Size matters?

In Critical Mass, Philip Ball indirectly addresses a criticism that Timbro et al. often make about one characteristic of the Swedish economy — its lack of new large companies. Sweden’s start-ups do not grow into behemoths like Microsoft and Google. They never join the ranks of the AstraZenecas and Ericssons, Sweden’s mature large companies. As an example of this criticism, Johan Norberg quotes Johnny Munkhammar: “None of Sweden’s 50 largest companies was started after 1970.”

I have never understood why this observation was meant to constitute a criticism per se: Either the Swedish economy in aggregate is less productive as a result of this phenomenon or it is not. Before you can state that the lack of large new companies is somehow an indictment of the Swedish model you should really first argue that there is a link between the high taxes/regulations and an inability of small companies to grow large,Another argument might be that large companies in Sweden enjoy too few constraints on their behaviour, allowing them to successfully crowd out upstarts, but I do not expect Timbro to front an appeal for less laissez faire.
Or, yet another possibility, perhaps Swedish large companies are so innovative that they pre-empt the need for smaller upstarts to replace them.
and then argue that smaller companies are less productive, which in turn causes lower overall productivity in the economy.

The only problem is that Sweden has one of the most productive economies in the world, despite the high taxes and this relative lack of large new companies. Perhaps then it is time to look for a link between the lack of churn in business size in Sweden and the country’s admirable productivity.

Philip Ball offers a hint on page 219 of his book. He points in the direction of the work of Paul Ormerod, a British economist who created a model [PDF] linking the severity of the fluctuations in an economy’s business cycle with the distribution of company sizes. His model is able to explain why economies composed of a few large companies tend to experience deeper recessions,“The model therefore suggests that the business cycle arises because of, first, the different scales on which individual firms produce and, second, the interactions between these firms. It is the concentration of output amongst a relatively small group of firms which gives rise to the business cycle.” while economies composed of predominantly smaller businesses — such as Sweden’s — experience shallower recessions. Ball’s adjoiner:

This is a sober message in the light of the tendency for small companies to get swallowed up by a handful of big ones: in such an economy, we must expect deeper, more severe recessions. In this sense at least, a “healthy” market is a diverse one.

Which raises another interesting point. Perhaps it is harder for Swedish companies to grow not because taxes are higher, but because these companies tend to merge less often, for whatever reason. There are plenty of examples of mergers, ostensibly driven by promised synergies and economies of scale, which in fact were the product of megalomanic CEOs (witness AOL Time Warner) and which performed poorly afterwards. These tend to balance out the success stories — the Googles and the Microsofts. Large companies clearly are not automatically more productive than smaller ones — at least not anymore. Perhaps the internet now provides smaller companies with access to the same economies of scale that previously were only available to larger companies. Or else smaller companies prove to be more nimble in times of accelerating technological change. Or perhaps smaller companies benefit from the rule of 150Also see Blink on this matter..

Whatever the reason, Timbro needs to do a bit more work if it wants to convince me — reciting the mantra won’t do it. I’m not saying they’re wrong, outright — this post is far too tentative for that — but I am saying that it’s rather easy to think of plausible rebuttals, and then to find support for these among economists.

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The master race

I went in search of rowhouse architecture in Schoten, the Antwerp suburb where my farmor lives (grandparent sounds so vague nowadays), but found a street fair instead. Xenophobic party Vlaams Belang had their “hospitality” tent up on one end of main street: the ruling liberal VLD party had theirs up on the other end. In front of the VLD tent, as if to rub it in, a group of Caribbean drummers. In front of the Vlaams Belang tent, this woman hawking membership. Flanders is polarizing.vlaamsbelang.jpg

Cut the CAP

I am currently a little proud to be living in a country with a sane policy towards the EU budget mess: Swedish PM Göran Persson and UK PM Tony Blair have allied to push for a fundamental revamp of the EU budget’s structure, calling for the early demise of the odious and unprincipled Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Given that EU President Barroso is currently on a direct collision course with Blair, this should make life interesting for EU Vice President Margot Wallström, who is also on-again off-again heir to Persson’s mantle. On whose side will she end up if this showdown goes nuclear, especially as we know she shares the view of the Swedish Social Democratic party [PDF, Swedish] that the CAP is a waste of money and grossly unfair to the developing world?

Perhaps she’ll blog her conflicted loyalties.

Branding Sweden II

I’m not done yet blogging the branding of Sweden. A couple more points.You can read the first part here.

