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GlobLog - February 2007
A direct link to each entry is obtained by using the button below the entry.


Wednesday, 28/2/2007:

18:28 - RULE NO 1: ABOLISH ALL REGULATIONS THAT SOUND LIKE JOKES: 

Romano Prodi is probably soon back as prime minister of Italy. And he canīt afford to waste much time. Italy is one of the most regulated economies in the western world. Today, Financial Times gives a few examples of the medieval rules in place before Prodi began his deregulation measures:

- Barbers had to be closed on Mondays.

- The number of tour guides was regulated, and they had to be local residents.

- The number of bakeries in every city - and what they could produce - was regulated.

- You could not start a petrol station if there was another one nearby, and they couldnīt sell non-car related goods.

- To drive a taxi you had to inheret a taxi license from your father or buy one for around € 300 000.

- You could not sell your motorbike unless a notary drew up a contract.

Now letīs see if Prodi dares to continue with labour markets, pensions and infrastructure...

(Thanks Alexandra)



14:09 - THE YEAR IS 1460: 

In the article "The foreign minister talks too much on the blog" on DN Debatt today, Bertil Torekull complains that Carl Bildt communicates directly with the public on his blog. Torekull thinks that Bildt acts like a communist authoritarian, because the blog makes it impossible for journalists like himself to decide which parts of Bildt´s message should reach the public.

You can imagine that the Swedish blogosphere has enjoyed itself today. The year is 1460 and a leading writer of manuscripts has just complained that the moveable type makes it possible for people to print any type of book without letting him decide which one is important.

Some clever comments:

Carl Bildt

Gudmundson

Johanna Nylander

Nicklas Lundblad

PJ



12:12 - EU VS THE POOR: 

Here is the average EU tariff against countries on different income levels, according to Open Europe:

High-income countries: 1.6%

Middle-income countries: 2.9%

Low-income countries: 5%

So the poorest countries face more than three times higher tariffs than the richest countries do. And as usual, this doesnīt include non-tariff barriers and it hides peak tariffs - like 427.9% on certain edible flours and meals of meat or meat offal, 276.9% on certain frozen meat and 209.8% on certain pineapple juices.



00:35 - IRRATIONALITY + 2.1 PERCENTAGE POINTS: 

Now it has been scientifically proven: Economic rationality and human decency has no effect on public policy. As the opposition to EU´s agricultural protectionism grows everywhere - from north to south, from left to right, from economists to NGOs - EU becomes more protectionist.

The WTO estimates that the EU average tariff (just an average that hides enormous tariffs where it matters) on agricultural goods was 18.6 percent in 2006, up from 16.5 percent in 2004, compared to 4 percent for non-farm goods.

(Via Fredrik Erixon)



Tuesday, 27/2/2007:

09:20 - THE MOST PRODUCTIVE POEM: 

I hereby nominate the haiku as the perfect art form for the 21st century. The haiku is really a form of creative destruction - you take out everything thatīs not essential, which fills every syllable with more meaning and improves the end result. And no matter how busy you are, you always have time for a haiku.

I have bookmarked Haiku Moderne, where two Swedes who master the art of senryū guide me through the day. Or how about this:

"Den ubåtsgrå perrongen
Sågspånet skyler spyorna hjälpligt
Bohusläns klippor fjärran"

Or this one, called "Transfetter":

"Pärlande partiklar
Ett cellernas fängelse
Att en skorpa kunde vara så farlig"



08:40 - AVVAKTANDE UTSKOTTET: 

De som tror att politiken är långsiktighetens korrektiv mot den kortsiktiga marknaden bör läsa Arena, där tidigare Metallchefen Göran Johnsson berättar om sin tid i Socialdemokraternas verkställande utskott:

"Jag är förvånad över att vi inte en enda gång under alla år diskuterade, med lite större perspektiv, hur vi ville att Sverige skulle se ut i framtiden."

