bookmark_borderSweden shows how to get rid of moonlighting

There is an article today in the Danish newspaper Politiken describing (in Danish) how moonlighting has been minimised in Sweden:

[In Sweden], the state pays half the bill for child care, cleaning and other housework. 890,000 Swedes used the system last year, and 67,000 firms have signed up as providers.

Legal expert at Skatteverket (Sweden’s HMRC), Pia Blank Thörnroos says:

“Our view is that a very large part of the unofficial economy has been legalised. In recent years we have had a so-called invoice model which means that citizens pay half of the price to the service provider and the company gets the second half from the tax authorities. It has created a huge incentive for getting rid of moonlighting, why buy services without a receipt when you can buy them legally for half the price?”

The Swedish government last year paid SEK 8.1bn to firms. But the money comes back to the exchequer in the form of VAT and increased tax revenue according to Pia Blank Thörnroos.

I think this is a brilliant idea!

Of course it can be discussed whether the state should pay 40 or 50 percent of the bill, and there will be some issues with deciding exactly which jobs that apply for the subsidy, but the principle is sound.

Even if it doesn’t actually increase revenues, surely it’s a good thing to know the size of the economy, and to ensure that unemployed people are genuinely unemployed.

Also, if the work is done by registered companies rather than moonlighting workers, it’s much easier to ensure everything is done according to regulations and that proper insurance is in place.

bookmark_borderNobody will stand up for Scotland abroad

Sam’s Boys
Originally uploaded by acidrabbi

Joan McAlpine has an important point about the al-Megrahi affair (hat-tip: SNP Tactical Voting), namely that both the UK and the US are saying Scotland’s government were wrong to release him, but there’s nobody on the international stage to fight Scotland’s corner:

Since foreign affairs are not devolved to Edinburgh, David Cameron officially speaks for us. On this occasion he trashed us in front of the world. Where were we? We should have had a right to reply at least. After all, Scottish troops are fighting and dying in Afghanistan, as they did in Iraq, to support America. Would Obama and Cameron have condemned a friendly, independent sovereign nation like this?

Even those who disagreed with the decision to free al-Megrahi should agree that this situation is untenable – the US government should be discussing this issue with Alex Salmond, not with David Cameron, and only independence will resolve this issue.


Our parents’ generation were born at a time of strife and poverty, but after that things got better and better for them. However, the picture for our generation is much more complex.

I was therefore very interested when I found a book from 1991 (“Generations” by Strauss and Howe), which claims that there are types of generations, and that these types are repeated in a cycle.

In that way, Phyllis and I are part of a generation which in many ways has more in common with the people born between 1883 and 1900 (that is, those who were hit by the Great Depression when they were between 28 and 46 and for whom WWII ended when they were between 45 and 62).

And to Phyllis and me, the following quote sounds very modern: “We have not men fit for the times. We are deficient in genius, in education, in travel, in fortune – in everything. I feel unutterable anxiety.” However, it was uttered by John Adams (1735-1826), a member of our generation, just three cycles earlier.

Of course, this generational cycle idea cannot be proven, but the fact that the book is nearly twenty years old makes it more powerful, because it sounds spookily prophetic in places.

For instance, the book discusses how different generations would handle a terror attack, and bear in mind that George W. Bush was a baby-boomer (“Boomer” in this book’s terminology):

Finally, suppose the terrorists were to strike during the upcoming Crisis constellation […]. Boomer leaders […] would neither hide nor ponder the rumor; instead, they would exaggerate the threat […] and tie it to a larger sense of global crisis. Unifying the nation as a community, these leaders would define the enemy broadly and demand its total defeat – regardless of the human and economic sacrifices required. (p. 375)

This following looks pretty prophetic, too:

By the late 1990s, […] [pay] will be increasingly market-driven […]. Year-to-year results will be rewarded more than lifetime achievement. The stars who can win, show Ruthian bravado, and fill arenas will make fantastic sums (enhanced by international bidding).


Looking for a lightning strike at success, 13ers will dart from job to job. Their mobility will discourage employers from investing in job training – or from offering pensions to new hires.

I’m not saying the book is correct in all its predictions, but it’s definitely worth a read.

I’ve not finished reading it yet, so I might blog more about it later.

bookmark_borderDen “røde” kasse

En bog, jeg ofte læser for Léon og Anna, er Gunilla Woldes Totte klæder sig ud, der handler om Totte og Malene, der på Malenes loft finder en stor kasse med udklædningstøj.

Én ting undrer mig dog: Kassen beskrives i bogen som rød, men på billederne er den helt tydeligt orange.

Desuden forekommer det mig, at ordet “rød” er skrevet med en anden (lidt mindre fed) skrifttype (klik på billedet for at se, hvad jeg mener), og sådan vil det ofte se ud, hvis et ord er blevet udskiftet i forbindelse med en ny udgave – hvis kassen tidligere fx var beskrevet som “gul”, ville det være billigere blot at udskifte dette ord i teksten end at gensætte hele bogen.

Men hvad var det tidligere ord? Var kassen i tidligere udgaver orange (så teksten passede med billedet), og en eller anden bestemte sig for, at “orange” var for svært et ord for denne aldersgruppe?

Eller var ordet tidligere “gul”, og nogen mente, at farven mindede mere om rød end gul?

Er der nogen her, der har adgang til en tidligere udgave og kan løse denne gåde?

bookmark_borderPlaces to see in and around England?

Possible summer holiday map
Originally uploaded by viralbus

Our plan for this summer is to fill our Citroën C8 up with two adults, five kids, a tent, sleeping bags and lots of other stuff, and then drive clockwise round England, possibly taking a small detour to France and Belgium, and possibly another one to Wales (see the map).

We think the kids ought to see London, I would quite like to see Dartmoor, and a friend recommended that we take the kids to Bridlington.

However, I’m actually writing this because I’m interested in your suggestions.

Where should we go? Where are there beaches, museums, castles or rollercoasters that would thrill five kids ranging between 6 months and 13 years, preferably without breaking the bank?

bookmark_borderBad news aplenty

The economy is still producing plenty of bad news.

For instance, the day before yesterday it was reported that the UK recession was even deeper than first thought (at 6.4% rather than 6.2%), which means it was definitely the worst one since the 1930s.

The same day we got news of a Chinese rating agency which claims that its Western competitors are biased towards the West, and it duly placed the UK at AA-, compared to AA+ for China and Germany. This doesn’t change anything at the moment, but if banks start taking these ratings into account, it could lead to debt repayment getting much more costly for the UK and other Western countries.

Finally, the ONS has now counted the total indebtedness of the UK, and it adds up to about £4 trillion, compared to the standard national debt, which currently stands at just £903bn.

bookmark_borderVery little Frisian

My Frisian clogs
Originally uploaded by Jetske19

I’ve been exploring Leeuwarden/Ljowert (the capital of Friesland) for most of the afternoon.

I must say I’m disappointed.

Apart from a few engraved poems, a couple of restaurant menus, and the name of the regional council, I have not found anything written in Frisian.

I thought the language was coöfficial with Dutch here, so I had expected tons of bilingual signs and informal stuff only in the language, just like you would see in Catalonia or the Basque Country.

But there’s more Gaelic in Glasgow than Frisian in Leeuwarden!