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In Defence of Global Capitalism
 
Globalisation is Good



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GlobLog - April 2008
A direct link to each entry is obtained by using the button below the entry.


Tuesday, 29/4/2008:

14:12 - GLOBALISERINGSVÄNLIGA SOCIALDEMOKRATER: 

Kvällspostens Peter J Olsson undrar om jag är på väg att bli en ”ny s-ikon” efter att ha fått ett pressmeddelande om socialdemokratiska Tidens senaste nummer:

”Arbetarrörelsens Tankesmedjas styrelseordförande Göran Johnsson och Lars-Olof Pettersson utmanar genom att slå ett slag för ett av Timbro-högerns affischnamn, Johan Norberg. När det gäller att ta ställning till globaliseringens roll för samhällsutvecklingen bör vi socialdemokrater lyssna på honom snarare än på vänsterikoner som Naomi Klein, menar de.”

Artikeln är också mycket intressant och lovande för oss som undrar över varför den socialdemokratiska idédebatten inte i högre utsträckning vårdar den öppenhetstradition den svenska arbetarrörelsen har stått för:

”Sällan eller aldrig hör vi socialdemokrater diskutera just det som är klotets framgångssaga de senaste decennierna… Världen är långt ifrån rättvis. Men om vi inte förmår att se framgångarna kan vi heller inte bedöma de faktorer som ligger bakom. […]

Vi tror att välfärdsstatens försvarare, och vi är många i det här landet, ändå måste lägga oss vinn om att se marknadsekonomins framsteg. Vårt eget välstånd är en frukt av fungerande marknader.”



13:58 - DAGENS BÄSTA RUBRIK: 

Den självkritiske och genuint reko Johan Sjölander (s) bloggar i dag under rubriken "Mitt vedervärdiga personangrepp på hedersknyffeln Johan Norberg". Utan ironi.

Bästa raden: 

"Det är grundlöst. Insinuant. Osant. Jag borde skämmas (eller eventuellt börja jobba för DN:s kultursidor)."



09:42 - DAGENS MAIL: 

Från Johan (nej, en annan):

"Noterar att Maria Schottenius i dagens DN anser att hon har gjort rätt som lät Leif Zern recensera Lars Norén. Intressant är vilka argument hon anför. På slutet av sin text, när hon har konstaterat att beslutet var rätt skriver hon: ´Något som också bekräftas av den stora mängd positiva reaktioner som strömmat in´.

Positiva reaktioner karaktäriseras tydligen inte som mejlbombning.

Vem behöver logik och stingens när man har utrymme?"



09:30 - DAGENS SKÖRD: 

I dag har jag två artiklar publicerade, och händelsen ser ut som en tanke: Staten göder sig själv med spelmonopol och hindrar världens fattiga att få mat genom regleringar:

- "Protektionism göder svältkatastrofen" i Expressen

- "Syna bluffen om monpolet" i Dagens Industri (bara för prenumeranter)



00:19 - THE FUTURE OF FOOD III: 

Skyscarpers are not just good for growing crops. The Netherlands has a big pig industry and is also seeing a growing interest in organic farming. But if purely organic farming methods were introduced and meat consumption stayed at today´s levels, the pig industry would need 75% of the surface area of the Netherlands.

Therefore the architecture office MVRDV proposes "Pig City", several towers, 622 meters high, where the pigs get more space, perfect conditions and big balconies with trees. Not the traditional pigsty...

(Thanks Simon)



Monday, 28/4/2008:

13:58 - WHATEVER THE QUESTION, CAP IS ALWAYS THE ANSWER: 

Say what you like about the French and their agricultural protectionism, but they are consistent. In 2003, the French agricultural minister Herve Gaymard defended the CAP by saying that poor countries should not concentrate on large-scale farming and export markets:

"...food cannot be left to the mercy of market forces"

Today we have a food crisis because poor countries have not been able to develop large-scale farming and export markets, partly because of the CAP. But obviously, the French agricultural minister Michel Barnier explains that the probem is too much markets and too little protectionism.

"What we are now witnessing in the world is the consequence of too much free-market liberalism" 



07:36 - EN HYPOTETISK KALKON: 

Om den norska regeringen beslöt sig för att upphandla cateringtjänster från Ingelsta kalkon, men bara på villkor att den svenska regeringen köpte mer av Ingelstas uppgraderade filéfat och exotiska buffébräda, borde den svenska regeringen göra det? Om inte, varför ska vi tänka på något annat sätt när det gäller stridsflygplan?



