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Danish Party Leaders - Left-of-Centre Edition

by JakeS Wed Aug 6th, 2008 at 03:54:41 AM EST

A couple of days ago, DoDo asked me to give a run-down of the interesting party leaders in Denmark, so here goes.

Some of you may remember my description of the Danish political parties from my Election Times series half a year ago. Most of what I wrote back then is still true, with a few minor updates and corrections reflecting the way the political situation has developed since. Those who recall it will know that there is one party in the Danish parliament that can reasonably be described as to the left (Ø), two parties that are centre-left (SF, S), two parties that are centre-right (R, DF) and three wingnut parties (V, K, Y). Confusingly, DF is often referred to as O instead of DF, because O is their letter on the ballots, and VKO is easier to say than VKDF when you need an acronym for the ruling coalition...

As an aside, the Social Liberals (R) and the Popular Party (DF/O) would both be bringing out the torches and pitchforks if they knew that I'm grouping them together, but in terms of economic policy it's the only reasonable ordering. They're both "values" parties more than fiscal parties. The Social Liberals are from the left but listen too much to the kind of economists you get out of bizniz schools. The Popular Party is right-wing populist, but their target demographic (old folks and people who don't like furriners) means that their economic policy is somewhat to the left of the real righ-wing parties.

But I digress. Today, in order to keep the diary of a manageable length, I am going to focus on the leadership of the left-of-centre parties: Ø, SF and S.

Diary rescue by afew

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The Danish model pt. 2 - Labour market structure

by JakeS Mon Jul 28th, 2008 at 05:00:23 AM EST

As promised, here's the diary on the structure of the Danish labour market.

It is tempting to jump straight into the nuts and bolts, but I believe that a little bit of history is needed to fully understand the evolution of the Danish labour market:

Denmark was a late industrialiser. To take just one simple metric, our first three rail lines were completed in 1847, 1856 and 1862. By way of comparison, the UK built its first serious railroads in the fist third of the 19th century and the USA built its first transcontinental railroad from 1860 to 1869. Thus, many of the socialist ideas that had painstakingly evolved in the early industrialisers such as France and the UK could be adopted rapidly once a certain concentration of was reached.

In practise this meant that the syndicalists and social democrats (who swiftly became one unified movement in Denmark) started at a level playing field w.r.t. the communists, anarchists and assorted more or less radical and more or less militant movements. It is important to note at this juncture that the term "social democrat" has drifted since those times. To take a very striking example, during most of the late 19th cent. the Danish social democrats were opposed to private ownership of productive assets, a point of view that would be considered hard-line socialist just half a century later.

Edited to put more above the fold - afew

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Flexicurity, the Danish model and the welfare state

by JakeS Wed Jul 23rd, 2008 at 06:48:50 AM EST

One of the first replies I got to a comment here on ET ran along the lines of "cool, you're Danish, can you do a diary on the Danish social model?" And I've been meaning to do so since then - but never quite gotten around to it. So with no interesting current events in my neck of the woods right now (one of our parties is disintegrating, but hey, what else is new?), I figure I might as well.

The first thing to remember in any discussion of "the Danish model" is that it's actually a Scandinavian model, not an explicitly Danish. It evolved in all three Scandinavian countries more or less in parallel. I don't know about Finland, but I'd suspect that they had a slightly different trajectory because their primary trading partner is and was Russia, while the Scandinavian countries were firmly in the American sphere of influence.

The second thing to remember is that the Scandinavian model is not an economic model. It's a social model. The fact that it provides a number of not insignificant economic benefits - such as flexicurity and built-in counter-cyclical spending - is incidental. Nice, but incidental. Because its justification is fundamentally one of social justice, not economic efficiency.

What is usually discussed in the context of the "Danish model" is the labour market model, because it is the part of the Scandinavian social contract that most obviously increases economic efficiency. But as I argued above, this view is entirely too narrow: The labour market structure is a part of a coherent social contract that has evolved as a whole. It is possible that the labour market structure could be taken out of this context and transplanted into other countries with different overall social models. But it's equally possible that it can't. And we don't know, because it's never been tried.

Keeping these points in mind, we can identify six principal pillars of the Danish welfare state (I'll focus on the Danish because it's the one I know, but most of the conclusions should be applicable to all Scandinavian countries and a lot should be applicable to Finland as well):

Promoted by afew

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LTD: This is Bad News...

by JakeS Sat Jul 12th, 2008 at 12:36:49 PM EST

Say hello to mister Teaser Rate Mortgage. He's a new arrival in Denmark, but he has relatives in the USA, UK and elsewhere.

A friend just tipped me off about this juicy bit of news from Børsen (lit. The Exchange - think the WSJ except borderline sane), which I'll translate below the fold.

