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Politics in Sweden
I noticed a major misunderstanding in your article on the political situation in Sweden (“The Nine Lives of Lofven”, June 26). You said that the January agreement which enabled the formation of the Social Democratic-Green government was negotiated not only with my own Center Liberal Party, but also with the former Communist Left Party. It was absolutely not the case. The aim of the agreement was to exclude the extreme right and left parties, while initiating major structural reforms, in particular of the labor market. I was one of the politicians who negotiated this deal with the Prime Minister, including the explicit exclusion clause from the influence of the Left Party.
What we didn’t anticipate was that the extremes would unite later, with the Left Party voting for the Swedish Democrats’ populist and xenophobic motion of no confidence in Stefan Lofven, plunging Sweden into a political crisis. The Center Party is now the only remaining political force of the liberal center-right which opposes the direct influence of the Swedish Democrats on our government.
Center festival deputy and negotiator of the January agreement
Church and State
Given the way Joe Biden’s Catholic faith has been carried in public, why is it so surprising that many bishops feel compelled to show their disapproval of his support for abortion, a practice the church considers to be particularly odious (“Biden and the Bishops,” June 26)?
Catholicism leaves some space for a well-formed conscience. But your conscience cannot tell you, much less publicly suggest to the whole world, that something that the authority of the church explicitly forbids is in fact right. If a prominent Democrat trumpeted something flagrantly irrelevant with a grassroots Democratic plank, would we be shocked if Mr. Biden and other party leaders publicly correct the record, potentially sanctioning that individual?
Weapons and the constitution
Your review of Carol Anderson’s book The Second Amendment has been too kind to discuss her bizarre theory that it was designed to help the South enforce slavery (“Double Standard”, June 12). Such a view blatantly overlooks the important role our militia played in the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, both of which predated the drafting of the constitution.
He also ignores the views of African American leaders like Frederick Douglass, who wrote the following words to encourage black men to enlist in the Union Army:
In your hands this musket signifies freedom, and if your constitutional rights at the end of this war are denied… your brothers are safe while you have a constitution that proclaims your right to keep and bear arms.
Not much doubt about Douglass’ position on the matter.
Tailor-made state pensions
It is true that state pensions in Britain could increase by an unusually high percentage next year, thanks to statistical quirks (“Triple trouble”, June 26). Some might say this has to happen, especially given Britain’s low level of public pensions compared to other countries, but affordability is an issue. As you pointed out, the program to raise the statutory retirement age, which could reach 69 by 2050, is reducing the cost. But this approach also has a disproportionate impact on people with lower life expectancies, who are more affected by the lack of past payments.
Instead of a single time limit, we should introduce a state pension window, a new system that would retain the possibility for people to access a certain level of state pension from age 65, with incentives for others to take it later.
Head of pensions
There will always be a Belgium
Forty years ago The Economist predicted that Belgium would not last long (Survey of Belgium, “A country of the most unnatural, January 19, 1980). Now he claims that Belgium is a failed state and that “in some respects secession has already taken place” (Charlemagne, June 26). You would have seen that most decisions and legislation are taken at federal level and not in regions, and that the judicial system is unified at national level (more than the UK one). A glance at the Belgian constitution would have been instructive.
According to recent polls, a clear majority of citizens in the three main regions of the country reject the idea of secession. Admittedly, the structure of government is expensive and complicated, but a wise citizen, like most Belgians, is able to understand how institutions work. In addition, the checks and balances in government have been very attractive to refugees. They did not come for the 199 rainy days a year (Ireland has 225 by the way), beer, chocolate or fries, or even for the undeniable prosperity of the country, but to find a haven of peace. in a tolerant and trusting environment. Democratic state. So many people found a home in Belgium during their exile.
Former judge at the Supreme Court of Belgium
True “Belgian Zen” is not a question of gray indifference, it is a question of actively choosing not to have an opinion. Those are two different things. Imagine a country where you should have an opinion about everything if you don’t want to look weird. Abracadabra: Brexit.
Charlemagne presented Belgium as a gray, absurd and highly bureaucratic country. As a Belgian citizen living in Great Britain, I can confirm that a ‘belgitude’ also helps to deal with gray weather, absurd politics and bureaucracy on this side of the Channel.
DAMIEN VAN PUYVELDE
As an anti-nationalist Syrian refugee in Belgium, Charlemagne made me realize that I am wholeheartedly excited about becoming a citizen of such a prosperous failed state. It is telling that the harshest critics of Belgian culture are the Belgians themselves. It’s weird to see the enthusiasm of the Belgians to work with the French or the Dutch rather than their own.
However, the Flemish and the Walloons have never been so united as when France lost to Switzerland in the recent Euro football tournament (not even when Belgium beat Portugal). They taunted the French in Dutch and French.
ALEXANDRE AL JAEGER
Belgium is also the only country where a politician can mistakenly sing the wrong national anthem in front of television cameras and become Prime Minister shortly thereafter. This is what happened to Yves Leterme, Prime Minister intermittently from 2008 to 2011, who was prompted by a journalist during the Belgian National Day in 2007 to prove that he knew the anthem. He sang the French La Marseillaise.
This article appeared in the Letters section of the print edition under the title “On Sweden, abortion, gun law, state pensions, Belgium”