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GlobLog - December 2006
A direct link to each entry is obtained by using the button below the entry.

Sunday, 31/12/2006:

15:22 - THE BEST BOOK OF 2006: 

William Easterly: The White Man´s Burden - Why the West´s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good

Politicians like Gordon Brown say that it is a shame that people die in poor countries when it could have been prevented with medicines that costs twelve cents, and suggest big new development aid projects to finance this. William Easterly points out that there is another problem: "This is the tragedy in which the West spent $2.3 trillion on foreign aid in the last five decades and still had not managed to get twelve-cent medicines to children".

With facts and studies, anecdotes and stories and both passion and a sense of humour, Easterly shows that the problem is that foreign aid has been dominated by Planners who have plans and promises, but don´t motivate anyone to carry them out, and is never held accountable when they fail. That is why the $2.3 trillion reached tyrants in countries like Zaire, Sudan and Pakistan, but they rarely bought medicine for the children. In the Planners´ place, Easterly puts Searchers, with local knowledge, step-by-step solutions, exposed to competition and held accountable for the results.

This is the best book on foreign aid that I have read and a very important one now that promises and plans are more in vouge than results, and when countries like Sweden think that they are good not because they accomplish anything, but because they spend a lot of money. Easterly responds:

"It seems strange that bureaucrats and politicians would focus on the input - total aid dollars spent. The Hollywood producers of Catwoman, which won an award for being the worst movie of 2004, would not dare to argue with moviegoers that the movie wasn’t so bad because they had spent $100 million on making it."

But this book is not just about traditional aid, it generally shows the problem with foreign intervention in other people´s lives. Easterly attacks the new nostalgia for colonialism and imperialism and shows that its creation of autocracies and artificial borders are behind many of today´s problems and he presents some convincing arguments about why you can´t create free markets with structural adjustment plans or democracy with military force. 

William Easterly writes splendidly and is intellectually challenging when you don´t agree. If you only read one book from 2006, this should be the one.

Saturday, 30/12/2006:

15:32 - STEN I GLASHU(S): 

Mikael Ståldal har tittat närmare på den rapport från LO- och TCO-stödda "Rena kläder" jag skrev om här. Och mitt i organisationens ansträngda kritik mot Indiska hittar han detta självmål:

“En stor svaghet hos den indiska fackföreningsrörelsen är att de stora fackliga centralorganisationerna är mycket nära kopplade till politiska partier.”

Jag ser fram emot den uppföljande studien som skandaliserar företag som verkar i Sverige.

Friday, 29/12/2006:


Somalia, Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan. Evidence that we live in a world of war and destruction is everywhere. And yet, it is not so.

Last week, the Human Security Brief 2006 was released, following up on the positive trends since the last report, that covered the years until 2002. The new brief shows that these trends have continued in the last four years:

- Between 2002-2005, the number of armed conflicts in the world was reduced by 15 percent, from 66 to 56.

- Between 2002-2005, the number of battle-deaths was reduced by almost 40 percent (see graph below).

- In 1989 there were 10 ongoing genocides worldwide, in 2005 there was one (Darfur).

- The number of displaced persons declined by 6 percent between 2003-2005.

At the same time, some problems have grown worse, especially attacks on civilians:

- Between 2002-2005, the number of international terrorist incidents increased threefold (mostly in Iraq), and is now back where they were before the Cold War ended.

- Campaigns of organised violence against civilians have increased by 56 percent since 1989.


Thursday, 28/12/2006:


Great news! The network Rena Kläder (partly financed by tax funded "aid" resources via Swedish trade unions) has checked Indian textile factories that deliver to the Swedish retail chain Indiska, and it turns out that the workers are free to form trade unions and that they are never paid below the minimum wage, which often happens in the rest of the economy.

But of course, that is not how the Swedish media spins this. It is portrayed as a scandal that the workers have not decided to organise and that the suppliers do not pay more than the minumum wage...

Wednesday, 27/12/2006:

13:19 - STEADY AS YOU GO: 

"[I]in spite of all the adverse news, the world economy in aggregate grew more during the last five years than in any five-year period since the second world war."

- Lawrence Summers on a world economy that wasn´t broken by 9/11, Iraq war, SARS, the tsunami and outrageous oil prices, in FT.

Monday, 25/12/2006:


You might have heard the story about how Kurt Beck, the chairman of the German social democrats, brutally told an unemployed man to cut his hair and get a job. I read in Financial Times how the story ended.

