanistan are fooled by traitors at home?


Einstein: a platform for his Spinoza inspired pantheism?

In 1940 Einstein had written an article on Science and Religion and the reviewers made him write this rather caustic response according to the book Einstein and Religion by Max Jammer, 1999:

"I was barked at by numerous dogs who are earning their food guarding ignorance and superstition for the benefit of those who profit from it. Then there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is of the same kind as the tolerance of the religious fanatics and comes from the same source. They are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who--in their grudge against the traditional "opium of the people"--cannot bear the music of the spheres. The wonder of nature does not become smaller because one cannot measure it by the standards of human moral and human aims".

This is the "golden mean" of the debate of science and religion. As I elaborated on before, I have fused science and religion. Einstein did not do this, despite being rather materialistic in his religiosity. He said: "Though religion determines the goal, science, in its broadest sense, shows the means for attaining this goal". Personally, I don't understand why science cannot have the same goal as religion. It is the same thing.


Trade, science or both as key to the success of our species?

Bill Gates, the Chairman of Microsoft and co-Chairman of the Bill &Melinda Gates Foundation, wrote an interesting review of a book on wsj.com last Sunday. The author of the book, The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, Mr. Matt Ridley, a science writer, makes an argument that trade alone is the most important element in our survival and reproduction thus fueling evolution. Gates does not agree. He claims science must also play an important role. One reason for this is most probably that trade has been everywhere on Earth but science evolved in Europe.

I was not aware of this debate but I had picked up vibes in the Financial Times that economists like to think that prosperity is the only thing that is important for stabilizing a society. This seems to be the general idea in Asia and Russia where freedom is on the back burner. There was a program on the Swedish radio yesterday where a couple of scientists with knowledge about the growth of science in China claimed that the Chinese are aware of the importance of science but, seemingly contradictory, maintains the planning structure on science although they operate with a market economy. Furthermore, however, they apparently experiment with various types of settings for how research group should work. In other words they are not looking for copying the way science performed in the West but instead want to find their own Holy Graal. To be honest there are differences between science performance in the US and Europe as well.

Returning to the title of Mr Ridley's book prosperity has already evolved in the West and it might therefore be important to ask whether or not trade will be less important and science more important in the future? The problem with this idea is that science is probably saturated more or less and is not really possible to increase very much. We have already engaged all people that are available. So unless China develops a new way of conducting science that we should copy we just have to keep going.

Gates also brings up a moral question about what we can do for Africa, since he is investing in aid there. He claims that Mr. Ridley is wrong in assuming that aid is not what Africa needs but growth. Because the West have paid back from the age of colonization with knowledge in health related issues that will have long term positive effects on Africa by lowering the birth rates. I don't know how important this issue is in the competition for raw materials in Africa between China and the West. The Chinese approach is apparently less investing. Hopefully it is not a zero-sum affair. Trade is definitely important in Africa but perhaps science should be built at the same time? Brazil is apparently doing well in agricultural science which focus on the specific climate in question.

Wikileaks compared to FRA?

Den utrikespolitiska hemlighetskulturen är farligare än Wikileaks « Karl Sigfrid: "Den utrikespolitiska hemlighetskulturen är betydligt skadligare än vad Wikileaks verksamhet någonsin kan bli."

If you say that the world should be able to read all what diplomats in the US State Department writes, you might as well extrapolate and say that the world should be able to read all emails that the Swedes write. A while ago there was a debate in Sweden about a government agency, FRA, that might be able to eavesdrop on your communications. Why trust the US diplomatic corps with something the Swedes in general do?

It so happens that I found out that people can, via the internet, access my hard disk on my computer when I have a regular broadband coupling. In other words they can browse my email correspondence if they want and have the access address and the knowledge to do so. The question then becomes do we want this to become general knowledge and do we want full disclosure of all emails of everyone?

I would in this context also suggest a thought experiment. Let us say that it is possible to see what people think, on the internet. Furthermore, it would be possible for people to communicate via thinking. Should it then be possible for all people to monitor these communications? Total disclosure of human thinking and no privacy what so ever.

There might be a very severe risk with the latter scenario. It might represent a more authoritarian political system where people become afraid of thinking or saying certain things. After all, it is different writing a post on a blog for the world and talking with your best friend. The risk is severe because the scientific revolution in our culture might depend on individual initiatives in thoughts. Would we be in the process of creating a world system of authoritarian rule that is stagnating in innovation in such case?



It is an impressive media coverage of the release of some 250,000 cables from the US State Department to the press via the Internet. As far as I can see, this is a crime. Someone has stolen the data and is making it public. I must say I'm getting a little annoyed over the anti-American focus of Mr. Assange on this and his earlier releases. As I asked before, it is perhaps revealing to find out who is funding this man who is currently wanted for rape in Sweden.

However, in the US, there is a considerable positive interest from the release. Apparently it is being discussed how transparent diplomacy should be. Experienced diplomats, like Carl Bildt, claims that it is essential with confidentiality in such communications. I imagine it should be difficult to find arguments with Mr. Bildt on this point. It is clearly not a case of freedom of expression since the material is stolen, not leaked.

The release is causing lots of troubles for The Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who has gotten the very difficult role of conducting a world stabilizing foreign policy after the financial crisis. The leadership of the US is still important despite the rise of China and India. The world in general and the US in particular does not need people like Julian Assange that works in the trade of destroying international relationships.


Does Europeans show "cultural arrogance"?

I have been studying Zero-Sum World by Gideon Rachman that just came out. It gave me the same feeling as Fareed Zakaria's The Post-American World did during the spring of 2008: could it really be this bad? Then came the Lehman Brothers fall fifteenth of September. Rachman speculates today in The Financial Times if Germany is about to opt out from the Euro which would be an equal explosion. The problem is that Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel laureate, suggested the same thing last time the European debt crisis was up in the spring so now there are at least two people vouching for this possibility.

The book centers on the relationship between Asia and the West. Will the rise of Asia, and especially that of China, be peaceful? One would hope so but stress tests like the Liu Xiaobo, Nobel Peace Prize turns out negative. Perhaps the Cheonan and today's bombardment of the South Korean island Yeonpyeong by North Korean artillery, by an ally to China of questionable sovereignty, can be counted as another negative.

A third negative is found in Zero-Sum World where Rachman discusses the Asian view on the West in general and Europe in particular. Kishore Mahbubani, a Singaporean diplomat and academic, is an optimist on Asia and the world but he thinks Europeans suffer from a "dangerous and distasteful form of cultural arrogance". After all, the peaceful rise of Asia where hundreds of million people are empowered is a result of the fruits of European culture as well as hard work and ingenuity of Asians.

Therefore it would be bad if Mahbubani, who was supposed to speak for Asians in general, in actuality does this. Because it would of course be easier if the Europeans and the Americans would get credit for the scientific revolution. The growth is anemic, but improving, in Europe but there should be no problem for us to stay online in the future. Growth is good, but it is not the only thing that matters. If the world is unlucky the West might be the only place where basic science actually can prosper. Time will tell. The Chinese are making the fastest computer as of last month, although partly on American processors, so technology competition is of course real.

There is also a discussion about whether or not liberal democracies develop from liberal economics. Francis Fukuyama, the man that coined the phrase that liberal democracy represents the end of history does not seem to think so. This has, however, been the mantra for investing heavily in China. Mahbubani does not think democracy is important for Asia although his Indian background makes him bullish on India. He claims, however, that Asians are afraid of the chaos that democracy induces which we in the West thinks is in actuality the key to progress. In an interconnected world this difference will become a friction point.

What troubles me is the seemingly mistake people make between the size of Asia's economy versus the per capita result that it generates. It is large, and this generates power, but when it comes to how a well functioning society is supposed to be constructed I believe West is far ahead with individuality and democracy. As I said, time will tell if the quality of scientific pursuit per capital will be the same in authoritarian systems with good economy. It certainly did not work very well in the less prosperous ones of Stalin and Mao.