Annars tycker man ju att de någon gång kunde ha diskuterat t ex detta med adjungerade VU-ledamoten Nalin Pekgul (ur SvD i dag):

"Det är mycket lättare att rekrytera en självmordsbombare i Sveriges invandrartäta förorter än i Istanbul och Kairo. ... Om du är troende muslim, men har respekt för demokratin och tycker att kvinnor och män ska leva jämställda, kan du få en tuff match i Tensta. De extrema religiösa grupperna blir bara starkare, identitetslösheten gör att många dras dit."



Monday, 26/2/2007:

11:22 - PLANNED ECONOMIES CAN ALSO PRODUCE CONSUMER GOODS: 

Speaking of Scott Adams, he just found the recipe for North Korean stir fried chicken:

"- Build a nuclear warhead
- Trade the nuclear warhead for a chicken (remember to ask for change)
- Kill the chicken
- Stir fry it"



Sunday, 25/2/2007:

12:48 - ILL WILL: 

Of course, historically there have been several ways to organise work in a non-market oriented way. Scott Adams recently commented on the news that archeologists have found a Pharaoīs butler in an underground tomb:

"I can imagine the scene 3,000 years ago at the reading of the pharaoh’s will. The butler is standing there all hopeful, thinking īI finally have my freedom. Now all I want is that golden goblet that was over the fireplace, and I’m set for life. I told him a thousand times how much I liked it. Please, please, please.ī

Then the Egyptian lawyer reads the will, and when it gets to the part about the butler it says, īWrap up what-his-name and stick him in the tomb. I might need him in the afterlife.ī

Worst… boss… ever."



12:40 - FROM EACH ACCORDING TO HIS OWN FREE WILL, TO EACH AS A RESULT OF THIS: 

It makes sense to pay people for the work they do and to charge them for the services they use. But don´t take my word for it. This is the conclusion of 85 percent of the members of Degania, Israel´s first and most famous kibbutz, who just voted to introduce a market system.

The Guardian reports: "Around two-thirds of the country´s 230 or so kibbutzim have adopted similar privatisation plans in recent years".

(Via Cafe Hayek)



Saturday, 24/2/2007:

16:39 - ARTICLE 19: 

"Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice."

- UNīs International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, signed by Egypt, that just sentenced 22-year old Abdelkareem to four years in prison because of his views. More here and here.



16:08 - MORE FLEXIBLE WORKING HOURS: 

The need to make organisations more flexible and dynamic in a faster and more globalised world has effects everywhere, according to FT.

Japanese statisticians report that the number of part-time gangsters has for the first time outstripped regular employees in Japanīs mobs. In 1991, 33 per cent of the gang membership were part-timers, in 2006 it had increased to 51 per cent. But itīs difficult to collect the data:

"Estimates of the size of crime-related activity remain notoriously sketchy, making it impossible for economists to calculate gains in total mobster factor productivity."

(Thanks Henrik)



15:52 - LISTEN TO THE VOTERS, DONīT OBEY THEM: 

"Some rice farmers from Congressman Ron Paulīs district were in his office the other day, asking for this and that from the federal government. The affable Republican from south Texas listened nicely, then forwarded their requests to the appropriate House committee. It may or may not satisfy their requests in some bill dispensing largesse to agricultural interests. Then Paul will vote against the bill.

He believes, with more stubbornness than evidence, that the federal government is a government of strictly enumerated powers, and nowhere in the Constitutionīs enumeration (Article I, Section 8) can he find any reference to rice."

- George F Will in Newsweek about Ron Paul, a conservative who wants to conserve Americaīs liberal constitution. (Thanks Roland)



Thursday, 22/2/2007:

13:20 - BAD NEWS: 

The Egyptian blogger Kareem has just been sentenced to four years in prison. Being non-religious cost him three years of his life, being a democrat cost him another year.



13:12 - THE NUMBER 23: 

Today the business magazine Veckans Affärer lists me as Sweden´s 23rd biggest "super talent".

