Greta Thunberg “Brushed Off” Need to Know Economics

(p. A7) DAVOS, Switzerland — Greta Thunberg, the 17-year-old Swedish climate activist, spent this week inside the halls of power at the World Economic Forum, . . .

. . .

Speaking to reporters just before the march set off, Ms. Thunberg and four youth activists from Europe and Africa rebuked business and government leaders at the World Economic Forum for not taking climate action and warned that they would continue to press them to stop investing in fossil fuels. Those demands, Ms. Thunberg noted, “have been completely ignored.”

Asked about a suggestion by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that she learn economics in college before calling for divestment, Ms. Thunberg brushed off such criticisms as irrelevant. “If we care about that, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do,” she said.

For the full story, see:

Somini Sengupta. “Teenage Activist Joins Climate March on Last Day at Forum.” The New York Times (Saturday, January 25, 2020): A7.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Jan. 24, 2020, and has the title “Greta Thunberg Joins Climate March on Her Last Day in Davos.”)

“Climate Change Has Been Good for Us”

(p. A1) SLINDE, Norway—Perched on a steep slope overlooking the country’s largest fiord, tidy rows of vines spread on the frosted ground underneath towering pine trees.

On the 61st parallel—the latitude of Anchorage, Alaska— Bjorn Bergum’s vineyard is set to become the world’s northernmost commercial wine estate, a testimony to how global warming is disrupting century-old landscapes, traditions and oenological preconceptions.

“There is no doubt,” Mr. Bergum says. “Climate change has been good for us.”

. . .

(p. A9) “First we take Scandinavia, then the world,” says Erik Lindås, head of Norway’s nascent winegrowers association. “It’s motivating to work when people think you can’t make it. People laughed at English wine 15 years ago but they are not laughing anymore.”

Denmark and Sweden are commercially producing wines that have won international awards, while Britain and Belgium are experiencing a viticultural renaissance. Vintners in Germany, which has a proud winemaking tradition in the south, are exploring new terroirs farther north.

. . .

The northerners have a replique to southern arguments about boreal vineyards’ lack of tradition: During the so-called Medieval Climate Optimum, a warm spell from the ninth century to the 13th, winemaking thrived as far up as northern England and the Baltics.

Professor Hans R. Schultz, who studies climate change’s effects on viticulture at Germany’s Geisenheim University, says global warming is pulling the winemaking economy northward. In Germany’s terroirs, which used to lose entire harvests to cold spells, every vintage since 1987 was better than the previous, he says.

For the full story, see:

Bojan Pancevski. “New Wines Invade From Viking Terroir.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, October 30, 2019): A1 & A9.

(Note: ellipses added; italics in original.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 29, 2019, and has the title “Chateau Viking: Climate Change Makes Northern Wine a Reality.”)

When Swedish Furniture Makers Boycotted Ikea, Kamprad Found Furniture Makers in Poland

(p. A9) To encourage frugality in his workers, Mr. Kamprad was happy to offer himself as an example. He was known for reusing tea bags, flying economy class and taking public transport to airports. Even as a billionaire, he dickered over vegetable prices at farmers markets.

“Wasting resources is a mortal sin at IKEA,” he wrote in a guidebook for employees. “We do not need fancy cars, posh titles, tailor-made uniforms or other status symbols.”

He knew about global supply chains long before they were the norm. Rival retailers in the 1950s pressured Swedish furniture makers into boycotting the disruptive IKEA. So Mr. Kamprad visited Poland in the early 1960s and found primitive factories that, with training and tools from the Swedes, could make wooden furniture at much lower prices. (One problem: Some trees harvested in Poland still contained bullets from World War II.) Poland and China became two of the company’s main suppliers.

. . .

He assured his employees they had a noble mission: helping the masses afford comfortably furnished homes.

For the full obituary, see:

James R. Hagerty. “IKEA Founder Built Retailer by Keeping It Simple.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018): A9.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Feb. 2, 2018, and has the title “Ingvar Kamprad Made IKEA a Global Retailer by Keeping It Simple.”)

Government Fiscal Stimulus Does Not Speed Job Growth

DebtAndEmploymentGrowthGraph2019-02-17.jpgSource of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A17) . . . is there evidence that stimulus was behind America’s recovery–or, for that matter, the recoveries in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Britain and Ireland? And is there evidence that the absence of stimulus–a tight rein on public spending known as “fiscal austerity”–is to blame for the lack of a full recovery in Portugal, Italy, France and Spain?
A simple test occurred to me: The stimulus story suggests that, in the years after they hit bottom, the countries that adopted relatively large fiscal deficits–measured by the average increase in public debt from 2011-17 as a percentage of gross domestic product–would have a relatively speedy recovery to show for it. Did they?
As the accompanying chart shows, the evidence does not support the stimulus story. Big deficits did not speed up recoveries. In fact, the relationship is negative, suggesting fiscal profligacy led to contraction and fiscal responsibility would have been better.

