Exactly one week ago, on Thursday December 12th at five p.m. I went to Malmö Stock Market House/Malmö Börshus opposite the Central Station. There was going to be a panel debate about immigration, and how immigration might continue to enrich the Swedish society. The book “En bit på väg – Triumfer för liberalismen och hot mot det liberala samhället”/A part of the way – Triumphs for Liberalism and threats against the Liberal society” from Bertil Ohlin Publishing Company was also going to be sold for 100 kronor to the participants. The seminar was arranged by Ohlininstitutet/The Ohlin Institute and Ekonomklubben/The Economist Club. A few weeks ago I wrote the text “Being a Liberal” here on this site, and as I explained then there are different kinds of Liberalism, and in politics the two main paths are Social Liberalism and Neo Liberalism. The book “En bit på väg” contains articles by several Liberal politicians and writers starting with one of the former party leaders of Folkpartiet Liberalerna, Bengt Westerberg who participates with a piece called “Free debate of notions creates efficient politics”. After that 13 more writers deal with various aspects. Frida Johansson Metso writes about “What did EU do when the war came?” Susanna Birgersson about “Man in nature and nature in man”, and Johan E. Eklund about “An increasing fervour for regulations” to name just three of the published contributors. The debate last Thursday night concerned immigration. Most participants were white middle class people, but I also saw a few people in the audience with some kind of other ethnic background. First we mingled a bit, had some sandwiches and wine for half an hour before we assembled in one of the halls on the second floor for the lectures and the panel debate.
Moderator of the debate was the journalist and economist, Pernilla Ström, who also is board member of the Ohlin Institute, even if she too participated slightly in parts of the discussions. It’s Pernilla Ström you see in the second picture and here above Sofia Nerbrand, chairwoman of the Ohlin Institute. She personally is pro- immigration, both when it comes to labour immigration and recieving refugees. That was something she returned to on more than one occassion in her discussions during the evening. Pernilla Ström told us about an incident which occured some time ago, when refugees on a refugee camp had been intimidated by locals, both children and adults on a place not far from Malmo. The threats had been severe, even with arson. As a Liberal Pernilla had found that hate horrible. No one among the debaters or in the audience seemed to disagree. Sofia Nerbrand presented herself and the Ohlin Institute and then Pernilla Ström introduced the first speaker, Andreas Bergh, Associate Professor at the Institute of Economics, Lund University, and also wellfare scientist at the Research Institute of Industrial Economics in Stockholm. As an economist he had studied how the wellfare state is functioning or sometimes not functioning. He also had studied immigrants and how they are treated in the Swedish society, what the attitudes are, especially when it comes to labour immigration. The results had been published in ECIPE occasional paper no 4/2013 titled “Labour-market integration of immigrants in OECD-countries: What explanations fit the data?” The results from ECIPE, European Centre for International Political Economy, was interesting. In the executive summary to ECIPE occassional paper no 4 /2013 it says: “Using two different measures of immigrant labour-market integration (the ratio between immigrant unemployment to native unemployment, and the ratio unemployment rate among natives and immigrants) this paper tests six suggested explanations of why immigrants less likely than natives to be working in most OECD-countries: Intolerance, the education of immigrants, welfare state generosity, employment protection laws, union power and the share of immigrants in the population…Using bivariate and multivariate analysis, two significant patterns are found. First, welfare state generosity keeps immigrants away from the labour force. Second, given that immigrants enter the labour force, collective bargaining agreements explain immigrant unemployment. No other factors are statistically significant in cross-country regressions”.
After the presentation of Andreas Bergh, Andreas Schönström, Social Democrat, municipal commissioner responsible for labour market and adult education was introduced as the next speaker. We have met a few times and are also friends on Facebook and naturally we greeted each other. Malmoe is the city where Swedish Social Democracy first began in the late 1800’s, and has ever since then been a Swedish stronghold for the Social Democrats. In his speech Andreas Schönström pinpointed the need for a strong union, a rebuilt welfare system and good education. Per Svensson, senior columnist at the newspaper Sydsvenskan/The South Swede on the other hand emphasized the importance of an improved development of the European Union. During the following debate all the participants had their version of how immigrants might be good for the Swedish society, why and how much. Andreas Bergh for instance emphasized the economics and a strong Neo Liberal agenda with focus on trade, while Schönström on the other hand pinpointed the union and fair division of money. One individual in the audience said at the end that nothing had been uttered about the smaller entrepreneurs and the heavy taxes which makes it difficult to survive and employ staff if and when needed. We live in difficult times when people tend to stand against people and sometimes behave like wolves attacking their prey, also if co-operations and good things also are done to to keep the society going. I will end this piece with a couple of pictures from the seminar last Thursday and also from a Turkish party I was invited to two days later. We need to understand each other, we need to get Sweden and our world at least partly on its feet, and therefore we need a good society system, an improved economy and lives combining heart, soul, wits, co-operation, ambition and humility. What are your ideas?
Anders Moberg, December 19th 2013