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.