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!


40 years of reporting on International Politics by Britt-Marie Mattsson

Britt-Marie Mattsson has had an eventful life covering the "mystical" years 1970-2010 so far lived as described in her new book Neutralitetens tid: Svensk utrikespolitik från världssamvete till medgörlig lagspelare. As a journalist she tries to be neutral about the neutrality politics of Sweden over this time but a dualism of the good guys, the social democrats and Olof Palme and the bad guy Carl Bildt can easily be spotted.

Mattson makes a point that since the joining of the EU Sweden have said good bye to the neutrality politics. However, in the election manifesto of the Red-Green opposition it is possible to see the traces of a return to this cowardly position where the Left Party has tendencies of wanting to leave the political alliance of the EU. Carl Bildt has consequently dealt with this problem all through his career and has secured Sweden in the European partnership although joining the NATO is an achievement not yet made due to the popular vote. Working presently under NATO command in Afghanistan, it is possible to discern a discordance between the elites and the masses in Sweden.

According to Mattsson Carl Bildt says that "Militarily we are not in an alliance but politically we are allied in the EU". As I understand these matters, this must be a very difficult situation that has been discussed in the press before. As Mattsson described being in the EU we should optimally have a one voice situation via Lady Catherine Ashton, the High Representative, but her office is not yet established due to problems of defining the same after almost a year. This makes Swedish foreign policy much of an affair of the Moderate Party and Carl Bildt himself.

In actuality Sweden with 2% of the EU population would not have much of an independent foreign policy given the above. Reinfeldt and Bildt have made a good job recently though and Sweden has gotten credit for this and is relatively stronger. They don't write often about Sweden in The Economist, but in the last issue both gentlemen are getting due credit.

Mattsson points out that Olof Palme made Sweden larger than it normally is on the map during the era of the neutrality politics. It is actually a funny mechanism that being neutral and advocating for peace gives a country such a leverage in some corners of the world. Because if the US would have said that it is neutral, Europe would have looked quite different and Sweden might not have been so peaceful at all.


Two and a half year blogging in International Politics

As I said in the end of July when I took a little vacation, my computer screen was almost devoid of information on the usual search history that I perform daily. During the last two years I have learned that what comes on the screen from journals that you don't pay for vary a lot. There is the regular stuff and also falsariums of all kinds. I have enjoyed The Economist that remains a solid information source which I have subscribed to.

I have thus learned that it is not possible any longer to search journals that deliver free service fuelled by advertisements on the net. After a while I find nothing that interests me. Probably, based on my search profile, such articles are filtered to entice me to pay. The problem is of course that I don't know for sure if this is the case.

What I do know is that my top picks of quality journalism The Financial Times, The Times, and Wall Street Journal are now closed for non-subscribers. They apparently know their value and I have begun now to subscribe to these journals on the net which cost me less that adding a Swedish top journal. I have subscribed to DN.se for a year but will change to SvD.se which I like better. Interestingly, The Times website lost 90% of its traffic after they introduced subscription only this spring. It would be interesting to know if the profit from subscriptions outweighed the loss of advertisement revenue?

I see this as an investment in my long term education in International Politics and Economy that I started part time already around 1995. I will continue blogging but now with a better source of information than before. I'm still learning so I hope the blog will improve with time.

It has been a frustrating two and a half years which includes the financial crisis and loss of the unipolarity earlier given by the dominance of the US. The good news here in Sweden is, however, at least that the center-right Alliance will get a new mandate for another four years if the polls are correct. There is just one snag. The so called Sweden Democrats might pass the 4% barrier to enter parliament and thus become kingmakers if the Alliance does not get a majority of the votes.

The Sweden Democrats are in principle a one question party. They want to keep Sweden Swedish and thus are hostile to foreigners and to immigration. None of the two voting alliances, the Alliance or the Red-Greens says they want to have anything to do with the Sweden Democrats. And several of their rallies have had to be cancelled, because of hostile demonstrators. Forming a functional government might become tricky if they would enter without a majority for one of the voting alliances. The minister of foreign affairs Carl Bildt and the minister of finance Anders Borg today said in Landskrona, a town where 23% voted for the Sweden Democrats, that "if you like Sweden you should not vote for the Sweden Democrats", paradoxically.

