Saturday, June 11, 2005

Moved

I'm here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

It's been a while

To say the least. Lots of things to do; master thesis, translations, teaching and other stuff. And I've paid more attention to my swedish blog, Sänd mina rötter regn (which means Send my roots rain).

But things are cooling off, so I might become more active here as well.

TTFN

Friday, October 15, 2004

404

Monday, October 11, 2004

And the winners are...

Finn Kydland and Ed Prescott got the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Finn Kydland's homepage at Carnegie Mellon.
Ed Prescott's at Minneapolis Fed.

Kydland comes from Norway and the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten writes about him in this article.

"is only the third Norwegian to win the prestigious award ever"[my emph.]

And that's one more than Sweden by the way.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Nature gets it all wrong

Abiola Lapite:

"This article really has to be read to be believed. If one were to take it at face value, one would imagine that libertarian advocates of private space travel had some sort of secret plot up their sleeve to subvert the Western way of life."

Good news, perhaps.

A working paper from the New Zealand Treasury might bring some good news about the demographic problem. Population Ageing and Government Health Expenditures in New Zealand, 1951-2051:

"The paper uses a simulation model to assess the effects of population ageing on government health expenditures in New Zealand. Population ageing is defined to include disability trends and "distance to death"; government health expenditures are defined to include both acute and long-term care. The model results suggest that population ageing is associated with a large increase in expenditure share of people aged 65 and over, which rises from about 29% of total government health expenditure in 1951 to 63% in 2051. Analysis of demographic and health trends over the period 1951 to 2002 suggests, however, that these trends account for only a small proportion of the total growth in health expenditure. Most expenditure growth is attributable to other factors, such as an expansion in the range of treatments provided, and increases in input prices such as wages. Growth in this non-demographic component of health expenditures has reached 3-4% per year over recent years. Projection results for the period 2002 to 2051 suggest that restraining government expenditure on health to 6-12% of GDP would require long-run growth rates for the non-demographic component of health expenditure that are significantly lower than current rates. In other words, future demographic changes may be less threatening than is often assumed, but it would still not be possible to maintain current growth rates for government health expenditure and avoid substantial increases in the ratio between expenditure and GDP."

But I still feel a little bit "malthusian" over this issue.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Remembrance

Ten years ago today, the passenger ferry Estonia sank and 852 people died. Take a look at this page for some information.

Non-profit in Sweden

Some blogs (Marginal Revolution, Common Knowledge and Division of Labour) have mentioned the Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project at Johns Hopkins University.

Tyler Cowen wants the study to distinguish between private and public sector efforts. I had a post a while ago where I described the Swedish non-profit sector and the philanthropic content.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Quote of the day

"Indian Railways is the responsibility of Lord Vishwakarma. So is the safety of passengers... It is His duty, not mine. I have been forced to don His mantle."
-Laloo Prasad Yadav, Railway Minister in India.

The fact that Lord Vishwakarma is a god scares the hell out of me.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Yeah, we're so great. Part 6

'For decades we've been told Sweden is a great place to be a working parent. But we've been duped':

"Working motherhood getting you down? Fed up with living in a country where you're made to feel like a bit of a slacker for getting pregnant?

Well, don't move to Sweden. The Nordic country may have been boasting for decades about its fantastic parental pay and rights packages and its nurseries on every street corner, but according to a leading academic in the field, we have all been duped. Dr Catherine Hakim, a sociologist at the London School of Economics who specialises in women's employment and women's issues, says in a book out this week that what we have been told about the Swedish experience amounts to 'true lies'. "

Friday, September 10, 2004

"Une belle surprise"

Steven Seagal, at least better than David Hasselhoff's effort.

(Link via planetdan.net)

Maybe I'm tired, but it's hilarious.

Take a look at some photos

"It's not a coincidence that cute almost rhymes with puke."

Aight!

Another guy who deserves to be mocked

People are actually willing to vote for Dick Cheney? What scares me the most is that he is supposed to be the intelligent one of the dynamic duo Bush and Cheney.

"Indicators measure the nation's unemployment rate, consumer spending and other economic milestones, but Vice President Dick Cheney says it misses the hundreds of thousands who make money selling on eBay.