Fragmentation to the better?

I speculated the other day about the potential need for China to fragment. Apparently there is a precedent in India. According to Fareed Zakaria's book The Post-American World from pre-Lehman 2008, Winston Churchill is supposed to have said that India is just a geographical term with no more personality than Europe.

Zakaria says "This diversity and division has many advantages. It adds to India's variety and societal energy and it prevents the country from succumbing to dictatorship. When Indira Gandhi tried to run the government in an authoritarian and centralized manner in the 1970s, it simply did not work, provoking violent revolts in six of its regions. Over the last two decades, Indian regionalism has flourished, and the country has found its natural order."

According to Chinese governmental statistics, there were 74,000 protests of some kind in 2004, up from 10,000 ten years earlier.

The Financial Times run an article today about the internet in China where they claim that China has 420m internet users 2010, up from 111m in 2005. Most run their contact from home. Heavily censored, although there are more internet users than people in the US, it affords both societal information spread as well as indoctrination from the government. One would hope that this gargantuan state would regionalize according to fault lines drawn by internet usage.

However, Zakaria did not say that China is a term with different personalities? The question is which is more likely: European federalization or Chinese fragmentation?


The Renewal of Social Democratic Politics?

I must say that I'm a little surprised over the notion that the politics of the social democrats would be wrong. They had invested in a coalition with the Greens which seemed very good at the time. After all, the Social Democrats were in the lead in the polls all the way to the spring.

However, after the Copenhagen meeting, when China and the US killed off global concern over climate change, the interest in the the Red-Green alliance faded. Mona Sahlin had originally not included the Left party in this alliance which in retrospect was probably quite prescient.

I have not seen the fact that Mona Sahlin was unpopular in her own party as the reason for the change. It is of course very difficult to win an election when your coalition partner is more popular. After all, if the party believed in the Green bent they should follow up on this. The Moderates seem to believe in this continuation since they brought in a greenish party secretary, Sofia Arkelsten. Also, Fredrik Reinfeldt tried to bond with the Greens as a mean of securing Parliament majority right after the election.


The challenge for Europe

Carl Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister, gave a speech at the IISS in London the other day. He cited a passage from Felipe Gonzalez, the former prime minister of Spain, a socialist, where he claims Europe will either unite or become insignificant globally. The same passage was suggested by a report dedicated to the single market of EU cited by Olle Schmidt, a Swedish European parliamentarian and liberal.

Carl Bildt further said that the economy now was paramount for world security and thus decommissioned all security personnel dealing with nuclear warheads and such insignificant matters. Foreign Affairs seems to sing the same song. The US: call us when our economy is back in shape. What Bildt did not bring up was if the EU could manage without federalizing. Is it possible to create a prosperous economy without political integration, which currently seems impossible to achieve if the elite will not coerce the public?

The economic success of China is impressing many these days not considering what suffering might be necessary for this feat. It is interesting to ask whether China will fractionate rather than if the EU would federalize? There was some discussion a while back of the US fractionating as well. This could mean that the Gonzalez idea of insignificance could be wrong.

I envision a battle of ideas between Asia and the West due to individualism vs. collectivism. Individualism is necessary for democratic development due to the fact that collectivism breeds authoritarianism because more people would have to be coerced into obedience by a forceful leader. Individualism leads to smaller groups where the difference, biologic variability of people, can prosper. Europe, without federalization, might be on the right track?


Community quality threshold for a free society?

Most people seem to believe that there exists a quality threshold for people in a democracy, ie quality of the community for individuals to thrive. Iraq, for example, might not pass the test. An important question is then from where did this quality come?

Was it World War II that made people behave for some time? The average war-free time in Europe the last 400 years or so is about 70 years. According to Rolf Gustavsson in a column in Svenska Dagbladet, a Stockholm daily, Peer Steinbrück, the former finance minister of Germany, is wondering if Europe is in a path of future instability again. The debt crisis set a certain scenario. It is never good if serious people like that are pessimistic, even if he and SPD favor an economy different from that of the US. Europe seems to have 27 economies, the US one and China another. A pessimist would say that the US economy and China's economy are like Protestantism and Catolicism of the 17th century.

Looking for ideas that speak of progress rather than decline, science has a positive development gradient over time despite war and peace fluctuations. It seems like the history of ideas is progressive. I would hypothesize that this gradient is dependent on the quality of the community, wherever it came from, which then should be increasing.

Religion is stable in the US whereas Europe has become more secular. Therefore it is difficult to argue that religion would be a key factor in the increase rather than maintenance of citizen quality. What is it then that gives people the energy to perform in society? After all it is ironic that in this age of social media we would be degenerating socially which the bulk of communitarians seem to think. If I have understood this correctly, Sweden has two types of conservatives one on each side of the middle.

So, is it the quality of the community that drives progress in science or it is the reverse? I would argue that the inspiration from individual successes entertain the public and renders hope for future progress and thereby builds character in the community.


A so called "scandal" involving the US

Helle Kleins blogg: "Jag lyssnade till Göran Greider (Dalademokraten) och Roland Poirier Martinsson (Timbro) på radion i morse. De debatterade den senaste säkerhetspolitiska skandalen - misstankarna att USA och även Israel bedrivit spaning på svensk mark utan att svenska myndigheter skulle varit informerade. Enligt Poirier Martinson är USA "den goda kraften" så det eventuella illegala spionaget är inget problem. En häpnadsväckande hållning med tanke på de folkrättsvidriga krig USA bedriver, svarade Greider"

Helle Klein, a priest and former political editor of Aftonbladet, a tabloid, listened to the radio and concluded with a fellow barricade man Göran Greider, editor Dalademokraten, that the US is a villain in the world. Roland Poirier Martinsson, a conservative philosopher counters with pointing out, what I also think is obvious, that the US is a force for good and that this in effect means they cannot spy on Sweden.

Actually I listened to the radio as well, Studio Ett yesterday, where it was clear that even Lars Ohly, the party chairman of the Left, does not even think the US was to blame for the "scandal" but seemed to want a pick a fight with the government for lying and not saying they knew about the US protecting their embassy.

Now, why is this happening right now in Sweden? Why does the left want to pick a fight with the US and the government calling it a pet dog to the US. Is it because a country that threatens other peaceful countries from going to the Nobel Peace Prize fest in Oslo needs some "pekinesers"?

"Peaceful China" is active lately in harassing Japan over islands and has cut of sale of rare earth metals as a retaliation (Financial Times). Apparently China wants Japan to build factories in China instead for making it possible to transfer technology and skills. As they point out, however, the world is more complicated than ganging up with either the US or China but I wonder about Europe, China's largest export market, Germany seems to be on China's side at the upcoming G20. Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, is criticizing the US for lowering the dollar as a retaliation for China's undervaluation of the renminbi. China started this fight, however.

I have no idea why Sweden would want to pick a fight with the US about protecting their embassy. It has though become increasingly clear that we are going to face a choice between democracy and human rights and authoritarian government and perhaps a different economic system. I often read about Swedish complaints on violations of international law. That is usually OK as long as you stay independent of all power in the world.


"Verklighetens folk"--liberal or conservative concept?

The Christian Democrats of Sweden called themselves "verklighetens folk" during the election. They mean by this that the intellectual left is ostentatious and that a painting should be more like a photography, or understandable. They are the real people, the common man. The concept did not work. The party in question performed badly in the September election this year.

There is a classic example used in political philosophy concerning this concept. Is it equally good to play push-pin and to read poetry? Jeremy Bentham said yes John Stuart Mill said no. According to liberal self-determination each person should be able to select what he believes is good for him. A complex ridden personality might not stomach having an own opinion concerning push-pin or poetry. The community might have required of the Christian Democrats to select poetry because it was more high class?

