Environmental projects with many benefits

juni 21, 2010 - Leave a Response

One of the most interesting aspects of environmental work is how to extract both ecological and social benefits from the new solutions. In the Third World this is even more interesting; to get a broad public support for greener development, people need to feel that it has a positive impact in their everyday life. In Chile a project called Por un Chile Verde (For a green Chile) show how solutions can combine ecological and social benefits, as well as being economically viable.

For the webpage of Por un Chile Verde.

Bhopal verdict, what is a human life worth?

juni 7, 2010 - Leave a Response

At least 4000 dead; 26 years wait  before a verdict, and the lousy scumbags that are responsible walk away with two years each. They would probably have been sent away to rot if they had tried to pull some stock market swindle and got found guilty of an eco(nonmic)-crime (as we say in Swedish; better be clear what it is though since nowadays there are other types of eco-crimes being committed). If you have wondered what a human life is worth, these things give you the answer: apparently not much. At least not to some; if you’re willing to risk lives of 4000 people (or the biggest ecological disaster the world has ever seen)  just to win some market shares, maybe you should be locked away since you’re clearly a menace to society. If your judgement is so blurred by profit, maybe you shouldn’t be allowed to manage a company. Accountability is key here. People responsible of things that can’t be seen as anything less than a severe crime (even against humanity?) can’t be allowed to walk free out of the ordeal. If you kill people as a result of you decisions in a board room or if you kill them face to face matter little in the end; they’re still dead.

End of semester

juni 4, 2010 - Leave a Response

Another semester in the fantastic world which is Swedish academics has just come to its end. A few hours ago me and my partner handed in our paper on the Swedish labor movement’s international strategies. And may I say, this semester, at least the latter half of it, has been truly instructive. The raison d’étre of this blog is to search for a political identity, and this semester has certainly contributed with a wide palette of well argued-for ideological stances. There are four sources from which this colorful input comes from. First of all, the theme of the course was offering perspectives that were very proper of the professor, but nonetheless extremely interesting. It addressed the different crisis the world is facing and was actually offering solutions – however naïve, or illogical, or whatever they might have been that made me reluctant to adopting them. Then we have the theme of the final paper – the strategies for international cooperation of the Swedish Trade Union Federation, LO. Seriously penetrating the Swedish labor movement has been extremely interesting. For the paper we interviewed as many as six people on different positions within the LO organization, from union representatives of the workshop clubs of Scania and Volvo, to part of the leadership of IF-Metall and responsible for international issues at the LO headquarters. To see and understand the fundamental arguments of the labor movement has made me revaluate my own views on labor organization. Most impressive was, however, the clarity and forcefulness they had in their interpretation of capitalism and the possibilities and constraints posed by globalization. And surprisingly enough – they weren’t all that different from ‘bluer’ part of the spectra. This understanding on my part of the labor movement’s, as well as, the course’s arguments, however, was deeply imbedded with the reading of Steinbeck’s masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath. Reading about the struggles of poor farmers trying to survive in a rapidly changing economy during the early parts of the 20th century, made the building blocks that constituted the ideological foundation of all the arguments I had heard fall into place. Even though I still don’t agree with all of them, and some of them only partly, to see where they come from, what reality they are sprung out of, is indeed helpful. Finally, this semester would not have been the learning experience it was without the presence of my fellow student with whom I wrote the final paper: endless discussions about the state of things, the ‘way out of this society’ (to use the language of Greider), the goals of life, the nature of injustice, the political alternatives, the… well, and so on. It is interesting how, when on the brink of leaving for a full year, you encounter the creative, academic environment (that you had imagined university life would be packed with) that has been ever so absent for several years.

If you think that this means summer vacation for solenskiner you’re seriously mistaken. In ten days the solenskiner editorial heads of to South America, and then the real adventure begins. For now I’ll leave you with the pleasure of learning about the international work of LO…


Income inequality

maj 29, 2010 - Leave a Response

I don’t share the view that it’s morally correct to ordain equal pay for all work (in comparison to equal pay for equal work). I have before argued that inequality is problematic when it means structural obstacles for equality in possibilities. But other than that some inequality is not only harmless, but also desirable. However, recently I read an interesting argument for why inequality is a problem – or at least too much inequality (so I can easily accept this argument since it is not in direct contention with my own, which is always nice). It was Joe Stiglitz who was commenting on the effect of increasing income inequalities during the last decades on the economy: “in fact we have transferred money from the poor to the rich, from people that would spend the money, to people that doesn’t have to spend it, and the result is a diminish collective demand” (I read this in Swedish and it is my own translation).