However, the trend is that Sweden is becoming more hostile to immigration but has so far been less so than its two neighbors Denmark and Norway with the parties Dansk Folkeparti and Fremskrittspartiet, respectively. Dansk Folkeparti got 14% of the votes in 2007 and Fremskrittspartiet got 22% in 2005, their best result so far. The latter party doesn't think it is possible with extensive immigration in a welfare state. In Germany there has recently been a wild discussion concerning a book published by Thilo Sarrazin, a former central bank board member, he just resigned because of the debacle, and SPD member, where immigration is thought to emasculate society. The conclusion that can be drawn from this debate so far is that he probably got more support than people initially thought. Immigration is unfortunately becoming a problem in Europe where it is necessary for future prosperity.

Another problem that surfaced among minarets and burkas where the expulsion of Roma from France. It is possible to conclude from the debate after this event that Europe is polarized on this issue as well. The debt crisis in the EU recently has perhaps given people the gitters and people start to worry that the welfare state is at stake. The Swedish election is focused on jobs or, like the Red-Greens do, emphasis on the importance of welfare. They don't seem to get that message across, however. Perhaps the Red-Greens has made a miscalculation and that the Swedes, in the back of their heads, also are beginning to wonder if the welfare state is economically viable.


Political Creeds?

Column One: A prayer for 5771: "A reporter there asked him, “[Do] you subscribe, as many of your predecessors have, to the school of ‘American exceptionalism’ that sees America as uniquely qualified to lead the world, or do you have a slightly different philosophy?” Obama replied, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” That is, the US president said, no, he does not believe in American exceptionalism. He rejects the American creed."

Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post discusses political creeds in an emotional article. Lexington, the columnist in The Economist, rejected writing about American exceptionalism the other week. Is this true? Is the magic of the beacon for the world gone?

In Sweden people are very optimistic right now on the performance of the nation and on the excellent governance by the center-right coalition. In the US they are more gloomy. David Brooks writes today in his column that 65% of Americans think that the US is in decline. The economic downturn is structural not cyclical. Like Brooks, however, I am optimistic over the future of America.

President Obama has shown that he has a bad conscious since he has apologized for the behavior of America. Now it seems he does not think Americans are better than other people but the question is rather if the American system is better or not. If the American idea is better. If freedom for more people in the world is better. With the rise of China, freedom has almost become a bad word unfortunately. I think I know why and I have earlier written in my blog about what I think might be American exceptionalism. It is the degree to which society can withstand the onslaught of new management technologies. Time will tell.

Olof Palme, the Swedish prime minister that was assassinated in 1986, probably thought that the US should emulate Sweden. During his reign the diplomatic relation between Sweden and the US was almost severed. The crisis in Georgia demonstrates what happens if you even blink with regimes like present day Russia. In Palme's time the Soviet Union was probably worse. What I think is important is to recognize the difference in the roles of Sweden and the US. The US can lead but Sweden remains an opposition party.


Koran Burning?

Planned Koran Burning Draws International Scorn - NYTimes.com: "The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said on Wednesday that burning Korans would be a “repugnant” sign of disrespect, and the Vatican said it would be an “outrageous and grave gesture.” Brig. Gen. Hans-Werner Fritz, the commander of German troops in Afghanistan, said the burning would 'provide a trigger for violence towards all ISAF troops, including the Germans in northern Afghanistan.”"

Terry Jones, the pastor of a small congregation in Florida, is causing trouble with his disrespectful threat of burning the Koran in public. In my humble opinion this is an equivalent act of the Muhammad caricatures or the dog with a prophet head by Lars Vilks. One of the painters of the caricatures, Kurt Westergaard, recently got a German journalist prize for, as Angela Merkel said, his courage under death threats to protect the freedom of speech. Apparently not pastor Jones' freedom of speech.

Personally, as I have said before, I don't think it was a good idea to do any of these disrespectful gestures even if the freedom of speech says it is doable. The pastor, however, puts President Obama on the spot since he was for the Ground Zero mosque which is considered disrespectful to Americans by some 70% of the American public. His enemies are going to say he is soft on Muslims.