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Europe in Iraq v. 2.0

by JakeS Mon Jun 16th, 2008 at 11:50:40 AM EST

Near the bottom of the comment thread to Migeru's Iraq diary from a couple of weeks ago (What can be expected of Europe in Iraq?), I was asked what I would do about Iraq if I were Supreme Ruler of Europe(TM) and didn't have to contend with the gang of Quislings currently in charge.

After posting it, I decided to repost it as a diary, partly because I kinda like it, partly because the original diary is going to be archived pretty soon unless somebody pulls a diary rescue (hint, hint, nudge, nudge) and partly because I think it showcases a positive political program for Iraq that does not involve continuing to play all sides against the middle in a bloody civil war.

Comment-turned-diary can be found in full below the fold, with only a few minor edits.

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Getting people wet - more water blogging

by JakeS Mon May 26th, 2008 at 05:53:22 PM EST

There seems to have been rather a lot of water blogging going on here recently. I must admit to not having read all of it, but I thought I would share a piece of news with those of you whose appetites have been whetted. Its veracity should be waterproof. And I promise that it will be without any more watered down humour after this paragraph. (Mainly because I have run out of fresh water jokes.)

A usually reliable source has informed me today that one of the discussions about our drinking water that we have with depressing regularity in Denmark has flared up again. To clean or not to clean, that is the question. Myself, I am firmly in the "do not clean" camp. I can already hear you scratching your heads. Has our resident Dane lost his mind? Is he really in favour of dirty drinking water?

To reassure you that this is not the case, permit me to present some background on the Danish water situation and hopefully convince you that expanding the treatment of our drinking water would be A Bad Idea:

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They've gotta be kidding...

by JakeS Thu May 15th, 2008 at 07:42:36 PM EST

Sadly, though, they are not.

In case you are wondering who "they" are, I refer you to these two little marvels of independent-minded and thoughtful examples of investigative reporting concerning the pillars of our societies.

Both are worth reading in their entirety, if for no other reason then to watch the spectacular fireworks as every irony meter in sight explodes from massive overexposure. Below the fold, I'll pick out a few choice quotes and have a go at deconstructing them.

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Socratic Economics VIII: The Blue Screen of Death

by JakeS Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 04:48:55 AM EST

I'll start out by admitting my ignorance: I never "got" stagflation. I don't understand what it is, and more importantly, I don't understand why economists are so scared of it. The best description I've read so far is that stagflation is "Economics' version of the Blue Screen of Death." The only solution known to man (or at least the man I've talked to) is to "reboot" the economy by deliberately plunging it into recession and then working from that using the ordinary economic tools.

So I'll attempt to tap into the collective wisdom of European Tribune to answer the following questions:

  1. What is stagflation?
  2. Why is it so scary?
  3. What causes it?
  4. What to do about it?
- Jake

Diary rescue by Migeru

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LQD: It's Official: Denmark contracts Anglo Disease

by JakeS Wed Apr 16th, 2008 at 05:38:24 PM EST

It says so in the newspaper [.pdf warning] so it must be true (page four, specifically).

Of course, it doesn't say it in quite so many words, but it gets really amazingly close:

Promoted by Migeru

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How I learned to love Fogh

by JakeS Mon Mar 31st, 2008 at 06:07:44 PM EST

One might expect that, being a socialist or social democrat of some description, I would be strongly opposed to Anders Fogh, the liberalist Danish PM. One would be partly right, but mostly wrong.

The Fogh government has, after all, instituted a number of unpopular and uncomfortable, but very much necessary reforms of Danish society. To wit:

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"The Church of ET"?

by JakeS Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 11:13:58 AM EST

One of the questions that I have been bouncing around in my head (and bouncing off other people) for a while is the question of whether ET - that being us, the contributors and commenters - really might resemble a religious sect to an extent that I would find... troubling.

I think that the best way to examine this proposition would be to consider the content and character of this site with special attention to the warning signs I normally use when I try to evaluate whether a web page, book or other resource is a source of insight into the subject mentioned in the title - or solely an insight into the mind of the author.

And doing so does, in fact, raise a number of red flags:

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Newspeak for Beginners

by JakeS Sun Mar 2nd, 2008 at 03:32:39 AM EST

One of the major weaknesses of the much of leftist politics is, I think, that we have permitted the right to appropriate the language.

Partly, this is due to a somewhat naïve view that facts matter more than perceptions, partly it is due to a lack of an authoritarian political machine where marching orders can be given and memos distributed and partly it is because leftists really seems to honestly believe that being manipulative and appealing to fallacious emotional reactions is a bad way of doing politics, and a lot of the tactics needed to counter the Right's newspeak come uncomfortably close to being newspeak themselves.

