You were of cause aware of the fact that Firefox is now available in version 2?
Given the discussion about the “New” Moderates, the headline may sound like a joke but if you read any of the Scandinavian languages, you ought to read this op-ed article (note that the document is in pdf format) about the subject which my colleagues Torbjörn Bergman and Camilla Sandström published in Västerbottens-Kuriren last week.
To make a long story short, Bergman and Sandström on the basis of election manifesto data argue that the distance between the political blocs increased from 2002 to 2006 and that the smaller parties take more extreme positions relative to the “centre” of the party system now compared with the 1970s and 1980s.
Using a comment as a post is perhaps a bit odd, but Eszter Hargittai published a thought-provoking observation about the Hungarian uprising on Crooked Timber and this is a – far too long – comment that I wrote. I have corrected spelling errors and added a few extra observations:In Denmark, the spring of 1956 saw a major labour market conflict which the then leader of the Danish Communist Party, Aksel Larsen, used very skilfully to enhance his position and the position of his party. The DCP had won some political support during the later part of the German occupation but lost most of it again in the early cold war-era so gaining credibility as defenders of workers’ rights would be one way back to political relevance.Here, you should know that Danish – as indeed all Scandinavian – Social Democrats and trade unions were fiercely anti-communist (they ran propaganda and intelligence offices directed against Communists in the trade unions and when I read about the 1950s I almost get the impression that the Communists were the real political enemy) and the prospect of a strong Communist presence in the trade unions was seen as a real threat by leading trade unionists and Social Democrats.But just as they were on a political roll, Larsen and the Communists were hit by a disaster: The Hungarian uprising (Nikita Khrushchev’s anti-Stalinist speech predated the labour market conflict and had already spread doubts among a number of leading Danish Communists).Even when you leave aside the anti-Communist element, many Danes would find it easy to identify with the Hungarians: Small country (think: Denmark) being suppressed by big-power neighbour (think: Germany). Since 1940 Danes had been agonising endlessly over the handling of the German occupation – and they still are.The Hungarian uprising was also the first mass-televised international event and aid for Hungarian refugees was organised through public radio and tv.But back to the Communists: Their hopes of gaining a mass following were effectively destroyed after Hungary. In 1957, Aksel Larsen was expelled from the DCP and in 1959 founded an independent Socialist Party which has been an integral part of Danish politics since the 1960 election. In an international comparison, Denmark has always had a very strong non-Communist left wing since 1960: Leftist Social Democrats found a Socialist party more acceptable than a Communist.In a European context one might say that the question of Euro-Communism was “solved” in Denmark following the Hungarian uprising. (The Swedish Left Party is still agonising about its Communist past and only shed the label “Communist” in 1990, so there was nothing automatic about the process – but then the Swedish political history during the 1940s and 1950s also differs from the Danish). Except for a minor revival during the 1970s, the DCP faded into oblivion following the founding of the Socialist Party.Of cause the Hungarian uprising didn’t cause the realignment on the Danish left but it – or rather: the way it was interpreted and used in the political debate – is an integral part of Danish political history in the 1950s which has also had lasting effects.Sorry about the lecture but the point is: Given the right circumstances, political events in one country can have effects in another. But it’s a strange irony that Danes would probably have a more intimate relationship with the Hungarian uprising than the Hungarians do.
I wonder how this would be reported by Swedish media: A visit to China by a delegation of Danish MPs earlier this year ended in a frenzied spending spree – Gucci watches, Rolexes, expensive clothes, stuff like that.
Or rather: Faked stuff like that.
The story follows an earlier story about Anne-Marie Rasmussen – Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s wife – who is the proud owner of a Louis Vuitton handbag.
Or rather: A fake Louis Vuitton handbag.
The Prime Minister has resisted calls to comment his wife’s bag while Lone Dybkjær, the wife of former Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, critizes staff at the Prime Minister’s Office for not offering Anne-Marie Rasmussen advice in the choice of clothes and accessories.
In a Danish context, using expensive brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton or Rolex and the like is not without problems even when the accessories are genuine: Some years ago when she was an MEP, the present chairman of the Social Democratic Party, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, was issued with the nickname “Gucci-Helle” by fellow MEP Freddy Blak because of her appearance.
Owning a B&O TV-set seems to be okay, though. As long as it is not a fake.
Declaration of interest: I own a Panasonic TV set and a Tissot watch. For obvious reasons, I do not own a handbag.
Some time ago, I was careless enough to promise a discussion of how the appointment of a Conservative as Finance Minister in the new Swedish government might be interpreted. In the meantime stuff – to use Donald Rumsfeld’s term – has happened but Anders Borg is still safe and sound in the FM’s office.
