bookmark_borderDas autoritäre Dänemark

ZDF hat einen interessanten Bericht, “Das Leben der Anderen“, über den dänischen Spitzelstaat produziert.

“Zeigen Sie Betrüger an”, heißt es neuerdings auf den Internetseiten dänischer Kommunen. So werden Bürger angestiftet, sich gegenseitig zu kontrollieren und den Behörden vermeintliche Steuersünder und Sozialbetrüger zu melden – und das völlig anonym.

Ich glaube nicht, dass viele Dänen verstehen, wie autoritär der dänische Staat im Vergleich zu anderen europäischen Ländern geworden ist.

Ich finde es immer schwieriger das Land, in dem ich aufgewachsen bin, wiederzuerkennen.

bookmark_borderWeimar USA followed by fascism?

More and more people are warning that there’s a risk that there’ll be hyperinflation in the US soon. I don’t know how likely this is, but it sounds plausible.

I wonder whether the US would be likely to follow in the footsteps of Weimar Germany, insomuch as a post-hyperinflationary society would make it easy for groups with a fascist-like ideology to emerge.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think history ever repeats itself completely, but glancing at the Wikipedia articles on Fascism and the Economics of fascism there are various things that I think could appeal to a population that felt they had lost everything due to globalisation and the errors of the banks:

During the Great Depression, Mussolini promoted active state intervention in the economy. He denounced the contemporary “supercapitalism” that he claimed began in 1914 as a failure due to its alleged decadence, support for unlimited consumerism and intention to create the “standardization of humankind”.


reduction of the retirement age from 65 to 55, a strong progressive tax on capital,


In most cases, fascists discouraged or banned foreign trade; fascists believed that too much international trade would make the national economy dependent on international capital, and therefore vulnerable to international economic sanctions. Economic self-sufficiency, known as autarky, was a major goal of most fascist governments.


Fascists declared their opposition to finance capitalism, interest charging, and profiteering. […] Fascist governments introduced price controls, wage controls and other types of economic interventionist measures.


While in power, the Nazis created social welfare programs to deal with the large numbers of unemployed. However, those programs were neither egalitarian nor universal, but instead residual, excluding multiple minority groups and certain other people whom they felt were incapable of helping themselves

Hopefully the return of fascism can be averted – although bits of the ideology can look appealing at first, fascist countries always end up as dreadful dictatorships.

bookmark_borderStudent loans

Self Financed
Originally uploaded by Duane Storey

Back in the early 1990s in Denmark, students could easily get cheap loans to finance their studies. The result was that a generation of students ended up with massive debts that they couldn’t realistically pay back.

So a few years before I started university, they introduced much better grants and restricted the ability to get student loans in order to ensure that nobody would be saddled with debt they couldn’t pay off.

England now seems to be going in the opposite direction.

Given that there is a limit to how much graduates can be forced to pay back every year, and given that the plan at the moment is to write off any debt left after 30 years, for most people there will be no point in restricting their borrowings.

That is, they won’t go to a cheap university, but will instead apply to the most expensive ones and borrow as much money as they possibly can to fuel their consumption.

Poor buggers if future governments decide to scrap the repayment limit or the 30-year write-off point!

bookmark_borderIs it really a graduate tax?

I was provoked by an article in The Guardian by LibDem MP John Hemming today, in which he argues that the new English system of tuition fees is basically a graduate tax:

[F]or 54.2% of students in the future it does not matter how much their tuition actually costs. They will pay the same 9% of income over £21,000 a year for 30 years. In other words this new system is a graduate tax in all but name.

Does he not regard it as a problem that graduates whose parents were rich enough to pay their fees upfront won’t have to pay his so-called “graduate tax”? (Let’s face it, even fees as high as £9000 a year are not too shocking to upper-middle-class parents who have just finished paying equivalent private school fees!)

Does he not regard it as a problem that top earners (tomorrow’s bankers, for instance) will have to pay off less than the usual 9% for 30 years?

This is a graduate tax with an opt-out for the rich!

That said, I don’t think a graduate tax would work, either, and the only real solution is to go back to state-funded universities, finding the money by cutting admission numbers.

bookmark_borderFather’s or mother’s surname?

In most western countries, it used to be the case that children got their father’s surname. These days, things are more fluid (as seen for instance by the fact that my daughters’ surname is Buchanan-Widmann), but nobody seems to have come up with a really good solution, given that just concatenating surnames will lead to impossibly long ones in just a few generations’ time.

I made a rather silly suggestion two years ago, namely mixing the surnames.

Spain has come up with a different solution, namely to pick the one that comes first alphabetically. I’m not convinced that’s a wonderful idea in the long run, given that eventually everybody will have surnames beginning with ‘A’.

What other alternatives are there?

Perhaps one could go for frequency, so that the child would get the least common surname. Only issue with that is that one would need to decide what the basis for the frequency calculations should be – the country, the region, or perhaps just the local council area?

One could also pick the prettiest one, but then we’d need a quango that would rule on the beauty of surnames, and I’m not sure that would make anybody happy.

bookmark_borderCooking for a large family

Onions for 7?
Originally uploaded by PhylB

Yesterday, I decided to make curry sauce
for more than one or two nights.

So I made a quintuple portion, which should feed about 80.

Here is the recipe in case you’re interested:

    • 300 ml olive oil
    • 5 kg onions
    • 25 ml salt
    • 250 g fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
    • 250 g garlic, coarsely chopped
    • 7.5 litres water
    • 5 drained tins (1125 g) of tomatoes, blended
    • 25 ml tomato paste
    • 25 ml turmeric
    • 25 ml paprika
  1. Cut the onions into slices and fry them for ten minutes in 225 ml of oil, then add the salt and fry them for another twenty minutes.
  2. Add garlic and ginger, add the water, and simmer the mixture for 25 minutes.
  3. Blend it.
  4. In another pot, fry the tomato paste, turmeric and paprika in the remaining oil for 30 seconds, then add the blended tomatoes and cook for ten minutes.
  5. Mix in the onion mixture and simmer it for 25 minutes, skimming off any froth.
  6. Cool and divide it into 20 equal portions and freeze them.

These curry sauces can then be used for making lovely restaurant-style curries (as I’ve written about here and here).