But that's an ostrich strategy. The Right are using these tools, along with a slew of others that are even more unethical, and it works. That means that politics these days is like playing poker with an opponent who cheats - only, we can't leave the table or call a referee. What do you do then? Take the high moral road all the way to bankruptcy? Or attempt to foil his cheating, even though some of the methods you employ doing so may appear a little underhanded at first glance? I much prefer the latter. So, without further ado, here goes a short list of newspeak employed by the Right as well as suggestions on how to counter it:

Diary rescue by Migeru

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by JakeS Tue Feb 26th, 2008 at 06:27:11 AM EST

From Hullabloo, we get a quick breakdown of the various ways in which the extremist right in the USA have been moving the Overton Window for decades.

(Hat tip to Mike the Mad Biologist)

I have ordered them somewhat differently, though, to better reflect the different tactical considerations that underpin them:

Diary rescue by Migeru

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Torture flights finally investigated?

by JakeS Sat Feb 2nd, 2008 at 10:26:37 AM EST

We may finally have a shot at real investigations into the kidnapping and torture programme carried out by various US agencies, militias and mercenaries during the Global War on Liberty. So far, the allegations that US agencies have engaged in such illegal activities have been merely that: Allegations. No smoking gun has been found, for the very simple reason that no serious investigation has been forthcoming from the only quarters that could realistically make such an investigation happen: The European Union.

Unfortunately, the various Union states seem to be neck-deep in the programme themselves - and to have been so for such a long time that any investigation would dig up dirt on the current opposition as well as the incumbents in most European countries. This, I believe, is one of the two most important reasons why this atrocity has been documented worse than any other recent crime against international law that you might care to mention (the other reason I allude to is the mindless atlanticism afflicting many European political 'leaders').

There have, however, over the past few days been rumours in the Danish press that the Greenland Home Rule is strongly considering starting up investigations.

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Organising a global labour union

by JakeS Wed Dec 19th, 2007 at 04:29:45 PM EST

Cross-posted from Working Life

A couple of days ago, I posted a diary on European Tribune about the many desirable qualities of a more global organisation of labour. In the comments, the idea of cross-posting the diary to this blog was quickly raised. In the end, I decided against that course of action, partially because it feels more than a bit cheap to make the first post to a new blog a cross-post of something written for a different forum and partially because I felt that arguing for global labour solidarity on an explicitly labour-oriented blog would be an exercise in overkill. Instead, I will shortly summarise the original post (above the fold) and then (below the fold) delve into a couple of the nuts and bolts that were left uncovered in the original diary (or that cropped up in the comments).

When asked why labour unions are able to ensure reasonable wages for their members, most people (if they have an answer at all) will answer something along the lines of 'collective bargaining.' Which is true enough, as far as it goes, but does not explore the reasons why collective bargaining is needed, nor who is covered by the 'collective' part of collective bargaining.

My own thinking on that issue (except that it probably isn't 'mine' as such - I'm sure others have thought it before I, but (due to me not being an economist) I'm unfamiliar with the literature on the subject) is that collective bargaining is needed because goods and capital are more mobile than people. If people could move about more easily than goods, the workers would simply pick up and leave if they were being mistreated, leaving neither a market for the produced goods, nor - for that matter - a workforce with which to produce them. If workers were more mobile than capital, workers would move to where capital treated them best, leaving the abusive capitalist with a nice chest of gold, but no way to translate it into productive forces.

[editor's note, by Migeru] Fold moved here for the front page

Rebalancing globalization - Diary rescue by Migeru

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Breaking the power of the "Economic Royalists"

by JakeS Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 12:07:10 AM EST

- Or "Workers of the World, Unite!, take two"

In a recent diary, NBBooks coined/presented the challenge of 'breaking the power of the Economic Royalists.' I'd like to take him up on that challenge.

From what I gather from reading here and elsewhere, there are three principal prongs to the power of the Economic Royalists:

  • The rich, it is argued, cannot be taxed directly, because the rich can move abroad.

  • Capital, it is argued, cannot be taxed (and thus the rich cannot be taxed indirectly either), because capital can move abroad with even greater ease than people.

  • Wages, we are told, must be kept low, because rising wages make countries less competitive (the underlying assumption being that rising wages translate into rising end cost of the product, rather than to lower profits - because the capital can move to where the profit is highest.

The attempts to reduce these three advantages that the capitalists hold over the proletariat - to use an oldish turn of phrase - have to a great extent focused on reducing the mobility of people, capital and goods, respectively. People being largely immobile (even the rich, making the first of the three neo-lib arguments a little less than convincing), the main progressive focus has been on restricting the global movement of capital - by attempting to put a crimp on scams like transfer pricing, restricting the movement of goods - by attempting boycotts of goods produced under sufficiently horrendous working conditions, or both - by old-fashioned protectionism.

