So, I’m in Sucre in Bolivia, but some politics just happened, so I have to write about that. If you don’t care but only is interested in my day, then please go down. So, I’m
So, I’m in Sucre in Bolivia, but some politics just happened, so I have to write about that. If you don’t care but only is interested in my day, then please go down.
So, I’m a member of a Facebook group called NUMTOT, which could be described as YIMBY, although more focused on trains and quite left-leaning. The stereotypical numtotian is about 30 years old and can’t afford the rent for his/her closet in Brooklyn. I like a lot of what I see in that group, it’s such a pack of geniuses who makes all kinds of jokes and throws examples from all over the world. But I didn’t like the admins coming out in support for Bernie Sanders. So before leaving my hotel I wrote something about how living in Sanders’ dream country Sweden made me support Andrew Yang, and when I arrived at the next hotel, I had got some 40 laughing faces and lots of comments.
One guy, Spencer Cook, wrote: “Could you elaborate on those negative consequences? I’m definitely curious.” and got 23 likes on that one, so this is for you Spencer, and the 23 likers!
Why Sweden makes me support Yang instead of Sanders
1. The housing market
Sanders would like to keep housing rents low. Sweden started controlling rents during WWII, like most countries. But unlike other countries, we still have them (although they are sometimes called ”negotiated”, but it’s the same). So if you have a nice, old, central apartment, you pay very little rent. The consequence? You live larger than you otherwise would! Central Stockholm is full with 2- and 3- and sometimes even 4-room flats inhabited by single, old persons. While flats in shitty suburbs are packed with people, such as 20-30-year-olds, and our refugees. One example taken from the Internet today (pardon the Swedish):
Here is a two-room flat at 62 m2 (667 ft2) costing about 700 USD/month. In the lower right corner you see the top queuers for this apartment: they have been queuing since 1984 and 1985. You can enter the queue on your 18th birthday, meaning that the top queuer is at least 54 years old! This apartment might not be online anymore when you’re reading this, but please have a look at what we have right now.
Now, what do you do if you’re a 25 year old, or a refugee? Then we have a private market! Let’s have a look at Sweden’s craigslist, Blocket:
It’s the same area as the apartment above, and the same size. The rent is now 1700 USD/month, more than double. You can also only rent it for 6 months. This is the apartment for people who are younger than 54 years. Of course, in the suburbs it gets faster, but also there you need 10 years (and zero your queuing time).
OK, let’s say you are a bit tight of money and just need a room:
This is the same area as the apartments above. An 11 m2 room costs more than the whole apartment. So if you’re 54 years old, you can rent an apartment, sleep in one of the rooms, and make money from your living. It’s the same in the suburbs. Just use the links and look around. This system actually segregates Stockholm. In Oslo and Copenhagen we have market rents, and in Oslo we have Grønland, and in Copenhagen we have Nørrebro, two central city parts packed with immigrants, while in central Stockholm with its fixed rent-apartments, the nearest “immigrant area” is far from the city centre.
So we have a system where we discriminate immigrants and younger people, and favours older people. I have no idea how Sanders will distribute the rent-controlled apartments in New York or San Francisco. Who will be on the inside and who on the outside? The Swedish system requires you to stand in queue for a long long time. And who does that? People who could meanwhile buy an apartment to live in, while waiting for a juicy, central three-roomer! And people who simply understand the system. I didn’t enter the queue when I turned 18, since I’m working class and my mom didn’t really understood the system. But I entered my little brother in it on his 18th birthday, so now he’s paying 400 USD for a tiny, nice flat, for which the private price would be the double. None of his working-class friends have such an apartment, since they didn’t enter the queue on their 18th birthday. The Social Democrats meant well, but our apartment system is simply a middle-class subsidy!
And these contracts are then worth tons of money. The ”private price” of that 700 USD apartment is at least 1700 USD, so the contract you have ”gives you” a 1000 USD every single month. This makes it very hard for you to just give it up. Sweden is the only country in the world where renters are less flexible than owners. You can of course sell it on the black market, through some complicated dealings. The mafia are heavy on this. But it doesn’t always work right: we’ve had five persons killed in mafia wars about the informal apartment contract trade! Article in Swedish. This is a crime that simply doesn’t exist anywhere else, so you might not even get what it’s about :/
Another common type of crime are tons of sites where it costs money to become a member and ”have a chance of nice apartment contracts”. Each person only gives 10 dollars, but they get many thousands of such customer before their sites go down, so it is crime that pays.