"That's a source that didn't even exist 10 years ago," Cheney told an audience in Ohio. "Four hundred thousand people make some money trading on eBay.""


And Kieran Healy gives Cheney some help.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

The 'compassion' racket

Thomas Sowell:

"In politics, throwing the taxpayers' money at disasters is supposed to show your compassion. But robbing Peter to pay Paul is not compassion. It is politics."

UnFAIR: The failure of 'market failure'-driven fire insurance

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Another small note on wet dreams

Jeremy Rifkin had a piece in the Guardian yesterday. He seems to be fond of Europe, so fond of Europe that he actually wrote a book about Europe and how good the Europeans are. He called it The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream.

Good to know that there is a “European Dream”, that was news to me. Apparently, the dream is even written down, in the constitution:

“[A] new European dream is beginning to capture the world's imagination. That dream has now been codified in the form of a draft constitution and Europeans are currently debating whether or not to ratify its contents and accept its underlying values as the core of a new Europe.

Twenty-five nations, representing 455 million people, have joined together to create a "United States" of Europe. Like the United States of America, this vast political entity has its own empowering myth. Although still in its adolescence, the European dream is the first transnational vision, one far better suited to the next stage in the human journey. Europeans are beginning to adopt a new global consciousness that extends beyond, and below, the borders of their nation-states, deeply embedding them in an increasingly interconnected world.”


This is strange, for a number of reasons. He claims that the American dream “no longer serves as the rallying point for everyone in America” which is fair enough. Rifkin bases his opinion on a survey which showed that one-third of the Americans no longer believe in the dream.

But he seems to have no problem to find the European dream. In a constitution that is not yet ratified. In a constitution that in some countries will go under a referendum and in other decided by the politician if it will be enacted. In a constitution that is not necessarily a constitution at all but a treaty, an important distinction you’ll have to remember and especially if you want to talk about political entities.

One can ask if one-third of the Europeans vote against the constitution does that mean Rifkin’s view of the European dream goes down the drain? That it never becomes a rallying point for everyone at all. The answer is both yes and no.

Obviously yes, since the very same, at least, measure served for Rifkin regarding the American dream. No, and I’m not sure it helps Rifkin’s case, because the individuals don’t vote on a certain dream but on a constitution (or a treaty, decide for yourself). This of course means that the dream itself can be found valid while constitution/treaty isn’t.

The problem, though, is that the dream itself is imposed on the Europeans by Rifkin. And when the Europeans don’t comply with the dream, blame the Europeans.

Rifkin writes:

“Nowhere is the contrast between the European dream and the American dream sharper than when it comes to the definition of personal freedom. For Americans, freedom has long been associated with autonomy; the more wealth one amasses, the more independent one is in the world. One is free by becoming self-reliant and an island unto oneself. With wealth comes exclusivity and with exclusivity comes security. For Europeans, freedom is not found in autonomy but in community. It's about belonging, not belongings.”

Jeremy Rifkin really likes to impose his views on others. To be sure, some Americans might very well have that definition of freedom. And some Europeans might have the definition of freedom that Rifkin claims is the European. But not every American and not every European shares his view, far from it I would say. Rifkin’s thinking is based on ugly collectivism.

He defines the American dream as “the idea that anyone, regardless of the circumstances to which they're born, can make of their lives as they choose, by dint of diligence, determination, and hard work.” Surely, it sounds individualistic. But individualism doesn’t mean what Rifkin seems to think it means, both the atomism and materialism that he reads into freedom, American-style, is totally unfounded.

“Americans are more willing to employ military force to protect perceived vital self-interests. Europeans favour diplomacy, economic aid and peacekeeping operations to maintain order. The American dream is deeply personal and little concerned with the rest of humanity. The European dream is more systemic, bound to the welfare of the planet.“

Yes, that’s why two World Wars have started in Europe. That’s why a number of European countries deployed military forces in Iraq alongside with the US. Because we favour diplomacy. It is also because Americans are more willing to employ military force that millions of Americans opposed the war in Iraq. And it is because we Europeans are concerned with the rest of humanity that, as Rifkin himself writes, “Europeans have become increasingly hostile towards asylum seekers. Anti-Semitism is on the rise, as is discrimination against Muslims and other religious minorities.” And what about Schengen, the European Fortress?

