Category Archives: Neoliberalism

Left and Right – Good and Wrong?

The old divide in politics between Left and Right can easily be condensed into the dichotomy: Left is altruism and Right is egoism. Translated into universal moral code it would be: Left is good, Right is bad.

There is on the other hand an old aphorism, which I suppose is international and goes like this:  If you are young and not a socialist you don’t have a heart; if you are old and not a conservative you don’t have a brain.

In my world this must have been concocted by an old reactionary, since it puts things on the head. If anything, conservative ideology is impregnated with emotion as opposed to cognition, whilst altruism requires ability to abstract thinking and conscious understanding, such as to identify oneself with other human beings with different backgrounds and traits.

As a slowly maturing child I had some vague political ideas of what we call here bourgeoisie character. In other words: as long as the naive boy was ignorant and immature he was politically a sloppy egoist (maybe evolution’s first choice). Then when he reached 20 in came the 1960s, and a whole new world opened to the post-teen as if he just had learned how to read. It was a revelation, never possible to rescind after that. Now as a rather old man his eyes are more open than ever.

People on the right-wing, if their thinking is not totally petrified, surely are aware of their ideology’s egoistic element. To comfort those people’s conscience there are a number of defense inventions made. On the economic front the most famous is the “Adam Smith gambit”. In short it says that prosperity for all will reach its optimum if everyone just strives for his own personal well-being, after which the famous “invisible hand” automatically will create a divine equilibrium, giving everyone his fair share.

To refute this gambit one just has to take a look at the world, and find – among many other deficiencies in the equilibrium – some three million small children dying each year from uncomplicated illnesses that would have cost us in the rich part of the world a pittance to cure. Empirically it’s thus obvious that the “perfect market hypothesis” has serious shortcomings. To Adam Smith’s honor it should be said that he is not at all so naïve in his main work Wealth of Nations as his right-wing interpreters want us to believe.

Smith was not just an economist but also a moral philosopher, and as such he had serious objections regarding capitalism, the way it functioned already in his days. He never used the term “invisible hand”, except one single time in the whole book, and then in a completely different context. He described how division of labor increased productivity, but at the same time denounced the kind of society it would create. He had not much sympathy for “the masters of mankind” as he called the capitalists of his time. To make Adam Smith a right-wing icon requires thus a very selective reading of his works.

That a socialized economy can function without central planning was not Adam Smith’s “discovery”, contrary to conservative idolizing. Mankind had presumably found that out on the shores of Africa a long time ago. It’s not much of a mystery either, rather a capability naturally produced by evolution. To take a really micro example: in my days we could be some twenty kids coming together on a grass field, one of us owning a football (“soccer” ball) – no parental supervision. In a moment we organized – democratically – two teams and started playing, each of us filling his specific role in the game. It required no planning whatsoever.

Since Left means good, and thus honest, we shall not overlook the benefits of market principles based on the “economic man” assumption (i.e. egoism). It’s obvious that we normally are more ingenious and work harder when we profit from the enterprise ourselves. But the profit mustn’t be in the form of money. The most decisive discoveries and inventions have been made by scientists and engineers who didn’t get a penny of the eventual billion dollar profits that could be the end result. They were happy with their professional achievement, which also is a benefit (but at the same time reveals the fraudulent money principles of capitalism, favoring the unworthy over the worthy).

Today’s China is held up as a triumph for market principles. Without diminishing the Chinese feat that example could require some analyzing. Indeed, a number of billionaires have emerged and a middle class of white color workers have prospered, but for the hundreds of millions on the impoverished countryside the outcome is more debatable. Before the capitalist era China was a much better place for the simple farmers than comparable countries such as India. Now the situation is more complicated.

The most abhorrent aspect of right-wing policy is the “winner takes it all” mentality, emphasized since the neoliberal seizure of dominance some 35 years ago. With just slightly less greed it would have been no big deal to eliminate the conspicuous manifestations of capitalism resulting in suffering for billions of people.

Worst of all is that our mentality has hit the rest of the world in the form of bombs and bullets, in short: with murder. But that’s another story.

Propaganda killing workers rights

There is a saying in Sweden that whatever evolves in USA will eventually reach us, may it take 10, 20 or 30 years. We might think of many American habits as utterly superficial and even childish, but some day they’re all over us.

