Carlson's Law?

Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum cites Curtis Carlson, CEO of SRI International, which is a company that serves as an innovation factory for governments and companies, in their book That Used to be US from 2011. Carlson’s Law reads: Innovation that happens from the top down tends to be orderly but dumb. Innovation that happens from the bottom up tends to be chaotic but smart. The role of the CEO is now to help create the environment where those decisions can happen where they should happen, to support them and reward them and inspire them.

This law helped me understand what Fredrik Reinfeldt said in a recent speech where he discussed management in the Moderate party of Sweden. Reinfeldt said that people are surprised that he just sits and listens and does not say anything. He had sent off 100 party members to a course to increase their listening ability. I must admit that I thought: Hey, Mr Prime Minister, an occasional good idea to lead by would perhaps be good but maybe I have learned something new. Reinfeldt really played down leadership and perhaps thinks in terms of the stewardship mentioned above by Carlson.

Interestingly, this is a differential to political leadership as it compares China and the West. Reinfeldt riled against the “strong man”, or “starke man”, concept. They guy that always takes charge and give orders profusely. It seems like the role of the party leader or CEO has changed the most. Taking charge has moved to the grass root level and that is of course bound to create a certain measure of chaos.

What I still don’t understand with Reinfeldt management theory is, however, how the leader of a country can get by without a vision for the future. Reinfeldt said that he did not like visions and that they usually tended to cost at least 100m SEK. My idea of a vision is rather something that makes a 100m SEK profit for the country. The citizens of a country need an overarching goal to follow. Such a goal could very well be a foreign political one where the government makes up their mind on Sweden’s position in Europe and the world.


No More Multiculturalism in the EU?

Angela Merkel, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy have all said that multiculturalism is dead in Europe. That would mean:  we don’t want any Muslim ghettos in Sweden. But do we want any Swedish ghettos in the EU? Sweden represents 2% of the EU population. There are 4% Muslims in Sweden.

I guess this is a way of expressing what I have already said, in so many words, but it is an interesting angle. The low interest in teaching history lately might have been an attempt to make people more European by having them less prone to local identities. They have apparently had the same kind of ideas in the US. People like Niall Ferguson have fought against this trend by pointing out that certain cultures perform better than others and that there is competition in the world. Arguing for history education is thus counterproductive for multiculturalism but it might help people evolve faster by realizing how to compete globally.

In fact, multiculturalism is not dead in Europe at all. The EU motto is “united in diversity”. It is like preserving diversity in nature. Save the species! But what is nature’s idea with many species? It is if one does not survive another might. It is an insurance policy. My question is can we afford this insurance today? After all, most of Europe’s countries have been tagging along for quite a while.

OK, the talk of an “ever closer union” might be old hat in some quarters but there seems to be this force around, and people to match, that makes this happen a little in the dark. Inch by inch! People don’t seem to like this, reading from the polls, but, inch by inch. Time has come to ask if this is good or bad.

Harmonizing the rules across the EU actually makes some sense but will the sense of freedom linger while streamlining things. The US unionized with one language 200 years ago. The Chinese 2,200 years ago. I guess what I’m trying to say is that things are moving in a direction where politicians in Europe need to work for changing the motto of the EU. Why not “United at Last”.

I would not mind in principle at all that Sweden disappeared as a sovereign country as long that I felt that we were moving in the right direction. Swedish culture is probably close to a competitive mainstream that would be selected. Some other countries in EU27 would have to adjust more. Personally, I would move to the US, if I could afford it but, I honestly believe that a United States of Europe would be a good thing for Sweden.

The reason for arguing in this direction for me would be that Western civilization performance is at stake if two competitive centers, North America and the EU, don’t form. A two-party system for the Western Civilization.


Merkel Needs More Time?

Due to circumstances these days people have ideas about how to solve the European debt crisis. So do I. In my humble opinion this is a crisis of confidence, a political rather than an economic crisis. Angela Merkel works on a plan for Europe that the market is going to accept and that will calm things down.

Given that Germany have not benefitted on other countries in Europe for succeeding economically, their culture works best for Continental Europe. If the rest of the nations want to succeed with Germany, they must change their culture to more resemble the German. Write a new constitution for a federal Europe accepting Germany as a leader nation. Unfortunately, in this sense only 66 years have passed since World War II.

As I said before, I personally belong to the Anglo-American paradigm, and I don’t think the UK would change their culture in the German direction, but France might. The Continent could thus become a small China with the UK as Japan on the side. I don’t see anything less than the appearance of a Continental European Creed which is unanimously accepted as something that would ease market pain in Europe. Greece, for example, is moving in the German direction with lots of pain disclosed and maybe they will succeed.

Some people say: “there is no time for this”! Such people tend to have watches but EU federalists have time and one argument is that the time has come for conglomerates in the size of China, North America, and India. Federalists say that we have to join this train. It’s leaving the station now! If Europe doesn’t catch it, the European welfare state is bust and Europe, once proud, will become irrelevant. I don’t agree with Reinfeldt, Merkel has to take charge. Continental Europe needs a plan. There is indeed no time for muddling through.


