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August 23, 2006

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It's the end of the world as we know it

(and I feel fine).

Key sentence: "In warring with a religion, decades of secularism have left us utterly disarmed."

wow. I would have thought that the scientific method, which brought us such things as B-2 bombers and smart bombs, has left us more than adequately armed to take on a bunch of theocrats.

"And an alarming number of people are blonde; the kids' hair tends to be one shade away from white."

I was wondering about this point. The general stereotype of Swedes is that they are blonde, but in looking at advertising material for a new H&M store at one of our centers, on the one hand there is no attempt to be racially mixed, as is typical for such advertising, but on the other hand, there are _no_ blondes. Every one has brown hair and very fair skin.

in warring against this new bacillus, decades of sterile technique and good hygiene have left us utterly disarmed.

in warring against hunger, decades of growing surplus crops have left us utterly disarmed.

in warring against rational thought, decades of believing our own crashingly pompous irrational right-wing platitudes have left us utterly disarmed.

hey--that last one is starting to make sense...

Dan: there are quite a few non-blonde Swedes, but the proportion of blondes is way higher than any other non-Nordic country I've been to.

And this is a lot more like the end of the world as we know it. (Nouriel Roubini on the housing bubble bursting, and why he thinks it will lead to a serious recession. He has a rather good track record on these things.)

Since it can be hard to get into his blog w/o subscribing to his website, an excerpt:

"I have also argued before that the effects of housing on US economic growth and the role of housing in tipping the US economy into a recession in early 2007 are more significant than the role that the tech sector bust in 2000 played in tipping the economy into a recession in 2001. There are three reasons:

The direct effect of the fall in residential investment in aggregate demand will be as high as the effects of the fall in real investment in the 2000-2001episode. Then, real investment fell by about 2% of GDP. This time around the fall in residential investment alone – let alone the role other components of real investment, such as software and equipment, that are already falling in Q2 – will be as large as residential investment could fall from the peak of about 6.2% of GDP (the highest level since the 1950s) to as low as 4% of GDP at the bottom in 2007.
The wealth effect of the tech bust was limited to the elite of folks who had stocks in the NASDAQ. The wealth effect of now falling housing prices – yes median prices are starting to fall at the national level - affects every home-owning household: the value of residential real estate has also increased to 48.5% of household wealth in 2006 from from 38.7% in 1996. Also, the link between housing wealth rising, increased home equity withdrawal (HEW) and consumption of durable and non durables is very significant (see RGE’s Christian Menegatti brief on this), much more than the effect of the tech bubbles of the 1990s. Last year, out of the $800 billion of HEW at least $150 or possibly $200 billion was spent on consumption and another good $100 billion plus went into residential investment (i.e. house capital improvements/expansions). It is enough for house price to flatten – as they already did recently – let alone start falling - as they are doing now since they are beginning to fall in major markets – for the wealth effect to disappear, the HEW dribble to low levels and for consumption to sharply fall. Note that this year there will be large increases in the borrowing costs for $1 trillion of ARM’s while this figure for 2007 will be $1.8 trillion. Thus, debt servicing costs for millions of homeowners will sharply increase this year and next.
The employment effects of housing are serious; up to 30% of the employment growth in the last three years was due directly and indirectly to housing. The direct effects are job lost in construction, building materials, real estate brokers and sales agents, and employees of the mortgage finance industry. The indirect effects imply that the role of housing is even larger than 30%. The housing boom led to a boom in consumer durables spending on home appliances and furniture. Indeed, in Q2 real consumption of such goods was already negative: as you have less new home built and purchased and less old homes refurbished and expanded, you get less purchases of home appliances and furniture. There are also other indirect effects of the housing bust on employment, even on the purchases of motor vehicles. Indeed, the current auto sector slump is not unrelated to the housing slump. As the Financial Times put recently, the sharp fall in the sales of Ford's pick-up trucks is related to the housing slump as such truck are widely purchased by real estate contractors. And indeed in Q2 real consumer durables (that include both cars, home appliances and furniture all related to housing) already fell, consistent with the view that we have now have a glut in the stock of consumer durables (durables consumption has a investment-like nature to it as such goods last for a long time). Thus, as housing sector slumps, the job and income and wage losses in housing will percolate throughout the economy.
How bad are the signals coming from the housing sector? As a recent news headline clearly put it: it is simply UGLY. Indeed, all the indicators from the housing sectors - including the latest housing starts and the homebuilders (NAHB) forward looking business conditions - indicate a housing sector that is literally in free fall. New home sales started to fall since the beginning of 2006 and in some regions they are down over 30% relative to a year ago. As Bloomberg summarized today the new housing data: “Sales of previously owned homes in the U.S. fell more than expected in July, resulting in the biggest supply of unsold homes in more than a decade, as higher mortgage rates discouraged would-be home buyers.. Purchases declined 4.1 percent last month to an annual rate of 6.33 million, the lowest since January 2004, from 6.6 million in June, the National Association of Realtors said today in Washington. Sales fell 11.2 percent compared with a year earlier.” Indeed, the number of unsold homes and the ratio of unsold homes to new home sales has therefore risen sharply to over 5.5 months of supply. Similarly the ratio of unsold homes to existing home sales has also sharply increased. These are clear indicator of a glut of unsold homes in the market. Housing starts are also sharply down elative to a year ago and expected to fall further over the next few quarters. Note also that, while overall mortgage applications are still up in the latest figures published today, due to sustained refinancing applications, applications for purchase applications have fallen 1.0% during the last week, this being fifth fall in the last six weeks. Moreover, there is a large amount of evidence that suggests increasing cancellation of initial mortgage applications, as the slump in the housing market and in the economy is now scaring households considering buying a home. Thus, the official data on purchase mortgage applications are very likely to exceed actual home sales. "

