28.2.2015

Pardoning, or rehabilitating?

The news has it that Britain is pardoning people who were convicted of sexual crimes that are no longer crimes.

But somehow, pardoning - or actually "rehabilitating"  - people who were convicted long ago, suffered any punishment given at the time, and are already long dead, is reminiscent of Soviet policies. It does not fit my idea of what Britain is, or should be.

Yes, they suffered an injustice, but retroactive changes to convictions are not that meaningful when the convicted is no longer around.

But perhaps I'm too romantic, and Britain is much closer to Ingsoc, the English Socialism of 1984, than I'd like to know.

Anyway, now comes the difficult work of deciding which transgressors to pardon (right now, homosexuality is no longer bad) and which ones to condemn even further (right now, pedophilia is now much worse crime than it used to be).

Would it not be simpler just to admit that our standards change, and any formal legal rehabilitation should be reserved for cases where there was a miscarriage of justice (an innocent man or woman was convicted), not when the law was wrong by our current standards?

4.2.2015

Those horrible housing costs in Finland

I often see people complaining how housing is exceptionally expensive in Finland. And of course, everyone has that feeling. Therefore I was slightly surprised when I started to look at the European statistics regarding housing. A research briefing "HOUSING AFFORDABILITY IN THE EU" by European Social Housing Observatory  puts things into context.

Most Finnish public discourse about housing is about how expensive housing is. For instance:
However, when we look at the research briefing and consider housing costs as percentage of disposable income, Finland is in the lower end of the EU27: 



I find this actually remarkable, because we have rather extreme climate conditions, which means comparatively higher construction costs.

And when we look at the impact of housing costs on the poor, Finland is even more towards the left-end of the statistics:


This means that only in Malta and Portugal there are fewer households overburdened by housing costs (meaning that a household uses more than 40 % of disposable income on housing). So we not only have lower housing costs compared to purchasing power than most EU countries, we also have more transfers of money to the poor households than e.g. Italy, Austria or Luxembourg.

Perhaps we should understand the European reality in more depth before complaining that much.


Economic perceptions vs. reality: things are much better than we think!


European and particularly Finnish economic news is full of doom and gloom. It just occurred to me to actually check up how bad things are. And while a few things are really going badly, very many measurable numbers show that were are actually quite well off when compared to past.

Just look at OECD report at http://www.oecd.org/els/emp/howdoesyourcountrycompare-finland.htm.

What it tells us about Finland is that when we compare year 2000 to 2012, we see that:
  • unemployment has gone down (9.8 % -> 7.8 %)
  • youth unemployment has gone down (20.3 % -> 17.3 %)
  • long-term unemployment has gone down (29.0 % -> 21.7 % of the unemployed)
  • the employment rate of working-age people has gone up (67.5 % -> 69.5 %)
  • women's employment rate has increased (64.5 % -> 68.2 %)
  • employment rate of older workers (55-64) has increased (42.3 % -> 58.5 %)
  • the percentage of temporarily employed has gone down (16.5 % -> 15.7 %)
  • annual working hours have decreased (1751 h -> 1672 h)
  • average wages have gone up by about fifth (31 904 $ -> 39 125 $ in 2012 currency)

Almost everything is better than in 2000! The current growth figures are abysmal, so a good development cannot continue unless we fix that, but on the average, we are not doing badly at all.

Of course, some are more lucky than others, but even the income differences after taxes and transfers, including capital gains, remain rather similar to 2000 (Statistics Finland).



So perhaps we should complain a bit less!

11.10.2014

I feel the urge for some whiskey

Only in Finland...

I don't really like whisky that much, but suddenly I feel the urge to get lots of it. The reason is AVI or "Aluehallintovirasto", the local office of regional administration which has decided that private persons are not allowed to write blog entries about whiskey, or the office will cancel the permit of Beer and Whisky Expo in Helsinki.

The organizers are of course not responsible for private blogs of other people at all. They have no way of enforcing this request. So they are just desperately pleading that people wouldn't talk about them so that they wouldn't lose their permit.