The 37-year old former builder Henrico Frank heckled Beck as he visited Wiesbadenīs Christmas market last week. Frank and others accused the governmentīs labour market reforms of putting too much pressure on people like him to look for work, even though he could never get a job. Because everybody prefers work to benefits, right?

"Shave and wash, then you will find a job in three weeks", was Beckīs insensitive comment to the bearded and long-haired man. (As you know, I am no opponent of long hair.)

But Beck followed this up and told Frank to visit his office and hear the job offers he promised to find him, and Frank promised to take any job his health would allow. He shaved and got a haircut, and the German media looked forward to a happy ending to this Christmas story. But then there is an unexpected twist to the story.

Frank refused to meet Beck - twice. He got eight job offers, including working as construction worker, truck driver and rubbish collector. They were overly taxing and inadequate, Frank responded, and turned them all down. He preferred unemployment benefits.

Some now point out that Beck could have saved some time had he noticed the text on the button Frank was wearing on his lapel.

It said: "Work is shit".

(Financial Times also quotes Frank saying that he never intended to get a real haircut, just some trimming. But he fell asleep during the haricut.)

Sunday, 24/12/2006:


"Reasonīs greetings"

The Economistīs Christmas greeting, hereby forwarded.

Friday, 22/12/2006:

15:23 - CORRECTION: 

I am sorry, but I contributed to some desinformation when I quoted the figure of 90 percent of Iraqis saying that it was better before the war. That study was done by the "Iraq Centre for Research & Strategic Studies", which is a front for a Sunni political group. And it was conducted only in Anbar, Najaf and Baghdad - three places where the resistance has always been the strongest and homes to the Sunni and Shia terrorist groups respectively. No one in the rest of southern Iraq was asked, and no one in Iraqi Kurdistan - the unknown success story.

I donīt doubt that discontent has grown dramatically in Iraq since sectarian terrorism spun out of control, but the 90%-figure - widely reported in the media - is just not representative. I am going to wait for the next Brookings study instead.

(Thanks Tino)


But of course, all forms of peaceful believes deserve freedom. I just learn from the Christian Democrat MP Holger Gustafsson that beginning in April, all Russian churches are forced to send the government summaries of all sermons and lists of all participants.

No report that Putin is building a golden statue of himself that rotates with the sun, though. Yet.


I didnīt know the history of the mormon Latter Day Saints movement, but Jacob Weisberg explains the interesting background in Financial Times:

"The LDS Church holds that Joseph Smith, directed by the angel Moroni, unearthed a book of golden plates buried in a hillside in western New York in 1827. The plates were inscribed in īreformedī Egyptian hieroglyphics - a non-existent version of a language that had yet to be decoded with the help of the Rosetta stone. Smith was able to dictate his translation of The Book of Mormon by looking through diamond-encrusted decoding glasses and burying his face in a hat.

He was an obvious conman."


Today Bo Ekman responds about Yunus and Grameen in Svenska Dagbladet (pdf). He claims that my article doesnīt deal with the main points about Grameen - it is just a diversion. Well, it is. And thatīs because Ekman started this diversion when he used Yunus as a criticism against market liberalism. I responded by documenting that Yunusī views are so libertarian and anti-government that Ekman would probably condemn them if he heard them from anyobody else.

I suspect that Ekman has realised that this is the case. Thatīs why he is writing the same article again, but with the attacks on market liberalism left out.

Thursday, 21/12/2006:


Fredrik Erixon found this example of a new British law on film subsidies, after the EU Commission enforced some mandatory nationalist elements:

"In order to qualify as a British film, you have to show that your effort is in some way an emanation of our national culture, and you need to score 16 out of a possible 31 points for ´Britishness´. So you can get four points, for instance, if at least two of the three lead characters are ´British characters´, and only one point if one of the three lead characters is a ´British character. ... ´one point will be awarded if the film includes a significant representation or reflection of British cultural heritage. Two points will be awarded if the film includes an outstanding representation or reflection of British cultural heritage´."

- Boris Johnson in The Telegraph


Via HAX I learn that there is a new Eurobarometer out. In that report (p 39) I find an interesting question. The public is asked if they agree with this statement:

"We need more equality and justice even if this means less freedom for the individual."

Turns out that Sweden is one of the most libertarian countries - despite 55 percent who prefer less freedom! Majorities in every EU country but Denmark and the Netherlands would give up their freedom to the government for two undefined catchwords:

UPDATE 17.36: Timbro saw this before I did. They also point out that compared to the average European, Swedes are more in favour of competition, globalisation and immigration, and also more opposed to government interference in our lives - 71 percent think that the state is too interventionist! (Thanks Mattias)

(Actually, both leftists and rightists in the EU think that there is too much state interference today, so perhaps the overall conclusion is that they don´t think that less freedom results in more equality and justice?