What's even scarier is that I'm not sure he's taking account of all those bizarro interest-only mortgages.

Roligt att du gillar det! Yeah, the food is better and the scene more varied - approx 20 % of the population is first or second generation immigrants. You will find more impoverished/homeless/helpless people, particularly in Stockholm. We cut the welfare state with $15 billion (population 9 million) in the early 90:ies so obviously somebody had to pay. But nothing like any US inner city, though. You will also see more SUV:s in Stockholm - we actually call them stadsjeepar (city-jeeps for you non-Swedish-speaking), with good reason. But yes, cars are smaller (lots of Volvos and Saabs, though: they have a 35 percent market share combined). Hope you enjoy the rest of the stay. Ha kul. Undvik älgar och mygg.

Finns ingen myggor här i Umeå -- and why should I avoid älgar? I'd quite like to see one, actually.

Note on the egalitarianism - as was explained in my last year history class at gymnasiet, the crucial trigger was getting rid of the poorest 20% of the population, who all went off to someone else's continent (Guess which one that was). How much less poverty would the US have if we just flushed 60M people?

Something else that helps explains the egalitarianism and general gcooperativessness that enables it is the total ethnic homogeneity of the population until recently, the idea being that the trust that kind of thing requires is easier if you all feel you are blood kin. You might better compare Utah and Sweden - for lots of reasons such as size of the society, ethnic homogenity and ideological homogeneity - than comparing Sweden to an entity such as the entire US. Since European states are typically considered independent nations, this is an easy mistake to make.

I had a blast birding in Ireland--all the ordinary backyard birds were "firsts' for my lifelist. Also it was fun to see the birds of English murder mysteries: chaffinches, rooks, blue tits, etc.
It also was a very unpleasant shock to get back to America from Ireland. One of the first things I saw when I got off the plane in Chicago was Ann Coulter's book on display at the airport bookstores. Someone like her probably wouldn't get published in Ireland, not because of censorship, but because there just isn't the acceptance of hatefulness. Getting away from the US for awhile really highlighted the sickness of our current political life.