What was interesting about both Mark Leonard and Simon Anholt is that in their talks on country branding and public diplomacy last week they both publicly professed a belief in the reality of the “welfare utopia” view of Sweden. Perhaps they were just trying to flatter their audience, but it felt like — the expert marketers that they are — they’d been drinking a little bit too much of their own Kool-Aid.

This was surprising, given Leonard’s point that brand images often lag reality. His job with the Cool Brittania campaign had been to update Britain’s long-held reputation for frumpiness with something far more dynamic and accurate. He might have guessed, then, that the view of Sweden as Tillsammans/Together writ large is just as outdated as believing in the Britain of Margaret Thatcher and Arthur Scargill. That Sweden continues to be branded thus even today is a testament to how well the country played the role of Europe’s cold war escape fantasy. My own somewhat Macchiavellian take on this has been to let this sleeping dog lie — it’s an inaccurate but largely positive brand in the minds of most foreigners, so reap the benefits while you can.

To engage in further metaphor abuse, if you were to wake the dog — you might not like its bark. Modern Sweden, from what I can tell, no longer musters vast majorities in favor of third ways or “Swedish” models. The ruling social democrats and assorted left-leaning allies have trailed in the polls ever since I’ve been here (a coincidence), and the odds are in favor of the next government leaning right-of-center.

As if on cue, pro-business group Svenskt Näringsliv this week revealed that it is contributing money (€54,000) in support of the Latvian construction company’s case before a European Court, challenging a Swedish court’s ruling that a Swedish union blockade last year against the Latvians was legal. To translate from the DN article,

Regeringen anser att stödet är en krigsförklaring mot den svenska modellen, och näringsminister Thomas Östros har ifrågasatt om de statliga bolagen kan vara kvar som medlemmar i Svenskt Näringsliv.The government says that the support is a declaration of war against the Swedish model, and economics minister Thomas Östros questioned whether state-owned companies can remain members of Svenskt Näringsliv.

This excerpt is quite revealing — the government does not call it a declaration of war against the Social Democratic model, but against the Swedish model. That’s recasting party ideology as the national brand, and I don’t think that in today’s 50-50 Sweden you can get away with that anymore.

You could argue that there are two dominant narratives/brands in circulation describing Sweden, and their ownership is the cause for a bit of a tussle. One brand is the traditional image of Sweden as a national home (folkhemmet), where no Swede is left behind, and it is claimed by the Social Democrats without objection from Swedish liberals, who regard the folkhem as an outmoded notion in an age of globalization.

The other brand is that of innovative, high-tech entrepreneurial Sweden, and is claimed by the members of Svenskt Näringsliv, but also by the Social Democrats. Just to spell it out: Did high-tech Sweden arise because of low income inequality and unionized labor, or despite high taxes and a welfare system that warps the incentive to work? How much of the credit for Sweden’s world-beating productivityOlle Wästberg proposes a novel (to me) explanation for this in his latest newsletter: The reason productivity is high despite low labor participation rates is precisely because the least productive workers are the ones most likely be let go/drop out, so the average productivity of those remaining rises:
“Svensk produktivitet har nu under femton år legat bland de högsta i världen. Ett trendbrott skedde kring 1990. Ekonomerna frågar sig vad som hänt, och sambanden kring produktivitetsförändringar är erkänt svåra att analysera.
Det är främst inom tillverkningsindustrin som produktiviteten ökat, något mindre i tjänstesektorn.
Jag tror att en delförklaring är att den ekonomiska krisen 1989-95 slog ut de mindre produktiva ur arbetslivet: lågutbildade, funktionshindrade, alkoholproblematiker miste i hög utsträckning sina jobb. De höga arbetskraftskostnaderna har gjort arbetsgivarna allt mer noggranna med vilka de anställer. De anställda som är kvar har kunnat hålla en mycket hög produktionstakt, samtidigt som de haft kunskap att hantera en allt mer komplicerad produktionsteknik.
Här har vi andra sidan av höga sjukskrivnings- och förtidspensioneringstal.”
goes to Social Democratic policies, and how much to the entrepreneurs and innovators who try to accommodate these policies? Whose version of events, played out before a gallery of international opinion, is correct?

The answer, of course, is both, though with plenty of room for debate about when and how much each component has contributed. But what I think is clearly not plausible is the notion that the Social Democrats should have some sort of monopoly over the Swedish brand abroad.