Sunday, 27/4/2008:

22:19 - THE FUTURE OF FOOD II: 

Are you afraid that the world is running out of land for agriculture in the future? Don´t be: we can create land, for example with the new concept of "vertical farms".

Just look at SKYFarm above, proposed for Toronto by the architect Gordon Graff. It is a 58 floor skyscraper with 740,000 square meters of growing space with perfect soil and lightning, protected from disease and bad weather and with no pollution of water sources nearby. One building like that can feed around 35,000 people each year.

Another vertical farm will be finished in Las Vegas in 2010 and in Tokyo they already farm underground.

(Via Framtidsbloggen



20:17 - THE FUTURE OF FOOD I: 

Meat production is responsible for 18 percent of all greenhouse gases and increases food prices since you need grain to feed the animals. Therefore, Expressen´s Ann-Charlotte Marteus suggests that we should stop eating meat. But there is another way: We can grow meat.

To produce meat today, 75 to 95 percent of what we feed the animal is lost on metabolism and inedible structures, but with in vitro meat production we would only create the meat we eat. And a test tube does not have a digestive system that produces very potent greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide.

A steak is a complex structure, but bioengineers already have the technology to grow hamburgers and sausages. And it´s an efficient way to end cruelty against the animals.

"Homemade" takes on a whole new meaning.



12:38 - REGERINGENS STÖRSTA SVEK: 

All makt korrumperar och utnämningsmakt korrumperar på ett särskilt utmärkande sätt.



Saturday, 26/4/2008:

12:43 - CHINA REDUCES US INEQUALITY: 

Wow.

If there is something everybody agrees on, it is that inequlity is increasing in the US, and that trade with China is partly to blame. But everybody haven´t read this yet. Chicago economists Christian Broda and John Romalis look (pdf) at inflation rates between 1994 and 2005, and find that rates are much lower for goods (partly because of imports from China) than on services. This is interesting because the poor consume more goods and the rich more services.

This means that inflation rates for the richest ten percent outpaced inflation rates for the poorest by about 4 percent. This wipes out two thirds of the rise in inequality during these years, and China is responsible for half of that reduction. This is - or at least, it should be - influential findings in the US trade debate. Inequality is rising because of bigger education premiums, but trade helps to keep it lower. So the protectionists would not just make Ameria poorer but also more unequal.

Are we even sure that inequality is rising? Apparently the poor consume a larger proportion newer goods than the rich - a big surprise to me -  and inflation rates are notoriously bad at capturing initial price reductions. Broda and Romalis suggests that when this is taken into account, US inequality might not have increased at all 1994-2005.

Once in a while, everybody is wrong. How refreshing.

(Via Marginal Revolution)



Friday, 25/4/2008:

10:37 - NATURLIGT EXPERIMENT: 

Vad händer när jag och SvD:s blogg länkar till Andreas Bergh?



09:45 - EXTENDING THE MORAL COMMUNITY: 

Do you think that there is some inflation when it comes to the concept of "dignity"? You´ve heard nothing yet.

Nature reports that in Switzerland you are no longer allowed to offend the "dignity of plants". Biotechnology grant applications must now include a paragraph about how plant dignity is considered, for example if a certain technology hurts the plant´s "independence". The problem is that "scientists don´t know what it means", as one researcher puts it.

Via Anders Sandberg, who points out that it is difficult to think of a less dignified treatement than being cooked and eaten.



Thursday, 24/4/2008:

22:40 - THE MILTON FRIEDMAN PRIZE: 

This year´s winner is Yon Goicoechea, leader of the pro-democracy student movement in Venezuela.



22:18 - ALDRIG FÅR MAN VARA RIKTIGT GLAD: 

Andreas Henriksson - som kompenserar sin saklighet med att vara rubriksättaren from hell - korrigerar i två bloggposter mig och alla andra som trodde på historien att Obamas rådgivare förklarade för Kanadas ambassad att Naftakritiken mest var retorik. Trist. Jag vill inte ge upp hoppet om att Obama är smartare och frihandelsvänligare än han gör sig.

Jagdish Bhagwati hoppas också.

Sallie James låter däremot hoppet fara och tittar i stället på vad Obama har gjort - och han har röstat för tullar och subventioner vid 7 av de 11 tillfällen han har röstat.



19:44 - DE UTLOVAR OCKSÅ 16 GRADER OCH SOL I MORGON: 

Så här inledde Rapport nyss ett inslag om de globala livsmedelspriserna:

"Världsmarknadspriserna på spannmål ökar bland annat på grund av minskade skördar som ett resultat av klimatförändringarna [...]"