I remember walking around Helsinki and having to keep refraining from laughing out loud to see the Nordic stereotypes confirmed, so many blonde people everywhere.

I suspect that Jim's second point has a lot of meat to it. But that's in part simply my own bias, the belief that the beast of xenophobia and its relations lurk in the hearts of almost all of us.

lily-- I love Ireland, but I have the strong feeling that some of what you see would appear very different to you in the North. That at least was my experience. But I would be happy to be corrected.

Oh yes, I am sure thhe North is different. Also I know that if yoy live someplace, the warts become more apparent. However I did read the local newspapers daily and, for the two weeks I was in the Republic, traffic was the big hot issue, and no one was accusing anyone of being unIrish about it.

When I was there last, 3 years ago, I don't remember hearing about any problems (except housing prices going up). I didn't even read the papers, though. But when I was there before, it was during the resurgence of the troubles, 1987-1988, so I expect my perspective was somewhat jaundiced.

What part of the country were you in?

"the total ethnic homogeneity of the population"

ahah--so that's what lurks behind the rhapsodic descriptions of egalitarian utopia. It's hilzoy's notorious Blut und Boden tribalism showing once again.

look, hilzoy, just for once could you consider basing your ethical views on some principle more general than who looks like you?

I don't know, maybe some sort of universal principle, equally applicable to all rational agents merely as such?


Tim Duy calls Roubini his personal Eeyore. I have only been watching Nouriel for a few years, so I have only seen him pick 7 of the last 3 recessions. Or whatever. :)

Key sentence: "In warring with a religion, decades of secularism have left us utterly disarmed."

oh, i dunno, the final sentence is a perfect example of the whole overblown, overwrought, grandiosity that keeps me from reading that site (except when directed there for giggles):

    What is existential solace when existence is erased?
[big orchestra hit]*duh-duh-dummmmm* [fade to black]

i think it helps to read him in a William Shatner voice.

yeah, the existence of "not merely [...] Israel, but [...] the West at large" is in jeopardy. OMG OMG ! and it's all the fault of... the secularists! idiocy. fncking idiocy.

at least when i read Goldstein's similarly overwrought nonsense, there's always the chance that he's going to fly off the rails and start threatening to slap people with his genitalia. with Mr T, it's just a dreary parade of subordinate clauses.

I don't know, maybe some sort of universal principle, equally applicable to all rational agents merely as such?

That kant ever work...

i think it helps to read him in a William Shatner voice.

FWIW, the Roast of William Shatner on Comedy Central was pretty good as such things go. George Takei, in particular, was a scream; but the prize of the night has to go to the video clip of Shatner's Rocket Man, the original of which I'd never seen. I'm not sure that I'm happier for it, mind -- but I feel that I've grown as a human being.

in a William Shatner voice
slightly related is HankP's take on the Tacitites here, which was inspired by this here, and you can roll your own here

Anarch
Shouldn't it be 'that kant never works?'

"there are quite a few non-blonde Swedes, but the proportion of blondes is way higher than any other non-Nordic country I've been to."

I know. So when H&M chooses 10 Swedes to be their spokesmodels, how many should be blond. Not zero, as were on these posters. They looked more Czech than Swedish.

why kant we all just get along?

Jake, we spent a week near Dungarven and a week in Ballyferriter (Kerry).

HankP is my hero.

"we spent a week near Dungarven and a week in Ballyferriter (Kerry)."

I never saw the Southeast at all, but I had the good fortune to see the Ring of Kerry on my first visit. It was remarkably placid back then--on my more recent visit, my girlfriend and I saw a rally race around the ring on the television! It darn near made the boys reascend, if you know what I mean, inasmuch as I had driven that road myself at a rather slower rate.

I only recently have taken to birdwatching. It was in fact prompted by a cardinal who pays our back yard regular visits. His coloring was really something against the snow last winter. But I look forward to the chance to see a different set of birds next time I travel, as you and hilzoy have remarked upon.