Listening to Words that won the war really puts our impatient era and our leaders in perspective:

"I have never promised you anything but blood, toil, tears and sweat. ... Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

- Churchill, on November 10, 1942, after El Alamein, when the allies started winning.

"Mission accomplished"

- Sign behind president Bush on USS Lincoln as he declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq on May 1, 2003, when the army and the bureaucracy had just been dissolved, so that the country became ungovernable.


- The proportion of Iraqis who think that the country is worse off today than under Saddam Husseinīs totalitarian dictatorship.


A gift that lasts a year - ideas for a lifetime: A subscription to Neo.



In Svenska Dagbladet (pdf) today I criticise Bo Ekman for using Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank as an argument against "market liberalism".

By market liberalism, I guess Ekman refers to an ideology that:

"supports less government - even advocating the least government feasible - is committed to the free market, and promotes entrepreneurial institutions".

That´s interesting, because that quote is from Yunus himself, when he describes Grameen´s values. In fact, the bank grew out of Yunus´ disappointment with governments that just talked about reducing poverty but in fact just wasted people´s money. That is why Yunus is promoting a minimal state that leaves other functions to social businesses:

"I believe that government, as we now know it, should pull out of most things except for the law enforcement, the justice system, national defense, and foreign policy"

(Quotes from Yunus´ Banker to the Poor, New York: Public Affairs, 2003 edition, p. 209 and 204)

Wednesday, 20/12/2006:


When I have not listened to the new CD release of Lustans Lakejerīs classic albums these last few weeks (the first two are probably the best new romantic albums ever) I have been hypnotised by the CD Words that won the war from the Swedish Stryngford Records.

Itīs a collection of important WW2 speeches, held by individuals like Churchill, de Gaulle and Roosevelt, but with music illustrations that perfectly captures the mood. Itīs the declaration of war, itīs the attack on Pearl Harbour and itīs about offering nothing but blood, tears, toil and sweat. Listening to it makes you feel like like you are brought back in time, especially when you hear Churchill talk about the few whom we owe so much and about "their finest hour". It sends shivers down your spine.

The booklet includes a short description of what happened in every important step of the war. So itīs a history lesson, but itīs also a democracy lesson, about how words and ideas, and not just bombs and guns, defeated Hitler. Itīs the perfect gift to the young, whose schools might not have taught them how our civilisation was saved.

You can buy it on the website, or if you are in Stockholm, from Hedengrens or the Nobel Museum.



"Indeed, it may be that the whole idea of a telephone comes to be seen as an anachronism, as personal digital devices take on a bewildering range of new functions. Already, researchers at Motorola like to talk about ´the device formerly known as the cellphone´."

- The Economist´s Technology Quarterly

Tuesday, 19/12/2006:

17:34 - IīM ELECTRIC: 

Ett annat Sverige är möjligt - the book where I explain how Sweden should be liberalised and America Vera-Zavala explain how it should be socialised - is now available as an eBook from eLib.




- The proportion of US internet users who report keeping a blog, according to Pew.



 Ett par reaktioner på Wanja Lundby-Wedins freudianska felsägning:

Variant tre är förstås att Lundby-Wedin ser världen på ett väldigt postmodernistiskt abstrakt sätt. Medlemmarnas oro och upplevelse av (att de övertygats om att de förlorar) betyder att de egentligen förlorar, fastän de egentligen vinner på det."

Welcome to the desert of the real."

- Robert Nordman

"Intressant att fackets argument mot förändringen i a-kassereglerna inte är att medlemmarna förlorar på det, utan att de är rädda för det, EFTER en våldsam kampanj från LO som närmast låter som om a-kassan skulle avskaffas.

Rädda eller uppskrämda?"

- Rikard


I have never understood why prime ministers express opinions on wage negotiations, any more than they express views on the price of broccoli. Thatīs enough to be skeptical of Fredrik Reinfeldtīs comments today. But the argument as such is bad as well. He criticises the high wages of top executives (why shouldnīt owners reward them if they think they create value?), with the argument that this wonīt encourage workers to show restraint in the negotiations.

Well, why should they show restraint? Why shouldnīt workers demand as much as they can, just as broccoli producers demand as much as they can? Because we have a centralised negotiation system forced onto the workers and companies, that doesnīt link the wages to demand and supply. That is the problem. But that is a system that Reinfeldt thinks "serves Sweden well".