But he acknowledges that we, the Europeans, don’t live up to this dream. “The point, however, is not whether the Europeans are living up to their dream. We Americans have never fully lived up to our own dream. What's important is that a new generation of Europeans is creating a radical new vision for the future.” First of all, it is not our dream. It is the dream that Jeremy Rifkin impose on us, the dream he wants us to have. Secondly, if Rifkin tries to find this dream in the constitution, then it is not a “new generation of Europeans” who creates it, it is, by definition, already there, created by politicians in Brussels. Oddly enough, the same politicians that “[are] aloof from the citizens it supposedly serves.” Thirdly, the only thing that is even remotely radical in the new constitution/treaty seems to be… well, nothing at all. If the constitution is really a constitution and not a treaty, then the EU will receive competence on its own and not from the member states. Either way, it’s business as usual (which, by the way, is dreadful as it is).

The important thing about all this is to note that the American dream, even as defined by Rifkin, is open-ended, while Rifkin’s European dream is closed, belonging is belonging and nothing else. The collective is the focal point and don’t you dare contest it.

“[T]he American dream - the idea that anyone, regardless of the circumstances to which they're born, can make of their lives as they choose, by dint of diligence, determination, and hard work.”

As you notice, the definition says nothing about what you should choose. If you want to show solidarity with others, you’re free to do so. And in my opinion, that’s real solidarity, as opposed to being forced into it.

More readings:

Friend or Foe? What Americans should know about the European Union.
EU versus USA

Update: Tim Worstall deals with Rifkin and GDP-comparisons.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

A rush of blood to Hans’ head

Hans Kullin at Media Culpa goes into a head spin:

“Recently, six individuals, out of at least four are involved in Muf, the youth organization of Swedish moderate party, started a campaign against Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11. They have started a network called Pro Veritas and its accompanying website Finn59fel cites 59 possible deceits in the film. They operate under a grassroots image and the notion that they have the truth, Moore is simply a liar. Well, are they just truth seekers or do they have a hidden agenda? Is it an astroturf campaign or is it legit? Maybe they have just been spun themselves by forces that they are unaware of. The 59 deceits are entirely a translation from an essay by Dave Kopel, a political analyst at the Cato Institute."

--

"Clearly the Cato Institue is supported by pro-Bush forces and by supplying arguments why Michael Moore is a potential liar and the anti-Bush movie is full of deceits, Republican-friendly interests can help Bush get re-elected.”

This is ridiculous. First of all, Kopel isn’t affiliated only with the Cato Institute. For instance, Kopel is the Research Director of the Independence Institute. But for some reason, it is Cato and their beneficiaries that have paid for the “59 deceits”-article. It is also strange because Kopel last appeared at a Cato event almost two years ago, at a panel forum in October 2002. His last written piece at Cato was a daily commentary published three years ago where he criticizes the congress for passing bills that infringes on peoples rights too quickly:

“Congress recently passed massive "terrorism" bills that had never received committee hearings. Indeed, the House bill was only introduced on the morning that it passed -- providing House members with no realistic opportunity to study the bill's tremendous implications. Both the House and the Senate bills grant vast powers to law enforcement that have nothing to do with counter-terrorism.

Because the House and Senate bills differ, a conference committee is being appointed, which will start meeting soon.

The House Judiciary Committee had unanimously passed an anti-terrorism bill, which awaited House floor action. But instead of bringing forward the bill that had received committee scrutiny, the House leadership (buckling to pressure from the administration) had a brand-new bill written and brought to the floor of the full House. The leadership moved so hastily that members were deprived of the opportunity even to read the bill before voting on it.

The House bill does include some sensible provisions to help the government fight terrorism, such as expediting the hiring of language translators for counter-terrorism work.