Was this the reason for why the concept back-fired on the Christian Democrats because they appealed to the liberals rather? After all, it is very liberal to do what you think yourself is good for you and not necessarily what the community desires or think is fancy.

Another example that might become very important in the future is what they call "health fascism" in Sweden. Apparently the cost of obesity in the US is some $150bn per year. Michelle Obama, the first Lady, is campaigning against childhood obesity. Being fat is not good for your health and this is a load on society. Will the community start to require that you don't eat too much. Perhaps an electric shock every time you transgress?

When I came to the US in 1984 the tobacco companies adamantly supported smoking. They claimed that there was no proof of causation for lung cancer. Nowadays here in Sweden you can't even smoke in a bar. When are "they" going to go after the chubby people?


Midterm elections in the US

Read Johan Norberg's, Swedish intellectual and writer, book on happiness, Den Eviga Matchen om Lyckan, this week-end. I enjoyed the narrative on happiness through the times from Aristotle although I don't share the idea of Norberg's competition between Aristotle and Jesus. He suggests that Thomas Aquinas might have had problems of knowing whether God or Aristotle was the greatest and that this might have contributed to his untimely death. I happen to believe that the unique combination of Christianity and the learning from the Antique was what made Europe. According to Francis Bacon Man should subdue Nature which I believe might have been instrumental along with the notion that this is possible with gun powder, the compass and the movable type.

I believe that it is possible to argue that individualism is supported by the happiness concept though. It is rather self-evident that it is easier to accomodate people's idea of what is valuable by securing for the individual to self-actualize his life. Communitarianism does not really exist because there is no "public mind" it is always and indivudual, a leader, that gives his account of the community wish, followers.

Norberg, however, seems to be a little disappointed that the research available from positive psychology is not leading to a development of liberalism. He concludes that Thomas Jefferson was right all along when he claimed that it is the actual pursuit of happiness that matters and not happiness itself. Rather the development of political philosophy since John Rawls seems to have abandoned the happiness of utilitarianism for justice and citizen ship theory. Indeed justice is a core value in positive psychology also believed to be of great importance in the psychology of religion.

What has become then of the religion-like campaign of Obama a couple of years ago. It seems to have been overtaken by another religion-like phenomenon where the Bible has been replaced by the US Constitution. People want America back and this is manifested by reverence of the Constitution as Ginna Lindberg, the US correspondent for the Swedish Radio, pointed out the other day. The Tea Party movement has succeeded in rallying people to the degree that the House of Representatives will fall to the Republicans and perhaps also the Senate as most pundits seem to think.

The reason for this is partly that a gloom, not happiness, has settled over US after the financial crisis. I finally found an article in Foreign Affairs (Nov-Dec 2010) that laid down a more sensible prediction about the future for the US as absolutely quite OK even if the relative power is going down as Asia is rising to the occasion. A lost Midterm election is historically the most likely outcome for the sitting president and most people give Obama the benefit of the doubt. My feeling is that he will return to grace, after all he has leveled out on a 45% approval rating, as the economy is improving because there is no single personality with a strong enough program to challenge him among the Republicans.

It remains to be seen whether a republican House of Representatives is going to affect the Afghanistan war? The Swedes recently made up their mind with a broad consensus position of phasing out the combat mission for a support ditto in 2014 just as Hillary Clinton writes a long article in Foreign Affairs (Nov-Dec 2010) about the need for more diplomacy and development aid. A positive outcome from the Afghanistan mission might however require more combat to maintain a status quo as long as needed for establishing stability which might take some time.


China's next leader will again be an engineer

In Sweden and in the US politicians are rarely engineers whereas Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping, who is likely to take over after Mr Hu in 2012, both are. Engineers make things and calculate things but are not generally known to be social agents. Xi Jinping is not as young either as the current leaders seem to be in the US, Britain and Sweden. One would rather think that lawyers and political scientists, if anything, would make political careers now and then.

Mr Xi ended up on the country side during the Culture Revolution and had to do physical work. With this experience he is probably a person that is all set for at least part of the Western paradigm of developing technology and science. As a Communist Party member since 1979 he is probably steeped in one-party lore, however. There is nothing as refreshing as healthy opposition.

I'm trying to get a feeling for if China will have as a goal the next 15 years or so to catch up with the US economically or if they rather want to develop their country and get rid of all the poverty. After all, it is quite a feat to have gotten rid of so much poverty already as they have. Europe would have to have developed Africa for mobilizing an equal number of people. It would be nice if they incorporated themselves into the world economy by floating their currency as today's column in The Financial Times points out. They are not that poor any longer.

I think this is the problem with China right now. It is difficult to see what they are up to internationally. Will they try to export state capitalism or will they move towards democracy. I can't help thinking about what is required of a Western democratic state. General virtues like courage, law-abidingness, and loyalty. Social virtues like independence, open-mindedness. Economic virtues like work ethic, capacity to delay self-gratification and adaptability to economic and technological change. Political virtues like the capacity to discern and respect the rights of other's, willingness to demand only what can be paid for, ability to evaluate the performance of those in office and a willingness to engage in public discourse.

What they seem to lack most is the ability to question authority which is important for monitoring elected officials and perhaps to elect them in the first place. They might be low on the social virtues as well. The question then is how important this difference is? Will the difference just mean that the Chinese will not reach so high salaries, something that will make state capitalism competitive relative the West?

The Western society evolves thanks to individualism that all the time reaches into the unknown and casts old ways to the side. China has imported a lot of know how over the last decades but will they stagnate relative the West due to lack of individualism? Or has individualism had its day in the history of man and that nowadays "armies" move on each problem like building a computer inexpensively. I don't think so. Focus on the individual with due respect for his or hers collective will still win the day in search for the unknown. While I'm at it, I would also vouch for freedom of thought.


It hailed today. The winter is here.

Today I moved the lawn for the last time this year. There was frost in the grass and lots of fallen leaves. In the end of July I began my vacation by purchasing a pair of jogging shoes. I was going to take care of my body I vouched. I did actually. I'm taking walks. I got an iPod which made walking more fun. I realized I had listened too little to music lately. An other health issue, in my humble opinion. The iPod, by the way, is a true symbol of technological advancement. Designed in California.

As the rain now pours down my windows and darkness is falling, I ponder the change the subscription of some high standard papers have made. After analyzing what world view I got with freely available information I now settled for only procuring data on papers I subscribe to. There is much less on Iran, Afghanistan, and the Middle East and more on the economical conflicts globally and in Europe. The result is that I only spend half the time searching for data which frees up time for contemporary political philosophy. I follow the debate concerning the new battle between democratic capitalism and state capitalism. It is quite philosophical as well. My selection of papers seems to work because it gathers at least 90% of previous data in a more elaborate shape.

The unfortunate casualty of a Swedish soldier and the wounding of two additional ones caused quite a fuzz in Sweden. The opposition stirred and poked in a doubtful manner in order to argue their pre-election line on the future Swedish intention in Afghanistan. They want to bring home the troops earlier than the government. One of the two main dailies Dagens Nyheter joined the opposition yesterday. The death of a soldier should not change much and the large review by the US military of the situation in December is not here yet. The problem is that the center-right government does not have a majority of the seats in parliament and need to strike a deal with the opposition about Afghanistan. Sweden has a tradition of broad parliamentary solutions to foreign adventures. It looks good right now for the prospect of a deal.

However, I don't like when Sten Tolgfors, the minster of defence, says that Sweden is not at war in Afghanistan because it would mean that Swedes do something else there under the command of US leaders. I think I understand why though. The mission becomes an easier sell in Sweden when yo say the you fight for peace meaning that you are not at war.

People are apparently worried over the leap of fate that the British governing coalition launched just recently. Someone said the economics is an art, not a science, and that not much could be said about the success of the squeeze of Britain. I wish them good luck. Its a great country.