Monday, 18/12/2006:

11:51 - EU ON SPEED: 

For all the talk of streamlining and simplifying, the EU is moving in the wrong direction - fast. Via Open Europe I learn that 12 000 of the 22 000 pieces of legislation on the EU statute book have been introduced since 1997. So this is the EU´s historical regulatory speed:

1957-1997: 250 pieces of legislation per year.

1997-2006: 1 333 pieces of legislation per year.



Andreas Bryhn´s critical review of my book När människan skapade världen in Yelah is the most interesting so far. Today I continue the discussion about it here.

The blog Frihet och sanning also has an interesting discussion about it.

Sunday, 17/12/2006:


I torsdags visade Rapport ett intressant replikskifte mellan arbetsmarknadsminister Sven-Otto Littorin och LO:s Wanja Lundby-Wedin, som jag inte har sett någon uppmärksamma. Littorin först:

” – Dina medlemmar, de kommer att tjäna på detta.

– Det kommer de inte alls göra.

– Har du ett arbete får du netto mer över i plånboken. Så är det.

– Mina medlemmar kommer inte att tjäna på det här.

– Det sa ju din egen utredare på nyheterna häromdagen.

– Mina medlemmar kommer inte att tjäna på det här.

– Det sa din utredare i TV häromdagen ju.

– Ja, men är det inte underbart – nu har ni två utredare ni kan hänvisa till på LO, men jag hänvisar till medlemmarna och medlemmarna känner stark oro.”

Det intressanta med detta är att Lundby-Wedin antingen säger:

a) Att hon inte litar på LO:s utredare.


b) Att hon vet att LO:s utredare har rätt, men mörkar det av politiska skäl.


Friday, 15/12/2006:


And here comes the ultimate proof that the Doha round of trade talks is not just doomed, but also forgotten by the world leaders:

Observer in Financial Times notes that president Bush just met South Africaīs president and called for a revivial of the stalled "Darfur round".



Some say that we should only buy local food to save the planet. The "food mile" should be shortened. But apart from the problems that would create for poor countries´ exports, and for our meals, it is not at all certain that it is environmentally friendly, The Economist explains:

"The term ´food mile´ is itself misleading, as a report published by DEFRA, Britain´s environment and farming ministry, pointed out last year. A mile travelled by a large truck full of groceries is not the same as a mile travelled by a sport-utility vehicle carrying a bag of salad. Instead, says Paul Watkiss, one of the authors of the DEFRA report, it is more helpful to think about food-vehicle miles (ie, the number of miles travelled by vehicles carrying food) and food-tonne miles (which take the tonnage being carried into account).

The DEFRA report, which analysed the supply of food in Britain, contained several counterintuitive findings. It turns out to be better for the environment to truck in tomatoes from Spain during the winter, for example, than to grow them in heated greenhouses in Britain. And it transpires that half the food-vehicle miles associated with British food are travelled by cars driving to and from the shops. Each trip is short, but there are millions of them every day. Another surprising finding was that a shift towards a local food system, and away from a supermarket-based food system, with its central distribution depots, lean supply chains and big, full trucks, might actually increase the number of food-vehicle miles being travelled locally, because things would move around in a larger number of smaller, less efficiently packed vehicles.

Research carried out at Lincoln University in New Zealand found that producing dairy products, lamb, apples and onions in that country and shipping them to Britain used less energy overall than producing them in Britain. (Farming and processing in New Zealand is much less energy intensive.)"

Thursday, 14/12/2006:

12:10 - I CANīT WAIT: 

(Parental Advisory: This post contains good news. If you are not used to this after having followed the media the last few months, don´t read too much at once.)

The World Bank has just published its Global Economic Prospects 2007, and it tries to say something intelligent about what current knowledge and present trends say about the next 25 years. And it has some reallly bad news for pessimists:

- Growth per capita in developing countries will be 3.1 percent annually, compared to 2.1 percent since 1980. (And this is a moderate estimate compared to the last five years´ 4.6 percent!)

- The average income in developing countries will more than double, from $4 800 today to $11 000 in 2030 (similar to the Czech Republic´s income per capita today).

- Developing countries´ part of global output will increase from one-fifth to nearly one-third, purchasing power will surpass half.

- Coutries like China, Mexico and Turkey will have living standards close to Spain´s today.

- The "middle class" (earning $4 000-17 000 per capita) in developing countries will increase from 400 million to 1.2 billion.

- Extreme poverty (<$1/day) will be reduced from 1.1 billion to 550 million - from 20 percent to 8 percent of the developing country population (it was 40 percent in 1980).

