Is it possible to show respect for a country that does not take its citizen's political instincts seriously?

The debate on what you can demand in terms of human rights in China is on since Wen Jiabao is visiting Europe. David Cameron and Guido Westerwelle thinks it is possible to discuss difficult questions at the same time as you trade with each other. I agree fully!

It must be considered difficult to show China respect when treating its citizens in the present way. Wen Jiabao thinks we should show China respect and tolerance. Tolerance OK but treating grown up people like naughty children is not something that is impressive.

The Chinese often brings up their long history. I guess it is a favorite when comparing themself with the US. However, what happened during the last 2-300 years is far more interesting. Also, I have problems with the Mao era where people were severely mistreated during especially The Great Leap Forward and the Culture Revolution. It is what China does now with its new found power that potentially is going to be treated with respect. Will they continue with the first modern dictatorship or invent something new?

Gideon Rachman on FT.com is displeased with David Camerons capabilities in his column today. He thinks you have to treat China as a power and not only as a market. Speaking truth to power does not seem to be a discriminator between Britain and Germany though, even if standing up for freedom in Libya was. The final judgment on Libya will come at the death toll when the debacle is over, though.


"America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home"

Thus spoke President Obama in a speech where he made the right choice of a way forward for conflicts in areas where suggesting keeping troops on the ground should lead to a head examination, according to the defense secretary. Raids like that on Osama bin Laden and drones are probably a preferred way of future operation.

After the financial crisis when the tide turned on America, I actually wrote a post summarizing the situation in the way Obama did but he had problems with the Republican party and the military and went into the surge attempt. After some effect of the surge, Obama can now say that more military and a prolonged military engagement is doomed to fail and have his people's majority on his side.

Another fact that might be affecting the American opinion is that China is just moving ahead with their economy not paying any attention to problems in the world. The futility of the Arab Spring in terms of what can actually be achieved with military means might also play a role. The successful raid against bin Laden renders an opportunity for a mission accomplished of some sort.

Carl Bildt reacted strongly on the idea that Americans should focus on their own problems but is he really surprised? This notion has matured over the last three years. Also, if you want to do nation building it might pay off to select countries that are in a significantly better shape than Afghanistan and Somalia to build credit and to gain experience. Starting out with one of the bottom tier countries might just give development strategies a futile and failing air. Obama is giving people like Westerwelle and Bildt problems though because their cause for being in Afghanistan for their populaces, nation building, is significantly weakened.

As I claimed ahead of the Libya debacle, it is one thing to wish you can prevent ethnic cleansing but another to actually being able to do something. We might stand ahead of an era where the failing states will have to be left to their fate while the establishment focuses on countries that can be saved by others.


Does science have any positive influence on human rights?

Samuel P Huntington was one of Francis Fukuyama's teachers and is most known for his pamphlet The Clash of Civilizations. Fukuyama writes in the Afterword from 2006 of his influencial book The End of History and the Last Man the following:

"Huntington is quite correct when he says that the historical origin of modern secular liberal democracy lies in Christianity which is not an original view. Hegel, Tocqueville and Nietzsche, among many other thinkers, have argued that modern democracy is a secular version of the Christian doctrine of the universal dignity of man, and that this is now understood as a nonreligious political doctrine of human rights. In my opinion, there is no question that this is the case from a historical point of view.

But while modern liberal democracy has its roots in this particular cultural soil, the issue is whether these ideas may become detached from these particular origins and have a significance for people who live in non-Christian cultures. The scientific method, on which our modern technological cililization rests, also appeared for contingent historical reasons at a certain moment in the history of early modern Europe, based on the thought of philosophers like Francis Bacon and René Descartes. But once the scientific method was invented, it became the posession for all of mankind, and was usable whether you were Asian, African or Indian."

The question then is whether science have a positive influence on human rights because then liberal democracy might be transferable to for example the Chinese culture? It might via the science of psychology unless the psychology of the Chinese differ from ours. Since the sudden death of behavioralism, psychology have made enormous progress due to the fact that minds can be read. Minds can be read on people that does not know of this and of people that cooperate. Thus psychology knows how people think about human rights. What they prefer. I have a feeling the answer is out there but a little hard to come by. Whether this research was ethical or not is an other question.


Katas in Industry?

I'm working on the problem on which culture is best suited to harbor the future and an interesting thing occurred to me.

The Japanese did very well in making cars. This probably depended on the fact that performing motorical sequences assempling a car resembles performing so called katas in martial art. A kata is a series of motions executed to practise a sham fight. They are practised by repetitive performances and it is known today that some 10,000 repetitions is necessary to optimize a motion program. Katas are part of Zen Buddhism and it is religion for many Japanese.