(Me, I think that Swedish companies do well despite the high taxes and an overly generous welfare system. But that’s not the point of this post.)

Branding Sweden

Last Wednesday I attended a half-day conference in StockholmAt Rival. on public diplomacy, nation branding, and Sweden’s image abroad. Speakers included Olle Wästberg, head of the Swedish InstituteHe was previously Consul General for Sweden in New York, where I once met him at a party at Anna L.’s loft., Leif Pagrotsky, Sweden’s minister for education, research and culture, Mark Leonard, the mind behind Tony Blair’s successful Cool Brittania rebranding campaign, and Simon Anholt, the authority most often on tap when countries decide to talk brandingIt is Anholt who was behind the recent survey that picked Sweden as the country with the world’s most powerful brand (albeit from a limited menu of 11 countries). He also said he “sort of doubts it” Sweden will top the next survey, which comes out quarterly, as it will include 25 countries, including strong competitiors Canada, New Zealand, Switzerand and Australia..

If you speak Swedish, then you can read Bloggforumer Jonas Morian’s account. He zooms in on the most surprising part of the event: Pagrotsky ripped into Svenskt Näringsliv, a pro-business interest group, for willingly sabotaging Sweden’s image abroad in order to score political points at home against the ruling Social Democrats. The example he proffered is an interview he gave the FT extolling Sweden as a desirable place to invest, only to have a Svenskt Näringsliv member write a letter to the editor contradicting the minister.

This was not the only debate of this kind that erupted during the past week. June 6 saw the publication of a letter in a Latvian daily on the occassion of Sweden’s national day, apologising for the Swedish government’s support of a recent trade union blockade of a Latvian construction firm operating in Sweden. The letter was signed by 50 Swedes of a liberal persuasion. This prompted Hans Karlsson, the Swedish minister for employment, to demand an apology for the apology from those in the oppostion parties who had signed it.

All this raises a great many interesting questions in the context of public diplomacy and nation branding. Suddenly we’re no longer just discussing what Sweden’s image abroad is, but also about who owns this image, whose responsibility it is to maintain it, and whether there is a patriotic duty for Swedish citizens to present a unified face before foreigners when it comes to this image.

But first, what precisely is public diplomacy? Leonard defined it as “to understand, inform, influence and build relationships with civil society abroad in order to create a positive environment for the fulfillment of (Swedish) political and economic objectives.” This might sound like propaganda tout court, but in fact it is meant to convey a more honest, cooperative approach to making other people like you, in the same way that Robert Scoble blogging for Microsoft is meant to make us like the company, especially because he sometimes concedes a point or takes up your cause with Bill. It’s all rather just a clever implementation of Joseph Nye’s notion of soft power, and it works for me.

The other thing to take home from Leonard’s speech is that these days, governments only have marginal control over a country’s image abroad; Embassies have relatively little impact on a foreign public’s perceptions. Instead, it is foreign correspondents covering local US news who inform most Europeans about the goings-on there. It’s Swedish tourists just being themselves in Greece who shape perceptions of Sweden there. It’s foreign students in Italy deciding that the country is a political basket case. All this is rather obvious, really.

The decentralized way in which a country’s image is contructed in the minds of foreigners constrains those who would deign to tweak it. If the branding exercise begins to strain credibility, then it becomes propaganda, which in these days eventually means a PR backlash.

Anholt argued in his talk that nation branding at its core is about articulating a common identity — and this begins with the stories citizens tell each other about who they are. It’s a bit marketingese, but I can buy into that. In which case, if Swedes agree on what these common stories are, then the task of branding Sweden abroad is made much easier.

But what if Swedes do not agree on which stories are common to all? Or what if they believe that some of these stories are nothing to be proud of? What if Pagrotsky’s story to the FT is not the consensus view held by Swedes, but one of several competing narratives about what Sweden really is?

I think the situation is somewhat analogous to what’s been happening in the US. It used to be the case that Americans left partisan bickering at home when travelling abroad. Overseas, Americans would rally around the flag and support their president, regardless of whether he was Republican or Democrat, because flag and president were symbols of the country that transcended partisanship — they formed part of the narrative that all Americans could agree on.

This pact has frayed before, notably during the Vietnam war, and it has frayed again post-9/11, as exemplified by the Dixie Chicks in the runup to the second Iraq war: They told Europeans they were ashamed President Bush was from Texas because they felt “the President is ignoring the opinions of many in the U.S. and alienating the rest of the world.”