Ohly borde inte slå sig för bröstet

maj 13, 2010 - 2 svar

Lars Ohly, på Vänsterns partikongress, kritiserade borgerligheten för att vara för dogmatisk och se sänkning av skatten som lösningen på alla problem. Kan kanske vara att man drar lite för höga växlar på det ibland (även om det för det mesta finns ganska mycket litteratur som stödjer alliansens skattesänkningar), men Ohly borde inte slå sig för bröstet för det. Vänstern är minst lika dogmatisk när den ser höjning av skatten som lösningen på alla problem.

I många fall finns det inget direkt samband mellan ökade anslag och kvalitet, då måste lösningen till problemen finnas  på annat håll. För övrigt så är det bra att komma ihåg att ökade anslag tar bort incitamenten för viktiga effektiviseringsåtgärder. Det statliga blir ett svart hål som gapar efter pengar och ständigt vill ha mer. Jag skrev ett inlägg om idén att svälta monstret, det vill säga, minska anslagen genom skattesänkningar för att tvinga fram effektivisering och utgiftsminskning. I praktiken har den taktiken fungerat ganska dåligt, som framgår av inlägget. Så lösningen ligger alltså inte varken i skattehöjningar eller i skattesänkningar – i alla fall inte enkom. Istället behövs finansiering tillsammans med incitament för effektivisering. Genom offentliga-privata samarbeten kan man få detta (det som på engelska kallas public-private partnership). Staten sätter standarden och privata aktörer levererar välfärdstjänsten. På så sätt har man fått incitament för effektivisering och finansiering (och effektivare välfärd skulle ju så klart ge utrymme för skattesänkningar då högre kvalitet kan erbjudas till lägre pris). Så istället för att Ohly ska kritisera att dagisverksamheter sålts ut till underpris borde han fråga sig hur det kan vara så att privata aktörer kan driva verksamheten så mycket effektivare än staten.

Reinfeldt vs Sahlin

maj 10, 2010 - Leave a Response

Reinfeldt imponerade igår på Agenda’s debatt. Om än stundom repetetiv (han sa ”jag lovar ordning i de offentliga finanserna” säkert 100 gång), så var Reinfeldt mycket bra. Jag visste faktiskt inte att han var så vältalig. Sedan var det andra fördelar så som att Reinfeldt uppenbart var mycket mer påläst än Sahiln, var saklig och kändes tryggare i sin argumentation.

Sen är det ju såklart en fördel att Reinfeldts politik faktiskt går ihop och inte är en enda sörja av osammanhängande dravel.

Concerning class

maj 6, 2010 - Ett svar

Recently, there was a debate concerning class in Swedish society (svtplay.se). The representatives of the right were very weak – both in their arguments and in their attempts to control the discussion – and the leftist arguments were left unaddressed.

My view on the issue:

The Left is right (i.e. correct) when they say that class is not about income, nor is it about position – it is about opportunities. One common idea is that it is about the opportunity or possibility to control the organization of work. However, other possibilities should be included. Basically it is the possibility to change one’s life which decides class. This can be described also as the degree of alienation. If class is the degree of alienation, a person can belong to different classes in different occasions, and in different periods in life. Also, a person that is traditionally seen as belonging to a higher class can actually be more alienated than a person belonging to a lower class. For example, a café owner (a capitalist according to Marx), who has invested much of his or her life savings in the café and is dependent on that income, decides to employ three people to work in the café. These three youngsters are also to a certain extent dependent on the income, but two of them still live with their parents and the third is studying at the same time. In this example, the café owner is much less in position to change his or her life than the employees. He or she is restrained by this café and are much less ‘free’ than the others. Thus, he or she is more alienated.