One only wonders, with Johan Folin, if it´s a blessing or a curse.



11:36 - CURIOSITY: 

This is a great picture from the demonstration that I found on Fredrik Malm´s blog. Observe the curious gentleman from the Egyptian Embassy in the background.



10:08 - FREE KAREEM: 

Yesterday we had our demonstration for free speech and against the trial of Abdelkareem outside the Egyptian Embassy in Stockholm. Henrik Alexandersson lost his voice, but the liberal MP Fredrik Malm and I gave brief speeches. It´s not the only rally for Kareem around the world (we´ve seen them from Chicago to Bucarest), but it was certainly the one in the harshest weather conditions, below ten degrees Celsius.

Thanks to those of you who defied the weather and the opponents of free speech, and to Jonas Virdalm, who organised it.

The event was covered in Metro today, page 7, and on the Free Kareem site.


Pictures by Henrik Bejke.



09:48 - KRISTINA: 

Marry him



Tuesday, 20/2/2007:

12:09 - T MINUS 24 HOURS: 

Meet us there.

Swedish bloggers, please spread the word.



11:49 - 2+1=4: 

No matter what you do, nothing can really prepare you for a third family member. But even more peculiar is the fact that you also get a fourth member of the family, with a lot of say about all major family decisions via the family budget - the government. This is what my Dagens Industri column today is about (only for subscribers).



Monday, 19/2/2007:

09:52 - ABDELKAREEMīS FATHER WANTS HIM DEAD: 

This is such a tragic story. As if having Egypt´s government against you wasn´t enough. Abdelkareem´s family has now disowned him, and his father calls him a "monkey" who just imitates Western atheists. And he says that he wants his own son killed if he doesn´t repent.

Now, more than ever, Kareem needs our support. Please, please, please, come to our manifestation for free speech on Wednesday:

The Egyptian Embassy

Strandvägen 35, Stockholm

Wednesday, 21 February, 12.00

Speakers:

Henrik Alexandersson, blogger

Fredrik Malm, Member of Parliament

Johan Norberg, author

Jonas Virdalm, organiser



09:06 - THE NEW PARENT’S FAVOURITE TECHNOLOGY: 

When Mario Vargas Llosa first thought that he would become a father, he wasn’t precisely overjoyed:

“The news came as an indescribable shock to me, because I was convinced at the time (was this too an obvious proof of Sartre’s influence on me?) that my vocation might possibly be compatible with marriage, but that it would irremediably founder if children who had to be fed, dressed, and educated entered the picture. Goodbye dreams of going to France! Goodbye plans to write extra-long novels!” (A Fish in the Water)

I see where heīs coming from. But three children, several trips to France and extra-long novels later we know that it doesn’t have to be this way. And as I have now found out, all the housework gives you the time to do a lot of research. When you spend so much time cleaning and doing the dishes and the laundry (again and again) you also get the chance to listen to the radio (P1) and to podcasts more than ever.

A great place to go is The Economist, of course. There you can listen to interviews with authors who summarise the surveys you might not have the time to read, and to columns that aren’t published in the magazine.

Another favourite is the Cato Institute which gives you the opportunity to listen to all the conferences you would have wanted to visit - discussions on Iran, US inequality and P J OīRourkeīs latest book, for example.

If you understand Swedish, take a look at Timbro’s podcasts. Since you wonīt hear them in Sommar i P1, this is a unique chance to listen to personal thoughts from some of Sweden’s most interesting liberals. They are all worth listening to, for example Nicklas Lundblad’s successful attempt to turn law into a science fiction story.

In fierce competition, my personal favourite is Anders Hjemdahl, who gives a brilliant and emotional inside story of the temptations of extreme leftism, and the way out. And it’s also the only podcast I’ve ever heard which plays Sisterhood. Don’t miss it.