But such efforts have been largely unsuccessful. I think this is due to the fact that the efforts have been aimed at raising artificial legal barriers to an increased flow of goods and capital that is to a large extent the result of technological developments and improvements in the global infrastructure. Below the fold I shall argue that these conditions are, in fact, a more or less overt return to the bad old days of the 19th century. I shall also argue that those who wish to oppose them would be wise to look to the ways in which similar conditions were successfully opposed during that era.

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Dagen Derpå - Updated!

by JakeS Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 08:08:44 PM EST

Shaky alliances, Atlantic seats and the next half-year of Danish politics - now with party-by-party analysis

I had hoped to title this diary something like 'The Rebuilding Begins' - because Cthulu knows there's plenty to rebuild after six years with a liberalist government rule.

Alas, that was not to be. The results from the Danish elections are now in, and it is pretty clear that the Bad Guys won. The only remaining question is precisely how big they won. The final official result won't be available until tomorrow (actually, given the time of writing, later today for the nitpickers), so until then it's still possible that a single seat or two might get juggled around - and as we shall see below, a single seat or two in the right place would make a world of difference to the survivability of the liberalist government majority.

At the time of writing, VKO (Liberals, Conservatives, Popular Party) alone have 89 seats out of 179 - one seat short of an outright majority, while VKOY (VKO + New Alliance) have 94 seats. ABFØ (Social Democrats, Social Liberals, Popular Socialists, Unity List) have 81 seats. The Christian Democrats did not make it into parliament - in point of fact their election result was only about half of what it was in the last election - I think we can finally say goodbye to that particular noxious gang of fundies.

The astute reader will have noticed that 81 + 94 = 175, which is four seats shy of the 179 seats in the Danish parliament. That's where the Atlantic seats come in. The Danish constitution specifies that Greenland and the Faroes each holds two seats in parliament, and these are usually called the Atlantic seats, because Greenland and the Faroes have their own local parties that have only loose correspondence with the Danish parties. Pre-election guesstimates say that the Atlantic seats will break down 3:1 in favour of the good guys. A quick Google search fails to confirm or deny this, but I think it's safe to assume that it will hold.

This means that as of this writing, VKO seems to have an outright majority, however slim, in the Danish parliament, which means that the current government administration misadministration remains in power (Fogh is already gushing about his 'new mandate' - apparently oblivious to the fact that he's been losing seats for the last two elections. But I digress). They have a six-seat majority if they have the support of New Alliance, and a one-seat majority if they do not.

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Election Time, Take Three

by JakeS Mon Nov 5th, 2007 at 08:32:10 PM EST

Back in the comments to Election Times, Take Two, Helen asked how the polls looked and what that meant for the parliamentary situation. The first question is relatively easy to answer:

The major changes are within the blocs. NA is losing ground steadily, V, S and SF are gaining, R and DF are more or less stable, and K and Ø go up or down depending on which newspaper is doing the poll, but it looks like Ø is going to make it into parliament after all, which I personally would not have expected a couple of months ago.

Overall, the left wing is gaining a little bit, but the right wing is still in the majority in the polls. It does not look that way in the graphic representation, because the newsies are obliging enough to label the neoliberal New Alliance as unaligned w.r.t. the blocs, but that's the biggest lie in Danish politics since the Tamil Affair blew up in Poul "Nothing Is Swept Under The Carpet" Schlüter's face.

The second part of the question requires a bit of political analysis tea-leaf reading on my part. So when reading this diary, keep in mind that almost everything below the fold should be taken with a largish grain of salt.

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Election Time, Take Two

by JakeS Sun Nov 4th, 2007 at 07:38:33 PM EST

A while ago, I wrote a diary about the Danish election scheduled to take place on the 13th this month. In a comment, Migeru asked about the possibility of a follow-up diary with a description of the running parties. Since that time, I have unfortunately been more or less tied down by real-life(TM) commitments. That is no longer the case, so here goes:

On Friday the 26th of October, the Danish newspaper 24timer published a full-page table containing the stance of the different parties on the six subjects that the tea-leaf-readers consider most important in the electoral campaign. Normally, a week-old article would be about as relevant as a week-old fresh fish, but this particular article happens to be one of the most concise and largely correct articles on the Danish elections I've seen to date.

Unfortunately, it does not appear that 24timer maintain an online archive that goes back more than a week, so I will post an annotated translation below:

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Election time in Denmark

by JakeS Wed Oct 24th, 2007 at 04:45:21 PM EST

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen called a parliamentary election today, to take place on the thirteenth of November this year. Cue campaign-mode from every political party (OK, that started in September already, but the government stumbled over a tax issue (the conservatives wanted tax cuts pretty desperately by then, and the Popular Party didn't, which meant major cat-fight in the government and no election for another month)).

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