My brief experience of Stockholm (and slightly less brief experience of...too lazy to look up correct spelling plus funny-letters...Linkorping was pretty much in line with that, hilzoy. Although the street full of addicts shooting up behind my hotel in Stockholm was a bit disconcerting.

Several hundred years of civilization, maybe. The rest of the country reminded me a great deal of Upper Michigan, though. Maybe it was all the roofs designed to shed snow when it gets too deep.

There should be a right-paren to balance out the left, in there somewhere.

Anarch, maybe you've seen this, Shatner honors Lucas and Star Wars.

If anyone has a url for the Shatner roast, I'd love to see it.

I'd love to get up to Mayo or Donnegal. We didn't go around the Ring as it has gotten pretty busy with tourist bus traffic etc. Dungarven is just an ordinnary Irish town, meaning it hhas an anciennt castle annd ann ancient abbey annd lots of historical graveyards and lots stone fences, all inn a tighht little hhuddle withh the sea on one side annd green rolling hills on thhe othher. Ireland is hilarious in that it looks exactly like the postcards--kinnd of like how funny it is that all thhe Swedes look Swedish. Irelannd looks exactly like it is supposed to look. We even met an old guy up on top of one of their "mountians" who was wearing a tweed wool cap, smokimg a pipe and herding sheep with thhe help of his border collie! Do you think the Irish Tourish Board hires actors to do that? I couldn't believe he was for real.

I know. So when H&M chooses 10 Swedes to be their spokesmodels, how many should be blond. Not zero, as were on these posters. They looked more Czech than Swedish.

Well, according to Ben Franklin, the Swedes were numbered amongst the swarthy peoples of Europe...

LJ, just do a search at YouTube. Also, comedycentral.com has clips up, but they are requiring registration to access at least some of them.

I saw a bit of that last night. I must confess I'd never thought I'd hear Betty White getting censored that often. Or even, ever.

It's been decades since I've watched a celebrity roast; things have changed drastically since Red Buttons roasted Dean Martin, for example. Now it's a bit of a free-for-all; I think the roasters got as much time in roasting each other as they did making Shatner cry.

It wasn't the poorest 20% who emigrated. The poorest 10% couldn't afford the fare!

Seriously, there are a lot more (and better!) explanations for scandinavian egalitarianism. There was much less nobility here than in Europe in general, and we got rid of it earlier. Also, racial homogeniety is hardly as great as people think, now or before, but I think religious issues matter more. Calvinism, or other Christian sects with moral positivistic doctrines ("I'm rich, and God is omnipotent, therefore I deserve it") never had much of a foothold here. Also, scandinavian pietism encouraged industrialization and "paternalistic" (read: decent) employment practices. Take my wife's great-great grandfather, for instance. O.A Devold met the preacher Hans Nielsen Hauge, got saved, promptly started a factory in my village, on Hauge's suggestion. He built a hospital and a prayer house for his employees, and installed a hydro turbine to power the factory... installed the first light bulb in Norway, it's still there in the museum.

I'd say the ideals and hard work of people like him matters more than racial or cultural homogeniety. They couldn't have been very afraid of other people, since they sent their children out to study abroad, and I even think he had an aunt who was a former slave in the caribbean or something. (We never worked out exactly who "the creole woman" was, but she was apparently quite dark-skinned)

the Roast of William Shatner on Comedy Central was pretty good as such things go

yeah. we saw it a couple of nights ago... laughed our heads off. it's pretty astounding how thick one's skin needs to be to take that kind of abuse - even if you go in there expecting it. they can get really brutal.

Wait, Tacitus is....serious?

It's amazing how close the Scandanavian languages are. The title of this post in Norwegian would be Hei, fra Sverige (Åpen tråd). Just living here and learning Norwegian means I can read Danish and most Swedish and understand the Swedes. The Danes' pronunciation is so out of whack it is very difficult to understand them, even though written Danish is almost exactly like written Norwegian. I can even now make sense of some German, using what I know of English and Nordic languages.