Sunday, 18/2/2007:

12:52 - ITīS NOT YOU, ITīS THE PUBLISHERS: 

Donīt you agree that itīs difficult to find the time for all those interesting new books? Well, we really have to start to prioritize, says Susan Elderkin:

"A book is published every 30 seconds. This includes 10,000 new novels a year, with nearly 10 times that many on publishersī back lists. The number of books in the world is growing at five times the rate of the human population. Even if you read full-time youīd need 163 lifetimes to get through all the books currently offered on Amazon."



Friday, 16/2/2007:

16:33 - MARK YOUR CALENDAR FOR KAREEM: 

Several times I have written about the Egyptian blogger Abdelkareem, who has been detained since November because he spoke his mind. On February 22nd Kareem will be the first Egyptian to stand trial for Internet-based journalism. Because of his arguments for secularism, women’s rights and free speech this 22-year old blogger faces up to 11 years in jail. More information here.

Right now several Swedish bloggers and others are preparing a protest against this attack on freedom of expression. Please help us to show support for human rights in Egypt. Mark your calendar, and if you are a blogger, please spread the word.

Meet us outside the Egyptian Embassy

Strandvägen 35, Stockholm

Wednesday, 21 February, 12.00

More information will follow...



12:15 - MORE ON THE WAR ON DRUGS: 

There is something about drugs that make people lose their mind. And then I am not talking about the addicts.

TV4 Nyheterna yesterday informed us that not a single intravenous addict in Skåne has been infected with HIV since 2000, where a needle exchange programme is in place. In Stockholm, where there is no such programme, 24 addicts got HIV last year. And still, the centre-right majority in Stockholm refuses to start one, since it claims that there is no evidence for its efficiency.

As I understand it, the only basis for this claim is the fact that the number of addicts is too small there to reach any statistically significant results in any direction whatsoever (not even the result that heroin is bad for you). Hardly a reason to force people to share used needles.

Meanwhile, Arquette reports that a government authority might fire an employee because heīs critical of the present drug policy.



Thursday, 15/2/2007:

23:05 - BUT THIS TIME IT IS A RACE TO THE BOTTOM: 

"My friend was visibly shaken. He had just learned that he had lost one of his clients to Chinese competitors. īIt’s amazing,ī he told me. īThe Chinese have completely priced us out of the market. We can’t compete with what they’re able to offer.ī

There’s nothing surprising about that, of course; manufacturing jobs are lost to China every day. But my friend is not in manufacturing. He works in foreign aid."

- Moisés Naím in New York Times on Chinaīs aid to any country, no matter how corrupt or authoritarian. (via Fredrik Erixon)



18:12 - INCENTIVES WORK - BRITISH SINGLE PARENTS DONīT: 

"U.N. report says Britain worst place for children" apparently, and Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands are the best. And it didn´t take long before people suggested that this was because of Britain´s "dog-eat-dog"-society and its reliance on "the invisible hand".

So it´s worth reminding everybody that the British state is unique in one aspect when it comes to children: It pays single parents not to work until the youngest child is 16. So it´s not strange that Britain has more single parents, more unemployed parents and more poor children than other countries.

This was recently admitted by Britain´s Secretary of State for work and pensions, John Hutton:

"The UK has one of the highest proportions of families headed by a lone parent in Europe. And yet despite the progress we have made in increasing the lone parent employment rate since 1997 – now up over 11 percentage points to 56.5 per cent - we still have the lowest lone parent employment rate of any major European country.

Coupled with this, we ask very little of lone parents on benefit – with a requirement to look for work that only begins when the youngest child reaches 16.

By contrast countries whose welfare systems are held up as beacons of progressive social values, such as Sweden and Denmark, make little distinction between lone parents and other benefit recipients in terms of the obligation to look for work. As a result, they have lone parent employment rates as high as 80 per cent.