However, the assembly line was invented in the individualistic USA where free spirits probably suffered more in straight jacketing themselves into repetitive motion schemes. It would appear that the Japanese could have had an easier path to inventing the assembly line by just setting up a series of katas to make a car? Today the Japanese assemble cars faster than the Americans. They also write more patents per capita. They are doing worse on the GDP per capita though. They lost ground against the Americans on this parameter lately.

Perhaps it is time to start talk about what you innovate and not how much you innovate?

I'm beginning to feel that the political culture is very important for the quality of research. Therefore it is very hard to be Swedish globally speaking because what Hobbes, Locke, Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton did was trendsetting and very mature early on, still going strong. If Germany is going their own way now, it is also very hard to be a European because they will part philosophically and value wise. If this split becomes real in the wake of the euro-zone debt crisis this might have effects on coordinating research EU wise but it might be good for the competition in Europe.


Differences between the US and Germany?

I have been told that in the US a person that has suffered a bancruptcy can get a second chance but that in Germany such a person is lost forever. It occurred to me that this difference might stem from the Hegelian master and slave problem. A person is not a man if he has not lived through a death challenge. If he does not dare the challenge he becomes as slave. The bancrupt person died, so to speak.

What is not clear is if the nowadays risk-averse Germans, which can be seen in the differences between Germany and the US on the economy and on military matters, on nuclear power, are truly Hegelian or not. A death challenge to become a serious person is a rather silly adventure. Modern education would be meaningless since an educational endproduct would not be useful without a risk to vanish. Hegel spoke before public education though.

One category of functionary in the modern society, the soldier, firefighter and police, could of course be selected on Hegel's basis. I guess we know today that the percentage of humans that qualify in this category is rather small. Smaller in Europe than in the US, apparently.

The US and Germany seems to have less and less to say to each other. When Angela Merkel was over the last time and gave a speech before Congress she irritated the hosts by pushing for greenery. Now recently they took a stand against nuclear everything. The economy, Middle East policy, Libya.

So, while the Swedes sit and watch their BBC productions on TV, do they become more German or Anglo-American? I don't see any polls on these issues. Why are we afraid of discussing this? There was a recent poll on a higher interest for Swedes to join NATO but this is not a discriminatory between Germany and Anglo-America. The German-US split might break NATO. That is probably why Obama gave Angela Merkel the Medal of Freedom, the highest honor that can be given a civilian.

What happens if the US pulls out of NATO?

The US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave a talk recently that has been commented today by Gideon Rachman on his FT.com column. Jan Kallberg also writes on his blog about the change in US preferences "after" the war on terrorism. Kallberg says that nuclear weapons are going to make a comeback.

What we observe now is a US that might lower their defense costs a bit and a Europe that is substantially lowering theirs. China is significantly increasing their costs yearly. This obviously reflects how these different power centers view the global risks and the projection of global power. Although I think that the difference in risk taking within NATO is more severe than the actual amounts the countries are contributing, I am not sure why the European countries downplay military risks in this fashion when the economically booming China is thinking otherwise. China is apparently not content with economical weaponry.

Kallberg argues that what is going to become important is the actual military capability. If the European countries cannot even keep up a fight in Libya for a few weeks, as Gates pointed out, there is no capability. So if NATO falls, Europe will be dangerously alone. A country like Sweden would have problems paying for the benefit of being under the US nuclear umbrella and in practice be without defense. I hate to bring this up in this apparently risk-free era but I simply do not trust Russia.

Tony Blair pointed out the other day that the EU for the sake of power should join the US to defend Western values. He also said that he advocated for an elected EU president to minimize the democratic deficit, although he did not see this as realizable but spoke of it as a goal. The president he discussed should not be above the national heads of states in this case. I think it is statesman-like to speak up for the West in light of the above discussion. It is highly reasonable.

However, reasonable or not it does not seem to reflect what is happening even if the EU could need common views on common problems these days of debt problems and polarity in the future of an ever closer union. Proponents against military matching with the US probably say that we can't do much in Libya or Syria anyhow. The fact remains though that a country that crash Iraq in a matter of days has a different leverage on events given a unified West that is not divided on itself.

Returning to the reason for why Europe does not spend much on military defense, it may be very difficult to invade EU with soldiers. However, if nuclear weapons will be in vogue a country like Iran would want to get some and can thus threaten the EU with severe damage, something the EU might have to act upon. If European countries run out of munitions after a few weeks, it would seem like a coordinated raid to eliminate a nuclear threat from Iran would be highly hypothetical?


Political Science?

Writing a Universal History, ie a history with meaning and a goal, an endpoint, was treated most seriously in the German idealist tradition. Immanuel Kant wrote in 1784 an essay where he suggested as much. This was pre-Darwin one should note. Still Francis Fukuyama based his book The End of History and the Last Man on Kant and Hegel. I simply do not understand this.

Fukuyama writes that Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle wrote in 1688 that "there will be no end to the growth and development of human wisdom". Fontenelle's progress was just in natural science though but it would be important to ask if not social and political progress also would be influenced by science?