When you have well-meaning politicians who mess with the economy in ways that create a black market, it’s a nice present for organized criminals.
And it creates a very unfair economy. If the Swedish Gini coefficient would be calculated with the _value_ of the things we buy, and not just the money itself, our society would look a lot unfairer. When a newspaper checked who lives in the 512 largest rented apartments in Stockholm (more than 180 m2, 1938 ft2), they found that in more than half of them, only one or two persons lived. And the average income per household was 284000 USD per year. And these are the people who gains the most on our subsidized apartments! And rules that you can’t earn enough etc always comes with various incentive problems. And no political parties want to change this. The left thinks this is leftist policy, while the right actually has their own voters in these apartments.
It’s actually a little bit similar to China, where you get nicer treatment (schools, health etc) if you’re born in Beijing, and not an immigrant from Heilongjiang, despite the latter being on average a lot poorer.
Now, it hasn’t always been like this. 1965-1975, the government built (using tax money) a million apartments, which is a lot in a country with 8 million people. Back then, the queuing time was 0 for a poor suburb, and a few years in the central parts of the city. Similar to how it is in Vienna right now (another city with the same system, but less ”shortage” than Stockholm).
But much of what the (left-wing) government built was horrible. Just image-google Fisksätra (where I grew up) or Hallonbergen (where I live now) or Tensta, Brandbergen, you name it.
And since then, the right-wing government has sold tons of central apartments quite cheaply, and for every such sale, the queuing time has gone up.
We could of course, which is a popular idea among Yimbys (such as me!) take our tax money, and keep building, and this time build with a good eye on the statistics, so that we build connected inner-city parts, instead of concrete suburbs thrown out in the forest.
But in raising the taxes in doing that, we divert human spending into more housing. And this is the main point for me to support UBI rather than subsided apartments. The idea with UBI is to let people choose for themselves what they need more of. Take a look at your own economy. Imagine that you get 700 USD more per month (I subtracted 300 for VAT etc). How would you spend them, right now? Most of you would not spend 100% on a flat with higher rent. This means, partly, that rent wouldn’t raise as much as the UBI as some people think. (1% inflation in Kenya).
But it also means that if you got housing instead of UBI, then the government would take money from your other expense baskets, and turn it into housing! That would be bad since for many people, there are other things than housing we need (travels, better food, medicine, gym card etc). But it would also be very bad since building houses is actually very bad for the environment. Of all the money you spend each month, only driving, meat and airplanes is worse for the planet than your rent is (although a city apartment is of course a lot better than a suburban house!).
So living should not be subsidised, as we’d end up in a dirtier version of the corrupt and unfair part of Sweden. (And this is a very Swedish problem – both Norway and Denmark have private markets, and Finland a mix.)
Instead: give people money to do what they feel like with. That will make for a better housing situation for many of them. While others have other holes to fill. Humans know themselves better than any bureaucrat.
Here’s a BBC article of the same problem.
I’m reading that Sanders wants to increase the rental assistance program. We have a lot of that in Sweden. Every year almost 1% of our population are being sent to the Enforcement Authority because of the complicated dealings between salary and rental assistance. Why not just give people a UBI to do what they want with, instead of forcing their money to rents?
2. The labor market
Sanders is advocating a minimum wage of 15 USD/hour. That’s classic Social Democrat policy. And it’s good for people on steps 8 and 9, if dividing the economy in 10 income steps. It’s bad for steps 1-7 who pay more for their services. And it’s very bad for step 10, the people with the lowest human capital. This used to be people without education, but now it is people from other countries, who simply don’t understand Swedish/English. The idea is that they should not work, but spending time to educate themselves until they get ”worth” 15 USD/hour. But the problem is that to get a functioning language, you need to use it every day, and you don’t do that while sitting in your home, and not by many of the language courses we have (in some you do of course, it all depends on how much we spend on it). So take the Somali people for example. We have one parliamentarian from Somalia, our own Ilhan Omar, and she is wondering how Somalis are so successful in England, Canada or USA, while financially sucking in Sweden.