And by the by, that link to Shatner toasting George Lucas was easily the funniest thing I saw all day.

And Jesus H. Fncking Christ on a Popsicle Stick:

Some in G.O.P. Say Iran Threat Is Played Down:

Some senior Bush administration officials and top Republican lawmakers are voicing anger that American spy agencies have not issued more ominous warnings about the threats that they say Iran presents to the United States.

And:

Chris Matthews hosted a segment entitled “Is Iran Next?” Matthews said that Bill Kristol and other neoconservatives “may be right” when they argue that Bush “has to hit” Iran militarily.

How do I get off this thing?

“Is Iran Next?”

duh. of course it is. it's an election year!

GOP 06: we have nothing to offer but fear itself.

Re: Ireland, the only thing I have to offer is this: DO NOT KISS THE BLARNEY STONE. The local kids go up there at night while hammered and piss on it. I'm serious.

we have nothing to offer but fear itself.

Don't forget surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.

...and nice red uniforms!

About the egalitarianism: I don't buy the 'poor people emigrated explanation. I had wondered about the ethnic homogeneity, since it would be so hard to disprove (back when I was living there and there were very few immigrants), and I'd be interested in the views of those who live in Scandinavia on how much tension there has been, but in three days of galumphing around a small northern city, I haven't seen any sign of it.

My personal theory has always been something like this: Sweden is a country where the people are fairly matter-of-fact. In some countries, an absence of major public issues would cause people to invent things to get upset about; Swedes have always seemed to me quite happy to worry about how to finance upgrades to the electric grid when that is in fact the most pressing thing out there.

When speculating wildly, I tend to put this down to the fact that Sweden was, until the last century, an overwhelmingly agricultural country where the farming is not all that great. (As in: not good enough that you can afford to let things slide.) (Also: I saw statistics once, which alas I'm too lazy to look up again, that said something like: As of 1900, something like 95% of Swedes were farmers; as of 1980, something like 8%. A huge change, if you think about it.)

If you happen to be a farmer in a cold, cold climate with a short, short growing season, you really can't afford to get things badly wrong, or not to pay attention to what needs paying attention to. You do not have the luxury of getting so bent out of shape about something imaginary that you don't pay attention to your potatoes. When they need to be planted, then they do, and that's all. When the cows need milking, then they need milking, period. You have to take care of those things, or else. And that means you don't get to bother with things like the decline of Western civilization, or the horrid conspiracies of whoever, or any other such political nightmares.

Also, you need to take care of other people when they need it. It's just what you do.

I think this matter-of-factness, combined with good luck in the people who presided over the change to social democracy, meant that egalitarianism was a lot less fraught thatn it was elsewhere: a lot less overlaid with ideology. (It also, I think, completely precluded attempts to imitate the USSR, the idea of which has always caused every Swede I have ever known, including very committed socialists, to look at me as if I had gone mad and ask: why on earth would anyone think we'd have the slightest interest in that? All the obvious problems with it were clear to them at the outset.)

So instead of presenting itself the way it does in the US, as a question of accepting some whole new ideology, or becoming a socialist, or whatever, egalitarianism in Sweden just looked, matter of factly, like a series of much more mundane questions. Should the government pay for health care, thereby allowing people to get on with their lives without worrying about who was going to pay if they unexpectedly got sick? Well, yes. Would it be worth paying somewhat higher taxes for this? Well, yes. Should workers be well represented in their dealings with employers? Well, yes. Should the government also pay attention to the economic viability of those employers? Well, yes. Do we want good bike paths that everyone can use? Well, yes. Do we want to buy everyone a new convertible? Well, no.

And when egalitarianism presents itself that way, I think it's a lot more appealing. It's not the entering edge of a horrible communist wedge; there's no great big ideology designed to convince people that the rich are entitled by right not to help support the country they thrive in (which is, as best I can see, the only possible explanation for people who aren't rich to support the repeal of the estate tax); political questions are just questions about what we want to do and how we go about it, and don't carry much more ideological baggage than, say, questions about whether you want to replace your hot water heater.