The Left is also correct when they say that opportunities should be similar for everybody. This, however, is not the same as results being the same. Structural obstacles for people to realize themselves should be addressed. This is done by, for example, offering universal schooling and health care. Measures that are obviously being taken in Sweden. One structural problem is self-confidence. This problem is tricky, but one thing is for sure, it doesn’t help making people of a specific class into victims.

Whether it is important or not to talk about class is tricky. Class can be important, in some countries in the world it is a huge problem for the development of society. However, since (as already mentioned) class is not about income, but about opportunities, the growth of sectors with low-income jobs does not necessarily mean more alienation. Even Marx said that the only thing worse than being an exploited proletarian is being unemployed. The real alienation is the social exclusion of unemployment. Another aspect to talking about class is the ease with which poverty is forgotten. Differences in income in a society do not directly convert into poverty. A poor in the U.S. is better off than a poor in Uganda, or even a middle class in Uganda. Class is so deeply connected to relativity that it can sometimes be a problematic concept. I have argued here before for the importance of not forgetting the relative aspects of poverty – I now argue not to forget the absolute aspects of it. My main argument for the importance of relative poverty is that it can be connected to the structural obstacles to self-fulfillment. However, if these obstacles are addressed effectively (through, for example, re-distribution) certain income differences are not only acceptable but also desirable.

Migrationsverket agerar firhetsberövare

maj 5, 2010 - 6 svar

Min sambo kom hit till Sverige för snart två år sedan som anhörig till mig. Hennes uppehållstillstånd gick ut i slutet av april. I början av januari så undersökte vi hur man gjorde för att förlänga uppehållstillståndet och fick svaret att man inte fick skicka in ansökan om förlängning mer än en månad innan tillstånd går ut. Vi skickade in ansökan i slutet av februari för att vara på säkra sidan. Eftersom Migrationsverket hade regeln om att man inte fick skicka in ansökan tidigare antog vi att handläggningstiden inte skulle ta mer än en månad, så att man fick det nya tillståndet i samband med att det gamla gick ut. Så var det inte. Migrationsverket lägger inte ens ansökan i kön förrän det tidigare tillståndet gått ut. I Stockholm antas handläggningstiden vara ungefär 3 månader – från det att det tidigare tillståndet gått ut. Det vill säga, 3 månader när den ansökande står utan uppehållstillstånd. Under denna tid kan den ansökande inte lämna Sverige om han eller hon vill kunna komma tillbaka in igen i landet. Ett sorts vakuum uppstår och den ansökande befinner sig i en situation av total hjälplöshet. Eftersom alternativen är så förödande skulle man kunna säga att den ansökande är bokstavligen frihetsberövad – han eller hon sitter i ”landsarrest”.

När det gäller köer i handläggningstid så är det en stor skillnad från till exempel bilköer. Bilköer skapas i rusningstrafik men avtar så småningom när tillförseln av nya bilar avtar. Vid en myndighet som Migrationsverket är det svårt att tänka sig att tillkommandet av ansökningar om förlängning varierar särskilt drastiskt under året, så det kan inte tänkas bli köer under en rusningsperiod för att sedan avta och stabiliseras under lugnare tidpunkter. Det gör att köer i handläggningstid kan existera i två olika scenarior. Antingen så är tillkomsten av nya ansökningar så hög att Migrationsverket inte har möjlighet att handlägga i takt med att ärenden kommer in. Detta skulle vara en helt ohållbar situation då ärenden skulle samlas i ständigt växande högar, och köerna skulle bli längre och längre. Eller, så är Migrationsverket helt enkelt så dåligt organiserade och verklighetsfrånvända att de anser att de kan ta ut en tre månaders buffert (för, som jag fick veta på telefon av en ganska otrevlig handläggare, på sommarn ska ju de också ha semester…), utan att överhuvudtaget betänka de människor som drabbas.

Artikel 14 i FN:s konvention om rättigheter för internationella migrantarbetare säger:

No migrant worker or member of his or her family shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home, correspondence or other communications…


Migrant workers and members of their families shall not be subjected individually or collectively to arbitrary arrest or detention; they shall not be deprived of their liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedures as are established by law.