I’ve been reminded of that recently as a relative is about to graduate from our high school (gymnasium in Swedish). This has always been a solemn day for a young person, ending with a memorable party: dressed-up graduates, a formal dinner and dance. But everyone got to the dinner individually. That’s now transformed into full American prom-style. Today’s students must come in pairs, the girls (usually) picking a partner, styling him in matching colors and accessories; all the US “naiveties” we used to laugh about.

A more serious thought of this kind hits me when I ponder over Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin and another one of his blows against working people in his state. I’ve heard that Wisconsin used to be socially well-organized and as much Social democrat as is possible in USA. I like to think that the influx of Nordic immigrants into Wisconsin has something to do with that. But times are a ‘changing.

The scary question now is how long it will take for “Right to Work” to reach Sweden, if ever. The concept itself is disgusting, taken as it is directly from George Orwell’s dictionary. It’s a token of a crushing propaganda victory that reactionary – though elected – leaders are able to humiliate working people not just in action but also in words.

Reactionary victories are nowadays not just multitudinous but perform on two fronts. First the policymakers can enforce far-reaching neoliberal rules, serving primarily the business community, without much popular resistance at all. And then when people occasionally are called to express their opinion at elections they are indoctrinated to vote against their own interests. This trend for the last 30-40 years is the same in Europe as in USA, though not yet as extreme here.

Readers Comments in New York Times on articles about “Right to Work” overwhelmingly points to the circumstance that people seem to vote contrary to their own interests. Orwell had it right here too, as had Herman & Chomsky in Manufacturing Consent. Our western propaganda model is extremely successful and far superior to any state commanded, regardless of the level of oppression in the latter. Or as Chomsky has said: a dictator doesn’t need to bother with sophisticated propaganda since he has a club in his hand ensuring the “success” of his politics anyway.

Recent scholarly work has shown that Soviet state propaganda was a failure. Large segments of the people got their information from western propaganda radio and Samizdat literature (which explains the clueless view many had on western prosperity and happiness). Today western media are trying the same old grip on the contemporary Russian propaganda, pointing to the fact that most television broadcasting is state owned or controlled. The misconception is even greater this time since we have unlimited “Samizdat” available on the Internet, on which Russians are among the most frequent visitors in the world. On top of that we find the most extensive translation operations in Russia, where many western newspapers are found translated on the Internet.

The attack on labor called “Right to Work” is depressing even to write about. Together with Mr. Walkers earlier blow against unions by banning collective bargaining for public employees we have witnessed clear violations of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 23, point 4, which reads: “Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.” In the spirit of that article trade unions should be free to negotiate with their counterparts with no other restrictions than such negotiations entail. State interference in that process is clearly a violation of the workers human rights.

Here we just may hope for an exception to the rule that every US peculiarity reaches Sweden sooner or later. May it this time prove to be never… ever!

Political assassinations in Russia – and Sweden

Finally Dagens Nyheter got to – almost – say that Putin is a killer. But, all right, even if he didn’t personally order the assassination of Boris Nemtsov it was a “product of the Russian system” with the indisputable purpose to “hit the democratic opposition with a devastating blow”. DN “knows” everything without any knowledge or shred of evidence, in this case as in the downing of MH17, the snipers in Maidan, the Russian invasion, Putin’s intentions and everything else. This flagship in Swedish media thus gladly leaves behind the basic journalistic ethics that calls for factuality in reporting.

One particularly interesting thing DN “knows” is that Putin hasn’t changed his “perception that Ukraine does not have a real legitimacy as an independent country”. This is DNs statement not many days after Russia submitted a resolution to the UN Security Council with the precise call for Ukraine’s unity and national integrity. The resolution was passed, which indeed wasn’t highlighted in DN.

Even in New York Times a reporter expressed some astonishment over this Russian standpoint in UN of Ukrainian unity as if she had never heard of it, though Putin and Lavrov consistently have upheld the same view from the very beginning. They declared in words and showed in action that Russia had no intention of occupying southeastern Ukraine (at first to the obvious disappointment of the separatists).

But, OK, decent western democratic media cannot pay attention to men like those two. Instead they have dutifully published Yatsenjuk’s repeated assurances, groundless and obviously based on his own fantasies that Russia intended to conquer the entire Ukraine. NYTs reporter fell victim of western propaganda, DN hasn’t even noticed anything(?)