Claiming that there would be an end to progress in political science would be to demonstrate the naïveté that Albert Einstein talked about having a personal God concept. Einstein's God concept included the obvious expansion of knowledge and pointed out that what we see now is rather limited. We don't know what God looks like. Putting a face on God or claiming that no more advances would be made in organizing people here on Earth is similar.

However, Immanuel Kant wrote in his 1784 essay: "A philosophical attempt to work out a universal history according to a natural plan directed to achieving the civic union of the human race must be regarded as possible and, indeed, as contributing to this end of Nature." If the 'natural plan' is to be read 'evolution' it is not entirely sure what Kant means. Did Kant have an idea of an evolution of society? Also, 'end of Nature' does not have to mean that an endpoint has occurred in time and its development. It could be just a step on the way.


The trans-Atlantic alliance?

The ft.com ran an article about Robert Gates, the US secretary of defence, on Friday. Gates claimed that NATO alliance was at risk. The reason was the bad performance of allies in Libya. It is the old problem having some people doing the light work and others doing the hard work and the difference in how much resources they spend per capita.

I reread the book Of Paradise and Power by Robert Kagan from 2003 for the occasion. Henry Kissinger said of this book: "Though in the past we have often disagreed, I consider this essay one of those seminal treatises without which any discussion of European-American relations would be incomplete and which will shape the discussion for years to come".

Kagan says the following: "One of the things that most clearly divides Europeans and Americans today is a philosophical, even metaphysical disagreement over where exactly mankind stands on the continuum between the laws of the jungle and the laws of reason. Americans do not believe we are as close to the realization of the Kantian dream as do Europeans."

Furthermore, Kagan does not think the Europeans want to strive for a unified "West". So what have happened since 2003? Well, Obama turned out to be very popular in Europe compared to Bush but this does not seem to have bridged the difference in how Europeans and Americans view their security. The Arab Spring, however, in my humble opinion, should make the Europeans more willing to view things the American way.


Where is the next interesting thing happening?

Is it going to be the most efficient economies that take the lead or is it going to be the most legitimate and therefore probably the most stable, albeit slower growing. China, South Korea and Japan represents a highly efficient area that is very competitive relative each other. Boston, Washington-Philadelphia, Texas, California and Chicago is another conglomerate that is in the legitimate category. In Europe we have London, Paris, Brussels and Berlin.

Although I have heard comments against this idea, I believe that we have entered a new era where rule-systems group into those utilizing pain, those who fool with pain and/or use subliminal stimulations of various kind and psychological terror, and normal ones that treat people like human beings with dignity.

Another favorite theory of mine is that the democracy wave that occurred during the 1970s and 1980s where dictatorships gave up power, so to speak, because they kept it behind the scenes with the technology, in reality was the transfer to a new order of so called democracy according to the second principle above.

There is good hope that the principle where people are fooled to believe that pain is going to be used against them will move in a more dignified direction as people try out to breach the orders and take the consequences that are not too severe. The dictatorships that use pain might very well go down hill on developments in the general direction of Libya and Syria. People just begin to go out and die in the streets when life has become bad enough.

There is a risk that the second category, fooling with pain, revert to using pain. Let us for the sake of mankind hope that this is not going to happen. Let us also hope that life in category two above is not too supressive. It was noteworthy that there were no leaders in the Egyptian revolt, just non-connected grassroots.


The Global Position?

I see that some people claim that they are global liberals or that Sweden is a global country. Is this an escape from the real people "verklighetens folk"? I must admit I feel a little guilty myself but the question is what such a stratification does to a country. The global postion is a little fuzzy.

As I noted before, the Libya debacle is a case in point. Swedes and Danes share the same base in Italy but do not do the same job and Germany is not doing anything. This is examples of different penetration of the stratification problem.

As a global liberal it is necessary to take a strand for helping the so called rebels in Libya which means you get in trouble supporting Germany's new anti-nuclear line as the path forward for Europe especially when you get 40% of your electricity from nuclear power. Again it is possible to escape as a global liberal with global values but such values are theoretical. They don't exist in reality in a country. I wonder if calling Sweden a global country is not the same as declaring it neutral in all conflicts and keeping one's options open? Saying that we do what the EU does is not true either. We are not even part of the euro-zone.

Then again how homogenous is the global position. Is it the position of global peace? Or the position of global finance? Is it the defunct G20? Jeffrey D. Sachs suggested the world should be divided into self-sustaining regions instead of a G20 mechanism where the regions take care of economical and security questions. Our region would then be the Nordic countries. Some 25m people. Since Norway is not part of the EU and Sweden and Finland not part of NATO we are not even ready to take care of our immediate environment.

