Way to go, Lord Giddens
1. First I’d like to give some cred to the Arena Group for arranging seminars like this. At least we have one active think-tank to the left of center in Sweden.
2. More than 200 people showed up; not bad on a very warm and sunny evening!
3. The seminar is also available as a Podcast (here). Did you know that the Arena Group was that cutting edge when it comes to technology?
4. A lot of left of center people that I respect could be seen in the crowd; Jesper Bengtsson, Olle Svenning, Kenneth Kvist (Left for Europe), Mats Engström, Pernilla Baralt (Global Utmaning), Laila Naraghi, Widar Andersson…
5. Content wise, I think Giddens lecture met expectations (but Jesper had a good comment, here). Giddens' list explaining why some social models in Europe are more successful than others was not rocket-science, but still simple and illuminating: be reformist; keep markets open; protect the individual and not the job; invest in children; keep a balanced budget; invest in knowledge and information technology. As you can see, a pretty Scandinavian list.
6. Giddens had some interesting ideas about what is important now and in the near future as well: Europe’s structural problems are not only caused by globalization – internal problems such as demographics are equally important; when it comes to politics we are moving from passive trust (i.e. elections every four years) to active trust (continuous evaluation of politicians and policies); we are moving from negative to positive welfare (i.e. from ‘we help you when you are unemployed’ to ‘we need to invest in you all the time’); patterns of poverty and inequality are changing; life-style issues such as health and over-weight must be addressed; we are not dealing that well with cultural diversity and integration; we really are in the age of energy and environment (i.e. sustainable development must be integrated into the welfare state).
7. Joakim Palme and Göran Färm were smart choices as commentators; one academic and one politician… Annika Ström-Melin was good as moderator, but the question time was disorganized.
8. The following books and reports were referred to during the night: The third way and The new egalitarianism by Anthony Giddens (the latter with Patrick Diamond as co-author); The pro-growth progressive by Gene Sperling; The flight of the creative class by Richard Florida; An Agenda for a Growing Europe by André Sapir; and Happiness by Richard Layard.
9. The buffet dinner at the Arena Group afterwards was nice and laid back, but some of the guests surprised me: was Lars Wohlin looking for books about queer theory? (That was a joke, folks, he is in the rather anti-LesBiGay Christian Democratic party now).
10. At the buffet dinner, Giddens was also asked if it is not right-wing to demand reform all the time in the way he does. Lord Giddens answer sums up why he is worth listening to: “The European Social Models are keeping millions unemployed, it excludes ethnic minorities and people with disabilities, and it is not ecologically sustainable. If you conclude that and don’t demand reform, then you are right-wing and conservative.”
Way to go, Lord Giddens.