Goal of Mankind?

Varning för antiliberaler - DN.se: "När Svante Nycander i två artiklar på DN ­Debatt hävdade att svenskt kulturliv präglas av anti­liberalism ledde det till sommarens stora ­kulturdebatt. Här bemöter han kritiken från vänster och höger och förklarar varför antiliberalismen bör tas på allvar: unga människor tar intryck och skräms bort från vardagspolitiken."

The article raps up the discussion of liberalism that took place this summer in Sweden. Svante Nycander had published a book in November 2009 called Liberalismens Idéhistoria. Frihet och Modernitet from the point of view of welfare liberalism that is contrasted with Johan Norberg's book about Liberalism that says social liberalism in Sweden is not part of the history of liberalism. Nycander criticizes Norberg's use of a definition of freedom that he does not think is possible to use given the many definitions of the word "liberty". In my mind, however, liberty must include the peace of mind given to the audacious in a society with a welfare system. However, I doubt that it is beneficial to have a historic or dogmatic point of view. I prefer a goal-oriented pragmatic approach.

I have been studying liberalism from the point of view of which societal system that produces the most avant garde scientific development. After all, many are right now anticipating solutions for energy dependence and climate change adaptations from science, and if science will deliver, there will be a hausse of global interest for it to show. The discussion between Nycander and Norberg is pertinent in this regard because the system giving an optimal science development is probably positioned somewhere in between. The United States has become a leader and should probably be emulated in Europe if arguments cannot be found for why Europe would be special in this respect without adaptation.

The election debate in Sweden lacks my idea of a goal for mankind. The environmentalism of Andreas Carlgren and the education development of Jan Björklund are the closest. Such a vision is apparently not tasty enough. It does not generate happiness which in my mind speaks against utilitarianism. It is not an election issue but still very important.

The Red-Green coalition speaks of introducing welfare as seemingly the goal for a nation. They then hope that the fear of not having a job to support oneself will give them votes. I find it surprising that the job-arguments from the Alliansen, the center-right coalition, is not giving them a greater lead in the polls than they have. It is a very important tipping point. Is there belief in the future or not? Do we have a real goal?


Ms Ashtiani

Gunnar Hökmark: "Domen är ett uttryck för en medeltida brutalitet som ingen borde stå likgiltig inför. Det faktum att vänsterpartiets ledare inte kan säga om han föredrar demokratin Israel jämfört med denna regim som uppsåtligt dödar en kvinna för att hon är kvinna kastar en skam inte bara över honom utan också över dem som vill att han ska vara med om att utforma svensk utrikespolitik."

I also find almost incomprehensible that Lars Ohly has a problem of selecting the better of Israel and Iran. The fate of Ms Ashtiani is of course potentiated by the Biblical story of how Jesus prevented the stoning of an adulterous woman by saying that the one that is without sin should throw the first stone. We are watching the Christian ethic against the Muslim ditto.

Back then, and still in the Ten Commandments, it was a great sin to be adulterous. In the Western world this is now quite common and moral progress does not make it a crime even any longer. It should be noted, however, that in many corners of the Western society adultery is still considered a very serious sin. I for one don't think it is a good practice but I don't think it should be a criminal offense.

A great admirer of the American society I would love to see that all states prohibit capital punishment. Thirty six states so far do this so they have a way to go. The argument for capital punishment is apparently that it acts as a deterrent that saves lives, which I wonder if it is true? On the negative side is that life time prison could be considered a worse punishment than death and that it is much more expensive due to legal fees to condemn a person to death. Being able to reverse a conviction if it has been made wrongly is a great positive. However, stoning a person to death is of course completely atrocious.

I really don't know what to do with Iran. Obviously they do not need nuclear weapons to continue dwelling in the Middle East. They know it worries their neighbors so they just want to be a pain in the neck. The axis-of-evil triade was real. They shoot and beat their citizens demonstrating on the streets and are ashamed of this since they block media from seeing it. The Ahmadinejad government has probably built up an interior tension in the country that would necessitate a bloody correction as the only possible defusion possibility like what we saw in Iraq after the 2003 invasion. No one is ready for one more of those since it theoretically should not be necessary with Iraq serving as a democracy inspired focus.