With our language education we are part of the Anglo-American culture domain. But apart from security issues, Great Britain and the US are not so close anymore. Germany just took a path that seemed unpalatable for Sweden and thus an ever closer Union does not look potentially good right now, which is what is necessary to save the Euro. You see, neutrality politics becomes tempting again.

Where is the future forming right now? 1523 when Gustaf Vasa got financial help from Lübeck to take back Stokholm from the Danes and then help to organize Sweden saw a development where Holland slowly took over control from Lübeck and thus formed the Western civilization with England during the 16th and 17th centuries. Sweden became on their own then from their benefactor, independence, but did not get part of the real action until later. Are we doing the same mistake today?


The Swedish Independence Day?

2005 they decided to make the 6th of June an official holiday in Sweden. A little nationalism in exchange for a religious holiday called Annandag Pingst.

Gustaf Vasa was crowned on 6th of June 1523 and made Sweden into a unified country. He introduced Protestantism 1527 and 1536 there was a meeting in Uppsala where the religion was formally changed. Gustaf Vasa used this change to enrich himself on behalf of the Catholic Church and paid back debts to the Hansa town Lübeck which had helped him gain power. He used German advisers to reorganize the country between 1538 to 1543 and made Sweden a kingdom based on heredity in 1544.

Gustaf Vasa was not a renaissance man but an organizational genius. Another well-known Swede, a man of the people, that has characterized himself as an unconcerned poet that wanted happy people around him dancing in an opulent nature is Evert Taube, the most famous Swedish troubadour. Gustaf Vasa did leave one important trace the Nordic ski race, the worlds largest, but Evert Taube has left many more. He is the great romanticizer of the Swedish archipelago and it's cult day Midsummer.

I myself have reached a point in my life where I try to figure out who I am and I have realized that Evert Taube gives me some clues. I got some of his songs from iTunes today to refresh my memory. Evert Taube was born on the lighthouse island Vinga not far from where I live and since I spend many summers of my youth in the Göteborg archipelago I definitely feel having roots in the simplicity and frugality of this environment.

However, my father emigrated to the US and became an English Professor in a small Wisconsin town called Menomonie which I visited first time 15 years old. My father and I used to listen to Evert Taube songs in their kitchen and I therefore have feelings of home in the small American town as well. Working almost ten years in Philadelphia later made me indifferent and for non-national reasons I ended up back in the Göteborg archipelago. Politics had not been important in my life.

After having become a new kind of prisoner, with an artificially lowered intellect as the result of some kind of arbitrary judgment, I became very interested in the political history of the US. Today I am probably more American than Swedish. Standing up for freedom and individualism rather than for peace is the most probable discriminator. Sometimes I wonder if I'm not more American than my two American-born children.


The Rational Optimist

In a book called The Rational Optimist from 2010 Matt Ridley strikes out in favor for a highly positive outlook for the future of Man. The book was discussed on wsj.com, http://www.thegwpf.org/opinion-pros-a-cons/1938-matt-ridley-vs-bill-gates.html, by Bill Gates and Matt Ridley. Matt Ridley took a PhD in Zoology 1983 and then worked at The Economist from 1984-1992.

Ridley does not talk about political problems of mankind like the coming and going of wars. He is concerned with the continuous advance of technology and living standards due to human exchange, or trade, and specialization. He does very few comparisons of civilizations. He sees innovation like a "bush fire" that flares up here and there and then dies out. He does not delve into the very interesting question of why this is so.

Ridley is the first person I encountered that does not think science is the mother of innovation in technology. He thinks it rather the other way around. But if you ask the question why the latest bush fire, that I believe is very different from earlier ones, the scientific revolution occurred, was that something happened in the mind of people in Europe that then opened for innovation. Scientific breakthroughs generated this new mind set from a base of a certain maturity of Christianity and political development around.

In this regard Ridley is not separating basic science from R&D. He does not separate the more spiritual part of investigative human behavior from the engineering part. Basic science creates the mood of innovation R&D creates products. He says "few of the inventions that made the industrial revolution owed anything to scientific theory". However, both the way they worked and the way they thought were influenced by earlier science.

One question that keeps appearing is for what Nobel Prizes should be awarded. I recently heard a suggestion that institutions rather than individuals should be considered. The person was at CERN and they have problems with who should get the prize for the Higgs particle. Another difficulty is the difference between prizes for new knowledge or for methods that generate new knowledge. An old example of this is the telescope that was invented by Lippershey who did not do science but that was quickly adapted for scientific productive work by Galileo.

The problem with the institutional idea is that part of the benefit of awarding prizes in science is that people like to have role models to look up to which is more difficult with an institution. Propinquity is proven important in science but individualism is equally important.

What I like with Ridley's book, however, is that it illustrates the way to think about the future. Science and innovation is speeding up rather than slowing down and we can expect to see our present world as old and out of date anytime soon. Moving into the future at the present pace is a spiritual endeavor.