I have to chose whether to embrace the art economy or history for the future work I'm trying to do understanding international politics. It seems like it is easier for me to understand the writers in the Financial Times that are grounded in history, rather than economy. This is a good clue I gather. History is closer to psychology than economy in my opinion which might be the reason for this.

Angela Merkel made a stir recently when she recognized the problem of multiculturalism by saying that it had failed in Germany. Afghanistan is also global multiculturalism. Rosengård in Malmö is multiculturalism. Making states like Iran fit in is multiculturalism. Preventing them from becoming failed nations--failed multiculturalism. Will Kymlicka, a political philosopher specializing on multiculturalism, says that multiculturalism is the most active research field in political philosophy right now.

Why do we humans turn against foreigners? Even the Bible says we should be friendly with them. It might be more of a question for psychology than philosophy. James Watson, interviewed on BigThink.com says the 21st century is when psychology is becoming a science due to the sequencing of genomes for relationships between behavior and genetics to surface. He also says political correctness is holding the research back. Hopefully this will ease up because multiculturalism is a large problem both in Europe and the US and is linked to the problem West have with Islam. This is why the Afghanistan mission is so important. Some kind of deal has to be made there so that the global tensions between the West and Islam are eased so that a "Clash of Civilizations" can be avoided to escalate.


To give birth?

Lena Ek, a liberal MEP from Sweden, informs today on her blog about the directive about a compulsory job leave for giving birth of 6 weeks in the EU. As a liberal she is questioning the fact that parents cannot decide for themselves and that a mother that wants to return to work earlier than after six weeks is prevented to do this.

I agree that it ought to be up to parents to decide but on the other hand it is in my humble opinion probably quite nice for most women to get some time off with the child after such a physiologically and psychologically exhausting adventure as a pregnancy. I was under the impression that nursing a child is a built in beneficial procedure for the development of the child as well as the parent-child relationship.

Apparently, just like in the burka debate, it is a question of protecting women in countries lacking proper regulations for parents to get leave of absence after pregnancies. This makes it difficult for a person not acquainted with all the details from the 27 member countries to really have an opinion on the compulsory nature of the directive. Applying a utilitarian approach, it just might be the case that many more women would be protected than women that want to get back to work before six weeks would be unhappy.

In some families it is perhaps better economically or careerwise that the husband stays home but as I said I don't think this would be a majority decision. Actually, I don't understand why which parent is not an optional choice for the sake of gender equality? Most women would probably stay at home anyway but it would leave an option open for ambitious women. I guess, the Continent is a little more conservative.

Update: Apparently the EUObserver and EurActive think it is a 20 week maternity leave. It is an interesting problem though since it pits biology against gender equality.

Update October 23, 2010: In today's editorial of Göteborgs Posten one finds the solution to the problem of 6 weeks or 20 weeks. You have to be home in six weeks but it is possible to stay home in 20 weeks.

Multiculturalism in Europe?

Muddle through seems to be typically European on important issues such as whether or not the EU should be federal or member states should have the most say. The latest in this debate is apparently that the EU is seeking to secure its own revenue. Perhaps we will come to see the EU against the member states?

Another muddle through issue is that of multiculturalism vs pure racial delight. Germany is hotly debating how to select one or the other of continuing immigration of skilled labor for the obvious need thereof or if the conclusion of Merkel's comment of a failed multiculturalism attempt will mean end of immigration. Germany is now actually a net emigration country.

In Sweden people seem to debate what Merkel meant with her comment. It is true that Germany have given citizenships based on blood links and prevented Turks from gaining citizenship, sometimes all the way to the third generation. On the other hand, there are 3,000 mosques in Germany. With the Swedish experience where multiculturalism also have failed, if Merkel is right, because we are seeing an anti-foreigner active party entering the Riksdag. So what is Merkel saying when tightening integration probably will not work, since Sweden have tried that? On top of this it seems like the Swedes are more tolerant to foreigners.

Angela Merkel went to Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey for help in ordinating language training for her Turkish speaking prospective Germans. The same Erdogan had given a speech in Germany to 15,000 Turks, in Turkish, where he said that they should not integrate (help is on the way?). Erdogan had however now agreed to language training for Turkish immigrants. A change of hearts? Germany is against Turkish EU membership so this is a possible negotiation point.

In other words Germany is behind in the nation-building of a liberal multicultural state and we should perhaps focus on our own problem to reach the front. What is it that makes people start getting nervous when the foreigner count reaches 5-10%? It is not rational. There is no possible reason to fear that an ethnocultural minority will take over in Sweden, even if the foreigner count doubles. It is also apparently the case that most Western democracies experience that ethnocultural minorities actually benefit from keeping cultural attributes when they integrate rather than demanding total assimilation which is not reasonable to require for all immigrants.

In any case, critics of multiculturalism nowadays apparently claim that the stability of the democracy is threatened. What I have heard from the Sweden Democrats is that they also think there is an economic cost from immigration. In other words they are against foreign aid. People like Will Kymlicka believe that stability is actually enhanced because of minority rights given to ethnocultural minorities. Experience also shows that loyalty to the nation state is not affected negatively by minority rights of the type that does not infringe on standard liberal values.

The language question, raised by Merkel, is interesting from the point of view of the US which perhaps is the country that separates state from ethnicity the most by not having a constitutional national language requirement. Apparently it was arranged from the beginning that English speaking people always where in the majority in each region.

But most people learn the language and still group themselves ethnically based on dual language skills. People get help from other immigrants from the home country and this must mean that they are aided in their integration. Apparently this does not work as well in Europe. People differ in their attitudes. But let us hope that we will not have the same problem in Europe as we had in the 17th century between Protestants and Catholics with the current ethnocultural and religious problems.

All these problems are tightly linked to the position of the woman in the family and the work place. The only party that actively brings up the integrity of the old core family in Sweden now is the Christian Democrats which is in crisis due to being the smallest party in the polls with a falling trend in memberships and voters. I have gotten the feeling, and also from my own experience, that the traditional families are slowly braking up based on other organizational parameters in the current society. This development could have beneficial effects on the integration issue even if the civil society will necessarily take an other blow with unknown consequences from this historical phenomenon.


A Paradox in leadership qualities

A Pew survey called A Paradox in Public Attitudes demonstrates that if you ask one question who is the better leader men or women 21% say men and 6% say women and 69% say equal. However, if you dive into the data on details, women excel over men as politicians.


Enter 4th stage of multiculturalism?

According to Will Kymlicka in his book Contemporary Political Philosophy from 2002 the debate on multiculturalism has gone through three stages. As Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, points out we might have entered in 2010 a 4th stage.

The debate began in the 1970s and 1980s with an approach that divided the main liberal culture into individualism and collectivism, where the minority groups were identified as communitarian groups.

It turned out that this was an unhelpful way of characterizing the problem since most members of the typical ethnocultural minority does not have problems with liberal values and individual autonomy. In fact, Kymlika says that:

"...the overwhelming majority of debates about multiculturalism are not debates between a liberal majority and communitarian minorities, but debates among liberals about the meaning of liberalism."

Instead a "liberal culturalism" position was reached where minorities exist within the liberal state sharing most of their values and adding cultural attributes to this that don't interfer with liberalism. This was my own position before I read Kymlicka's book.

Now, the third stage is multiculturalism as a response to nation-building, ie promoting integration into what is called a societal culture. The ethnocultural minority was treated with 'benign neglect' originally but now was supposed to integrate into society via nation-building.

It seems like benign neglect of various cultural attributes and integration did not work and when Merkel says that multiculturalism has failed she might mean that benign neglect and wishful thinking about an automatic integration based on common sense did not work.

What Kymlicka avoids talking about at length is that some minority groups are conservative in their ways and impose illiberal ways on their members. Others prevent their children from studying and thus getting a proper chance of integrating. Another problem is the moral right of telling people to follow the Swedish Law in a more and more rule based society. Personally I think it would be very difficult with varying types of legal systems operating at the same time.