American Exceptionalism turns Universalism then What?

Samuel P Huntington’s epos from 2004 Who Are We? is an interesting read even for Europeans. The Jews have claimed that they are God’s chosen people, which of course have irritated quite a few,  but if 300m Americans claim the same thing this must be considered preposterous, or? After the fall of the Soviet Union Francis Fukuyama, a student of Huntington, wrote a book called The End of History and the Last Man. We had, according to Fukuyama reached a point where liberal democracy was the Universal remedy for world politics. With the rise of China, without God and democracy, we have seen that East Asia can create prosperity as well. That leaves the Western Civilization divided: Europe, the cradle of Western Civilization and the Scientific Revolution, which could also be called exceptional, and the New World now led by Obama, the first Pacific President, no longer universal.

The attitude to the economy and the respective solutions to the financial crisis is different between the US and Europe. The US want to stimulate and Europe choses austerity. The welfare state is more developed in the EU. The US population is growing whereas the European countries are contracting relatively speaking. Immigration takes place in both with the US filling up with Mexicans and Asians and Europe with Africans and Muslims. The US is highly religious whereas Europe is more secular. Americans work harder than the Europeans, at least more hours per year, and are genetically from adventurous, more risk prone, Europeans. Americans have involved themselves more in world security and have a significantly larger military force. Since World War II the Americans have excelled in science and technology but the Europeans are catching up.  I will always work for maintaining good relations between the US and Europe but have seen during the last years that they are distancing themselves from each other more and more.

There is, however, one big difference: America is the United States of America but the EU can’t make up its mind about federalizing. When I started out in Political Science a few years ago, I thought the United States of Europe was a good idea. I thought English as a second language for all EU states was commendable and would keep a common culture alive trans-Atlantically. Then I realized that this was unattainable due to public nationalism. The European debt crisis gives Europe a push in the United States of Europe direction. How strong this push is going to be is an obvious question? Greeks are out demonstrating for World War II money from Germany so tensions have evolved to a malign degree.

The Davos Men or economic transnationals, that Huntington discusses, live in a global world already where they have less nationalism to start with but they might not actually need the Western Civilization either because they do a lot of business in Japan, India and China as well. However, they might just have to start thinking about getting the public with them a little considering for example the Occupy Wall Street movement. In this sense I am very Huntingtonian. They used to say there is more trans-Atlantically that we have in common than separating us. I still think this is true. The lesser evil is probably to keep the EU together, despite democracy deficit, to develop this market as a global competitor. We are going to need people around us that do business our way and that continue developing science as we started. In this way southern immigration into our civilization becomes a good thing that maintains the Western world in an amiable relationship with this world.


Freedom of Religion in the US is Individualistic

Denis Lacorne wrote in his book that Samuel P Huntington claims that the US is a deeply religious country, defined by an American Creed, and that the US is neither secular nor a religious theocracy. It was actually Gunnar Myrdal who in 1944 defined the American Creed. After reading Huntington’s Who Are We? from 2004, I’m convinced that Huntington’s idea is more correct. He says that the new US was already forming as John Locke was born 1632 thus staying with Tocqueville on this one. American exceptionalism, he says, is not to a little part due to its religiousness. What also makes the US unique and the most religious protestant country is that many sects were allowed to form and thus made possible a more individualist religious life. What Lacorne also forgot to say was that the Catholicism in the US is very protestantized which makes it less authoritarian.

However, if you ask Americans what about the US they are most proud of 85% say the political system. This should be compared with 7% for Germans. It therefore seems like the Americans are united under an American Creed, a political idea, at the same time as they have religion for community and support. In 2002 a court in San Francisco decided by a 2 to 1 vote that the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance were a violation of the separation of church and state. The words therefore were unconstitutional. However, this became highly controversial and the Senate passed a resolution 99 to 0 that the decision be reversed. A Newsweek poll claimed 87% of the public supported inclusion of the words while 9% opposed. Atheists are less popular than Muslims in the US.

President Clinton claimed that America needed a third “Great Revolution”, in addition to the American Revolution and the Civil Rights Revolution, where they “prove that we literally can live without having a dominant European culture”. Huntington means that this multiculturalism would threaten American Identity. He sketches four development possibilities: multiculturalism; bifurcated into Latin and English; exclusivist with revival of racial and ethnic concepts: and a preferred cultural path where Americans stick to their Creed. In light of the dismissal of multiculturalism in Europe this is interesting. Currently “ever closer union” is what seems most popular to save the Union in what could be described as a desperate attempt to find a European Creed.


The Road to Political Freedom

Thomas Friedman claims there is a close connection between economic freedom and political freedom in his book Capitalism and Freedom from 1962. He points out that there is no place with political freedom that does not have economic freedom but he also says that economic freedom does not guarantee political freedom. Seems up to date today! However, Francis Fukuyama discusses the political without the economical in his latest book The Origins of Political Order. I did wonder about that but it is of course a simplification for clarity. Cultural matters might not be sufficiently independent of economic issues to be treated separately.