If one is a patriot, when is it alright to break rank and criticize government policy abroad? Never? In that case, the Dixie Chicks were wrong, as was Svenskt Näringsliv and the 50 Swedish liberals. (Not to mention Alexander Solzhenitsyn.)

A more workable answer is that, if you are a patriotI keep on adding “if you are a patriot” as a qualifier, as I myself am not a patriot of any stripe., it is alright to take the partisan battle abroad if you feel your government is attempting to recast its ideological underpinnings as your country’s national brand.

To American liberals I’ve talked to, Bush’s endorsement of neo-con foreign policy prescriptions after 9/11 seemed to amount to that. When their domestic opposition to the war in Iraq led to their patriotism being questioned, these suspicions were bolstered.

In Sweden, the stakes are not nearly as high, but we have a similar situation: In the case of the letter to the FT, the author seems to feel that the image of Sweden being promoted abroad — as a business-friendly place to invest — is belied by actual government policy. In the case of the apology to the Latvians, the authors seem to be saying that the ruling Social Democrat’s regulatory approach to the labor market — “ordning och reda” — used to prevent Latvians from competing in Sweden, is not in fact a core Swedish value, but rather a Social Democratic ideology whose effect abroad is harming the image the Baltic states have of Sweden as the example to emulate. The letter of apology to the Latvians, then, becomes an attempt to redress the balance of the impressions that form the image of Sweden in the minds of Latvians.

If it is the government that owns the Swedish brand, then these letters certainly are unpatriotic attempts at interfering with affairs of state, and Pagrotsky and Karlsson are right. But if the brand is owned by the people, then a government policy with effects abroad that strays too far from common values should be expected to lead to letters like these.

Early notes from Bloggforum

After Bloggforum‘s last panel debate of the day, one of the SVT24 Direkt cameramen, who earlier had commented on how he thought the hand-drawn Bloggforum signs looked cool, That retro look was because of printer toner issues, not intentional. came up to me and said (in Swedish) something like “You know, we should write a blog about all the shit we have to listen to for our work.” What an excellent idea, I thought. Now that’s a media blog I’d love to read. (No, I don’t think he was being that sarcastic.)

More Bloggforum thoughts to follow; it’s just been a slow start to the day here.Later, at après-forum drinks, Dagens Nyheter‘s Nils Öhman in passing mentioned a very interesting point that is obvious in retrospect but which I had never actually heard articulated: That the variety of political opinions expressed in a blogosphere tends to be heavily influenced by the nature of the political system the blogosphere belongs to.

For some reason, I had always assumed that since blogs are inherently individualistic pursuits, their political opinions would resist falling in line behind the larger cleavages that define the home polity. They would provide a wealth of viewpoints, supplanting the limited number of official party stances, which after all are wrought from a need for a consensus large enought to justify the investment on party machinery. This was supposed to be the promise of blogs.

I assumed all this even though it is blatantly not the case in the US, where bloggers have largely ended up identifying themselves as liberal (=Democrat) or conservative (=Republican), with a smattering of libertarians on the side. Bloggers’ loyalties have tended to collapse to the options generated by the first-past-the-post electoral system in place there, which is necessarily empoverishing.

In Sweden, a multiparty system is fostering a truly fragmented political blogging landscape. Over the past few months, bloggers from the smaller parties have swelled the ranks, and what’s interesting is that these bloggers’ political opinions not only differ within party alliances, they also tend to break rank within parties themselves. Blogging, then, is being used as a collaborative tool to evolve party stances, at least among the parties’ Young Turks. (As examples, look at the variety in the responses by the left to the formation of the Feminist Initiative, or Johan Norberg‘s open flirting with the Center Party.)

Unlike in the US, I get the feeling that Swedish bloggers are not being continually urged towards up-or-down, yay-or-nay, with-us-or-against-us bottom lines, because a proportional-representation electoral system does not demand it. It’s as if the gap between Republican and Democrat is too large to beat, and so American bloggers have opted to join one or the other. In Sweden, no such sacrifices for the sake of the greater good are needed.