The major issue then is what might work since the present approach have failed? The common language clause seem for most people a self evident requirement but ethnocultural minorities are apparently living in such ways that they are not motivated. Therefore I have no idea what the 4th stage of multiculturalism might be.


Men's approach vs women's touch?

Hillary Clinton, the American Secretary of State, is using the paradigm of Anne-Marie Slaughter, her policy planner, as I have detailed before. Men create hierarchies whereas women network. Clinton's solution for the US foreign policy is to become the most networked country, ie the leader country.

Will Kymlicka, in his book Contemporary Political Philosophy, discusses the same phenomenon in his chapter on Feminism. I was under the understanding that it was politically correct in Sweden to claim that men and women are performing identically but this is not the case from the academic standpoint.

It is well established that women have superior verbal skills whereas there are relatively more very intelligent men than women to mention a few known biological differences. Men apparently also strive for finding universal principles, ie export democracy across the globe, whereas women tend to establish and maintain relationships on a case by case basis, as Clinton above.

The solution for solving problems concerning multiculturalism is, according to Kymlicka, to deal with problems like differences in religion, ethnicity etc on a case by case basis. The problem is too complicated for dealing with by political philosophy. It demands an experimental approach. In other words it is not enough to say learn the language, because it is necessary to dive down and start solving problems as they come.

I have not seen anything in the Swedish press about Kymlicka's approach. I wonder if it is because of the politically correctness on insisting that there are no differences between men and women? It is important in other respects. Take for example the quotation of board membership to 40% women. The result is going to be an altered function not the same function with 40% women on board.

"Multikulti" is dead?

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, spoke yesterday to the youth wing of the Christian Democratic Union Party according to The Times. Her message that then would foresee the future was that multiculturalism, as it had been led so far, had failed. I guess that people are slowly starting to admit this in Sweden as well in the wake of the recent electoral success of the Sweden Democratic Party who's main issue was integration and immigration.

The only concrete issue that Merkel spoke off, according to the article, was that immigrants must learn German. This is obviously a requirement also in Sweden. What seems to be happening then is that the balance of the integration/immigration debate is tightening and more requirements are going to be given to immigrants.

Will Kymlicka, a Canadian professor of philosophy, who wrote the book Contemporary Political Philosophy 2002, a book that was translated to eight languages among which Swedish was one, is an authority on multiculturalism. He defends a liberal stance on the issue and means that the general idea right now in AngloAmerica is that it is very difficult to hinder the development of multiculturalism but that one should strive for the appreciation of liberal values at the same time. Multiculturalism is also linked to the issue of Feminism and the balance within the family, a unit in which foreign cultural ideas is thriving. Should it be possible to interfere in family life?

In other words it is very difficult to force immigrants to leave a certain amount of cultural attributes behind. Attempting to brain wash newcomers is a very difficult prospect. It was found by the Chinese in the 1950s that trying to make communists out of Koreans only 11 out 4,500 survivors of a total of 7,000 people became communists. Furthermore, it is also known that among the brain washed the new phenotype is highly unstable as well. Even if communism might be a harder sell than the liberal equalism of European nations, the example illustrates the difficulties in changing cultural attributes. So what you in reality are ending up with is the common sense among immigrants to realize that their prosperity relies on the functioning of the state they arrived to.

The problem, however, seems to be more difficult than this since the tolerance of the home population to insignificant symbols like niqabs, minarets and the like seems to be low. One would think that if an immigrant learned the language, got a job, paid his tax and followed the laws this would be enough to satisfy the demands of immigration but unfortunately it might not. In Germany, however, according to the article above, people seem to question if the actual costs of immigration has paid off. Kymlicka argues that immigrants do not have a home to return to after all and that solutions to the "fact" of multiculturalism has to be found. If he is right, it is probably not helpful to say that it has failed. A healthy debate on what minimum requirements that are judged to be necessary for integration though in society is probably useful.


Higher University Tuition in the UK. What about Sweden?

Who benefits from University education? The student or society? The Financial Times and The Times writes today about a report from Lord Browne, a former executive at BP, that suggests that government can save £1.8bn on the reform which lifts the cap on tuition fees from the present £3,290 per year. The average tuition fee is estimated to rise to about £7,000 per year. The government is looking positively at the report but has not yet accepted it.

What would happen is that the future generation, ie the students, is going to pick up the tab for their education to a higher degree. The National Union of Students criticized the report for this. However, one columnist claims that this, like in the US, makes students more motivated and creates a better work ethic. This would be a critique against the Swedish system of free University tuition. It was also claimed that the students can demand more from the teachers if they pay themselves and would also be able to demand what courses that should be taught. Universities would also become more autonomous.

In order to not force graduates to move selectively into higher paying jobs, there is going to be repayment brackets of about £21,000. If the graduate earns less they don't have to start repaying and if there is something left on the loan after 30 years it will be donated.

An alternative funding mechanism for University studies that is being discussed is a so called graduate tax, ie a taxation of the graduate at work, tied to their earning potential. It is being promoted by for example the Liberal Democrat Vince Cable who is presently a business secretary. This mechanism would not have the quality increasing potential as the present proposal by Lord Browne. Some students would also pay back more that the cost of their education with this method.

The implementation of the reform would mean a free-market revolution in higher learning provision according to The Financial Times. Perhaps a similar change in Sweden would provide the vitamins needed for further improving University education. There would also be more competition between Universities that would lead to increased standards. Having paid for your education yourself to a higher degree must make students more serious about what they are doing and cause responsibility for their lives.


Nobel Peace Prize 2010

I was delighted as was all major editorials over the Nobel Peace Prize given to Liu Xiaobo. There was an article in The Economist the other day that talked about establishing universal values in China. They made it sound like there was some movement on the issue. The Charta 08 that Liu Xiaobo developed was commented on by me in a post about one and half year ago. I cited a phrase from the Charta 08:

"Where will China head in the 21st century? Continue a "modernization" under this kind of authoritarian rule? Or recognize universal values, assimilate into the mainstream civilization, and build a democratic political system? This is a major decision that cannot be avoided."

Why it is not 1935

Well, it seems like Ian Buruma is speculating in the possibility that we are facing a new 1935 situation where the aggression this time is towards the Muslims in his debate article in Dagens Nyheter called Därför hatar frihetens fiender liberalismen or This is why the enemies of freedom hate liberalism today. I must however admit that the non-timely exit of the Sweden Democrats from the sermon prior to the opening of the Swedish Riksdag the other day made me feel for the first time that the problem of alienation towards foreigners is going to really become a problem.

Helle Klein, former political editor at the social democratic paper Aftonbladet and priest, says in her blog that a preacher must take sides as he or she preaches. The general problem with this approach is that the priest then might only speak to half the congregation if she is not the battalion priest. Even if this might not have been the case above where bishop Eva Brunne, a social democrat, made the Sweden Democrats irritated enough to leave because she referred to a meeting the day before where violent left activists had been present. These people regularly harass the Sweden Democrats when they stage meetings on town.

Strangely enough Buruma does not bring up Thilo Sarrazin, the former German central bank board member and social democrat (SPD) that published a book recently that became more popular than the politically correct might have whished. In other words the anti-Muslim ideas are not only a right-wing problem. In fact the Sweden Democratic Party got votes from all parties and can perhaps more correctly be called a party of discontents than far right even if they have troublesome roots in neonazism.

Will the unpopularity of Muslims and the fear of Islam lead to fascistic methods to rid Sweden of such believers? I really hope not because as Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Swedish Prime Minister, said in his speech to the Riksdag a few days ago they have contributed to the prosperity of our nation and I would add that they don't have a "home" to go back to in general. There are however methods today that makes the possibility of coerced returns a grim possibility. A risk that could be averted by more transparency into the matter.