But no, the Finnish public just cannot take this any more. I hope AVI are now learning the meaning of Streisand effect. You'll see a lot of Finns post things like "whiskey whiskey whiskey" in Facebook. Our country even wants to join NATO just because in NATO alphabet, the code for letter W is "whisky". (As it, by the way, also is in the tradition Finnish defense alphabet).

I also hope that in the upcoming downsizing of Finnish government spending, the salary budgets at Aluehallintovirasto are the first one down.  This kind of ridiculous waste underlines how poorly we use our tax money. That needs to stop.

Hey people at AVI, you are useless. If you say you are just upholding the law, now's the time to stand up and say that the law is impossible to uphold, it is unreasonable and it is unconstitutional. It's your duty to ignore it. It's your duty to get fired rather than become complete clowns.

5.2.2014

A winter day

January 14, 2014. It's a nice winter day.


And it's a bit cold. Not extreme, just -12C.
















And this is the status report of the Nordic power market system.

Total electric power consumption in Finland is about 12500 MW. And wind power production is... about 1 MW. It actually oscillates between 0 and 1, so sometimes it rounds down to 0 and sometimes up to 1.

So wind power produces about 0.005 % of our electricity consumption - which in turn is only a part of our total power consumption, as I can attest as I watch the fireplace in my living room.

Yes, it is true that in Denmark there is just now currently quite a good availability of wind power and the electricity we buy from there is wind power. Unfortunately, it seldom works the other way round: we can't really sell wind electricity to Denmark, or anyone. So my point is: why do we subsidize the stuff to such an outrageous extent? I'd rather have us sell some other energy to the Danes when there is no wind either in Denmark or Finland. They are, after all, a producer with large wind energy capacity, which means that they have huge coal power plants, and if we care about CO2 emissions, we should be selling them hydroelectric and nuclear power.

Or we can go the way Germany does: extraordinarily expensive energy, large subsidies, and firms going belly up.


Developing a country

There's only one thing that is worse for people than international capitalism exploiting the workers of a poor country. It's that international capitalism does not exploit the workers of a poor country.

Poor countries can be roughly divided to two classes. One is "developing country", and its main characteristic is that it doesn't develop. The other is "emerging market", and it's the one that develops.

Eventually, that may of course be something that we later start to dislike. At one time, it was every third-world-activist's dream that China, a country with socialist government and hundreds of millions of extremely poor people, would become richer, that people would not be starving any more. That was to be achieved through socialist market economy.

Now that the dream has come true after China adopted capitalistic communism, many of these activists are uncomfortable: they are taking our markets, they are making the workers in formerly rich countries unemployed - because they work harder.

Crime and punishment (Finland edition)

When a man has lost his driving license due to DUI, you'd hope he learns a lesson. Of course, your hope is in vain. This one guy in Lahti did drive without a license, and of course he was drunk. So drunk that he did not see a woman on the street. So she hit her with his car and dragged her with the vehicle for 80 meters under the car. And he was so drunk that he didn't notice even then - even though  his passenger told him. So he just left the woman to die.

But this is not extraordinary, of course. Such things happen. What is extraordinary is the sentencing of this case in the local court: then man got a 30 day jail term, converted into 26 hours of community service.

26 hours of community service for driving drunk without license - repeat offence - and killing someone. The dead woman's spouse was seeking damages, but got none, because the court thought "the act was not intentional".

Of course, one can say that I'd never drive under influence unless I were so drunk that I wouldn't know what I'm doing, so it was an accident, not intentional. But normally that doesn't pass.

Well, the woman who was killed was also drunk, and was probably on all fours on the road. But still. You should be able to see someone on the street, particularly since this was in an urban area with a 50 km/h limit.

But wait! There are worse criminals. Such as the guy who sold chewing tobacco in a kiosk. His crime? Buying the stuff in Sweden and selling it in Finland, i.e. smuggling and tax fraud. His punishment? Two and a half years in prison.

And that tobacco is not so dangerous. It is certainly much less dangerous than regular smoked tobacco which is replaces.

Consider this. 26 hours of community service for repeated DUI and killing someone, and running away from the scene. Two and half years in prison because the state loses tax money.

This really shows where the priorities of our justice system lay.