Fareed Zakaria writes on the Global Public Square blog that President Obama thinks the US has gone “soft”. One thing is that he for example has apologized for America’s conduct, which I think is way out of line. I wonder what he meant by soft? Is it staying democratic and free that is soft nowadays?

There is a tendency to think that China’s and the East Asian authoritative economic miracle is a discovery of a short cut to material wellbeing. The cumbersome and confusing democratic parliamentary way is passé. But if you add the J curve of Ian Bremmer to transit from economic freedom to political freedom there is indeed an obstacle to pass. There is no country that made that pass without exterior help so far. Is it possible? Perhaps the soft nation is rather on the right track and China on its traditional 2,500 year authoritative ditto. You simply have to believe in America like Mitt Romney stated in his recent speech that countered Obama’s idea.

How important is then political freedom? After all Friedman says that economic freedom is an extensive part of total freedom. Is it worth dying for? That is not an obvious question in Europe for example where defense budgets are slashed. The Arab Spring tells a story where people non-violently demonstrate for freedom non ultra descriptus. Is this a reminder?

If political freedom does not add benefits to society in the form of a more developed material wellbeing, the West might be in for trouble of convincing the rest of its glory. This is another way of asking what President Obama meant by going soft. Losing faith in a way of life on a higher qualitative level! I for one think political freedom offers a higher quality life.

What Obama actually said was this:

“The way I think about it is, you know, this is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft and, you know, we didn't have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades. We need to get back on track."

This might mean that Obama does believe in democracy but somehow thinks people were a little too “lazy”. But I was not of the understanding that the US had been less competitive rather succumbed to a financial disaster. So, I still wonder what he meant by soft which apparently the two GOP candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Perry also did.

So, was Friedman right? Is there really a close connection between economic freedom and political freedom? This remains the crucial question for the upcoming decades and perhaps this century.


Democracy and Religion?

I realized yesterday that we have half a year left to spring now in Sweden. First week of April is a common spring initiation around here. Took a walk today in the early fall with fresh leaves fallen on the ground. The smell of fall was evident in the air. The lawn has slowed down.

Reading a book about Religion in America by a French author, Denis Lacorne from 2011. It is originally written in French in 2007 but contains an afterword that comments on Obama’s “Faith-friendly Secularism”. Lacorne talks about the American civilization and makes some corrections on Tocqueville’s Democracy in America from 1835. He does not think, like Tocqueville, that democracy took off from the Puritans in New England but rather had a secular origin from the Founding Fathers.

Lacorne thinks evangelism was the religious origin of the national walls of America and suspected atheist Jefferson was elected 1800 with the help of evangelical votes that objected to the bullying of the then established churches. The romantic American historian George Bancroft did however also point at the Puritans as a source of democracy and religion in the US like Tocqueville.

What I think is interesting in this context is that Thomas Jefferson, the drafter of the Independence Declaration and the third President of the US, had three favorite historic persons in mind when he acted namely: Francis Bacon, John Locke, and Isaac Newton. Maybe he pictured a future country in the name of science more than he pictured it religious even if he probably was realistic enough to feature a religious context for his country. Jefferson was a lawyer like Bacon.

The question then is if Americans have become, or always been, so different from the Europeans that we can’t keep Atlanticism going? The relative success so far on the Libya mission of NATO will of course help for a while. Economically France and Germany have started a battle against Anglo-America. They, for some reason, don’t think you should make money on money. A Tobin tax is the latest aim in suppressing the City of London.

The US is more religious than Europe currently. It has been possible to assume that this could give the US its higher growth rate, although I have not ever seen that in writing. However, the non-religious China is doing fine on growth even if this growth to a large extent so far is a proof of the success of Western globalism. Some Chinese academics say that the lack of Christianity was what made the West stronger and there are attempts right now to restore Confucianism, a new Confucianism, as a moral precept for the masses. Marx would probably turn in his grave. Marxism is still the official dogma of the Chinese communist party.

Tocqueville thought democracy needed religion to function. Contrary to his contemporary American historians he advocated Catholicism as the optimal form of Christianity. He viewed the multitude of more “enthusiastic” Protestant sects as having a divisive effect on government. In other words he thought of religion as a societal stabilizer just like China is searching for right now. Without democracy, however, religion is a competing organization and with Poland in mind Catholicism probably has a hard time in China. I understand that the Party is appointing bishops.

Today I read about the Swedish Church in Svenska Dagbladet. They have to start getting rid of church buildings for economic reasons. Many are standing empty and demand heating and maintenance. The Christian Democrat party in Sweden is in jeopardy not to make the 4% level needed for entry into Parliament in the next election and their larger brother in Germany is also losing votes. I can’t help asking Tocqueville’s question: is democracy in trouble in Europe? Angela  Merkel is losing power being the most important person to hold the EU together. The obvious follow up question is if it is good for democracy if the Euro and thereby, as Merkel is fond of pointing out, the EU will fall?