Initiativ till initiativ

F! Det synes vara lätt starta upp ett eget politiskt initiativ som F!. Man samlar ihop några likasinnade människor, skriver ett manifest, leker med en logotyp i Word, och ringer media. Det borde fler människor göra, faktiskt. Härmed några förslag:

F. Som F!, men med en mer nykter analys av frågan, utan skattefuskare eller sjukskrivna i styrelse, och med löftet att endast använda demokratiska metoder. Analysen skulle försöka svara på varför regeringens policy har försämrat löneskillnaderna mellan kvinnor och män i jämförelse med resten av Europa och USA, och varför det finns mycket färre kvinnliga VDar i Sverige än i USA (1.5% mot 11%). Analysen skulle åtminstone ifrågasätta om man behöver mer av regeringens policy, eller kanske mindre.

F. skulle också påstå att de flesta av världens kvinnor inte är svenska, och om man vill hjälpa så många kvinnor som möjligt skulle man kunna göra det genom policy som försöker göra U-länder rikare så snabbt som möjligt, så att kvinnorna där får tillgång till egna resurser. Att det också betyder att män blir rikare skulle inte vara ett problem, därför att F. tycker att män är helt okej, och att de flesta inte “våldtar kvinnor och flickor” eller “utsätter dagligen kvinnor för våld.”

F? Som F., men riktad till feministnyfikna. Manifestet heter “Feminism for Dummies” och de gör reklam på TV under pauserna i hockeymatcher. De skulle försöka berätta för män varför de också borde vara feminister: Inte bara därför att ungefär 50% av deras ättlingar kommer att vara kvinnor, men också därför att det betyder att samhället kan utvecklas mycket mer effektivt, vilket är bra för alla. F? skulle också försöka övertyga män om att vara feminist inte betyder att tänka som Schyman.

PFFT! Riktat till anti-feministerna, såklart. Skulle föreslå samma policy som F! men med motiveringen att det hindrar kvinnor.

YF; Jag tänker faktiskt starta upp detta initiativ. Idéen är att fokusera på att främja och skydda yttrandefriheten på ett följdriktigt sätt här i Sverige. Det betyder att vara emot PUL som den ser ut nu, mot en bred tolkning av lagen mot hets mot folkgrupp, mot den otroligt dumma lagen beträffande cookies, mot lagen som brottsförklarar omodererade kommentarer, och mot lagar som kränker yttrandefriheten bara därför att det underlättar tillämpningen av andra lagar — vilket skulle hända med maskeringsförbudet, till exempel.

Motivering är att förstärka samhället genom fri debatt. Men det är ju inte en slump att YFs syfte motsvarar till vad jag anser är bloggarnas egen fördel: Rätt att uttala vad man tycker är sant, även om andra tycker det är pinsamt.

För att YF; ska lyckas, är det viktigt att det inte blir ett höger- eller vänsterprojekt. Även om yttrandefriheten upptar en del av Frihetsfrontens manifest, skulle YF; inte befatta sig med de ekonomiska slutsatserna och inte heller frågor kring copyright eller ägande av IP. YF; skulle snarare vara en Svensk version av ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), som kämpar för yttrandefrihet och religionsfrihet (och frihet från religion). I USA är ACLU regelbundet demoniserat av högern; detta borde försäkra dem på vänstern att YF; inte är en nyliberal komplott för att ytterligare dela upp deras röst ännu mer än Schymans initiativ.

They like me! They really like me!

It would appear that my learned treatise On the applicability of the Juche Idea to the Nordics has found an appreciative audience. In my inbox tonight:

We are planning a Korea summit with the DPRK as theme in July.
Location: Kopparberg.
Invited: All friends of the DPRK, but of course also friends of the ROK.
An attempt at eclecticism [I think it means].
Very well written on your blog. On the applicability of the Juche idea.
Happy 15th of April to you!
Peter Björkman & Samuel West

Vi planerar en Korea-summit på DPRK-tema i juli.
Plats: Kopparberg. Inbjudna: alla vänner till DPRK, men förstås också ROK-vänner.
Ett försök till ekletik.
Himla kul skrivet på bloggen. On the applicability of the Juche idea.
Trevlig 15:e april på dig!
Peter Björkman & Samuel West

That should provide some choice bloggage. And besides, I’ve always wanted to be the narrator in Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum.

Testing the limits, again.

In Dagens Nyheter this past Sunday, a TT newswire article about what looks likely to become the next battle for the free speech demarcation line in Sweden. A local court in a town north of Göteborg will on April 5 hear the case against a primitive Christian (“urkristen”) and his website, on which hate speech against homosexuals can be found that, according to the article, is even stronger and more widely disseminated than Åke Green’s sermon.

