"As this book should have indicated by now, the more one is familiar with different cultures, the more one understands that they are not all created equal. An honest multiculturalism would recognize that some cultural traits are not helpful in the sustenance of a healthy democratic political system and capitalist economy."

The above citation comes from the 1995 book Trust by Francis Fukuyama. Fukuyama says the neoclassical economy is to 80% correct. The rest is culture dependent. All individuals are created equal with human rights to match but then they end up in various cultures with different potentials.

I found this book when I arrived at the conclusion that I did not know how to increase trust in societies that lacked this. Fukuyama's book does not mention the Middle East as low-trust but well France and Italy that aspires to good relations with the low-trust North Africa and Middle East in the Club Med association. He does not have a recipe for increasing trust either.

The main message of the book is that familiarism countries, with low-trust to people outside the family, like China or Italy, does not produce such large corporations like high-trust countries like Japan, Germany and the US. These countries would then not have the same potential economically. China today seems to defy this rule, however. Perhaps they are compensating for high-trust outside the family with "systems" of people held together by fear?

Leading by example is in my opinion much superior to leading by fear. Protestantism offered a more individualistic situation for people that then could relate to each other rather than to an authority like the parish priest. The fear of God was not used as a motivation. God became someone you related to directly on a more equal basis than Catholics and Muslims.

If the high-trust outside the family has not passed the North/South divide in Europe it is not likely that it will spread to North Africa and the Middle East. Today we have a situation in Europe where Southern European countries are in worse economic shape than Northern states. It should be remembered in this context that the Western Civilization started in the Netherlands and England. Cultural factors then important for breaking the Malthusian ceiling could still be in operation.

As Fukuyama points out, the melting pot America have managed to unite around common values and principles but have recently performed worse in this context. Fukuyama speaks about individualism taking precedence. The EU project is in actuality not even trying with its divisive motto "united in diversity". Is this good or bad? Perhaps it all depends on how large the optimal size of a nation is.


Arab Spring?

A young inexperienced president in the US and a stalemate or worse in Afghanistan together with a large population of young unemployed people in the Middle East and North Africa, some liberal most fundamental, creates an impetus for people to revolt against Western supported dictators and fill the streets with blood because there is no future if they don't do something.

The Arab Spring and doing the right thing in Libya, which is one way of looking at the problem, creates a refugee crisis in Europe that fuels anti-foreign sentiment parties to move forward at the same time as the US is withdrawing from their NATO responsibilities in Europe finally realising that there is no interest for paying for security in Europe with a Pacific focus on most issues. Obama is the first Pacific president of the US, born in the middle of the ocean and spending some formative years in Indonesia.

The question is how much the Arab Spring is going to change Europe? Is it going to make the North/South division of Europe more forceful or does it create a new East/West debacle?

Back to Nature or Forward into our Civilization?

I have often felt that our current worship of Nature, ie taking care of the environment, has pantheistic proportions. However, saying so means that politics is mixed with religion and science which is not helpful. Politics has that primate character that religion and science lack. It concerns power.

Making the dichotomy is of course not easy. Francis Bacon already in the 16th century claimed that knowledge is power and the Church has meddled a lot in politics since then. It is not possible even recently to separate religion and politics. We have the faith bound George W. Bush and Tony Blair couple and their position against political Islam.

Presently, in Sweden, the Church is using religion to go against the government on a healthcare issue. I feel this is quite OK since it is simply an issue of helping the sick and the poor and how much this is supposed to cost.

Returning to the pantheism above it is important to stress that we don't want to return to the caves in order to save energy. Solving the energy question is currently a race between the different power centers. Who is going to succeed first? As I said the other day, I think Europe is in the right mood and has the best set up. The US and China are too caught up in their economies. We need an idea. Europe is rich enough for that. Ideas are cheep, they say.


G0 world?

In the latest issue of Foreign Affairs Ian Bremmer and Nouriel Roubini calls the world, not a G20 world, but rather a G0 world. In the next Foreign Affairs Gideon Rachman will restate his version of a G0 world, ie a Zero-Sum world that he voiced in November of last year.

It certainly looks a little gloomy out there. The US has gotten a warning from S&P for its economy and the Arab Spring is still in full bloom. China is demonstrating its fear of the possibility of a revolt by imprisoning the artist Ai Weiwei. Totalitarian regimes are poor in science and art. Yet another country in the EU is rearing a strongly populist EU-sceptic party the True Finns. Being almost a fifth of Finland's population they might prevent the Euro-zone from bailing out Portugal.

People are starting to talk about Asia initiating a new economy based less on consumption. This sounds good but it would not be good for the West that is dependent of Asia's consumption to regain growth to escape the jaws of debt. The combination of a Europe mired in debt and a North Africa and Middle East perhaps coming out of repressive regimes needing support is not good. Especially with immigrants to the tune of 5-10% in Europe and anti-immigrant populism.

Europe once led the way for mankind through the Malthusian ceiling and now having regained strength and confidence could be a center for research and development featuring competition between the various European countries. This is probably more possible now when the lure of the US is going down with the rise of China. If Britain, France and Germany can lead the way in competition with the US, the societal organization, that is far superior to that of Asia, can support a new revolution in science.

We are a couple of generations past the War and just have to learn to integrate the Muslims that knock on our doors from the south. Immigration provides the life blood for the economy. It is necessary to separate faith from behavior and customs. Faith is important, alien customs can be enriching at times but not as a separate system. Learning is paramount. Celebrating our heritage it is important to secure this very idea. Interest in becoming a teacher has gone down 15% the last year in Sweden. This is a very bad sign.