Enligt FAO var den globala skörden förra året nästan 2 110 miljoner ton - den största någonsin. Enligt FAO:s prognos kommer den i år att bli 2 164 miljoner ton.



14:55 - HÄRNÄST: GENUSVETENSKAP UTAN GENUSVETARE: 

här går det när s-studenterna anordnar kursen "En nationalekonomi för vänstern", noterar Andreas Bergh.



00:24 - NEW LIFE AND NEW CIVILISATIONS: 

"The open oceans, Earth´s last frontier, are the ideal place to nurture this vision of a better world. By making it safe and affordable to settle this frontier, we will give people the freedom to choose the government they want instead of being stuck with the government they get."

- Message from the new Seasteading Insititute, which has the aim to create new societies on the oceans.

(Thanks Joep)



Wednesday, 23/4/2008:

14:48 - WHAT ABOUT THE FOOTPRINT OF THOSE TANKERS?: 

So how does the American biofuel subsidies work? David Freddoso writes about the "blenders´ credit" that the republican Chuck Grassley invented which provides $1 for each gallon of biodiesel that is mixed with regular diesel. According to WTO rules this must be extended to foreign companies, which has given rise to a phenomena called "splash and dash":

"It works like this: A foreign tanker carrying 9 million gallons of biodiesel from Brazil or Malaysia sails to an American port. While it waits, 9,000 gallons of American diesel is added — that’s right, a .1 percent blend — so as to earn the blender a $9 million tax credit. The tanker heads to Europe, where diesel cars are far more common and biodiesel is further subsidized.

In some cases, tankers have reportedly made round trips from Europe to the U.S. simply to collect the subsidy. Thus we ´import and ´export´ the same fuel from and to the same country."

(Via The Insider)



12:56 - ONLY BECAUSE THE CHEERFUL DIDN´T MAKE THE RULES: 

Paul Krugman writes in NYT:

"You might say that this is my answer to those who cheerfully assert that human ingenuity and technological progress will solve all our problems. For the last 35 years, progress on energy technologies has consistently fallen below expectations."

Tyler Cowen responds:

"It´s worth noting that if we had to build today´s energy infrastructure working under the current regulatory and NIMBY burden, it probably could not be done.  So it shouldn´t be surprising that building a new energy infrastructure is proving so hard.  There´s a reason why many of us think deregulation is a big issue and it´s not because we want to see people poisoned by Chinese botchagaloop."



Tuesday, 22/4/2008:

10:55 - HUR MAN STYR INTEGRATIONSDEBATTEN: 

It takes a village, upptäcker Joakim Nilsson i Expressen.



Monday, 21/4/2008:

13:42 - OCH HON VAR INTE DEN ENDA SOM STOPPADES: 

"Ska han [chefredaktören] kunna bestämma över läsarombudsmannen?

– Det går inte att komma undan det. Problemet vore om jag blev mer stoppad än någon annan anställd, då vore det verkligen ett problem. Men det fanns andra som inte fick skriva om Norberg, säger hon."

- Lilian Öhrström till Resumé i dag (tack Gunilla)



09:34 - THORBJÖRN LARSSON STOPPADE KRITIK MOT DN KULTUR: 

Kjell Häglund undrade i Journalisten varför Dagens Nyheters läsarombudsman Lilian Öhrström inte med ett  ord berörde Malm/Schotteniusaffären trots den väldiga uppmärksamhet den ägnades i andra medier. Efter ett kort inslag i P1:s Medierna och ett svar i Journalisten börjar bilden av det skedda klarna. Öhrström hade faktiskt gjort en stor genomgång och förberedde en granskning av det skedda i sin spalt. Men dagen före publicering blev hon kallad till chefredaktör Thorbjörn Larsson, som förbjöd henne från att över huvud taget nämna affären i sin kolumn.

Öhrström, som nu avgår, kallade det inträffade "allvarligt" i Medierna. Det är det minsta man kan säga. Inte nog med att Dagens Nyheters kulturredaktion publicerar lögner utan att rätta dem eller medge replik. När den enda institutionen som tidningen har för självgranskning (Öhrström hade egentligen efterfrågat en rättelsespalt) vill ta upp ämnet så sätter chefredaktören stopp.

Hur ska man kunna lita på någonting i en sådan tidning framöver? Och varför alls utse en efterträdare till Öhrström som kommer att sakna trovärdighet då vi vet att han/hon kommer stoppas så fort de närmar sig ett känsligt ämne?