I put it down to being farmers in a cold climate.

Was farming such a piece of cake in balmy Czarist Russia that Bolshevism had more appeal there? Okay, I'm jumping over several steps in the argument, but it's an open thread and having just watched a couple of silly debates in the preceding thread I thought I'd start my own.

"Also, you need to take care of other people when they need it. It's just what you do."

In all seriousness, hilzoy, (i.e. no jokes about tribalism) this seems like the part that remains most under-explained.

Not everyone just does these things. Not even all subsistence-farmers just do these things.

I agree that the political model arose naturally out of the cultural background. And I share your admiration for the cultural background and the political model to which it gives rise.

(And I think that you have your finger on a deep insight in saying that a political model arising out of a natural cultural model is less likely to give rise to extreme and counterproductive results than the same politics arising from more explicit ideological indoctrination.)

But exactly because culture is doing so much explaining here, it makes it all the more unsatisfying to leave it unexamined.

So, for instance: what changes would have to take place in US culture in order to bring it about that these are things that we all "just do"?

(And incidentally, there is plenty of confirmation for the nordic-culture hypothesis in the fact that Minnesota and Wisconsin have long been the states in which there was the most organic socialism, i.e. not COMINTERN stuff, but just a natural consensus that e.g. money should be put into public schooling.)

Donald Johnson: I probably should have added that being farmers in a cold climate, who nonetheless owned their own land and were not serfs, was key.

Also, on reflection, the fact that Sweden is shaped the way it is, and surrounded by seas (and Norway, which used to be part of it) means that hordes of kossacks and Mongols were unlikely to come rampaging through on their way to anywhere.

I would think that helping people out would come naturally in a country in which people were poor, but not so desperately poor that it was every man for himself all the time, and free, and in which nature was pretty unforgiving (which would mean that one might need help oneself at some point.) I agree, though, that that's the crucial point.

Halfway off topic: I have these old pictures of some of my relatives -- further back than my grandparents -- which are interesting in that they do not seem to be normal portraits, but Walker Evans-like pictures. There is an old woman, dressed like one of the more threadbare and joyless people in Babette's Feast, staring grimly up from what looks like a bowl of dry beans that she is in the middle of shelling. There are two men, also rather dour and threadbare, in a dark barn full of old but tidy farm equipment. Since these are, in fact, photographs, they can't be from all that long ago, but it's a completely different world.

As it happens, I am reading Jane Jacobs's _Systems of Survival_ right now. It was written 1992, but she (or rather one of her characters) talks about the emigration of corporations from Sweden that was rather troubling at that point. I don't know if it is still a problem.

She also mentions that environmental groups in Sweden then were beginning to work more closely with forest owners because they had concluded that private owners were more reliable caretakers than the government was: the government was much more likely to want to overcut and otherwise permanently damage forests.

written *in* 1992, ahem.

lily--

Well, when I first went there it was London to Cork on a relatively small plane. We only came out of cloud cover 200 meters or so above the ground, and there was nothing but green everywhere. I couldn't believe how preposterously green it was. So I guess I'm not surprised when a stereotype comes to life there.

I liked County Mayo a lot. We hiked up Croagh Patrick (not barefoot, though) and that was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. The view was heart-filling, especially the little islands in the bay to the north.

Well, I wasn't trying (very hard) to start a real discussion, but the extra points you added make sense.

I'm not sure what to make of geographical explanations for cultural traits At some point I'll get around to reading Guns, Germs and Steel, which I gather is a very ambitious example of this type of thing.

Donald,

"I'm not sure what to make of geographical explanations for cultural traits At some point I'll get around to reading Guns, Germs and Steel, which I gather is a very ambitious example of this type of thing."