Well, it is not 1935 because of the EU. Therefore continued collaboration between the member states is of essence. One question, however, that I wonder if it does not have to be formally addressed is what will happen when some states do much better than others in the EU? Territorial gains are not possible but will aid to other nations lead to something like influence? I guess this is why Germans now feel that they have paid enough. We are facing a development stage in the EU where people are not mature enough for federalization but no mechanisms exist for handling different tracks of development. This could lead to problems.


Member states versus the EU?

It is interesting to note that the only area where the EU has some clout is in economy where they have the Euro and it is in this area where people now start to talk about a "Currency War". Apparently all major players, and a few others, are trying to lower their currencies relative others and most of all people want China to raise theirs to perhaps 20% undervalued renminbi according to The Financial Times.

The meeting between China and the EU the last few days was not a success. Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, in principle asked the EU to stop bothering them about the renminbi. There would be problems in China in terms of stability if all the Chinese companies would be let to go bust if the renminbi was to be raised. These are important matters since the EU is China's largest trade partner. China prefers to deal bilaterally with individual countries though, which is something they can't do with the Euro.

As people that read this blog might have noticed, I'm very interested in what will happen with EU in the future. Will the member states dominate or will things become more "federal". Furthermore, in an article on the euobserver.com site today they discuss that small countries in general are angry with the larger EU countries because they play national games rather than union ones. In other words if Germany push for something this would be inherently wrong, which is of course not true in general.

Drift into oblivion! This is the fate of the EU if they don't federalize according to some people. Others say that they don't see any problems and that the member states will dominate. Would Wen Jiabao have visited if it wasn't for the Euro and how about the American analysis that the Euro would crash if there wasn't a federalization taking place? The editorial of Göteborgs Posten today calls for an entry into the Euro zone for Sweden. Will Sweden and Britain remain on the side of the Continent?

David Cameron, the steward of the ship Britannica, held his first major speech yesterday. The debate in Britain today is very interesting because they have what some would call an existential struggle going on where Cameron tried but failed, according to The Financial Times, to push for what he calls a "Big Society". Apparently he was not asking the Brits for help but rather made a "call to arms". A Debt War, I guess!

The idea of the Big Society is simple. Replace the state with efforts from the civic society but according to The Times it is not the same old small state talk but rather a new form of caring-for-each-other version of the civic society. That makes Cameron a little like a priest of society. His big moment so far is supposed to be as an architect of the coalition with the LibDems. Fredrik Reinfeldt has had bad luck with the financial crisis so far but now faces a more complicated governing situation where his leadership skills will be challenged in a new fashion. Having a better financial situation than his friend in Britain, he still faces the same existential problems in principle.


More than 40 percent of the former East Germans believe that differences outweigh the similarities

Dagens Nyheter has an editorial today for the 20 year celebration of the reunification of Germany. It is up-beat. The Financial Times ran an article the other day which was more to the point and perhaps more true to the actual picture. The communist ghost is not dead and there are nostalgic people left. In a generation or two the rift might be mended though.

Personally I'm pleased with the fact of a reunited Germany. A strong Germany is good for the EU and very important for northern Europe. I especially like the Germans that with the US think in terms of checking Russia. Yes, I'm old enough to remember the Soviet Union and that abominable socialism that cause former East Germany to have only 70% of the GDP of West Germany after 20 years and over a trillion Euros invested.

So what is a strong Germany going to do in Europe? There has not been much written lately since the debt crisis in the spring about the future of the EU, if you discount the talk about "economic governance". A few articles flashed by where there was a call for further political union as the means of saving the Euro so that seems to be the current trend.

If that trend holds up, it is waving in the wind, I don't think Turkey should enter the EU. Their democracy is different from that of northern Europe and would not fit in. They are probably fine on their own as a neighbor of the EU and Russia which they according to Carl Bildt are going to dwarf economically in not too distant future. If the EU stays as it is today, Turkey could probably join without problems. This is apparently the position of AngloAmerica and of the Swedish government although France and Germany are skeptical.

A development that I find interesting is the interest China shows in helping Greece out by even buying bonds if necessary. They apparently want to score some European points for their prosperous state capitalism being nice in the hour of need to the desolate Greeks which the German public was not. They are going to lease part of the port in Piraeus for €3.3bn. Are they giving back for all the talk about human rights and being nice to the poor? I don't think the Greeks mind though.

It was also nice to see that the Latvians chose a center-right governance that continues the reform policy and that the Russian inspired opposition did not complicate matters. They are complicated enough with the 18% drop in GDP that Latvia suffered as a result of the financial crisis. The Harmony Centre containing three parties The Harmony Party, The Socialist Party and The New Centre. It is led by the Mayor of Riga and consists mostly of the Russian speaking minority. According to The Financial Times the ruling coalition got 59% of the vote and The Harmony Centre got 25%. In other words, all things well in the Baltic Sea area.


Choice or circumstance?

John Rawls revived political philosophy in 1971 with his book A Theory of Justice. What was then the reason for this revival? Well, I don't know for sure but my guess is that we are talking about the appearance of a new scientific breakthrough that had a bearing on how people organized themselves. Science leads the philosophical development in most cases in the history of science since Copernicus 1543.

In Sweden it was Olof Palme that would have introduced this phenomenon. Liberal Equalitarianism followed and was thought to lead us into the welfare state according to Will Kymlicka's Contemporary Political Philosophy from 2002. People don't believe this today apparently. But Kymlicka's book is explaining the theory and its add on by Dworkin in a nice fashion.

I wish I had found this book before the election now in Sweden because it perhaps explains the philosophical difference between the two coalitions. We make choices that we are responsible for and we end up in circumstances that we are not responsible for and liberal equality theory states how this should be accounted for while maintaining the intuition that people matter and that they are equal. Rawls difference principle states that differences in equality are acceptable if the least well off gets some benefit from the inequality in question. Apparently the so called New Right is arguing that they don't like liberal equality because you will get free riders that will live off the toils of the earners.

Well, am I in my present situation because of a free choice that I should be responsible for or am I where I am because of circumstances beyond my control? And even more importantly, how many share my fate? I guess the answer to this is that if I got a fair trial with all cards on the table I could prove that my situation is due to circumstances beyond my control.

Is the Alliance and the Red-Green coalition split on this important issue or are they on the same page? In other words, was the election clandestinely about this dichotomy or not? It could have to do with the job-line versus the handout-line given by the two alternatives but it seem like, from my own perspective, that even if you have your own money people are trying to force you to work for them with the help of clandestine coercion and charades--what are they doing to people that don't have their own money? The answer to this question is that they are even worse. This I know from my own experience. Is Sweden turning into the ordinary working people and hell?

How to predict the future?

There was a discussion in The Financial Times a while ago about who predicts the future better, the historians or the economists. A columnist brings up the problems economists are currently facing leading into and in the wake of the financial crisis in The Times today. The consensus of all these discussions is perhaps that it is impossible to predict the future. Still, a lot of people are paid a fortune for trying.

I can understand why, because even if I'm not paid for it, I also like to predict the future. But it is difficult. Based on the world view I managed to construct from information freely available on the net I, for example, predicted that Germany and Russia would form some kind of relationship of a more formalized variety.

However, the latest data now coming out of information I pay for have changed this to my delight and Germany is going to turn into renewable self-sufficiency by 2050. Russia is instead looking to the Chinese to supply energy for their ascent.

Another thing that changed after relying on paid information is that the conflict coverage is more subdued. Someone wanted me to read about military conflict and when I paid a 1,000SEK for a trial subscription on International Herald Tribune, the paper version, I never got any issues in the mail box. It was the first time such a thing happened to me. A vendor theft. I figured that since I had read the online paper, I had then paid something for this, at least.