För övrigt var Larssons svepskäl för att stoppa Öhström att Schottenius mottagit mordhot och riskerade att få fler om läsarombudsmannen kritiserade henne i tidningen. Det är i sig naturligtvis en farlig metod att låta hot avgöra vad som publiceras, men det är också intressant eftersom Schottenius i en mailkorrespondens den 21 februari (dagen innan Larsson stoppade artikeln, jag har kvar mailet) förnekade att hon mottagit några direkta hot.

Som jag ser det finns det bara två alternativ: Antingen ljög Schottenius för Larsson för att få honom att stoppa kritiken, eller så ljög Larsson för Öhrström.

Det blir andra mediers uppgift att reda ut hur debatten dödades, för som synes är DN inte intreserat av självkritik och självsanering.



Friday, 18/4/2008:

23:50 - VEM ÖVERVAKAR I SÅ FALL ÖVERVAKARNA? : 

Läsarombudsmän finns för att chefredaktören inte ska kunna släppa igenom vad som helst utan konsekvenser. På Dagens Nyheter verkar bevakningen ha gått i motsatt riktning. Medievärlden skriver om vad morgondagens Medierna i P1 kommer att handla om:

"DN:s läsarombudsman Lilian Öhrström har anklagats för att vara för mesig. Nu avslöjar radioprogrammet Medierna att hon två gånger hindrats att skriva det hon vill av chefredaktören Thorbjörn Larsson, bland annat ville hon kommentera hanteringen av den kritik debattören Johan Norberg fått på tidningens kultursidor. Inslaget sänds i P1, lördag kl 11.03."

Det förklarar varför hon skrev det här i stället för att kommentera Malm/Schottenius när den debatten var som hetast.



12:18 - ATT FÖRTALA LEJONBORG: 

Och som Joakim påpekar i ett mail är Greider ute och slentrianskarvar när han påstår att Lars Leijonborg inte tydligt förömer Kinas diktatur (han påstår aldrig rätt ut att Lejonborg hyllar Kinas politiska system, han bara verkar mena att liberaler gillar det i hemlighet). Se bara på det landsmötestal (pdf) där Leijonborg talade om sin resa i Kina och Indien. Utdrag ur inledningen:

"Kina har under ett antal år lyckats kombinera superkapitalism med diktatur. Att världens största land förvägrar sin egen befolkning politisk frihet är en orimlighet och en säkerhetspolitisk riskfaktor. För att travestera det Bengt Westerberg sade om Sovjet i sitt installationstal som partiledare 1983: Ingenting skulle mer gagna freden och friheten i världen än om kommunistregimen i Kina ersattes av ett demokratiskt styre."

De flesta liberaler förmår hålla två tankar i huvudet samtidigt: Det är bra att Kina har sett historiens största fattigdomsminskning och det är dåligt att Kina är en diktatur. Det är skillnaden mot 70-talets radikala vänster som menade att retorik om fattigdomsminskning i Kina fick rättfärdiga en brutal diktatur (en inte oväsentlig skillnad var förstås också att den politik de hyllade ledde till mer fattigdom, inte mindre).



01:26 - GREIDER´S DREAMS AND FANTASIES: 

Göran Greider claims that China is the market-liberal´s dream: Free capitalism and political oppression. How strange then that Greider isn´t able to mention a single liberal who has expressed admiration for that combination. But Greider is right to point out the problem of rising tensions and instability in the rural areas (some of us liberals have written about that extensively before).

The Chinese government does not allow the farmers to own their land and one of the main reasons for violent protests (around 200 a day when the authorities stopped counting) is that the local communist party steals people´s land to sell it to companies and developers. And since the farmers arent allowed to sell their land they don´t get anything when they move to the cities which they have to in order to get a job, and they also lose their social benefits if they do.

The discontent and unrest are not results of too much liberalisation, but of the remnants of socialism in land and of restrictions on a free and mobile labour market. The socialist´s dream, in other words.

(Thanks David)



00:26 - NU BLIR DET LÄTTARE ATT BOJKOTTA OS: 

Med strategispelet Sid Meiers Kina kan man faktiskt bojkotta OS i Peking och stanna hemma framför datorn:

"Anordna ditt eget OS. Med unika grenar som bla. stridsvagns-race, kast med liten journalist, 100m taggtrådshinder, amerikansk vattengymnastik, regimkritikerskytte, munkpolo, m.m."

UPPDATERING 13.04: Marcus tycker att det är lite sent att vidarebefdra aprilskämt, men jag tolkade det snarare som tidlös samhällssatir. Så här ser ett aprilskämt ut. Nej förresten, det är ju också tidlös samhällssatir.



Thursday, 17/4/2008:

19:19 - FACT OF THE DAY: 

Five of the ten bestselling Japanese novels last year were written on mobile phones.