My answer: they are sucked into a superficially generous welfare system, while blocked from the labour market, since no one pays 15 USD/hour to someone they can’t speak to easily (now, we don’t really have a minimum wage, but related legislation).
Instead, a UBI effectively raises the living wage for everyone, no matter how much they work. And it makes it more possible than before for people to make more informed decisions. The problem for a lot of people, is that they have to juggle their one-two jobs just to pay their rent and expenses. They simply lack the time they need in order to sit down and really figure out what to do in order to have a nicer job with higher pay. Upper-class people can do that now, but the working class can’t. They simply need a bit of cash to relax. They don’t need Sanders to let them rake the leaves nearby some subway station in a ”guaranteed government job”. That is wasting peoples lives.
With a UBI, you could quit the lowest-paid of your two jobs, while thinking about your future. And what happens? The wage for that lower job goes up! It’s a way of increasing the lowest wages, but an automatic, organic way, that doesn’t prevent anyone from working for 5 USD/hour if that’s what they really want (to learn the trade or whatever).
3. The environment
I think it’d be great for the environment if Bernie Sanders became president. Really, Trump IS drowning us. The Madrid meeting was a disaster much because of Trump pulling USA from the Paris agreement.
But what is the most effective way to get rid of a country’s pollution, besides from just crushing its economy?
A carbon tax
In the EU, the cost of burning CO2 has increased so much that our coal power plants are shutting down. By themselves. UK had long periods in 2019 during which no electricity came from coal. In Spain, the coal power produced 33% less electricity in 2019 than they did in 2018. According to the Carbon Tracker, 79% of Europe’s coal power plants are now losing money. This is because the European carbon tax has increased dramatically, by a policy known as ”Swedish proposal”.
But maybe you have seen some disastrous news from France last year, with ”yellow vests” trashing the country? They were protesting a higher French carbon tax, since for them, the money just disappears. In order to be able to increase the carbon tax a lot, you need to
give it back to the people, in equal dollars per head
Which is EXACTLY how Yang plans to pay for part of the UBI. Most people would gain from a higher carbon tax. Most people would gain from us saving our own planet. That’s the only way we can do it, since most people don’t really care so much about refugees from Bangladesh entering India etc. I’m sure you know one or two persons who eat meat, drive or fly.
Then let’s talk about nuclear energy. Sanders want the US energy policy to be 100% renewable. It simply does not work, physically. Now, I don’t know all the rivers you have in the US, and the numbers, but in Sweden, a country a lot more scarcely populated than the USA, and with tons of rivers, we can’t build any more hydrogen power. In fact, if we care about our species, we might need to shut some down. So we need more stable energy, that is always there, no matter if the sun shines or the wind blows. Maybe that’s possible in the US, with your huge non-clouded deserts, and super-effective electricity wires that take that energy from west to east in a second, I actually don’t know as I haven’t looked into it.
But when I’m looking into the most carbon-effective countries of the European Union, then these are the same countries that produces a lot of nuclear energy: Sweden and France.
And we aren’t building Fukushimas, or Chernobyls. Here is a great division between Sanders and Yang. Yang simply looks at the statistics and do the math, and thinks that nuclear is a great idea, while Sanders keep disrupting physics and whine about nuclear like an old Green Party member (and yes, I’m a member of the Swedish Green Party so I know a lot of those!).
And Yang is going beyond nuclear, thinking that we should invest in 4th generation thorium, which is even cleaner, and could use up the waste from nuclear power plants.
Bernie wants to hire ”20 million Americans” in order to ”clean up” the environment. How did he find the number 20 million? How does someone ”clean up” the environment for 15 USD/hour? The cleanest countries we have on this planet, are the very poorest, but among the richest we have countries such as Sweden and France that are – from an American perspective – very left-leaning countries. But we don’t have 20 million or thousand French or Swedes ”solving” the climate crisis. We let the market do the job, and does it with smart taxes. But to get these taxes even higher (and they need to be a lot higher!) we need to give them back which is what Yang is planning for the USA.
3. The health care system
I agree with Sanders here. USA is spending twice as much on health care as the rest of the developed world, and still your life expectancy is between Lebanon and Cuba.
I love markets, on easy goods that the customer understands. Health is not one of those, as our bodies are simply too complicated. Just look at all the sugar that people eat/drink, despite shortening their lives by 10 years. This is a trade that is best done by the government.