But there are also provisions that seriously infringe privacy, while offering little in the way of counter-terrorism. For example, the bill allows the government, without a warrant, to monitor every e-mail that a person sends and receives. Content access would, however, require a search warrant -- although in practice the government would be on the honor system not to read content. Any state, local, or federal law enforcement officer could use the e-mail surveillance. And there is no requirement that this surveillance be connected to a terrorism investigation.”


Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that more or less Moore’s opinion as well when it comes to the Patriot Act? Anyway, the point here is that if you want to claim that a person holds a certain view because of his or hers affiliations then you ought to show that any particular affiliation you want to blame is substantial.

Secondly, the fact that some major corporations benefits Cato doesn’t mean that the institute and their analysts share the same views as the contributors. For instance, Cato opposes government smoking legislation while Altria, owners of Philip Morris, grants such legislation:

"Altria Group and our domestic tobacco company, Philip Morris USA, support the introduction and advocate the passage of bipartisan legislation in Congress that would grant the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) meaningful and effective authority to regulate cigarettes and other tobacco products.

In May 2004, a legislative proposal that would grant the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products was presented to Congress by Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH), Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Representative Tom Davis (R-VA) and Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA). The proposed FDA legislation, known as The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (S. 2461/H.R. 4433), quickly gained the backing and support of a broad political and public policy coalition, including public health groups such as the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids."


One of the reasons why a libertarian opposes such legislation is that it is an indirect form of corporate welfare to the major corporations. I want to emphasize that libertarianism, contrary to some leftist views of the ideology, is not about giving benefits in one way or the other to the corporations. Because such benefits it’s something entirely different from capitalism and the free market that a libertarian endorse.

The connection between legislation and corporate welfare is perhaps not apparent. But more legislation means more costs imposed on the corporations. The major corporations can deal with such costs while the minor will have a harder time to comply with the regulation. The result in the end is that the legislation can potentially drive the smaller corporations out of the market and act as an entry barrier. At the same time, the major corporations might increase their market share.*

As a matter of fact, in a column at the National Review Online in 2000, Dave Kopel wrote that he will vote for (in the election that year) Ralph Nader. Not Bush or Gore (Kopel is /was a registered Democrat) One of the reasons he gives is that Nader rejects corporate welfare:

“But there are two important issues in which the Greens are starkly different in principle — not just in degree — from the Republocrats. The first of these is corporate welfare, which the Greens adamantly oppose — and which the supposedly "radical" Republicans in Congress and the supposedly "populist" Clinton/Gore administration have boosted to record levels.

The best way to increase the size of government is to increase the number of people who are directly dependent on it. Political genius Franklin Roosevelt knew this when he created Social Security. Clinton and Gore likewise know that when they call for "a hundred thousand new [fill in the type of government employees]" they are calling for a hundred thousand more families directly dependent on the federal government.

The most important reason why most American big businesses have been missing in action from the fight for smaller government is because many big corporations make more money from corporate welfare than they could save from smaller government. When we take big business off the dole, we remove the most powerful political force that supports a complex federal tax code with taxes that are too high for most people, but which can be jerry-rigged with "tax credits" and the like for businesses with good lobbyists. Get rid of corporate welfare, and you'll find a lot more corporations willing to stand up for liberty.”


As noted above, Kullin writes:

“Clearly the Cato Institue is supported by pro-Bush forces and by supplying arguments why Michael Moore is a potential liar and the anti-Bush movie is full of deceits, Republican-friendly interests can help Bush get re-elected.”

As you see, Kullin claims that it is the Cato Institute who supplies the arguments and not Dave Kopel himself. Strange enough, the word “Cato” is never mentioned in the article. What you will find though (right at the top, impossible to miss) is a big banner belonging to the Independence Institute. But perhaps "Colorado's Free-Market Think Tank" doesn't have the same ring to it as "one of the most influential think tanks in Washington D.C."

If we, boldly, assume that it is Cato who supplies the arguments, then we have to note another strange circumstance. In the same paragraph in the Nationmaster article on Cato where Kullin find out that Rupert Murdoch has close ties with the institute, he also finds out that the Cato Institute “frequently differs with Republican Party positions”:

"Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has served on the board of directors of Cato, which has numerous ties to the Republican Party. However, Cato frequently differs with Republican Party positions on specific issues, such as the 2003 decision by U.S. President George W. Bush to go to war with Iraq, the war on drugs, the support of "faith-based organizations" with government funds, and the decision of President George H. W. Bush to fight the first Gulf War. Cato has also criticized the 1998 settlement that many U.S. states signed with the tobacco industry.”