00:51 - THE GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS: 

This Tuesday I talked about the global food crisis in Studio Ett, a crisis that might result in the first increase in poverty and hunger in several generations. I explained that the dramatic rise in global food prices is not the result of bad harvests. The production was bigger than ever last year, and is projected to break the record again this year. Instead, it is the result of three major developments

- Less poverty, which means that the Chinese and Indians can afford to eat more and especially more meat (and to produce one kilogram of meat, it takes 8 kg of grain).

- The switch to biofuels. Because of subsidies especially in the US ethanol production now take almost five percent of the total global harvest, which is twice the total reduction of stocks this year. And according to the World Bank, the grain needed to fill up an SUV once could feed a person for a year.

- Countries like Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, India and Vietnam respond to the rise in prices with price controls and export barriers which means less incentives for their farmers to grow and invest more, and result in rising prices for the rest of the world.

So what should be done?

In the short term, we should abolish the ethanol subsidies, the price controls and the export barriers (and obviously the food tariffs) to soften the blow. But in the long term we must become better at producing food. There will be another 3 to 4 billion people on the planet in the next decades and they will eat much more per capita than we do today. We need to give farmers ownership to their land so that they can invest, we need to upgrade the entire food infrastructure with transport, communications, agricultural technology, water harvesting etc, and we need GMOs.

But for all of this to happen markets must be opened and rich country subsidies abolished so that farmers in poor countries get economics of scale and prices must be allowed to rise so that investments are encouraged. Any help to poor consumers must come as money or vouchers so that they can buy food, not in attempts to keep prices artificially low.

><

Wednesday, 16/4/2008:

12:08 - BERLUSCONI´S POLICIES ARE NO FUN AT ALL: 

I think Silvio Berlusconi is incredibly funny. When he ate some Italian mozzarella on stage to show that it is not poisonous and pretended to drop dead, I roared with laughter. Too few politicians dare to joke and provoke.

But Berlusconi´s sense of humour is also the only thing funny about him. His history of corruption and his designs of policies to benefit himself are bad enough. But his policies are often bizarre as well. For some reason, a lot of people think he is a liberal, and even my friend Johnny Munkhammar think that he can deliever "substantial reform" and says that "expectations are huge".

No they aren´t, they are non-existent. Berlusconi destroyed a foreign takeover of Alitalia because he wants a national air carrier and he wants to introduce tariffs on imports from Asia. He and his allies have also opposed all the deregulation of service markets the center-left delivered, and one of their candidates was the taxi driver who led the protests against taxi liberalisation.

As Wall Street Journal puts it:

"Mr. Berlusconi has turned out to be more of a corporatist averse to free-market competition than an economic liberal willing to do what Italy needs to revive its faltering economy"

UPDATE 2008-04-17: Johnny Munkhammar corrects my quotes and keeps hoping.



11:05 - ATT SMICKRA NAZISMEN: 

Det finns inga skäl att revidera Godwins lag, utan tvärtom att utvidga den och visa på fler tillämpningar. Senast var det en SSU:are som kallade Fredrick Federley nazist för att han stödde den enda entydigt demokratiska staten i Mellanöstern.

En annorlunda variant finns i dagens DN Kultur, där Ulrika Kärnborg säger att Kina inte kan jämföras med nazi-Tyskland - trots censur, slavläger, ockupation och en historia av massmord. Men så plötsligt vänder artikeln och Kärnborg skriver:

"Jämförelserna med Nazi-Tyskland känns plötsligt mer relevanta"

Vad är det som upprör Kärnborg så mycket att hon trots allt börjar prata nazism om inte politiskt förtryck gör det? Jo, att utländska företag anställer kineser för att tillverka skor och sportkläder i Kina. Som om Hitlers förbrytelser kan jämföras med företag (pdf) som betalar 30 procent mer än statsföretagen, är föredömen vad gäller arbetsförhållanden och har bidragit till historiens största fattigdomsminskning.

Med anti-nazister som Kärnborg behöver nationalsocialisterna inga fiender.



Tuesday, 15/4/2008:

11:50 - VÄLFÄRD OCH/ELLER SKATTESÄNKNING?: 

I Dagens Industri skriver jag i dag om Sveriges Kommuner och Landsting (SKL) som har visat att nio av tio svenskar hellre vill satsa på vård, omsorg och skola än på sänkta skatter. Självfallet, det skulle jag också svara om det är det enda sättet att utveckla bättre välfärd. Men jag undrar vad folk skulle svara om frågan formulerades annorlunda:

"Vill du ha sänkt skatt och möjlighet att satsa de pengarna direkt på bättre välfärd till dig och dina nära, eller ser du hellre att politiker tar dem och prioriterar fritt mellan dessa behov, främjande av hemslöjd, kommunala konsumentvägledare och diverse prestigeprojekt för att ´sätta regionen på kartan´?"