Caveats: The World Bank points out that this improvement could be much faster if we see big technological breaktroughs in the years to come (which we will) and if we see faster reforms (which we can make happen).

Hold onto your hat.



- The proportion of 1 061 important decision makers in the Russian government, parliament, regional governments and big businesses with a background in the security forces or the military, according to the Russian Centre for the Study of the Elite at the Russian Academy of Science (via SvD).



Itīs easy to make fun of the Norwegians, who apparently call Christer Fuglesang a "Swedish-Norwegian astronaut", just because his father is from Norway. But the joke is on us. Why do we call him Swedish? Traditionally, Swedes call people in Christerīs position "second generation immigrant".

Wednesday, 13/12/2006:


Today I listened to a very good speech by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus on microfinance. Most interesting was actually what was said (and not said) about development aid.

When Yunus got the question what rich countries can do for a country such as Bangladesh, Yunus talked about the need for more western businesses to get involved and about the need for a financial system. Not a word about foreign aid. When he was asked about how governments could get involved he said that it is "a disaster" when governments practice microfinance because then it is politicised and less efficient. Businesses, NGO´s and voluntary organisations need funds better according to Yunus, because:

"Government is an overworked machine, it doesn´t work very well".

Many in the audience probably began to think about who huge cash transfers to governments in poor countries are really for. Is it to do good or is it for us to feel good?

One answer was suggested by a slip of the tongue. When the moderator, Bo Ekman from the Tällberg Foundation, introduced Joakim Stymne, recently appointed state secretary for aid, Ekman emphasised that foreign aid is:

"important for our country... [and then a very brief pause, just long enough to give someone the time to realise an imbalance in what has been said and to adjust it] ...oh, and for the receivers as well..."

11:43 - MEMORIAL DAY: 

Many want the new Swedish government to start an information campaign on the horrors of communism. Personally I don´t think it´s a good idea that governments tell us what´s right and wrong in history. So much better that there is a private initiative.

On Saturday, they organise a manifestion to honour the victims of communism. Isn´t it worth an hour of your life, to remember the millions who were murdered and enslaved by a ruthless system?

Saturday 16 December, 15.00
Norrmalmstorg, Stockholm

UPDATE 22.40: Woops, the government has already started informing people about the crimes of communism, Magnus tells me. Apparently there is no risk of an intensive bombardement, since I didn´t even know about it.

10:08 - ITīS NOT YOU, ITīS ME: 

Lars emailed me a Weltwoche interview with Al-Jazeeraīs editor-in-chief Ahmed Sheikh. In a brutally frank way he explains that the Arab countriesī problem with Israel is at heart not about the Palestinansī rights, but about Arab feelings of inferiority (a small democracy beats big dictatorships):

"Do you mean to say that if Israel did not exist, there would suddenly be democracy in Egypt, that the schools in Morocco would be better, that the public clinics in Jordan would function better?

I think so.

Can you please explain to me what the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has to do with these problems?

The Palestinian cause is central for Arab thinking.

In the end, is it a matter of feelings of self-esteem?

Exactly. Itīs because we always lose to Israel. It gnaws at the people in the Middle East that such a small country as Israel, with only about 7 million inhabitants, can defeat the Arab nation with its 350 million. That hurts our collective ego. The Palestinian problem is in the genes of every Arab."

Tuesday, 12/12/2006:


As leftists often point out, dislike of US policies and especially president Bush in Latin America has given Venezuelaīs Hugo Chávez a leadership role in the region. How ironic then, that 39 percent of the Latin Americans dislike Chávez - exatcly the same proportion who dislikes Bush (and Chávezī approval rating is even lower than Bushīs). The only person with a higher disapporval rate is Fidel Castro.

This we learn from this yearīs Latinobarómetro, which also shows that 58 percent think that democracy is the best system, up 5 percentage points from 2005.



In my Dagens Industri column today I explain why Christer Fuglesang and his fellow austronauts are not bringing us closer to the space age. NASA is consistently wasting too much on too costly, centralised and fragile technologies for PR purposes (the space shuttle and the International Space Station, for example). The scientific experiments could be performed cheaper and better by computers and robots on unmanned spaceships and a private industry focused on space tourism is better at giving us the infrastructure for routine space travel.

(As usual in Swedish and only for subscribers.)

Monday, 11/12/2006:


"Apropå din teori att man blir lycklig av förväntningar kan paralleller dras med den gamla sanningen att īdet alltid är roligast på förfestenī, vilket ju förutsätter att det blir en fest."

- Anders om min rapport om lyckoforskning. 