Currently I tried to subscribe to The Wall Street Journal online version but my credit card did not work for this purchase for some to me unknown reason. There seems to be a political anti-American reason here in Sweden?

I don't know why, but I'm beginning to get a feeling that personal economies are breaking down. When I five years ago inherited money from my father a game was set in motion to virtually steal this money by telling other people that the money did not belong to me. The same thing just happened when I started to collect from my American pension, money I worked up myself over 9.5 years in Philadelphia as a scientist. I have realized that there are no human rights in my case but so far the right to legal money had not been infringed on. But this seems to be changing as well.

So what is going to happen in the future is unclear. I have no idea what kind of society we will get if private property is not heeded. Another tendency that I don't like is that people don't interact directly with you any more all people I'm in contact with just play charades or communicate via indirect writing. I am totally isolated from real time conversation. My telephone company does not even let me send emails? I don't like it. Things that were self evident a long time ago now seems to be forgotten.


Red Ed?

Ed Miliband, who just beat his brother David to the Labour Party chairmanship with 1.3% of the vote, has offered him the Shadow Chancellor post. Ironically, this would mean that the blairite David is now Chancellor under the brownite Ed in an age where Labour is supposed to put Blair-Brown behind them.

Bagehot, the former Charlemagne at The Economist, speculates that the now 45 year old David Miliband has in this fashion gotten few serious ways to matter in top politics. Personally, I would not count this in parliament circles and among party members very popular fellow out just yet. Maybe he will spend 5-10 years in a think-thank and come up with a new strategy? Maybe I'm old fashioned but a 55 year old Prime Minister is perfectly OK.

The question is what this means for the European left? Gunnar Hökmark, a moderate EU parlamentarian, writes in his blog that we are talking about a movement to the left within the left and that this trick did not play out well in the recent Swedish election where the center-right focused its campaign against the Left Party, the former communists in coalition with the Social Democrats.

However, the fact that Labour still moves in the same direction might mean that the British don't look much to Sweden for ideas but also that they are becoming more nationalistic, a trend seen in Sweden as well with the rise of the Sweden Democrats. The foreign secretary experienced and thereby internationally connected David Miliband did not suit the union idea of a new Britain. The world seems to matter less for the left?

The ruling coalition of Tories and Liberal Democrats are of course pleased that the more centrist cosmopolitic competitor David Miliband is neutralized for now because it does not encroach on their territory. Counting out the left in Europe is probably immature since the Red-Green coalition in Germany is doing quite well right now. The Greens a making progress in Sweden as well where they saved the Red-Green coalition from a complete embarrassment in which the once so dominating Social Democrats lost almost 5% and now have only about 30% of the vote, the same as the Moderate center-right party.

In order to create a majority government situation in Sweden, the center-right coalition Alliansen only got 173 of the 175 needed for a majority, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt tried to cajole the Greens to leave their Red-Green coalition. However, Maria Wetterstand, one of the two porte paroles of the Green party claimed that they did not have a mandate from their voters to make such a shift. This is strange because the liberal Center party has been the green wing of the Alliansen and thus afforded a backing for many of the green policies.

The main argument against Alliansen from Ms Wetterstrand was that she could not think of joining a coalition that threw out sick people from the welfare system, something the Alliansen has been blamed for doing when the halved the number of people on sick leave to the levels commensurate with other comparable countries in Europe. A necessary reform the Social Democrats had not managed to do themselves and which their policies had created. She then used an argument that had not been successful wooing voters in the election. Alliansen had offered real prosperity rather than prosperity if things went wrong via the welfare system.

Well, so how red is "Red Ed"? Some people write that his ambition is to regain the center ground and that he himself have said that his is his own man who is independent from the unions. In this case he has just out politicked his older brother for the power position and might not be particularly red at all. He has been for citizen salaries which is supposed to be leftish although I personally think they should be both left and right because we are talking about a human rights issue. We are talking of not returning to slavery. This is of course a compassionate streak in his curriculum which demonstrates concern for the ailments of this time.


The number two and the number three in the world

I have been following the row between China and Japan for a while now. Apparently a Chinese fishing boat captain rammed a Japanese coast guard vessel outside the Senkaku islands that are disputed by not only China and Japan but also by Taiwan, and got arrested according to Gideon Rachman's weekly pod cast.

The situation headed up daily and after rumors of blocked shipments of rare earth metals to Japan from China the captain was released. It is of course not clear if there was a causality between the two events. However, people in Japan took to the streets and complained over giving in to the Chinese.

Why is the situation so tense? The Financial Times runs an analysis today about the Chinese catch up game in high-speed trains that offers one possible irritation item. The Chinese are now after some years becoming a low-cost competitor to the Japanese Kawasaki Heavy Industries, the German Siemens and the French Alstom on these trains after having "digested" the technology in question for a while.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governator, is asking the Chinese to compete for the planned trains in California. They can get trains more inexpensively in this way but have not lost any technology in this case. In any case, the Chinese are building an extensive high-speed train network that according to some is a prestige project that is not going to pay off and is more and more preventing foreign competition by legal means, although it is a green project.

Fighting to get out of a recession is apparently a cut throat game where the ones with cash siphon off technological know-how. Will the Swedes follow the lead of the Governator if they are going to build high-speed trains?


Meaning, Control, and Esteem?

The last year I have worked on an argument for Religious Humanism by compiling a history of ideas, especially scientific, since the Heliocentric Theory of Copernicus 1543. It is clear from the last 500 years that it is reasonable to expect that science will continue to surprise us in revealing new knowledge from what I call the "yet unknown". The key idea of Religious Humanism is that it is possible to attribute to the "yet unknown" rather than to a supernatural personal God.

By compiling excerpts from page 1-75 in The Psychology of Religion, 4th edition, by Hood, Hill and Spilka, 2009 this is made more probable.
Religion is supposed to give meaning, control and esteem. When threatened with harm or pain, all higher organisms seek to predict and/or control the outcomes of the events that affect them. Meaning helps meet perhaps an even greater underlying need for control. Self-control can be viewed as personality’s moral muscle. Self-control is a core psychological function underlying many of the virtues addressed by religion: compassion, justice, wisdom, humility, etc. Esteem is garnered from the sociability of religious life. Church members possess larger social support networks than non-members do. Furthermore, there is more positive involvement of intra-family relationships among the religiously committed. This is attributed to enhanced feelings of social belonging and integration into a community of like-minded individuals.
Reduction of Religion
The data are not conclusive but it seems like superstition and religion are two different domains of our mental life. The term spirituality has evolved the last two decades as separate from religion as well and is now a hot topic.

Attribution in the Psychology of Religion
Attributions people make might be naturalistic or religious. In most circumstances people initially employ naturalistic attributions but shift to religious attribution when naturalistic do not satisfactorily meet the needs for meaning, control and esteem. For religious people a person’s actions and cognitions might become structured by a religious role. Research suggests that up to three quarters of religious experiences occur when individuals are engaged in religious activities or are in religious settings. Attributions to God are overwhelmingly positive. Religious persons possess a religious language which they use to describe their experience. Attributions are often made to validate and enhance self-esteem and thus perform a self-protecting function. Locus of control was initially conceptualized as a tendency to see events as either internally determined by the person or externally produced by factors beyond the control of the individual. External control is attributed to fate, luck and chance as well as control by powerful others. People who are more involved in religious activities perceive themselves as having more control over what happens to them.

Religion and Biology
People are today merging the psychology of religion with evolutionary psychology. Some hypothesize that religion is derived from having a genetic advantage. The capacity for belief might be inherited. Some, d’Aquili and Newberg, 1999, say that “God or pure consciousness is generated by the brain”. Hamer, the author of the book The God Gene, 2004, feels that more than one gene is likely to be part of the religion-spirituality complex and he is convinced that the tendency to be spiritual is genetic in origin. Relevant mutations must have occurred in Africa in the fairly distant human past for spirituality to be genetically mediated. Contemporary popular language suggests that we are “hardwired” for these expressions. The temporal lobe is known to give rise to spiritual thoughts and has been related to epilepsy since Hippocrates. Limbic structures (specifically the amygdala involved in fear) were not activated during a religious state, such as reading the 23rd psalm, but were involved during a non-religious emotional state. Religious experience is likely to be a cognitive process utilizing established neural connections between the frontal and parietal lobes. The neurobiology of spirituality has otherwise mostly been studied in meditative states.