Jag vet inte om ni kanske tycker att det är lite långsökt att jämföra den situation som påtvingats oss av Migrationsverkets inkompetens med frihetsberövande, men jag ser skillnaden som minimal. På två år hinner man bygga upp ett ganska stabilt liv. Bara det faktum att man ska prövas efter två år och eventuellt behöva kasta bort allting är påfrestande psykiskt (jag fick veta via e-mail att Migrationsverket kunde inte säga i förväg om man fick förlängt uppehållstillstånd, eller permanent uppehållstillstånd, eller ingetdera, även om man fortfarande var tillsammans). Migrationsverket agerar frihetsberövare på ett moraliskt ytterst tveksamt sätt. Att man inte kan anpassa sina rutiner efter de människor som man ska bistå är ett fundamentalt problem i en myndighet. Och migrationsverket verkar vara en myndighet som har ytterst svårt att möta det problemet.


maj 4, 2010 - Ett svar

Yesterday I went to see the sneak-premier of ‘Overdose’, the movie about the next financial crisis. It’s based on the book of Johan Norberg, ‘The Perfect Storm’ (Hydra), and Norberg is also the voice in the film. The movie was entertaining (it was a typical ‘american-style’ documentary) and besides the quite amateurish editing and effects (it looked something produced at a local network TV station), it made some good points. These were:

>The financial crisis of 2008 was created by irresponsible government actions after the IT-crash of 2001. Interest rates were kept low to increase consumption in a declining economy. State sponsored banks like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac started to provide mortgages for people that could not get them on the free market.  When interest rates then rose with the effect that housing prices fell and people walked away from their new houses and the banks were getting into trouble. Complicated derivates and other packages had bundled up the loans and sold them all over the world as low-risk. When the banks got into trouble the financial market panicked – no one knew what they had bought. Banks started to hoard money.

>To save  the situation big bail-outs were put into place by the U.S. government. And then big stimulus packages. Bush used more money in these two areas than all other American presidents put together. And Obama has used more money in these two areas than all other American presidents before him – including Bush! These stimulus packages together with interest rates as low as can be is creating a new bubble. However, the problem is not only that the U.S. is doing this, the problem is that governments all over the world are doing this. Hundreds of bubbles are being created at the same time.

Interesting and good points were taken up in the film. However, I do miss some more deep-going  analysis. What is Norberg’s view on the relation between financial economy and the ‘real’ economy (finance is about 80 % of the economy and the ‘real’ economy only 20 %)? Finance is actually speculation on future growth. How are we going to sustain such high future growth to feed this giant financial monster with regard to climate change and ecological degradation? Is the problem of the government actions that it has removed accountability, and can regulation then that doesn’t do this be desirable?

Overdose will be shown on TV4 Fakta this Sunday.

Adaptable people

maj 3, 2010 - 2 svar

Yesterday at a restaurant we discussed the adaptability of people; that humans are a remarkable species in the way that people are able to adapt to almost any circumstance. Two examples came up. First, when the non-smoking in restaurants law was to come about, people were quite skeptical, but once there most of us don’t even think about anymore. The second example was from Spain, where supposedly 80 % of the population was against homo-marriages, but again, once there the law seen as positive by a small majority. The two examples show how people very easily adapt the new situations and realities. Just as the examples are quite different, this insight about people’s adaptability can be used with two different purposes. It can be used to decrease people’s freedom (like in the first example), or increase people’s freedom (as in the second example). Whatever a policy does, these two, let’s call them sub-effects, should be taken into consideration. Policies that are made reality against the will of the majority of the people that actually increase freedom and release exposed groups from oppression are good policies, and it is good that people get used to them. Policies, on the other hand, that are made against the will of the majority that do not increase freedom, and that actually oppresses certain groups are bad, and adapting to them (and starting to see them as normal) is bad. Now, I’m not saying that the smoking in restaurant-ban is a very serious offense to people’s freedom. But these bad policies can take much worse forms (Nazi-Germany is maybe the clearest example), and people adapt to them all the same.

So as a leader you have to consider if your policy is of a malign of benign nature, because people will adapt to it in either case.