Sweden probably outscores Russia for the last 30 years when it comes to assassinations of high profile politicians relative to population. (I suppose we have to ask DN if this is a “product of the Swedish system” or not.) First we had the murder in 1986 of Prime Minister Olof Palme, as much lauded among poor people around the world as he was demonized by the “decent” bourgeoisie at home. The horrible slander and scorn Palme had to endure has no parallel in Swedish politics ever.

Ridiculous rumors about Palme spread like wildfire among the well-offs in Stockholm: he was mentally ill (for visiting his demented mother treated in a hospital), he was a drug addict (“my wife’s sister knows a doctor who treats him for that…”), he was a communist spy, he had extra-marital affairs etc. The fine people’s fantasies were limitless. The following caricature is one of the most benevolent made of him (the really horrible ones, endemic during his lifetime, seem to have disappeared from the Internet):


Many thought that the hate campaign had triggered someone to commit the murder. Suspicions flew in all directions (I’m quite sure that some believed Soviet Russia could have had a hand in it) and strangely detailed testimonies popped up from all over. The chief investigator followed a Kurdish trail, but choked on it and was replaced. Most popular among a growing number of amateur investigators was a police track, soon supported by a host of incidental “evidence”. And so it went on under intense media coverage. The case was never solved although some circumstances ultimately pointed at an alcoholic and thug, possibly hired by some other criminal.

Victim of the second high profile murder was Anna Lindh, stabbed by a mentally unstable man in 2003. She was also a Social Democrat, active Foreign Minister and much liked by her international colleagues. Any connections between the murderer and any outside monitors were never discovered, and everybody seemed pleased with that.

We have at least a third murder with political motives. A syndicalist, Anders Söderberg, was murdered by neo-Nazis in 1999 for disclosing one of their cronies (which made him lose his job). That makes three political assassinations in thirty years, which would be equivalent to 45 such murders in Russia in the same period. Some expert may pick the winner.

We will never know if there ultimately were political forces behind the murders of Palme and Lindh, and further speculations are pointless. In contrast our main newspaper, supposed to be the most serious, feels obviously free to speculate wildly on their preconceived stereotypes about Russian political murders.

It’s worth saying again: Apparently Vladimir Putin’s real crime in the eyes of DNs journalists and other western ideologues is that he put an end to the capitalist melt-down in Russia, stopped the genocide caused by the same capitalist roll-over, a genocide that claimed 10 million lives of which a majority were younger men leaving children and women fatherless and widows. It took harsh measures to reclaim a small part of the fortunes belonging to the people and stolen by a bunch of cunning apparatchiks. It’s not done with a tea party to passably rescue the complete wreck Russia was in the 1990s.

If some are to blame for the fact that Vladimir Putin is ruling Russia and not someone like Mahatma Gandhi it would be first of all Yeltsin, Gaidar and a group of American economists (with the Swede Anders Ã…slund). Boris Nemtsov was also a player on that team, certainly a reason for his low public acceptance rate now. These ruthless ideologues, purporting to implement “economic rules”, completely destroyed everything, wiped out half the industrial capacity and threw the country back to the third world from where it came in 1917. If our reactionary demagogues now dictating the paradigm had at least an ounce of empathy in their bodies, they would give Russia a minimum of leeway in its efforts to build a modern society again. How they might think that the confrontation they now play hard with will solve anything is a mystery.

Syriza and Podemos – steps on the road

First Syriza in Greece and now Podemos in Spain. Citizens take to the streets for serious efforts to exchange the neoliberal political paradigm for a policy obviously aimed at relieving ordinary people’s grievances. The only thing one likes to ask is: what took them so long?

The answer is not too far fetched. It’s obvious that austerity measures can be pushed quite extensively in time and in suffering before people walk out in protest. Bourgeoisie politics protecting the banks and supporting the rich relies on a middle class, also hurt but not as bad as those below them, but nonetheless defending what they got by sticking to those above. And the enormous propaganda machine to beat is overwhelming.

For us who were young in the 1960s the developments in Greece and Spain evoke memories, and thus also hope for a change of direction. We know from experience that a lot can be achieved. During the 60s the traditional masters of mankind where on the defensive. In Sweden the basis was laid and laws enacted for much improved workers rights, for publicly driven child care to facilitate women’s liberation, for upgrading workers protection, for strengthening job security and for many other progressive measures. NGOs engaged in numerous different topics were growing like mushrooms and it was a vibrant atmosphere of freedom and hope for the future.