- The Turkish Professor Atilla Yayla writes in International Herald Tribune about how the Kemalists attack him for his defence of democracy and liberalism.

- The detention of the Egyptian blogger Kareem has been renewed for the fourth time, for his secular and anti-government views. You can sign the petition for his release here.



Chileīs former dictator Augusto Pinochet is dead at last. He was a brutal leader who took power by bombing the presidential palace and torturing and murdering opponents without mercy. But after having tried the old policies of protectionism and heavy intervention in the economy and seeing it fail miserably, he was convinced to start liberalising the economy. Because of that, and the continuation of the reforms under the democratic socialist government, Chile is by far the most successful Latin American country.

Some leftists say that this association with a dictator stains economic liberalism forever. Thatīs an interesting argument. If this is really the case, then government intervention is even more stained since Pinochetīs dictatorial friends in the region, like Stroessner, Videla and Banzer upheld the old interventionist and protectionist model.


Sunday, 10/12/2006:


Oh no, I just missed an interesting show in public service´s SVT1: "Great Thinkers of Our Time: Che Guevara". How comforting that there will be two reruns. Probably a worthy follow-up to the Castro celebrations. (Thanks Fabian)

More relevant information on Che here.


Today is the Nobel Day. Happily two defenders of entrepreneurship are awarded this year, in two different categories. Nobel peace prize winner Muhammad Yunusī and his ideas about microcredit is at heart a vision of the creative individual - that the poor do not want handouts that make them dependent, but credit and economic freedom, that makes them independent.

And the winner of the economics prize, Edmund Phelps, thinks that entrepreneurship and capitalism is not just efficient, but also just, because it rewards creative individuals and help the lowest-paid.

Since finance minister Anders Borg wants his policies to be in line with economic research, wouldnīt it be a good idea to pay some attention to the economic scientist who is awarded today? At a press conference and at the Nobel lecture Phelps said that Sweden can only solve the problem of unemployment if we reduce the welfare state and "limit, or even better, abolish labour security".



"...att ha kört i 200 i timmen, suttit i en Ferrari med 9 miljoner människor i baksätet..."

- Pär Nuder råkar avslöja sin syn på en modern, demokratiskt ledarstil när han beskriver hur det kändes att vara finansminister, i Godmorgon, världen!


Saturday, 9/12/2006:


When Swedish trade unions want to stop immigrants from coming to Sweden to work they often say that this is a way of protecting them from low wages (as if wages that might be 2, 3 or 4 times more than what they could earn back home was "low"). Via Berghs betraktelser I learn that LO´s vice president Erland Olauson at a Ratio seminar recently explained that their real argument is the opposite:

The problem is that immigrants who work soon learn Swedish, become more productive and earn higher wages. And this supposedly reduces the room for wage increases for Swedes...



Timbro now has my presentation on happiness research as an mp3, with links to my debates in SVT24 and P1-morgon (in Swedish).


Friday, 8/12/2006:


In September, when Curt Nicolin died, the Confederation of Swedish Entreprise instituted an award, to celebrate the memory of the great innovator, entrepreneur and spokesman for free enterprise. Every year, the prize will be given to the person who has done the most to promote the ideas of freedom and free markets.

Earlier today, the first Nicolin award was given to me by his two sons at a ceremony at the Confederation. As I explained at the luncheon, it´s nice to receive a prize, it´s even better when money is involved, but the best thing is that it is a celebration of an individual who has done so much good for Sweden. I am deeply honoured.

More information here.



It wasn´t me. It´s a bit strange, it was actually Björn Halleröd, the professor from Umeå, who instantly mentioned "Joy Division" when I was asked about what makes me happy in our radio discussion on happiness. Apparently he knows about my taste in music.

Perhaps even more surprising (since he wrote this), Halleröd also agreed that we should be careful to draw political conclusions from happiness research, and that traditional research underestimates the happiness we get from hope and belief in the future - for example from belief in future growth. And he now agreed that one of the examples from his article (that some Masai tribes are happier than Westerners) is just an exception that says nothing about the bigger picture.


Thursday, 7/12/2006:

13:30 - ARE WE HAPPY YET?: 

This morning I presented a new paper on happiness research, and the political use and abuse of it. It is one of the most influential perspectives in the international debate on welfare, growth and the market right now, and it is growing in influence. "Blir vi lyckligare av lyckorforskning?" (Timbro Briefing Paper 7-2006) is online here.

I will discuss it in SVT24 at 17.05 today, possibly in P1-morgon sometime tomorrow and in Radio Stockholm on Saturday at 12.00.