Furthermore in the UK, when the youngest child reaches 16, there is evidence that as many as a third of lone parents move almost seamlessly onto Incapacity Benefit or make a further claim for income support within the following 12 months. None of this should come as a surprise. If a person has been out of the labour market for 10 or 15 years, during which time they have had little help or support, they are obviously going to find it difficult moving straight from Income Support on to JSA and being required to actively seek work. This just isn’t good enough.

We know that children of lone parents not in work are over five times more likely to be in poverty than children of lone parents in full time employment."



Wednesday, 14/2/2007:

15:07 - THE TRANSITION WONīT BE PEACEFUL: 

"Putinīs top people currently control huge amounts of wealth through state companies. Because they do not officially own these companies, they have to operate through informal contracts, often worth billions of dollars. But they cannot defend these informal contracts in court. People kill for less, and Russia has already seen a regression to the high-level commercial murders of the mid-1990s. Regardless of who takes over, many of Putinīs top officials will likely fear the loss of their fortunes and will do whatever they can -- meaning a lot -- to ensure that a real transition does not take place."

- Anders Åslund in Moscow Times on why the Russian governmentīs takeover of the economy destroys the government. (Via Fredrik Erixon)



Tuesday, 13/2/2007:

18:08 - YES COMMISSIONER: 

Here is the Yes Minister version:

Jim Hacker: "There´s an office in the European Commission where they pay people to produce food and next door there´s another office where they pay people to destroy food!"

EU Bureaucrat (outraged): "That is not true!"

Sir Humphrey: "Oh really?"

EU Bureaucrat: "They are not even on the same floor!"

And here it is again, in real life:

"Smoking could be banned in all public buildings throughout the European Union within two years."

- Plans from EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou.

€1 billion

- EU´s tobacco subsidies in 2006.



Monday, 12/2/2007:

15:10 - WHEN DOES THE WAR ON BUREAUCRACY START?: 

"In a survey late last year, America scored more than twice as badly as the next region (the Middle East) on traveller friendliness. Respondents said they feared immigration officials more than terrorists."

- The Economist about the fact that overseas visitors to the US has fallen by 17% since 2000.



12:19 - FREE TRADE MODELS: 

I debated globalisation with Maud Johansson from Forum Syd in Studio Ekdal yesterday. She said that free trade is overrated, and pointed to the fact that the World Bankīs estimates of possible gains from the Doha Round are much less optimistic than they used to be.

As I pointed out, that is a strange argument coming from her, since she is a defender of developing country protectionism. One of the reasons why we will see smaller gains is that developing countries (especially China) have continued to liberalise since the first models were done (with data from 1997), so some of those benefits have already occured and wonīt be the result of the Doha Round.

Another reason is that the Doha Round is much less ambitious than many of us hoped. Specifically, it is the prospect of minimal trade liberalisation in developing countries that harms the poorest (about half of their gains would have come from their own liberalisation). So the smaller gain in the new models - another 2.5 million liberated from extreme poverty until 2015 rather than 100 million - is not a sign that free trade is overrated, but that it is undersold.



Sunday, 11/2/2007:

15:06 - MY LETTER: 

My lecture "Entrepreneurs are the heroes of the world", loosely based on my new book När människan skapade världen, has been published as a Catoīs Letter, a quarterly publication from the Cato Institute.



Friday, 9/2/2007:

12:05 - THE LETHAL DANGERS OF BEING TOO RISK-AVERSE: 

Recently, some weak and contradictory evidence pointed to the possibility that antidepressants could increase suicidal thoughts among the young. In the beginning of 2004, the American Food and Drug Administration, FDA, introduced strongly worded warnings on antidepressants, implying that young people might kill themselves if they used it. After all, the precautionary principle says that it is better to err on the side of caution.

Naturally, doctors and parents paid close attention. Gilbert Ross reports that the warning and the surrounding publicity contributed to a 20 percent reduction in prescriptions for antidepressants for people under 19 in just one year. Suddenly, many young in severe depression were deprived of their treatement. And probably partly as a result, the suicide rate in that age group increased by 18 percent.