A quick summation of the charges, as related by the prosecutor, for those who do not speak Swedish: The site alleges homosexuals are the “origin of and the engine behind the AIDS epidemic,” and also that homosexuality is a “sevenfold (?) dirty noise that wells up like an infernal flood through society and reaps millions of victims.” Furthermore, according to the prosecutor, a bulletin board maintained by the site contains posts with the opinion that “homosexuals should be punished by death and hung on city squares.”

The article does not mention the name of the site, nor the person behind it. I find that ridiculous. Society doesn’t need to be shielded from such people — we need to seek them out, engage them, ridicule and shame them.

So, some discovery was in order, then. Googling the term used in the article, “oas för urkristen tro och väckelse” led me to the site, Bible Templet. The person behind this site is Leif Liljeström, and it is immediately clear — if only from his complete lack of design sense — that he is something of a nutcase. In fact, I seriously question his sanity. He appears to have messianic illusions of grandeur.

From a rather cursory check (again, that design is unbearable) it would seem that Leif has taken down the passages referred to by the prosecutorGoogle does not seem to have a record of the quotes as related by the prosecutor. Leif does seem to maintain a weblog on Blogger as well, BTW., and in a post on his “guest book”, he maintains that he himself disapproved of a commenter’s call for the death penalty for homosexuals, and wrote as much in a response to the comment, which I could not find. He also appears to be saying that he rejects calls to violence (it’s all rather confused). Finally, he says that the death penalty comment was posted as part of a discussion that was held “several” years ago, which would make it interesting from a legal point of view, as the hets mot folkgrupp law was extended to include homosexuals only around two years ago.

Still, it would appear that Leif is on shakier legal ground than Åke Green was, here in Sweden. Leif isn’t preaching, and preaching is specifically what saved Åke Green when he appealed his conviction. Second, Sweden has a law which states that administrators of websites are legally responsible for the content of third-party contributions on unmoderated bulletin boards or comment sections.

I’ve previously argued in favor of my own preferred definition of hets mot folkgrupp, which is “incitement to violence,” where speech is intentionally used to incite acts of physical violence against members of a protected group. On which side of this demarcation line for free speech would Leif’s website fall?

The test I like most is actually just the one that the US Supreme Court used in its landmark 1969 case, Brandenburg vs. Ohio. It is described thus:

The Court used a two-pronged test to evaluate speech acts: (1) speech can be prohibited if it is “directed at inciting or producing imminent lawless action” and (2) it is “likely to incite or produce such action.”

Here is another description of the test:

That link leads to a site that contains a whole range of possible tests for determining the free speech demarcation line — a far more nuanced range than any I have seen debated by legal scholars and legal authorities here in Sweden. I was at one such debate a few weeks ago under Mosebacke Terassen. The four panelists all held practically identicaly perspectives. The only variety of opinion was to be found in audience questions.
One more thing: If you don’t agree with my choice of test, I’d be interested in knowing which test you’d prefer instead.

The Brandenburg test – Merely teaching or advocating unpopular ideas must be distinguished from teaching or advocating the duty, necessity, or propriety of acting on those beliefs. The right to speak and organize cannot be abridged no matter if the group’s message and purpose are repugnant to American values (such as KKK speech). In order for government to intervene, the speaker must subjectively intend incitement (imminent evil), use words which are likely to produce action (imminent action), and openly encourage or urge incitement (suggesting, for example, it’s a duty to commit a crime).

It is clear to me that when it comes to Leif’s own pronouncements, neither he nor Åke Green are engaging in speech that should be prohibited. The commenter, meanwhile, certainly sounds like he believes public executions of homosexuals are a good idea, and that is pretty strong stuff. But does this constitute incitement to violence as defined by the Brandenburg test? It does not. To be exact (and in such matters it makes a difference) the commenter does not propose extra-legal action (as in a KKK-style lynching) but rather a change in the law that would make such action legal — he talks about a death penalty. This removes the sense of a threat of “imminent lawless action” which the test requires for an incitement charge to stickIf you’re interested, this page has some pretty thorny questions about borderline cases involving the Brandenburg test.. Additionally, I think that leaving an anonymous rant on a hideous-looking website is about as unconvincing a case as anyone can make.