Well, the real masters didn’t wear their swords in vain. They made use of their economic power and stroke back, successfully. The period of remarkable liberation was cut rather short. As a Swedish poet and newspaper man said when the defeat seemed inevitable: now it all depends on how the left deals with its disappointment.

Well, the left didn’t deal with anything; they were overpowered by neoliberal forces mobilized among politicians, economic “scientists”, journalists and other pillars of society prepared to fight for the only ones that really profited from it all: the minuscule percentage of the rich that really owned a lot, and ended up owning almost everything. But: not all the gains were lost, the ground level was raised.

Setbacks also this time shouldn’t discourage anyone. The underlying progression is there; the human brain will in the long run prohibit unreasonable developments. We need only to look back and compare our time with any other human era to find evidence for such a trend. But with every battle new territory is gained, and the important thing is to not lose all of it in the next counterattack.

There Is No Alternative: reason will prevail!

The economic life as a marbles game

When I was a kid every boy played marbles. Later my children did too, in their case with some girls also participating. It was an interesting schooling for the life to come.

The older guys had the most marbles to begin with, and at the end of the day the younger ones, less affluent, usually had lost the few marbles they had started out with. The older ones were also the strongest, so the outcome of any controversy about rules and other conflicts was given beforehand.

The reward for the small guys was the privilege to get to play with the big guys in the first place. And the fairness of it all lay in the fact that the younger ones one day became the older ones, thus able to retaliate for past inequities, bringing home large bags of marbles.

This game is a parable for life, except that in reality those who are poor from the start seldom get the chance to ever come on top, regardless of age. The well-offs in the world have the upper hand all the way, and the richer countries can indefinitely dominate the poorer and dictate terms.

This inequity plays out in trade rules. “Free trade” is a core concept seemingly promising the poor nations shelter under the umbrella of the rich world, which undertakes to open its borders to share its wealth. But just as in the marbles game, where the rules are the same for all, the real outcome is decided by wealth and strength.

The economic “sciences” provide convenient theories to prove that free trade brings prosperity to all. In the real world it’s an instrument serving above all the already rich nations. The most powerful are served the most. It’s no difference from the situation within nations: the rich have the most bargaining power to acquire even more wealth.

The mechanisms by which businesses in rich countries can use “free trade” to enhance their predominance are often equally simple and horrendous. One basic step is to overflow developing countries with cheap, heavily subsidized agricultural products. Thus imperialistic agribusiness effectively wipes out domestic farmers, and forces them to enroll the army of unemployed, serving foreign-owned industries with labor forced to work for pennies.

Absence of tariffs gives businesses in the industrialized world the opportunity to establish workshops in poor countries and profit handsomely on minimal wages. One result of this can easily be found in the numerous rust belts in the rich world, where material destruction leads to destitute societies where people lose hope.

Modern imperialism also uses free trade agreements to avoid all kinds of regulatory constraints, such as environmental regulations, laws ensuring workers security and other kinds of “unnecessary” obstacles to the ever growing profits. Other absurd clauses give corporations the right to sue countries that enforce laws which restrict possibilities to make profit.

The Nation provides a comprehensive and revealing text on the consequences for Central America of the free trade agreement DR-CAFTA. Recommended reading!

Is his terminating of a genocide the reason why the West despises Putin?

A thought experiment: suppose that two million people had died in Venezuela as a direct consequence of reforms enforced by Hugo Chávez. What reactions would we expect? Well, since established western politicians and journalists already considered Chávez a thug and a dictator despite that he accomplished the opposite, prolonging the lives of the poor, it’s almost a truism that he would have been crushed, one way or the other.

The exact equivalent mega-deaths occurred in Russia, directly caused by the capitalist revolution  under Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s. Yeltsin was generously supported and guided by a handful of western “experts” who believed so deeply in the blessings of capitalism and free markets that they totally ignored the horrendous consequences of their recommendations. It would be too mean to suggest that they didn’t realize what the outcome would be when they advocated the crushing of half the Russian industrial capacity. That would be to imply that they were both ignorant and stupid, and they weren’t. But they probably just didn’t care.

The pattern and causes behind the unparalleled mass deaths have been studied by two American specialists in health and medicine, David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, publishing their findings in The Body Economics: Why Austerity Kills (Basic Books 2013). The chapter in which they investigate the effects of the capitalist revolution in Russia opens with the following sentence:

“In the beginning of the 1990s, ten million Russian men vanished.”