SKL bör dessutom tänka på detta: Det finns heller inget som visar att mer resurser med automatik ger bättre resultat... Tvärtom, att fokusera på resurser kan istället gå ut över arbetet med att förbättra kvaliteten.

Om inte annat så för att de två senaste meningarna inte var mina. De är ett direkt citat från Håkan Sörman, VD för
 SKL, när han skriver om äldreomsorgen.



09:21 - MEN KANSKE MILJÖKLASSADE STRIDSVAGNAR?: 

"Det är inte ens säkert att Folkets befrielsearmé börjar klimatkompensera när de flyger in sina förstärkningar till Lhasa."

- P J Anders Linder om att inte överdriva förväntningarna på Reinfeldts Kinabesök.



09:06 - YTTERLIGARE ETT MISSAT TIPS: 

Att polisen i Darlarna inte följde upp ett tips om 42-åringen förra året är tragiskt. Här kommer ett annat tips från en som egentligen inte är en hårdare-straff-och-längre-batonger-kverulant: En man som sedan 1994 två gånger har dömts för försök till våldtäkt och tre gånger för misshandel av kvinnor kanske inte ska gå runt fritt i vårt samhälle.



Monday, 14/4/2008:

14:50 - WHY WE SHOULDN´T BOYCOTT THE GAMES: 

I´ve been asked what I think about boycotting the Olympic Games in China.  When it comes to economic boycotts I am almost always opposed, because it is a way of hurting the people, strengthening the rulers and to reduce the wealth creation and international contacts that have historically contributed to democratisation. And we seem to care much more about what happens in countries we have a lot of contacts with. Blocking the resources the rulers have abroad and restrict their travels are far superior ways of punishing them.

When it comes to boycotting meetings and events it all depends. The question should not be how a boycott makes us feel, but what kind of an effect it might have in that country. I think boycotting them can be an efficient way to show that the world does not accept a certain regime, especially if it is getting worse (which is why Germany should not have had the Olympics in 1936) or if there is a chance of giving the people moral support from abroad (which is why Reagan´s condemnation of the Soviet Union worked).

But if the regime is getting better and/or if it enjoys broad popular support for an event, boycotting them might have the opposite effect - it might strengthen the opponents of the reform and give people the impression that we are not just opposed to the regime, but the country in itself.

I am not certain, but I think that is the case this time. China still has a horrible regim, but it has liberalised a lot in the last decades to reach out to the rest of the world. If we give China the games only to boycott it, this might lead to a strong popular nationalist reaction and the modernisers who have based their arguments on the idea that a globalised and more liberalised China would earn the respect of the world would lose out in the power struggle.

I fear that the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo has a point:

"If the Games fail, human rights will suffer. The government would stop paying any attention to the rest of the world."

It´s proably better to go there, enjoy the games and talk about freedom.



Sunday, 13/4/2008:

12:50 - UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF THE UNINTENDED: 

Daniel points out that even more unintended consequences are the result when smoking bans kill smokers:

"Counties ban smoking in bars which leads to smokers driving further which leads to more deaths. But perhaps there´s a silver lining here. Smokers are dying younger than they otherwise would. The unintended consequence of this unintended consequence might therefore be less pressure on the health system from old smokers with all their cancer etc! On the other hand I suppose it also means less tax revenue..."

And what about the health care costs related to the car accidents? Perhaps governments must force smokers to use smaller and less safe cars?



12:21 - TILL TRUDELUTTENS FÖRSVAR: 

Slappna av! Glasskonsumtionen har gått ned något och barnfetman minskar just nu. Mattias Svensson angriper hemglassbilstrudeluttsmotståndarna i Expressen.



Friday, 11/4/2008:

11:19 - THE BUMBLE BEE CAN FLY - AND WE KNOW WHY: 

On the flight from Riksgränsen, I ended up next to Financial Times´ Quentin Peel. As you may have guessed from his columns he is a very nice and funny man, always looking for facts and stories to shed light on the world. He expressed his surprise by the optimism that the Nordic populations express for free trade and globalisation and today he writes about this in an interesting article.

Peel quotes one participant at the summit who says that the Nordic region - economically successful but with expensive welfare states - "is like the bumblee bee: it flies, against all the rules of aerodynamics".