Thursday, 8/2/2007:

11:23 - SO WHERE IS THE MARKET THAT FAILED?: 

In a brief response in DN today (not online) I criticise Anders Wijkman for calling overfishing and forest depletion market failures. He happened to pick two perfect examples of how a lack of property rights has resulted in the tragedy of the commons. The only market failure is that governments have failed to introduce markets.

In this lecture I look at the problem and outline the solution.



10:41 - THE MIRACLE CALLED JUST ANOTHER DAY: 

Some time ago I got a link from Gudmundson. I just have to show it to you, and the accompanying explanation below:

"What you are about to see is a graphical representation of commercial air flights over the US on any given day. You will see dawn on the east coast as more and more flights get airborne, and watch morning spread to the west as the country comes alive. It is one of the most beautiful marriages of science and art I have ever seen. It is HERE. ...

Every dot in that animation is a jetliner, carrying hundreds of people. This is the first time I have ever actually seen the miracle that takes place in our skies every single day.

Why am I showing you this? Well, because every single dot in that ocean of sparks is a successful flight. Tens of thousands of flights land in this country every single day and no one says a word about it. And yet, when there is an accident – and you would have to watch every dot in that animation almost 2000 times to get back to the last fatal accident by a large-scale carrier – that sticks in our minds, obviously, and that image of burning wreckage is what stays with some people on their entire flight. They do not think about all the millions of flights that land safely.

- Out of context from Eject! Eject! Eject!



Wednesday, 7/2/2007:

17:34 - EN BOK SOM KAN STARTA EN NY FRIHETSDEBATT: 

Fredrik Bergström & Robert Gidehag: Till 40 procent fri



Tuesday, 6/2/2007:

16:57 - TRADE UNIONS 2 - SWEDEN 0: 

The trade unionsī blockades against and bullying of companies without collective agreement has been praised by the government as "Swedish tradition". Whatever it is, itīs hughly efficient:

30 January: Skandro Trade is forced to move to the Czech Republic.

6 February: Sofia Appelgren is forced to sell her salad bar Wild nī Fresh.

Letīs see how many entrepreneurs and jobs they can destroy before the end of the year.



15:59 - CORRECTION: SEA LEVEL RISE: 

When I wrote that the IPCC summary had revised its worst scenario on sea level rise in the next 100 years downwards, I was wrong. It has come down from between 9 and  88 centimetres to between 18 and 59 centimeters, but that is apparently not because it is less serious, but because the new report does not include models on dynamic shifts in ice sheets, which the old one did. It is excluded because the whole issue is now considered more uncertain - and possibly more serious. (Thanks Per)



15:49 - I SPOIL THEIR FUN: 

After my last post, Francis mailed me the best argument against criticising pessimistic distortions of good news:

"Enough of your shameless optimism, Johan! You know full well that the English enjoy a good whinge, so why not leave them to it? Itīs a cathartic exercise for them."



10:49 - IT COULD HAVE READ "LONDON IS GETTING SAFER": 

On Financial Timesī cover today we learn that "London tops danger list" and that it is "the most dangerous capital in the European Union".

Thatīs all most readers will ever read about the new crime survey the paper presents. Stop reading there if you want to feel safe and secure in your pessimism. Only at the very end of the article, the big picture is presented:

"However, overall levels of common crime  (theft, burglary, assault) continued to fall across the EU. Fifteen per cent of people were victims in 2004, against 21 per cent in 1995, the study revealed.

The survey showed that crime in the UK had also decreased since 1995, but not as fast as in the rest of the EU."



Monday, 5/2/2007:

21:24 - (S)TÖRSTA MÖJLIGA TYSTNAD: 

"- Hushållsnära tjänster, det var ytterligare en punkt. Vad vill du veta där?

- Att det över huvud taget inte diskuteras i partiet. …

- Det ska socialdemorkaterna inte ens diskutera?