Then they support this statement with forceful demographic data from the period in question. During just five years in the beginning of the decade life expectancy for men in Russia fell from 64 to 57 years, an unprecedented drop for an industrial country in peacetime. The deaths affected primarily younger men in productive ages. But what killed them?

There seem to be some resemblance with the disappearing of millions of Indians in North America. The Russian men were hit by deceases seldom seen among young people, such as infarction. Also supposedly eradicated diseases like tuberculosis reappeared, even in new resistant forms, as an effect of worsening living conditions. But the main causes behind the deaths can be classified as self destruction.

The rate of alcohol poisoning, suicide, murder and deaths from accidents shot way up. The reasons behind this fatal development were obvious when half the Russian industrial structure was crushed almost overnight. People’s possibilities to support themselves were destroyed, together with social safety nets and prospects for the future. Russian corporations were indeed ineffective, but they played an important role for welfare in a broad sense (in a way that western advisors totally neglected).

Stuckler & Basu demonstrates convincingly that Holocaust in the deteriorating eastern block after 1989 is tightly connected with the manner in which the privatization processes were enforced. In countries where Jeffrey Sachs, Anders Aslund and other extremists had their way when they strongly advocated a shock therapy with swift transition to private capitalism, death crisis became worst. Apart from Russia also countries like Kazakhstan, Latvia and Estonia suffered increasing death rates.

In Poland, Belarus, Slovenia and the Czech Republic on the other hand, where the transition process had taken place in a controlled manner, no increase in mortality followed. The Swedish “expert” Anders Aslund (seemingly lacking empathy) consequently and patronizingly called Belarus “a mini Soviet” for resisting shock therapy methods.

What is most disturbing for us westerners in our safe societies should be the complete silence that our media and all others have submerged this virtual genocide in. It must be completely unprecedented that ten million fairly young people just vanish from an industrial society like they did in Russia, moreover without any obvious reaction abroad. History will eventually rectify this and judge us properly; just as we Europeans finally have to accept responsibility for the Indian genocide on the American continent (and correct our schoolbooks accordingly).

Our ignorance on the mass deaths in Russia has contributed to our misunderstanding of that country’s internal politics. The man who put an end to the human catastrophe was Vladimir Putin. Judged by our mass media it seems inconceivable how this man can be reelected time and again, but the Russians of course know what happened to their country, something our “propaganda agencies” effectively have kept us from recognizing.

One power factor in the capitalist decomposition of Russia was the oligarchs, who – with implicit support of the western world – shamelessly robbed their fellow countrymen of anything of value (and often disappeared with the loot abroad). It took harsh methods to stop the looting and to reclaim some of the people’s property. It took a former KGB man, Putin. His intervention also stopped the death epidemic.

Judging from the mainstream view in the west we had rather seen the oligarchs continue their robbing, leaving the country in total wreck and ruin and the death toll still rising. That’s us, the moral and political role models for the whole world!

Decay in Swedish school performance duplicated by health care

It’s been more than a month since my last postcard from Sweden. The reason for the pause is just that other activities have intervened and not that political developments here suddenly have turned in a radically different and positive direction. Not at all!

The parties forming our present government who are eagerly engaged in burying the old Swedish model probably sense that voters will through them out in the upcoming elections (in September). Thus they try to sneak in as much of their ideological stuff as possible, hoping that some of it may be irreversible.

I have reported on the plummeting Swedish ranking in the PISA studies, which indicates that our school system, once one of the best in the world, is more or less decaying. This deplorable process happens to coincide with radical privatizations of schools, followed by dismantling of resources like libraries, school nurses, special teachers for the children most in need and other cutbacks favorable for profits.

As one would expect we can now watch the “economic scientists” rush to save the tatters of credibility for capitalism in schools left by our right wing government’s experiments. Thus our most prestigious newspaper (Dagens Nyheter) the other day had an op-ed by three economists representing something called the Center for Market Reform of Education (there is no modesty or lack of resources when economic power strives to commercialize life in all its aspects).

The defense line that the three “scientists” draw is to reject simple correlations as proof of causality. (This is of course not a day too early, since simple correlation is the very oxygen that popular economics breathes.) The fact that privatization and plummeting outcome coincides is of course not a proof that the one causes the other. But there are other indications of causation between the two observations.