For the full commentary, see:
Phelps, Edmund. “The Fantasy of Fiscal Stimulus; It turns out Keynesian policies are correlated with slower, not faster, economic growth.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018): A17.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Oct. 29, 2018.)

Swedish Welfare Paid for by “the Highest Personal Income Tax Rate in the World”

(p. A17) American liberals sometimes hold up Sweden as a model of social order, equality of the sexes, and respect for parental responsibilities. Its welfare state offers excellent free or subsidized prenatal care, 480 days of paid leave for both natural and adoptive parents, and additional leave for moms who work in physically strenuous jobs. Swedish parents have the option to reduce their normal hours (and pay) up to 25% until a child turns 8.
But all this assistance comes at a steep cost. At 61.85%, Sweden has the highest personal income tax rate in the world. That money pays for the kind of support many American women would welcome, but it comes with pressure on women to return to the workforce on the government’s schedule, not their own. The Swedish government also supports and subsidizes institutionalized day care (they call it preschool), promoting the belief that professional care-givers are better for children than their own mothers.
If a mother decides she wants to stay at home with her child beyond the state-sanctioned maternity leave, she receives no additional allowance. That creates an extreme financial burden on those families, and the pressure is social as well. A 32-year-old friend told me that she was in the park with her 2-year-old son, when she was surrounded by a group of women who berated her for not having the boy in day care.

For the full commentary, see:
Erica Komisar. “The Human Cost of Sweden’s Welfare State; A group of women berated my friend in a public park because her 2-year-old son wasn’t in day care.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, July 12, 2018): A17.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 11, 2018.)

Blockchain Tested to Speed Property Transfers

(p. B8) The blockchain technology that underpins cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin could change the way property deals are done and recorded more than any other new technology, real-estate and technology experts say.
And Sweden’s nearly 400-year-old land mapping and registration authority is likely to become one of the first government agencies to test using blockchain technology for conducting property sales.
The Lantmäteriet expects to conduct the first such transaction in the next few months and is shortlisting volunteers who want to buy or sell a property using the blockchain system. “From the technology point of view, we are quite ready,” said Mats Snäll, Lantmäteriet’s chief digital officer.
Proponents of blockchain say the technology would make recording and transferring titles faster and much more efficient. Transactions that today take months to complete could take days or even hours, they say.
Blockchain technology also is practically bulletproof when it comes to fraudulent transactions, experts say.

For the full story, see:
Shefali Anand. “Test of Blockchain for Real Estate Is Readied.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, March 7, 2018): B8.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 6, 2018, and has the title “A Pioneer in Real Estate Blockchain Emerges in Europe.”)

Rival Retailers Failed in Effort to Cut Off Ikea’s Supplies

(p. B5) Ingvar Kamprad, born on a farm in the rock-strewn Swedish region of Småland, got his start as a merchant at around age 5 by buying matches in bulk and reselling them to neighbors.
He went on to pull off a rare feat: Creating a global retailing powerhouse, the furniture chain IKEA, with over 400 stores, in a business that generally has defied globalization. IKEA’s furniture has delighted bargain seekers for decades and made millions of dorm rooms and first apartments habitable, despite maddening the many customers who found the assembly instructions baffling.
. . .
One of his most successful notions was that furniture could be shipped and warehoused much more cheaply in disassembled form.
. . .
Rival retailers in Sweden, shocked by IKEA’s low prices, pressured furniture makers to cut off supplies to Mr. Kamprad’s company. That served only to make IKEA stronger as Mr. Kamprad found he could buy furniture much more cheaply from Polish plants. The search for foreign suppliers also helped IKEA turn itself into an international company.
. . .
Mr. Kamprad remained a penny-pincher, flying economy class and lecturing his employees that waste was sinful, according to “Leading by Design,” a 1999 biography by Bertil Torekull.

For the full obituary, see:
James R. Hagerty and Saabira Chaudhuri. “IKEA’s Founder Dies at 91.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, January 29, 2018): B5.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Jan. 28, 2018, and has the title “Ingvar Kamprad Built Global IKEA Chain From a Single Furniture Store in Sweden.”)

The autobiography of Kamprad, mentioned above, is:
Kamprad, Ingvar, and Bertil Torekull. Leading by Design: The Ikea Story New York: HarperCollins, 1999.