One can also ad the Patriot Act, the “No Child Left Behind” and the increased government spending under the Bush administration.

Perhaps someone can explain this to me. The Cato Institute pays, on behalf of “Republican-friendly interests”, Dave Kopel, who is a libertarian, to criticize an anti-Bush film that can stop Bush from get re-elected at the same time as the institute opposes substantial parts of Bush’s politics. In the article where Kopel criticizes Moore, he links to two books that criticize Bush and Kopel also mentions some issues where the Bush administration has lied. Among them:

“The one significant Bush administration lie exposed in the film involves the so-called USA PATRIOT Act; as Fahrenheit accurately claims, at least some of the material in the USA PATRIOT Act had nothing to do with 9/11, and instead involved long-sought items on the FBI agenda which had previously been unable to pass Congress, but which were enacted by Congress under Bush administration assurances that they were essential to fighting terrorism.”

Yes, what a tangled web we weave. The simple solution that the oil industry, the “pro-Bush forces” and the Cato Institute have got nothing to do with the article and that Dave Kopel holds his views independently of others is probably too simple to be true.

Kullin writes on his blog that “[t]he views in this blog does not represent those of my employer or its clients.” Funny, maybe he should apply the same standard to other people’s views as well.

I have changed my mind; Kullin’s post is not ridiculous. It’s a piece of crap.

Have I been critical enough Hans?

* Please note that this doesn’t mean that Altria approves of the above mentioned legislation because of this reason. I have no intention to make such a statement and I couldn’t prove it if I did.

Full disclosure: I have no ties to the Cato Institute more than that I receive their newsletters and once linked to a Cato Policy Analysis in an article (in Swedish) I wrote for Smedjan (Smedjan is a subdivision of the Swedish think-tank Timbro) One of the persons behind the translation of Kopel’s article into Swedish is affiliated with Timbro, I don’t know him or any of the other Pro Veritas people personally and I don’t know Dave Kopel either. I also opposed the war in Iraq, I have not seen Fahrenheit 911 and I have no opinion on the matters reported by Kopel.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Spontaneous Order

I found this blog, Spontaneous Order, via Tyler Cowen. The title refers to Friedrich Hayek's view of the society, read more about Spontaneous Order (the theory) here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Hi mister straw man, sing a song for me.

How to become a libertarian.

I can't really see how one can contend number 4, "Seemingly harmless things can lead to terrible outcomes". Unless you suppose that the government is omniscient of course. As for the "argument":

Take seatbelt laws, for instance. Most states have laws on the books forcing people to wear seatbelts. Well, if the government learns that it can restrain us physically, who knows what might happen! They might restrain us further and further, until we live in tiny cages while the government dangles tiny pieces of fruit in front of us, just out of reach! You wouldn't want to live in a world like that, would you? If not, then you should oppose seatbelt laws.

Have anyone actually said that? A libertarian would probably not argue against seatbelt laws on the grounds of a slippery slope. Instead, he or should would argue that the government hasn't got the right to decide if I should ware a seatbelt or not while driving. I'm not infringing on anyone's rights if I don't, I only harm myself. I think it was David Friedman who said that "part of freedom is the right of each of us to go to hell in his own fashion."

One might wonder why I take the article serious at all. There's only one reason, because Wikipedia links to it as a critical essay.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Glad I don't have to care about it

Amy Phillips:

"I'm really, really tired of electoral politics."

"* Some people who were in the same war as John Kerry 30 years ago don't like him much
* George Bush did not fight in a war 30 years ago
* George Bush has too much money
* Ralph Nader is desperate
* John Kerry has changed his mind over the last 40 years or so
* Theresa Heintz Kerry is annoying
* Bush's people are saying mean things about Kerry
* People think the federal government should do something about gay marriage. but neither candidate will"