- Nej."

I P1-morgon villkorar skånske LO-mannen Claes Bloch sitt stöd för Mona Sahlin med att han ska få slippa testa sina argument. I kväll förklarade han sig ha fått som han ville.



11:48 - ARE YOU HUNGRY?: 

Financial Times reports that Ukraine implemented export quotas on grain to keep domestic prices low. The result: The agricultural sector has lost hundreds of millions of dollars and has lost foreign markets to Kazakhstan and Russia. Gigantic stockpiles have been built up and thousands of tonnes of rotting crops are dumped into the Black Sea.

But the EU canīt gloat. The British government details the food mountains that EU subsidies have created:

265 million bottles of wine

12 187 741 tonnes of cereals 

1 112 651 tonnes of sugar

117 831 tonnes of butter and milk

61 589 tonnes of rice

My suggestion would be to eliminate all subsidies and celebrate this with a gigantic party with curries and wine for the whole EU population. It could get really exciting since the EU barriers against textiles makes trousers and shirts more expensive...



10:03 - UPDATE ON GRENADA: 

In the paper edition of DN today, the Grenada article is published without the paragraphs about the invasion.



Sunday, 4/2/2007:

13:38 - WHAT EVERY READER SHOULD KNOW ABOUT GRENADA: 

Today, DN publishes a TT-AP article saying that America invaded Grenada in 1982 because it wanted to replace Maurice Bishop´s leftist government with a liberal one.

That´s a lot of mistakes for such a short article. The invasion took place the year after, on October 25th 1983. And Maurice Bishop wasn´t in power when it happened. He wasn´t even alive.

Bishop (whose leftists policies consisted in never allowing democratic elections, cooperating with Cuba and supporting Soviet´s invasion of Afghanistan) was overthrown on October 19th 1982 by the Stalinist Bernard Coard who thought that Bishop was too democratic and market-oriented, massacred protesters and executed Bishop and his supporters.



12:03 - CARBON TAX - SOCIALISM OR THE ALTERNATIVE TO IT?: 

Apparently you readers have very different opinions on my proposal to introduce a carbon tax. On the one hand there are those who say:

"That´s exactly how to do it. Right now, politicians have the planned economy-mindset. They legislate, they regulate and arbitrarily pick winners and subsidise the technology they like the best - with our money. The free market-solution is to let the polluters pay and let markets pick the greener alternatives."

- Chris

On the other hand, there are those who think this:

"Global Carbon Tax, WTF, this doesn’t appear like a huge socialist wet dream to tax breathing to you? I am very upset to even hear these words come from you."

- Arthur

The Swedish blogger Stefan Ruthström is also critical.

Here is William Nordhaus´ argument for a carbon tax and here is a new Carbon Tax Center that I haven´t had the time to look at.

Saturday, 3/2/2007:

13:18 - IPCC VS THE SCAREMONGERS: 

It´s strange that...

No, I´ll take that back. It´s not strange at all, it´s completely predictable.

It´s interesting that the coverage of the IPCC´s Summary for Policymakers has been focused on the conclusion that it is "very likely" that global warming is man-made. It´s interesting, because that is the one thing from the report that everybody already took for granted.

What would be news if someone had cared to report it is that the doomsday predictions from Al Gore, Nicholas Stern, Planeten and Aftonbladet that suddenly became mainstream - about dramatically increasing temperatures, Greenland and Antartica melting and sea-levels rising several meters - find no support in the report. These are some of the things it says:

- Sea levels will most likely increase somewhere between 0.18 and 0.59 meters (the worst case is down from 0.88 in the last report).

- Antarctica is expected to gain in mass due to increased snowfall.

- Greenland´s ice would only disappear if current trends continue for thousands of years (I don´t know about you, but I don´t think we´ll be using oil in the year 3007 (at least not if we run out of oil in the next few decades, as the pessimists used to complain about).