If you don´t read Swedish, here I have written about it in English.

Update: The P1-morgon discussion takes place a few minutes after 06.20.


Apologies to the English speakers who complained that I did not translate my mail exchange with Ekot, the Swedish radio news. To sum it up: After a while, Ekot agreed with me that they have rarely called Castro a dictator, and their explanation is that dictators who are still in power are often presented with the titles they choose themselves ("president"), and called dictators only after they´ve left power.

I think this is a bad principle (it´s more important to call a spade a spade when the spade is relevant to the world), but I agree that it is a neutral principle. My only demand is that they now begin to call Castro "former dictator", since he has just given all power to his brother.


Wednesday, 6/12/2006:


Nu har G på Ekot svarat på min följdfråga:

"Hej igen Johan, du har absolut en poäng - jag tror att det finns en tendens att kalla nu verkande presidenter/ledare/envåldshärskare för sitt ämbetsnamn dvs t ex president. Så länge de sitter vid makten är de ju de facto ledare och ofta dessutom presidenter, även om vi som du ser varierar ordvalet med ´enväldig ledare´ etc.

Jämför med exemplet Saddam Hussein, som vi kallade för ´Iraks president´ medan han fortfarande var innehavare av presidentposten. Nu benämns han däremot i sändningarna som ´Iraks ex-diktator´ eller ´forne diktator´. Diktatorn Robert Mugabe kallas också i sändningarna för ´Zimbabwes president´.

Detta accepterar jag.

Inte i den meningen att det är en bra princip - tvärtom tycker jag att det är viktigast att kalla en spade en spade och en skurk en skurk när de har störst relevans för världen. Men jag förstår logiken i resonemanget och varför det kan leda till att Castro inte kallas diktator. Samtidigt förutsätter detta att Pinochet brukade kallas president medan han satt vid makten och att Castro borde börja kallas ex-diktator nu när han har lämnat över makten till brorsan. (Ett ämne för en hugad student att kolla arkiven. Någon?)

Att döma av det ovanstående kan vi i alla fall dra slutsatsen att Castro systematiskt kommer att kallas diktator i svensk radio efter hans död. Äntligen!

Samtidigt i bloggosfären: Arquette påminner mig om att ett SVT som bara accepterar Castrokritiker om dessa samtidigt tar avstånd från USA:s Kubapolitik hade kunnat bjuda in mig.

14:45 - GO AND EAT: 

I learn from Federley that Sofia Appelgren gives the employees at her restaurant Wild´n fresh higher wages than the collective agreement does. And yet, the trade unions are blocking her restaurant right now, because their only concern is their own power.

If you live in Göteborg, support Sofia, her employees and freedom of agreement by buying something wild and fresh for lunch or dinner there:

Wild´n Fresh Salladsbar & Delikatesser
Saluhallen Briggen
Nordhemsgatan 28


In the last few days I have received a lot of email about Swedish public service saying something like this:

"Four hours of Castro celebrations and not a single critic invited. A series on our planet which gave a completely uncritical presentation of the most anti-capitalist environmentalist views. And public service radio bends over backwards to avoid calling Castro a dictator.

There is but one conclusion: Cecilia Stegö-Chilò was right."

Speaking of politics and the media: Martin Borgs is one of Sweden´s smartest and funniest filmmakers. And he is also a liberal. Otherwise, he would already have his own show on SVT. Now we can see see his stuff - always exposing politicians and authorities - on his new blog instead.


"Härmed vill jag nominera någon av de lettiska byggjobbare som förlorade jobbet i Vaxholm till ´Sveriges bästa arbetare´.
 Under lunchen kan Sven Otto Littorin försöka förklara regeringens svek."

- Eric Erfors om moderaternas nya arbetartävling och nya "go home"-linje i Vaxholmsfrågan, i Expressen.

Tuesday, 5/12/2006:


"The union leader said an ordinary worker gets a salary of Skr 17,000 a month. If this worker is unemployed, he or she will receive about Skr 11,000. ´They will be forced to take a job,´ she said."

- Wanja Lundby-Wedin, head of Sweden´s LO, explains the inhumane consequences of reduced unemployment benefits - the unemployed has to get a job. In Financial Times. (Thanks Janerik)



Hej Ekot,

Jag undrar hur det kommer sig att ni kallar Castro "den kubanske ledaren" i era sändningar när ni samtidigt kallar Pinochet "Chiles förre diktator"? Tycker ni inte att Castro är en diktator? Och om ni gör det, varför undviker ni begreppet just när det gäller honom?