At this point, it is worth asking again about Nazi rallies, and whether Nazi campaigns against gays and jews should be outlawed. I believe that they should, because Nazis and Nazi sympatisers have a history of violent action against homosexuals, even recently in Sweden. The US Supreme Court upheld such reasoning in an analogous situation with the KKK and cross-burning in Virginia, in the 2003 landmark case, Virginia v. Black, which I blogged hereA nice primer on the regulation of hate speech in the US, citing Virgina v. Black..

In sum, I think Bible Templet’s content would be protected under the US Constitution’s First Amendment, though it probably does not enjoy protection under Swedish law, unless Swedish courts were to interpret hets mot folkgrupp as narrowly as I would.

Why should they? Why should Swedish courts draw the line so that hate speech is protected (as it is in the US), even to the extent that you can call for capital punishment for groups of people you hate? Because by outlawing hate speech, rather than responding to it with more speech of our own — by pushing those ideas underground, where they will fester, not disappear — we are doing more harm than good to our society. I’ve argued this before, so I am not going to belabor the point, but in brief; We the people are smart enough to separate the good ideas from the bad ourselves — look at the progress we’ve made. The courts should restrict their focus to banning all calls to violent action, regardless of the ideas that might be used to justify them.

End of rant.

Infrequently asked questions

In the wake of Sweden’s Social Democrats floating a trial balloon regarding the possibility of running on a tax-even-more-and-spend platform for the next general elections, Stockholm Metro [PDF] today published the results of an opinion poll they commissioned. As usual, the questions couldn’t be formulated any worse:

57% of 970 respondents answered Yes to the question“Kan du tänka dig att betala mer i skatt om det innebär en förstarkning av skola, vård och omsorg?”, “Would you be willing to pay more in taxes if it meant strengthening schools, health care and social care?”

60% of respondents answered Yes to the question“Bör svenska fackföreningar genom blockader hindra utländska företag från att utföra arbeten i Sverige om de inte skriver på svenska avtal?”, “Should Swedish unions, through blockades, prevent foreign firms from performing work in Sweden if they do not subscribe to Swedish collective bargaining?”

Questions I really wish they had asked:

1) Would you be willing to pay more in taxes if it meant a strengthening of schools, health care and social care?

Ja [X]  Nej [X]  Vet ej [X]

2) Then you would definitely be willing to pay less in taxes if it meant a strengthening of schools, health care and social care?

Ja [X]  Nej [X]  Vet ej [X]

3) No, it’s not a trick question. Consider this: If somebody could make a better TV more cheaply, would you buy it instead of what’s available now?

Ja [X]  Nej [X]  Vet ej [X]

4) Would you be willing to buy a better, cheaper television if it were made abroad?

Ja [X]  Nej [X]  Vet ej [X]

5) Would you be willing to pay more for a TV made in Sweden if you could buy the identical TV made abroad for less?

Ja [X]  Nej [X]  Vet ej [X]

6) It doesn’t matter to you where this TV comes from?

Ja [X]  Nej [X]  Vet ej [X]

6a) You’re sure?

Ja [X]  Nej [X]  Vet ej [X]

7) So you don’t think you should be forced to buy more expensive Swedish TVs if you can get the same quality TV more cheaply from abroad? (Sorry to be repetitive, I just want to be clear)

Ja [X]  Nej [X]  Vet ej [X]

8) Not through tariffs, import quotas, punitive duties, or blockades?

Ja [X]  Nej [X]  Vet ej [X]

9) You realize that this means Swedish TV factory workers might have to find more productive work elsewhere?

Ja [X]  Nej [X]  Vet ej [X]

10) Is the labor that a factory worker puts into making a TV special? I mean, is it any more or less precious than the labor put into catching fish, mining copper, writing an article, programming code, or building a house?

Ja [X]  Nej [X]  Vet ej [X]

11) So if Swedish TV manufacturers shouldn’t get any special protection from foreign competition, then fishermen, miners, journalists, programmers and builders shouldn’t either?

Ja [X]  Nej [X]  Vet ej [X]

12) So you don’t think you should be forced to buy a more expensive house to help Swedish builders avoid adapting to global norms of competition, if you can get the same quality house more cheaply from abroad?

Ja [X]  Nej [X]  Vet ej [X]

13) Should a Swedish union, through a blockade, force you to buy a more expensive house than the one you can buy made by foreign labour?

Ja [X]  Nej [X]  Vet ej [X]

13) Should Swedish unions, through blockades, prevent foreign firms from performing work in Sweden if they do not subscribe to Swedish collective bargaining?

Ja [X]  Nej [X]  Vet ej [X]