This is an old myth that should be laid to rest. Vortices created by the bee´s wings and dynamic effects explain its lift. It´s just that aerodynamic models were too static to explain it for a long time. And there are some dynamic aspects of the Nordic economies that explain their lift as well. The openness to globalisation can be illustrated with their ranking in the World Bank´s index on openness to trade across borders, where four of them top the list, together with Hong Kong and Singapore.

And look at the graph below, where the OECD measures regulations on labour and product markets in EU15. Only the Anglo-Saxon countries beat the Nordics when it comes to free markets. That creates vortices and dynamic effects which make it much easier to carry a big public budget.

From The Nordic Model (pdf), p.35.



10:09 - UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCE OF THE DAY: 

Governments ban smoking in bars to protect our health, but according to research in Journal of Public Economics it kills. American counties with smoking bans have experienced an increase in fatal car accidents after drunk driving by 13% compared to counties without them. Apparently smokers drive longer to get to a bar with outdoor seating or that doesn´t enforce the ban, or even to get to a county without a ban. The longer the ban has been in place in a county, the bigger the increase in fatal accidents.



09:30 - OVILLIGA MEDLEMMAR BETALAR LIKA BRA: 

Facket fortsätter att tappa medlemmar, men inom sjuksköterskefacket har man hittat ett oslagbart effektivt sätt att öka anslutningsgraden.



Thursday, 10/4/2008:

10:21 - NORDIC SUMMIT: 

I have just been at Riksgränsen, the northernmost part of Sweden, for a Nordic prime ministerial conference on globalisation. It was the start of what is planned to be an annual summit. It had everything a successful Nordic summit should have - yoik music, snowmobile rides, dinner on the ice and self-righteousness.

No specific policy conclusions were reached and I think the five prime ministers were happy with that. The plan was to send a message that the Nordic countries embrace globalisation enthusiastically and that any slip back into protectionism would hurt small, open economies like ours the most. There was also a general agreement that we need to attract more immigrants and, of course, deal with climate change efficiently with new technologies.

I led a workshop on work and growth and some intersting things were said there:

- Nordic cooperation is not an end in itself. There is no point in developing artificial cooperation in for example education or business. Scholars and businessmen know better with whom to cooperate. But we can tear down the barriers to organic growth, for example different rules for funding of research or different tax rules that stifles mobility.

- We can cooperate on a political level with benchmarking and best practice. As The Economist has pointed out, the Nordic countries cheat by being five, so there is always one of them on top of every international comparison. And then the others can learn from that one. Denmark has a very flexible labour market, Sweden has made it possible for private entrepreneurs to deliever social services, Finland´s education results are impressive, Iceland encourages entrepreneurship, and Norway...well...Norway is very rich.

- We have missed opportunities by organising the sectors in which we have invested the most capital and knowledge, for example education and health care, as tax-funded monopolies. We heard several examples of how developing countries have wanted to buy services and sometimes entire systems and processes from us, but we have not had rules or private capital to meet the demands. Parts of these sectors must be opened up, commercialised and globalised if they are to become our next export industries. Otherwise, companies in other countries will quickly learn and win the markets of the future.

The general sense was that globalisation is not a threat, but a fantastic opportunity that we sometimes miss.



Wednesday, 9/4/2008:

15:27 - DN:S OMBUD MOT LÄSARNA: 

"När det stormar som mest kring DNs trovärdighet tystnar [läsarombudsmannen Lilian] Öhrström och tar tepaus. Ta Johan Norberg-bråket, där DN både tände gnistan (genom just faktafuskande politiska insinuationer) och underblåste den, via kulturchefsinlägg med bisarrt pseudobloggiga rubriker som ´Nu får du ge dig!´. Inte bara läsare diskuterade det utan även en hel svensk yrkeskår – med undantag av Lilian Öhrström. Just den veckan, som borde ha varit hennes karriärs mest hektiska, frångick hon sin ordinarie hands-on-metod och publicerade ett perifert fingerborgsfluffigt kåseri om ´transparens´. Inte med ett ord berörde hon den orkan av läsarkritik – den allvarligaste på åratal – som samtidigt drabbade DN."
- Kjell Häglund skriver i Journalisten om DN:s läsarombudsman.


Monday, 7/4/2008:

17:08 - THE GREAT MODERATION: 

The American economy is probably in recession and this will fuel protectionist sentiments even more. At the same time Dan Griswold points out that economic downturns have become shorter, shallower and less frequent as the US economy has been globalised.