Not really. Guns, Germs & Steel doesn't deal with culture issues (i.e., which would be more egalitarian as opposed to stratified) so much as with relative advantage between newly interacting civilizations based on the geography of their native region (and is primarily focused on the conquering of Africa and the Americas by Europeans). It also is on a continent-sized scale, so its argument says little about Sweden when compared to the rest of Europe.

It's still an interesting book, just not for this point.

Yancy 2008!

The fuss about fresh potatoes is a point lost in translation, I believe. "Färskpotatis" is the word used for the first crop of potatoes -- "primörer" in Swedish -- which are considered a delicacy and priced and advertised accordingly.

"Färskpotatis" is the word used for the first crop of potatoes

a.k.a. "New Potatoes", en Anglais.

"I'd say the ideals and hard work of people like him matters more than racial or cultural homogeneity. "

People's hard work provides the material goods to share. It doesn't ensure that those things are going to be shared. Something else does. It my be a sense of kinship, or it may just be the effect of living in a difficult environemnt where cooperation is a survival adaptation. It certainly has nothing to do with Chrisitianity, which in Sweden came late and left early. Frankly, Scandinavian Christianity has never looked very Christian. What it may come down to is a matter of scale - people lived in smallish commuities in a smallish society, so they could see want a suffering with thier own eyes every day. Jared Diamond talks about this kind of thng when he discusses what it takes ot develop a social consensus to conserve an environment, which also requires a high level of trust.

Sweden may not now be the homogeneous tribal nation of the stereotype, but that is a very recent development, and the womb-to-tomb welfare state evolved when Sweden was fairly homogeneous.

As for my remark about the poor people emigrating, I am just repeating what a Swedish history teacher told me. It fits the general pattern of European emigration to North America, so it seemed plausible. On the other hand, the commnet above syaing that the poorest 10% didn't emigrate because they satyed is also plausible, as it fits modern-day patterns.

Jim, I did give an explanation to the sharing: the pietistic revival movement of Hans Nielsen Hauge. That looks very Christian to me, and it appeared at the critical point when Norway started to develop from an agricultural society to an industrialised one.

My theory is that Haugianism is the most important direct influence on our culture. It shaped the worker's movement in a slightly different direction than elsewhere. Industrialist were usually paternalistic pietists who lived close to the workers and took their well-being seriously, and it would have been hard to attach the Marxist stereotypes of capitalists (or Christians) to them, especially if you were nominally Christian yourself. The revival also made for a strong teetotaller's movement, which rescued norwegians (and later the Sami) from endemic alcoholism.

Alcohol use was very, very bad in the nineteenth century. A classical textbook piece used here to talk about racism gives an account of a people as completely depraved and pathetic, immoral, broken down with alcohol, high infant mortality etc. and then it turns out it's our own society, about 150 years ago, as described by an englishman (rather than some african tribe, which students believe at first.)

But the closeness to the workers is, I think, a clue. Norway (at least, perhaps unlike Sweden) has few areas suited for large farms. Estates wouldn't have worked here, there would have been logistical problems as you tried to run them across steep mountains... Also, the land isn't all that productive.

It's not correct that all farmers owned their own land, they often rented it from an established farmer. However, the owners had to work the fields, too. Living of other's labour wouldn't have been easy, since there was comparatively little surplus. The first industrialists (who were deeply pietistic Christians almost to a man) kept this closeness to the workers.

Government transparency bill subjected to secret hold.

This isn't all that new, but it is something you can all write to your congresscritters about. Plus, bonus Wonkette link. It's something useful this time, though.

Umeå's Live Webcam
http://webcam.educ.umu.se/

In other news, it looks as if perhaps Ernesto might pay my part of Florida a little visit.

On the other hand, given how much error there tend to be in predicting hurricanes out that far, maybe not. Still, the weekend on the beach might be spent entirely indoors.*

*Not entirely a bad thing, when suitably provisioned with fun things to eat and drink, dominoes, playing cards, etc.

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