EU and Russia?

The European Council on Foreign Relations A crisis of values?: "People may become more assertive in demanding better from their political masters, emphazising what Angela Merkel termed in her meetings with the Russian government last month the “inseparable link between modernizing the economy and making civil society more democratic”."

Merkel's conclusion is the same as people in Sweden have when they think of the development of China, ie that human rights follow in the wake of a trade relations. However ECFR also feature a discussion of What Russia Thinks. Here one finds a corroboration of Leon Aron's, at the American Enterprise Institute, conclusion a while ago that Russia wants to build their own consensus and not imitate the EU. Democracy, EU style, is simply not the Russian cup of tea.

Another conclusion that can be drawn from this article is that the Russians view the balance of power between three different blocks, Russia, the EU and Turkey, all dissimilar. This might be good to now when considering an enlargement of the EU involving Turkey. They simply might not fit, like Russia, in the EU.

The institutions of the EU has taken a beating as of late. However, in comparison they are twice as popular among the people than is the government of Vladimir Putin, although Putin himself enjoys a 70% approval rate. Putin means Russia to the Russians. There is no politician in Europe with a similar approval rate and even Obama is down to 43%, again displaying how different Russia is to the EU. Russia is coming alive again now when the oil prize is over $70.

Thus the "dominant discourse on Russia among Western liberals focus on what Russia lacks -- be it Western-style democracy, the rule of law and property rights". The point again is that Russia is developing their own model. where these values from John Locke and others simply are not admired. Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian foreign minister, said the other day in an interview conducted by the German paper Der Spiegel that in Iran they think that the West is politically immature. They probably refer to their own 2,500 year old authoritarian rulings by various potentates. Russia has their own history of Czars.

The so called "Putin Consensus" is formed by the double failure of Soviet authoritarianism and the anarchic democracy of Yeltsin during the last 20 years. It is modernization supposedly based on innovation rather than on imitation. Russians want to free themselves from the West. Putin calls it "sovereign democracy". Putin decides and the people like it? So far the Putin Consensus is a negative phenomenon. Intellectuals can agree on what they don't want but not on how Russia would look like in the future.

I have earlier written about the developing relationship between Germany and Russia and the take home message of the cited article What Russia Thinks is probably that economic collaboration would work but there would not be a consensus on the political development. Russia will never become the Texas of EU.


Obama the War President?

President Obama held his second Oval Office speech yesterday at 8 pm EST. It was a speech by an American for Americans. This has changed with the Obama administration. We mind our own business nowadays. Obama mentions the world directly once:

"But this milestone should serve as a reminder to all Americans that the future is ours to shape if we move forward with confidence and commitment. It should also serve as a message to the world that the United States of America intends to sustain and strengthen our leadership in this young century."

However, this is what Obama really is talking about:

"Throughout our history, America has been willing to bear the burden of promoting liberty and human dignity overseas, understanding its link to our own liberty and security. But we have also understood that our nation’s strength and influence abroad must be firmly anchored in our prosperity at home. And the bedrock of that prosperity must be a growing middle class."

Obama says, let us forget these wars and get on with our own economy. It seems, Robert Gates, the Republican Minister of Defense, can take care of Afghanistan. For now it is on rails and can be concluded soon. Gates is a little more careful. It is all about how America projects itself in the world and they don't bite enough right now, according to Obama.

After the financial crisis there was a moment where I judged the situation economically so severe that cutting and running in Afghanistan would be the only viable option given the progress reported in the press. I thought that leaving Afghanistan and spending all money on Iraq would be the best solution. It is of course better to be able to more responsibly fold Afghanistan.

What is a very inexpensive deal in dollars, however, is to negotiate between the Israelis and the Palestinians. So Obama will do that. After all, it is the civil society that needs to furbish new jobs. Lady Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of EU will not attend, she went to China instead. The exclusive speech makes me think about our situation in Europe instead. We are just back from the vacation month of August.