It has been established that private schools give high, false grades (unlike public schools), a temptation apparently hard to resist in a competitive business. If these grades then are being used to demonstrate good performance by private schools its naturally doubly fraudulent. I mentioned the dismantling of privatized schools, a confirmed and widespread phenomenon which hardly can lead to any quality improvements. Furthermore shallow testimony indicates that some private schools are popular among student by being pleasant and laid back, another attractive lure.

The Swedish decay is also visible in other sectors, one of which is health care. The CEO of the Swedish pharmaceutical companies’ trade association wrote the other day about the decline in health care indicators, despite the fact that a large majority of the population regards this area as one of the most important in politics. A measurement called Euro Health Consumer Index, rating the health performance in EU countries from the patients’ perspective, has recently been released. It shows that Sweden has fallen from 6th to 11th place in just the last year.

Another undeniable drop in our performance is revealed by the OECD statistics on life expectancy. From enjoying the forth longest life-span 20 years ago we have now fallen to eighth place. We have been used to see our country in the very top of all socio-economic rankings since ages. Now we are a former welfare super power in sharp decline. This is certainly not what ordinary people want, but it’s obviously an inescapable ultimate consequence of the adaptation to a “globalized”, neoliberal world, constructed by the economic powerful with the purpose to enrich the already rich at the expense of people in real need.

This is something really worth fighting against!

Why did Sweden succumb to neoliberalism?

Noam kindly answered my mail, asking if I could provide him with references to written material, preferably in English, about the dire developments in Sweden the past years. (The only authors I could think of are themselves neoliberal believers who don’t even see the problems.) If any reader of these lines have information of that sort, please post a message!

A few words to Noam in reply:

Although I’m following media and the debate as close as I can, it’s my impression that there is no substantial scholarly work on controversial issues in the social and political fields in this country. Here we are lagging miles behind the US, as I conclude from your lectures. We are a compromising consensus people always trying to avoid controversies in well-washed circles. Thus I have no references to any reliable work on the current and serious problems in Sweden. The debate goes on in the ordinary media, thus mainly in Swedish.

One episode two years ago illustrates this provincial condition quite well. A research institute called SNS published a study in which they concluded the absence of proof that privatization of welfare services had made them better or less costly. The main reason was simply that no substantial research to evaluate the privatizations had been performed by anyone. This seemingly uncontroversial conclusion nevertheless caused uproar in business circles, and thus also in media. The CEO of SNS got cold feet and muzzled the main author of the report, which was a little too much even for right wing papers, and the reverse pressure eventually forced the CEO to resign.

SNS’ history is interesting in itself. It was created as a joint venture between labor and capital shortly after the last war, when business leaders still were somewhat defensive after the Russian (and labor) victory. Serious discussions in Sweden even opened for the possibility of a command economy. As one way of approaching the unions some more progressive business leaders suggested the creation of SNS, through which the two parties could share findings reached by impartial research. (But who’s the real boss was revealed by the scandal.)

One other important obstacle to productive scholarship in these areas is the dominant postmodern deconstruction of reason the last decades, from which the formerly rational Sweden hasn’t been spared. An illustrative example highlighted the issue some years ago. The government was about to appoint a new principal of a medium-sized university and presented a postmodernist professor, Moira von Wright, for the job. A number of science professors reacted publicly in protest, calling von Wright “an enemy of science”, based on statements of hers such as: “Gender-aware and gender sensitive physics requires a relational approach to physics and that a lot of the traditional scientific knowledge content of physics be removed”. She was of course appointed and remains at the job.

Sweden is a small country, still showing a lot of characteristics from the backward farmers’ society which is just a couple of generations away. In moments of self-awareness we call our country a duck-pond, referring to the restricted and sometimes claustrophobic debate environment we have to endure.

That’s why it is so liberating to listen to you on the Internet. It may be that information is filtered in the US, but it’s there anyway, and you bring it to us. Here everything is stirred down in media porridge and no one bothers. It’s in fact no great wonder that a neoliberal (and postmodern) breakdown of the magnitude we have experienced the past decade can take place without much ado.