But, although Sanders and I look at the same Z, we don’t look at the same B to Y. Simply outlawing 1/6 of the economy (or however big it is) and turning it to government is more or less a revolution, and would be horrible for the economy. What’s the best revolution you’ve ever heard of? None. Revolutions are shit.
Look at Sweden again, a country that I must say has a fantastic health care system. To get personal, I had a brain haemorrhage 20 months ago, from aneurysm. I got two brain surgeries and was in coma for 12 days. When I woke up, I was like an idiot, lived in a fantasy, couldn’t walk etc. 5 months later, I took a test (Högskoleprovet) and got the same result as before (1.9, getting 1.8 and 2.0 before).
And the total price for my 1.5 months in hospital? 200 dollars. Without private ”insurance”. Which some people still have, but it’s hardly worth it. I don’t know a single one.
Now, we have some problems of course. But talk to health care people what they think of the system. I’m sure that many of them would prefer Sanders Z, but would like to go there through Yang’s B to Y: making the public system better and better so that fewer and fewer care about private insurance. Which is exactly as we have done it in Sweden!
So my experiences from Sweden and elsewhere makes me support Andrew Yang! I hope that he wins so we could get the UBI discussion going on in Europe as well.
And I’m going to California in February, to give all my time to Andrew Yang. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to make an impact! And then I’ll travel the US for at least three months, using public transport everywhere, so please let me know all your tricks for your cities. And please let me know if you want to have a beer, and we’ll have it 🙂
Ok, so what I else did I today, besides starting the text above?
I woke up in my five euro hotel. Internet was slow, and you had to share the toilet. I didn’t even dare checking if the shower was warm or not. I ended up choosing a fancy 20 euro place downtown. Plus that I accidentally wrote the thing about Yang, which later led to the text above.
For a while I felt like the whitest person in town, but then these mannequins came!
I think this statue shows Simon Bolivar himself.
Using Happy Cow I realized that the area around my new hotel was packed with vegetarian restaurants! It’s quite a touristic part of the city, and I like it. I bought a soy burger and was ready to feel the microwaved ready made burger. But it was homemade! Such a nice taste and texture. Mmh mmh mmmh. 13 BOB, that is 1.7 euro or 1.9 usd. And the potatoes! Bolivia and Peru are the countries where humans first domesticated potatoes. And they have been such a boon to poor, cold countries like Sweden was. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it doubled our population, in combination with peace and vaccines. We also made vodka from it. My mom’s family was poor farmers, and so might even my dad’s have been, if digging a little. I might never have been born if the native Americans hadn’t domesticated these lovely potatoes for us. I ate them with gratitude.
And the coffee was so big. No more tiny “cafés” like in other latin countries. Lovely. I read the beginning of this book, but they wanted 3 euros for it, and it wasn’t that good.
Someone’s cat 🙁 It’s good to have your cat inside! They don’t kill tons of small animals, and statistically live longer. Although I understand their longing for shitting under a real bush.
The rooms in the hotel are based on different countries and I got Suecia, Sweden 🙂
I loved walking around Sucre.
It’s the city where Bolivia was proclaimed independent in 1825, and it’s the constitutional capital of the nation, although La Paz is the actual capital.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is an eternal hero. When I was 13 he killed robots from the future, which was cool, and now he is almost a vegan, fighting for saving the world, which is even cooler.
Suddenly it started raining. Like hell. The heaviest rain I’ve ever seen. It was hailing and blowing. The streets soon turned into actual rivers that made your feet entirely wet. I ran down to a main street and got a taxi. He wanted 5 BOB to take me to the hotel, 0.65 euro. Yes! I couldn’t even see anything from the taxi. I have no idea how he managed to drive at all. But thanks!
I hung all my clothes up, put my shoes in the shower etc. Then laid in bed, started writing the Yang text above, slept a bit etc. In the evening I went to Florin, a pub owned by two Dutchies from Rotterdam. I met Guillermo, a businessman who produced silver and tin. Now he was mining antimony. And he also had his own spirits, San Pedro, and I tried both the drink and straight. The latter was better. And oh, don’t say anything good about Evo Morales in a pub like this. Apparently, he is/was a dictator. We’ll get back to that. But it was a great night!