So the question remains: Does the fact that the Conservative Party occupies the three portfolios that has traditionally been seen as the most prestigious and politically central in a government indicate that the new Swedish government basically is a Conservative government with Centrist, Liberal and Christian Democratic garnish, or do the smaller parties have rational reasons to avoid the Foreign Office and the Finance Ministry?
First, I’ll take a look at the research and historical evidence.
What the Political Scientists Tell Us
In their book Parties and Democracy, Ian Budge and Hans Keman suggest that Liberal parties generally use economic policy as an important area to profile themselves politically. Other important areas are Justice, Education, Interior and Trade and Industry. (You’ll be looking for figure 4.3)
Judged from this, the Swedish Liberals got a rough deal at the distribution of portfolios: They only managed to secure Education and – if we see Integration as part of a Justice portfolio – partly Justice. Finance and Trade went to the Conservatives and Industry to the Centre Party.
What Swedish History Tells Us
Coalition governments are rare in Sweden and the historical evidence is limited but we do have some cases to compare the present government with. During the Social Democratic – Centre Party coalitions in the 1930s and 1950s, the Social Democrats appointed the Finance Minister, while the picture is a bit more complicated when we look at the various centre-right coalitions between 1976 and 1982 and again between 1991 and 1994.
Carl Bildt’s four party-coalition between 1991 and 1994 is a clear-cut case: The Liberals appointed the Finance Minister – but the party leader Bengt Westerberg opted for the Ministry of Social Affairs and left the Finance portfolio to Anne Wibble. (Wibble later, unsuccessfully, tried to become Westerberg’s successor but that is another story).
Torbjörn Fälldin’s two three-party coalitions between 1976 and 1978 and again from 1979 and 1981 are interesting because the Finance portfolio was split between the Conservatives and the Liberals. The Conservative party leader Gösta Bohman was Economy Minister while Liberals Ingemar Mundebo and later Rolf Wirtén held a Budget portfolio. In the two-party minority government between 1981 and 1982, Rolf Wirtén held all of the Finance portfolio.
So, to make a long story short: We should have expected a Liberal Finance Minister in the Reinfeldt government – but the price the Liberals would have paid, would have been either the Immigration or the EU portfolio. Or both, given the weight of the Finance portfolio.
In a later post, I’ll discuss why it might be a rational choice for the Liberal Party to forgo the Ministry of Finance.
No, it’s not about Carl Bildt or Tobias Billström this time.
The duo Ulrika Josephsson and Lars Norén (yes, Lars Norén) were slated to become leaders of Copenhagen’s Betty Nansen Theatre but this and as a matter of fact all other appointments made by the board of Copenhagen Theatre turned out to be almost as controversial as the – ahem – licence fee thing.
One – or rather two – of the ritual fixtures of the academic year in Sweden are the Saturdays in March and October where Högskoleprovet or the Swedish SAT is carried out.
The SSAT is a supplement to the ordinary grading made by secondary schools and it was intended as a general second chance to qualify for higher education. Since there are no limits to the number of times one can take the SSAT, the consequence has been that the SSAT scores neccessary to enter medical school and a number of other, very popular lines of education have reached the maximum limit.
In March this year, it was noted that the number of people taking the SSAT had declined steeply, and this was followed by a sharp decline in the number of applications for most most courses at all universities in Sweden. This also led to a decline in the number of new students enrolled for the autumn semester 2006.
The numbers reported for the October SSAT show a continued decline and it is likely that the decline in applications to higher education will continue for the spring semester of 2007. Eventually the result will be a severe economic crisis for all Swedish universities.
The interesting question is of cause why the number of people taking the SSAT and the number of applications for higher education decline when the number of children born during the late 1980s – the age group which should be entering higher education now – was at an all time high. No-one knows the answer which is why the Swedish Higher Education Agency started an investigation of the deciline.
One possible cause could be that unemployment among people with higher education generally rose unexpectedly from 2000 to 2005. If one combines this with a less generous system for the repayment of study debt, 3-4 years of higher education becomes less attractive compared to taking casual jobs or travelling.
Note: JUSEK published some interesting data about unemployment for people with a social science degree. The data – in Swedish – are available here but I’m too tired to write anything intelligent about them today.
On the other hand I should note that there is some really annoying virus circulating here in Sweden. I was struck with a nasty cold for a week and I have paid my licence fees.
In any event, the term you are looking for is called “the Galbraith Score“:
Anyone who says four times that he won’t resign, will
Meanwhile, the Finance Minister presented quite a radical budget proposal on Monday. Compared with the strategy of shadowing your opponent which Tony Blair’s New Labour and Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s Liberals have used in the U.K. and Denmark, this is old style politics. Sweden is different.