People in the secular Sweden are looking for something to believe in. The environmental issues came up strongly until about a year ago when the US and China put the lid on this problem. Putting more emphasis on learning and science could be beneficial for a country looking for something to unify around. After all, solutions to environmental problems are bound to be scientific. The competition from countries like South Korea where students are pushed very hard is going to be fierce. We have to find a European solution based on quality and tradition.


Women in the advancement of science?

Found something surprising in Charles Murray's book Human Accomplishment from 2003. One would suspect that more women have contributed to top scientific discoveries during the latter half of the 19th century when women really have made an entrance in society in many fields but nothing much have happened. If anything the contribution has been lower.

During 1901-1950 the percentage of women with Nobel Prizes in Chemistry was 4%, Medicine 2%, Physics 2% and Literature 11%. During 1950-2000 the percentages were Chemistry 1%, Medicine 4%, Physics 1% and Literature 8%. The total has thus gone down from 4% to 3%.

The only way I can explain this phenomenon is that the people contributing with Nobel Prizes belong to the group of extremely intelligent individuals that are more common among men than women. Average intelligence is the same for men and women but men feature more extreme talent and also more low talent. It could also mean that all extremely talented indivduals are found and activated.

If you accept the notion that the contribution is lower, it could be that emancipated women are less interested in science.


The most intriguing problem of today?

Johan Norberg, a public intellectual, gave a very good presentation of how the West got rich on the Swedish radio program Obs the other day. In the UK Niall Ferguson, professor of history, got a series of TV programs on the same topic: civilization. Norberg only had 15 min for this interesting problem and wondered if Europe started to move because there was not a central authority that broke the nascent spirits. The leader of The Economist this week discusses authoritarian crack-down in China. Therefore I wonder about Norberg's conclusion that the Rest has learned the game by now. It seems to me that they have learned nothing if you believe that there is more to discover.

One reason, argues Norberg, for Europe's success is the geography. Many power centers. It is therefore worrying that the EU is homogenizing this and is working for a centralized power system. Could it be that in the name of peace we are destroying the very basis for pluripotentiality in Europe? This would be the mother of all Catch 22s in the world.

If you accept that governing such large amount of people as China, India and the EU is not really feasible without too much repression, the present EU with strong national states is perhaps preferable. Karl Sigfrid, a moderate politician, wrote the other day that Swedish freedom of expression is threatened by EU laws.


Can the West afford to nation-build the entire Middle East?

Emma Sky, General Odierno's Chief Political Advisor in Iraq, writes informatively in the Foreign Affairs March/April issue. She ends her article with the following paragraph:

"Iraq still has a long way to go before it becomes a stable, sovereign and self-reliant country. Continued engagement by the United States can help bring Iraq closer to the American vision of a nation that is at peace with itself, a participant in the global market of goods and ideas, and an ally against violent extremists. Under the terms of the Strategic Framework Agreement, the United States should continue to encourage reconciliation, help build professional civil service and non-sectarian institutions, promote the establishment of checks and balances between the country's parliament and its executive branch, and support the reintegration of displaced persons and refugees. US assistance is also needed to bolster Iraq's civilian control over its security forces, invest in the country's police units, and remove the Iraqi army from the business of policing. Should Washington fail to provide such support, there is a risk that the Iraqi government may become increasingly authoritarian rather than democratic--undermining the United States' enormous investment in blood and treasure."

According to Joseph Stiglitz the cost of the Iraq mission is about $3tn, ie the current entire Chinese foreign exchange reserve would not pay for this. Seven years into this nation building and efforts are seemingly needed to run the place. Is there really an end in sight for support in Iraq?
We have just engaged Libya one of many states currently in turmoil. This time so far without people on the ground. Perhaps this is going to work better but the rebels in Libya, and perhaps many others in the Arab world, seem to demand help.
My feeling is that the countries in question should, if they really like to emulate the West, do so spontaneously. The West should only use soft power. However, if it is decided that there is a security argument for the West to engage in nation-building, this is going to have to be an argument on the order of preventing World War III to be sustainable.
It must be reasonable to assume that the countries in North Africa and the Middle East can develop a new way to govern themselves post-Arab Spring. According to Emma Sky above this is unfortunately going to gravitate towards an authoritarian model.


Equality for Women and an Educated Populace

If you want to improve things in North Africa and the Middle East, it is easy to say that what they lack for a more prosperous society is more equality for women and to educate their people to a higher degree.

However, what seems to be important for prosperity in northern Europe is trust between individuals. Thinking about this for a while I realized that I had no idea where this might have come from or how to improve the situation where it is not present. A country like Brazil is low on trust but has become more prosperous but lack in equality and thus quality of life.

Some people would say that Western society developed from property owning peasants on family farms. I'm not sure why such people would come to trust each other more than the nomads of northern Africa? The rule of law perhaps makes more sense when people settle down and have to interact without being able to move.

So, what are we going to do when we have entered Libya using what we know from the experience from Afghanistan and Iraq? Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal said wisely that once you are in there are any reasons for not leaving. I saw today on the Swedish news a nice looking rebel woman, her hair blowing in the wind, talking like a democracy would form next year and ending with "don't fail us now".

I believe that it will take Libyans generations to order the mess that is now being created, ie if a political solution can be found to the civil war now present. The problem is that since it is so difficult to stake out a path for improvement there will be problems for the coalition to unite behind a common goal.