Noam Chomsky has lived for 85 years to become our greatest inspiration

Today is Noam Chomsky’s 85th birthday. The most important intellectual leader on earth has reached a mature age and is still an active forerunner in the struggle for an equitable, humane and reasonable world in which he wants the well-being of humankind to be in the center of our efforts. I sent him my warmest congratulations, adding a few notes on the current situation in Sweden, an excerpt of which follows:

On this day one year ago I wrote you a few words about the deconstruction of the concept “Sweden” as it usually has been known by many people. I’m afraid that the decline has continued since then, even manifesting itself in further disastrous developments.

But today we of course remember Nelson Mandela. For us his memory is tied to an era when “Sweden” was a different society. This was then my country to which Mandela made his first foreign visit, just one month after his release from Robben Island. That country had given more financial support to ANC than all the large European countries together. It was furthermore a policy supported by a substantial majority of Swedes and agitated by numerous solidarity movements. But a key decision maker was naturally Olof Palme.

Only one political party here opposed the support of ANC, thus in fact backing apartheid, namely the Right Party, at that time a rather insignificant party on the remote flank of the bourgeoisie. Today that party – now (naturally) calling itself “The Moderates” – dominates the government and provides our Prime Minister. One renowned left wing commentator recommends their ministers to stay away from the Mandela funeral because “their party’s breath stinks from dead viper” when it comes to ANC and Mandela.

To pick another shock that hit us the other day: the 2012 PISA report. Swedish scores in math, science and reading are falling like stones, in a speed not matched by any other OECD country. It’s now widely held that the reason can be directly derived from the neoliberal excesses, starting with free choice of schools in the 1990s, accelerated by anarchistic privatizations and erupting in robber capitalism with dismantling of resources in private schools resulting in huge profits transferred to tax havens.

The dire consequence of this experiment is that schools in Sweden have become extremely segregated, this in turn being the basic explanation behind the disastrous performance. We who grew up in the old Sweden (I’m 72) can hardly believe our eyes. Our country once had the most homogeneous schools in the world, a property now considered by many experts to be the foundation for good performance. It’s not just that the least talented kids are hit by the segregation; the performance by the top students is also declining!

All the neoliberal reforms are enforced on pure ideological grounds, based on the religious belief that market principles are infallible. Thus regulatory bodies usually haven’t been set up, let alone effective regulations carried through. Politicians seem to have shown the most naïve confidence in their religion, but perhaps they just don’t care (“if we privatize as much as we can manage we’ll leave the problems to the next government, since we know that people won’t put up with us for much longer anyway”).

If I were to say a few words on another neoliberal experiment and some democratic paradoxes I could choose an exotic welfare measure for the rich called RUT. In short it means that the government (tax payers) picks up half the bill when people buy domestic services of different kinds (including homework assistance for their kids, and hiring of butlers).

As one would expect it’s only ten percent of households that are entitled to this welfare check, since the rest cannot afford the services in the first place. In a democratic society it would seem self evident that the 90 percent of voters abolish an absurdity like this. But no way! The Social Democrats don’t dare to touch the “reform” which was pitched as a means of “gender equality” and a way to reduce black work. (The last argument is just too wonderful: rich criminals should be bribed to stay legal!)

Although Sweden isn’t business run to the extent the US is, “democracy” seems to work in the same way. The RUT absurdity is not in any way the only example where a large majority has no say. One way it’s made to work is through media. It’s said that we are obedient here, don’t want to stand out, feel safe with social conformity etcetera. But if that’s an explanation, the same seems to be the case in all (so called) democracies.

In polls 10 percent say that they are fully content with the present form of profit-making in schools and welfare businesses. The rest want some kind of restrictions, from banning dividends to prohibiting profits altogether. The only party whose program deals in at least some way with the wishes of 90 percent of voters is the Left Party, which nevertheless is supported by only about 7 percent in polls. It would have been a paradox if you hadn’t taught us that democracy in our sense is just a marketing procedure.

Well, crisis and opportunity are synonyms, as the old Chinese teach us. And there are more and more signs of a change in politics here. The impediments should just inspire to do more work (I try to contribute verbally in a blog). And in this work, dear Noam, you are the most inspiring person on earth. You demonstrate that rationality is the fundamental way to progress. And as you often point out there is constant progress going on, with one or other setback here and there, of course. So if my report seems depressing, I myself am filled with optimism regarding the development in the longer run. And this optimism is something I gain from listening to your talks regularly.

Nelson Mandela was a hero and a model for humanity. In my world you are even more so!