- And those of you who search for solutions in the past, with economies going local and with less technological development, should know that this would lead to faster warming, according to the report.

 - And for those of you who fear that the Gulf Stream will shut down after having seen The day after tomorrow, it´s worth pointing out that the report says this is just as likely as they think it is that global warming is not man-made.

Journalists and pundits point out that these are just scenarios and likely ranges and that things could get worse than this since there are so many parameters that we don´t understand. Sure. And for the same reason it can get better than this. But that wouldn´t be a story, would it?

>

Friday, 2/2/2007:

09:45 - I AM NO FRIEND OF TAXES, BUT...: 

Politicians don´t usually act long-term, to impose costs on present voters to avoid costs on voters in 100 years. So why do most of them embrace the IPCC´s results and demand immediate action against global warming? I suspect that it is not just the evidence that convinces them.

I think one contributing factor is that it makes them nostalgic. They´re back in the game. Suddenly they have the public´s blessing to pour billions and billions of dollars on people and industries that they like. As long as some form of technology can be portrayed as a way to reduce greenhouse gases, the tax payers´ money is up for grabs.

This is also a reason to worry. Politicians aren´t clairvoyant. They can´t pick environmental winners any more than they can pick business winners. Which technology is the best? Bio fuels, sun power, sequestration, clean gas, nuclear power, something elso? Who knows? I don´t. Neither does Blair, Prodi, Reinfeldt or Bush. This will be the result of unpredictable scientific developments, technological breakthroughs and the consumers´ behaviour. And if governments support some of them at our expense it might harm the prospects for the real solution, which history tells us often comes from behind, completely unforeseen.

This is why we need fixed rules, not fixers, as Hayek would put it. The best policy would be a global carbon tax that forces us to pay for our contribution to global warming. It would at the same time improve the economic prospects of all the alternatives to the extent that they are efficient, without picking and chosing according to their present relationship to the government, or according to the politicians´ best guesses.

This would imitate a market since people would bear their own costs in a (realtively) simple and transparent way and there would be free and unsubsidised competition between the alternatives, that won´t be manipulated by special interests. And that is probably why most politicians will oppose it.



Thursday, 1/2/2007:

15:55 - POLITICAL TRIAL ADJOURNED: 

There is still time to protest against the Egyptian trial of Kareem in a dignified and respectful manner. Tom Palmer reports that the sentencing was postponed:

"Today’s trial reportedly got so chaotic to the point where the judge had to adjourn it again until feb 22.

The prosecution and defense almost got into a physical fight in the courtroom. And 10 Islamist lawyers showed up with a letter of complaint, arguing before the judge that Kareem is a ‘nasty disbeliever’."

At the same time, the lawyers are not too optimistic:

"there hasn´t been a single case of acquittal in a disdain for religions-trial yet. People accused of that always end up in jail. Always."




10:36 - THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING: 

Apparently, the Egyptian government thinks that its authority is so weak and that its religious ideas are so fragile that they can be destroyed by a 22 year old blogger. I met Abdelkareem in Cairo last year, and I have written before about him being jailed in November. Today he stands trial for criticising Islam and the dictatorship, and this young man risks spending his next ten years in prison for speaking his mind.

Christian Science Monitor and Svenska Dagbladet writes about the case.  

Please help Kareem by showing that the rest of the world cares about him and the future of Egypt. You can sign the petition, and if you are Swedish, you can write a respectful protest email to the Egyptian Embassy: embassyofegypt@telia.com

Because of its history and position, Egypt can lead the Arab world towards modernisation and human rights. Right now it seems intent in leading it backwards instead.



10:06 - SO IF YOU SOCIALISE TELECOM, YOU DONīT NEED FORMAL DEMOCRACY?: 

"Socialism is democracy".

- The supportersī signs outside Venezuelaīs Congress as it gave Hugo Chávez the right to rule the country by presidential decree.




 

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