Vänliga hälsningar,



Hej Johan, tack för mail.

Jag gjorde en sökning på "Castro" bland Ekots inslag och hittade följande benämningar, som använts om Castro den senaste tiden:

* kommunistledaren Fidel Castro

* Kubas enväldige ledare Fidel Castro

* Castro, som det officiella Kuba håller fram som sin ledare

* kommunistpartiets Fidel Castro

* Fidel Castro, som tog makten -59

* Castro-regimen

* Kubas ledare Castro

* Kubas president Fidel Castro

* Castro, som tillhör den lilla klubben av diktatorer som haft makten i mer än trettio år

Vänliga hälsningar



Hej G,

Stort tack för ditt svar. Som du noterar använder ni alla möjliga fantasifulla beteckningar på Castro - och en gång kallas han också diktator, när ni jämför honom med andra diktatorer. Men när jag söker på Pinochet bland Ekots inslag den senaste tiden benämns han ALLTID som fd eller tidigare diktator. Med rätta förstås. Men min fråga är varför ni inte följer samma policy vad gäller Castro, och varför han oftast presenteras med betydligt försiktigare och mer neutrala beteckningar. Råkar det bara bli så?

Vänliga hälsningar,


Monday, 4/12/2006:


So much has been published on the history of Anglo-Saxon liberalism that I haven´t even read half of the books on this in my own bookshelves. But so far we have seen much fewer books on liberalism in France, Germany, Italy and the rest of Europe. That´s odd, because there is a lot to say about it. At least 1 427 pages.

That´s the size of the impressive new volume Histoire du libéralisme en Europe (Presses Universitaires de France, 2006), edited by Philippe Nemo and Jean Petitot. A big number of scholars write on different aspects of liberals and liberalism around Europe - from the pioneers to our days. The last chapter is about Swedish liberalism, written by me. 

(Yes, I would also welcome an English translation.)


Now we know why SVT only invited radical leftists to discuss the Castro films during the 4-hour celebration on Saturday - one who couldnīt say that Cuba is a dictatorship and one who couldnīt say what she didnīt agree with Castro about. In P1-morgon today Lars Säfström, the producer of the celebration, explained that they only wanted to give airtime to people who "repudiates Americaīs policy on Cuba".

So public serviceīs primary ambition was not to find Castro fans and celebrate the dictatorship in itself, but to screen out anyone who agrees with the US. Castroīs tactic to silence any discussion about his police state by turning it into a debate on America has unexpected followers.

By the way: Ekot has not responded.

Sunday, 3/12/2006:


Why do you call Castro "the Cuban leader", when you call Pinochet "Chile´s former dictator" today?

Don´t you think that Castro is a dictator? And if you do, why do you avoid the word?

Saturday, 2/12/2006:


SVT, Swedish public service television, points out that Chile "celebrates" two things today - both Augusto Pinochetīs birthday and the anniversary of his coup. SVT celebrates this with no less than three documentaries in one evening, celebrating the old dictator.

And inbetween they discuss Augusto (they are on a first name basis, apparently) with three guests, one of them on the board of the Swedish far right party, one of them described as the only Chilean in Sweden who supports Pinochet, and one of them a producer of one of the films, which he says is a result of his attempt to find positive alternatives to representative democracy. No one who escaped from Pinochetīs Chile is invited.

Youīve guessed it. This wouldnīt be fair and balanced, this wouldnīt be "free television". Of course it is Fidel Castro and his dictatorship SVT celebrates this way for four hours tonight (they never call it dictatorship, by the way).

The biggest difference between Pinochet and Castro is that Castro killed even more people, ruined his country economically and didnīt leave power peacefully.

Read more:

Mattias Svensson here and here.

Kristian Karlsson in SvD today.

Friday, 1/12/2006:


However, countries that open markets and invest in foreign trade do much better.

Growth in East Asia will be more than 8 percent in 2006, according to a new World Bank report. 25 million East Asians have emerged from severe poverty in just the first three quarters of 2006 (<$2, twice the extreme poverty rate often used). According to this measurement, poverty has been reduced by half a billion people in the region since 1990.

One conclusion is that 9 of 10 East Asians will probably live in a middle-income country by 2010.


The "Washington Consensus´" emphasis on sound macroeconomics has been blamed for all the evils in the world. Somehow everything bad that third world rulers do can be excused by the fact that IMF pushes them to lower budget deficits. But don´t give up yet, one country is still not part of the consensus, according to FT:

- Zimbabwe´s budget deficit: 43% of GDP

- Zimbabwe´s inflation rate: 1 070%


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