Five articles you need to read today

From the Washington Post, Five economic lessons from Sweden, the rock star of the recovery, of particular interest to Ontario is lesson number one:

1. Keep your fiscal house in order when times are good, so you will have more room to maneuver when things are bad.

In 2007, before the recession, the U.S. government had a budget deficit equivalent to 3 percent of its economy, as did Britain. Sweden, meanwhile, had a 3.6 percent surplus.

So when the recession hit, that surplus gave its government a cushion in the downturn and it didn’t run up the huge debts that in other advanced nations have now created the risk of a future crisis. Sweden’s gross debt is set to reach 45 percent of the size of its economy this year, as the United States closes in on 100 percent.

This was a lesson Sweden learned from its early 1990s crisis, in which a collapse in commercial real estate and the banking sector was exacerbated when the budget deficit rose to such high levels that the country had trouble borrowing money and the value of its currency collapsed.

The nation set a goal of averaging a 1 percent budget surplus over time and held to it — which left the government with lots of flexibility to engage in deficit spending when the economy went south.

“If you don’t have a fiscal problem, you have more degree of freedom,” said Stefan Ingves, governor of Sweden’s central bank, the Riksbank, in an interview. “This time around, the issue was not ever even close to being about solvency.”

From The Guardian (UK), Why it’s so much harder to think like a Conservative, by Roger Scruton.

Conservatism, I [Scruton] argue, is not a matter of defending global capitalism at all costs, or securing the privileges of the few against the many. It is a matter of defending civil society, maintaining autonomous institutions, and defending the citizen against the abuse of power. Its underlying motive is not greed or the lust for power but simply attachment to a way of life. [emphasis is mine]

From Patheos, a review of Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry.

A number of prominent Bible scholars believe that Richard Bauckham’s book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses just might be the most important book of New Testament scholarship in many decades–the kind of paradigm-shifting work that will be ignored by most current scholars and only taken up by a new generation, as science advances “one funeral at a time”.

In a word, the book argues that the Gospels are books of oral history; in other words, that they are based on the direct accounts of specific, named eyewitnesses to the life and ministry of Jesus. This is contrary to the assumption of most New Testament scholarship, drawn from the form criticism of the early 20th century, that the Gospels are works of oral tradition, in other words collections of anonymous traditions passed down through many iterations between the actual witnesses and the writers of the Gospels.

From Urban Velo, a mini review of Trek’s new commuter bike, Lync:

Trek has upgraded their commuter line with the Lync, a commuter ride decked out with integrated lighting and bluetooth compatible monitoring. Instead of buying a commuter and having to select various lighting, phone mounts, and software additions, new purchasers can have a ride that is ready to go without aesthetic adjustments.

From First Things, A Theory for Tattoos.

That’s the theory of body art. It spells a transition from the body as physique to the body as text. You can write yourself upon it. As a friend put it to me: A tattoo isn’t the Word made flesh, but the flesh made word. It may strike old-fashioned types as pedestrian narcissism and adolescent conformity, and sometimes it surely is. But in a deeper and more troubling way, it is canny and subversive artifice, spiced with a moralistic claim to personal liberation. A tattoo is a personal statement but also an anthropological position that accords with the prevailing transvaluations of our time. It’s a wholly successful one, too, judging from the entertainment and sports worlds, and youth culture. With the mainstreaming of tattoos, another factor in the natural order falls away, yet one more inversion of nature and culture, natural law and human desire. That’s not an outcome the rationalizer’s regret. It’s precisely the point.

 

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