There is general agreement that the basic purpose of a religious ritual is communication. The discomfort, distress, and threat of uncertainty are lessened when one possesses ritualistic means of coping with troublesome situations. Psychoanalysts have added that it provides a connection to one’s inner desires and feelings. More broadly, rituals are viewed as means of encouraging and controlling emotion. People want them, volunteer to participate in them, and probably gain pleasure from having ritual roles to play. The neurological network proposed to be involved in ritual is considered part of the autonomic nervous system and termed the “ergotropic-tropotropic system”. Though prayer may be aimed at reducing tension, its goal could actually be an altered state of consciousness, either contemplative or mystical. Prayer appears to be helpful, but the reasons are not so clear. Forgiveness has been conceptualized as an “emotion-focused coping strategy” that counters stress and reduces adverse physiological responses.

The philosophical question of whether God is created in our minds or whether he exists in reality is essentially solved in Religious Humanism because of its pantheistic nature. The existence of something we call God is a reflection of Nature in our minds and of course “God” exists because everything is God and has always existed. Our minds are part of God. So, we are attuned to Nature and wish for knowledge of the “yet unknown”. Attributions to the “yet unknown” should work equally well as those to a personal supernatural God.

The “yet unknown” offers an individualist perspective on the God concept. People can make it into what they feel is most important. I also found a statement in the book cited above that religiously committed scholars can consider science an avenue to God. It is apparently something people do even if they operate with a supernatural God concept. This might in principle mean that others also have thought about the “yet unknown” as part of the God concept since otherwise the materialistic prerequisite is not followed.


Education, does it matter?

"Alison Wolf of King's College London and author of a provocative book called Does Education Matter? has argued elsewhere, that maths and science education are something fun and desirable that countries spend more on as they get richer, rather than being the engine of economic growth."

This citation is from an ongoing debate on The Economist web site concerning innovation. If you argue that the pursuit of science is searching for God in a materialistic pantheism and that this is the goal of mankind, it is of great interest to know how to optimize it. Is it driving the economy at the same time or is it a byproduct of the economy?

What is rather clear from history is that the scientific revolution starting during the 17th century stimulated the development of philosophy most of the time. It also leads to a secularization that freed the minds of people. However, would this have happened without the development of trade and business and a middle class? Francis Bacon became the "trumpeter of a new era" by extrapolating from the invention of the compass, gun powder and the movable type, all pre-17th century events, all tools for subduing Nature.

73% of the people voting on the motion in the Economist debate think math and science are important for innovation but the remainder believes that management skills are limiting as well as venture capital. Looking at the AngloAmerican history there is a correlation of a wave of inventions after the introduction of public schools, with the light bulb and the areoplane as examples. Then there is a new wave after the creation of armies of PhDs in the mid 20th century with the transistor and DNA helix as prime examples. America has, though, always been very good at making products out of ideas which would also speak for managerial skills.

It is not easy to determine which is the hen or the egg between science and management but it would be very good to know. Truly brilliant scientists might make stimulating breakthroughs even if society is not well to do around them but to get a scientific revolution probably requires prosperity in the environment.


What is it parties like the Sweden Democrats, National front in France and the British National Party in the UK want to return to?

The Financial Times compare the Sweden Democrats that just won 5.7% of the popular vote in the Swedish election with the British National Party in the UK and the National Front Party in France. The BNP won 1.9% in the 2010 election but got 5.2% in the London Mayoral election 2008. They got 0.7% in the 2005 election. In the 2007 presidential election Jean-Marie LePen of the NF got 11% of the vote.

If it is like it seems in Sweden right now, that no one wants to talk to the SD in the Riksdag, perhaps we should change the election system to that of Britain and the US, the first past-the-post system that effectively selects against a third party with a battle between the Moderates and the Social Democrats. After all, Adolf Hitler came to power in a proportional election system.

The proportional election systems of Continental Europe has given rise to the participation of nationalist parties in many countries most notably the Netherlands, The Party for Freedom, and Hungary, Jobbik. The Liberal Democrats in Britain, that just participate in a ruling coalition, however, wants to change the election system to a proportional one in order to get more influence with their 22% of the popular vote.

The Danish People's Party, Dansk Folkeparti, with 14% of the vote, however, was treated as the Sweden Democrats initially due to their alienation towards foreigners, but have since become incorporated as a support party although they do not yet participate on the ministerial level according to the Swedish radio program Studio Ett.

Today's editorial on DN.se believes that 15% of the vote might be a maximum of how large the parties alienated against foreigners could grow. Perhaps, but in this respect it might be reasonable to ask how many people of a population that for some reason think it was better earlier on. These people are displeased with the current situation and do not want to experiment not realizing that things have changed so much that the road backwards is closed. Like lemmings they march towards and unknown that will cause the pension systems of Europe to crumble if immigration is resisted.

The welfare model is dear to Europeans. One would hope that it is dear enough to allow for immigration that will change Europe to a more multicultural environment. Some people think that the reason for the success of Europe in driving the scientific and industrial revolutions depended on this multiculturality which then was imitated in the US, although with a single language. A multifocal environment that lacked a centralized dogma ruling it. A non-federal EU might just be the best stabilizer available. The remaining discussion is then at which speed the immigration is going to take place.

What in reality should be discussed is the low birth rates in Europe. In Japan the birth rates are low and immigration almost non-existent. Germany seems to head for a lowering of their population as well. Can our societies be sustained with shrinking populations? The US plan to increase their population but they are not so densely populated. Britain is increasing as well and will by 2050 have passed Germany as the most populous country in Europe. Sweden is increasing by immigration. This is a wise choice.


An election ushering in a new era

I am for a multicultural society and I did not vote for the Sweden Democrats but I must say it was very annoying how the Social Democrats and the Left Party representatives in a clearly totalitarian manner harassed the new comers to the Riksdag in the National Television broadcast yesterday. The Alliance members had a more balanced tone to the event. The Social Democrats seem at loss as to the reason for their defeat but maybe people don't want to be told of what to think?

A liberal society is supposed to be tolerant to minorities and not showing tolerance at the same time as you say that the Sweden Democrats are not tolerant is somewhat childish. Also annoying is how these party representatives call Denmark a racist society because of the Dansk Folkeparti who like Sweden Democrats are for a "responsible policy for immigration". Apparently the Danish are relieved of not having to be harassed by the Swedes on this matter any longer.

Reading international papers it is clear that there is a certain surprise in that Sweden has gotten a "right wing extremist party" as many write. Some mention their neo-nazi background. It is in some way as the Swedish innocence or virginity has been fouled. In this sense it is a political history event as Jimmy Åkesson, the party leader of the Sweden Democrats said in his speech before his crowd yesterday night after the announcement of their 5.7% share of the popular vote, a count actually larger than that of the Christian Democrats and the Left Party. No one mentioned during the television coverage yesterday about the fact that there are problems on the Continent regarding immigration issues. It is like the Swedes are not mature enough to deal with this information.

More important as the sign of a new era is that the Alliance went forward and the Social Democrats lost ground. It is also historic that a center-right government is getting a second mandate although they did not get a full majority. This has, however, been the norm rather than the exception in Swedish politics and special rules for handling budget issues have been introduced to alleviate this problem although the particular issues might cause problems. It is not surprising that the Swedish people are more stimulated by talk about getting jobs than securing the welfare state. First things first!