Griswold examines three periods and looks at the average time the economy was in recession during each:

1855-1944: 41%

1945-1982: 21%

1983-2007: 5%

And here is the average length of contractions in each period:

1855-1944: 21 months

1945-1982: 11 months

1983-2007: 8 months

Griswold concludes that this is the result of more flexibility that makes it easier to shift resources from companies and industries on the decline and on trade that has diversified the economy and made it possible to compensate low domestic sales with exports. To respond to a recession with protectionist measures is therefore like responding to a fire by banning water.



Friday, 4/4/2008:

09:43 - ARTHUR C CLARKE 1917-2008: 

"He never grew up; but he never stopped growing."

- Sci fi-writer Arthur C Clarke´s epitaph for himself.



09:38 - HEADING FOR THE EXIT: 

The market has now rated the Turkish Supreme Court of Appeals´ chief prosecutor´s attempt to ban the ruling AK party. In just one week $6 billion of foreign capital left the country.

(Thanks Thomas)



Thursday, 3/4/2008:

10:15 - THE COUNTRY NEEDS AN EXORCIST AS WELL: 

"This airline is cursed. Only an exorcist can save it"

- Maurizio Prato, chairman of state-owned and almost bankrupt Alitalia, who resigns as trade unions oppose job cuts and Italy´s next prime minister Berlusconi threatens to bloc the only interested buyers, Air France-KLM, because they are not Italian.



Wednesday, 2/4/2008:

21:54 - ETERNAL OPPRESSOR: 

Fredrik emails me and points out that Foreign Policy forgot the oldest leader, North Korea´s Kim Il-Sung, born in 1912. Kim´s accomplishment is even more impressive than Mugabe´s because Kim is dead. And he will never lose first place, since the constitution designates him "Eternal President".



10:52 - OLD, NOT WISE: 

John McCain will be 72 years old at the time of the US election. But that´s nothing, concludes Foreign Policy in a list of the world´s 10 oldest leaders. These guys top the list:

1. Zimbabwe´s Robert Mugabe, born 1924

2. Saudi Arabia´s Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz al-Saud, born 1924

3. Nepal´s Girija Prasad Koirala, born 1925

Mugabe´s 84 years is especially impressive since life expectancy in Zimbabwe has been reduced from 60 to 40 years during his time in power.

As Woodrow Wilson once put it:

“Wisdom doesn´t necessarily come with age. Sometimes age just shows up by itself.”



10:06 - VARUDEKLARERA: 

Medan jag skolade in Alexander på dagis och försummade tidningarna skrev Joakim Nilsson, som forskar om amerikanska valrörelser, i Expressen om partisk rapportering från public service-bolagen. Han drar den enda rimliga slutsatsen:

"Genom kravet på objektivitet får, inte minst etermedierna, en orimlig arbetsuppgift. Då är det ärligare att låta svenska medier vara öppna med sina vinklingar och partsinlagor och inte behöva hymla när de ger information till svenska nyhetskonsumenter. En nyhetskanal som öppet profilerar sin nyhetsbevakning ger sina tittare eller lyssnare möjlighet att, mot bakgrund av kanalens profil, värdera den information man sänder ut."


Tuesday, 1/4/2008:

22:04 - GOVERNMENT FAILURE: 

In 1995, US authorities told banks that they had to start giving mortgage to poor areas to avoid accusations of discrimination. The only way for the banks to profit from this risky debt  was to bundle it with good debt and pass it on. The investors didn´t have to worry too much about the risks because they knew that the banks were too big and entangled to fail and that the Fed would bail them out if there was a crisis. State-owned Chinese and German banks belonged to the most enthusiastic buyers. And they were all being helped by a US monetary policy that lowered interest rates more and kept them low longer than the market would have, which poured liquidity into real estate and stock markets.

Now the mortgage bubble has burst and most commentators blame free markets and tell us that we should give wise autorities and bureaucrats more power to regulate to save us from another crisis. Judging from how they handled it this time, that sounds about as risky as subprime loans.

I write about this in Dagens Industri today (subscribers only).



15:37 - VILKEN DAG!: 

Mattias Svensson gör om sin hårdkokt liberala blogg En vanlig Svensson till en modeblogg. Min favorit så här långt är Stålmannendräkten.



09:27 - PHOTO-FINISH: 

I quoted The Economist´s statement that the world economy has just experienced the best five year-period ever. Andreas Bryhn shows that this is not correct. GDP per capita growth 1961-66 was 3.3%, the same as 2002-2007. So to restate it: We have just experienced five years that were as good as the best five years ever.

But of course, if you increase something by 3.3% annually, you´d probably prefer it to be $7.500 than $3.500.

(Thanks August)



 

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