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The Varsavsky Foundation
Avenida Bruselas 7, Planta 3
28100 Alcobendas
Madrid, Spain


The political blog of a social entrepreneur


When Will The US Government Make The Connection?

Between the widespread availbility of firearms and mass murders.

Posted at General on April 17, 2007 | # Permalink | Comments Off | TrackBack

We Fear China For The Wrong Reasons

In this video I talk about my conversations with top Taiwanese and Chinese entrepreneurs and my own tentative conclusions. I describe paradoxes presented by the Taiwan/China situation. One for example is that presently many more people migrate from Taiwan to China, that is from democratic to undemocratic, than the other way around. Another paradox is that after talking to many people in Taiwan and China I have come to the conclusion that China should be feared more for its desire to be like America rather than its alleged desire to antagonize America. Many in the West are concerned that China will become a military power that will eventually clash with the United States. I used to think that as well. But after my conversations with different business leaders in the region I have changed my mind. I believe that it is unlikely that China will seek military confrontation and instead what worries me is not only China does not hate America but the opposite is true. The Chinese love America and especially the American way of life and that is a threat to the planet. China likes America so much that it is copying the American model. Unfortunately it is not copying what is good about America, democracy, but it´s copying what is bad about America, its unsustainable developmental model. By copying America´s developmental model China is making the planet already shaking from America´s incredibly high pollution per person, even less sustainable. To me the greatest risk about China has little to do with business, little to do with politics, even less to do with geopolitics and a lot to do with the environment. As Al Gore frequently argues America´s disregard for the environment is already creating the world greatest threat to our survival. Now that China has chosen to develop along the American model the damage created by these two powers combine will greatly accelerate the problems that European and Japanese among others are trying to manage.

Posted at General on April 7, 2007 | # Permalink | Comments Off | TrackBack

Is Israel worth the attention?

I am in Israel now. In Tel Aviv. I came to attend Kinnernet, Yossi Vardi’s tech fest.

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Posted at General on March 15, 2007 | # Permalink | Comments Off | TrackBack

When Civilians Are More Militaristic Than The Military

I grew up in Argentina in the 70s. At that time the military had staged a military coup and committed tremendous atrocities, including killing my cousin David Varsavsky and nearly killing my father, a Harvard trained physicist whose only crime was to stand for democracy.

So to me it is puzzling to see that nowadays in the States it is not the military, but civilians, who promote military adventurism. The latest plans are the proposed invasion of Iran. As we all know, Iran is a much harder country to invade than Iraq. It is considerably bigger, with a terrain similar to Afghanistan and a larger population. If USA did so poorly in Iraq it´s hard to imagine how an attack on Iran would fare any better. Indeed as Israel showed in its failed invasion of Lebanon last summer, this type of limited military intervention only makes radical groups like Hezbollah, or radical governments like the Iranian one, more powerful.

Military intervention in the Middle East has proven to fail in its two forms: the invasion, as in the case of USA in Iraq and the attack as in the case of Israel in Lebanon. Both resulted in tremendous loss of civilian lives and destruction of essential infrastructure. The innocent pay while the terrorists flee.

So in this irrational atmosphere, I was pleased to see that according to the Sunday Times the new rational voices are coming from the armed forces themselves. It seems that many generals threatened an en masse resignation should the civilian Bushistas choose to invade Iran.

While I believe that Iran is a threat to the Middle East and to the world, attacking or invading this nation only makes radical anti western groups stronger. There´s enough proof that the average Iranian person is as fed up with the Iranian regime as we are outside of Iran. Why make it easier for the teocrats to continue running the country?

Posted at General on February 25, 2007 | # Permalink | Comments Off | TrackBack

Why Is It That Immigrants Have So Many Children?

El Pais, Spain’s leading newspaper, reveals today that while 10 years ago 1.81% of all new babies were born out of immigrant families, the figure last year was 17.6% and is rapidly rising. Since immigrants represent only 8.5% of the population, these figures show a huge difference between the number of babies that native-born Spaniards and immigrants have.

In the case of Spain, the native-born population has birth rates of 1.3 and immigrants of 3 (2.1 is needed to keep the population constant). But Spain is but one example of the many rich countries in which immigrants have many more children than native populations. My friend Paul Meyer, founder of Voxiva, debated this phenomenon. Paul argued that while native citizens of rich countries, see children as a financial burden, immigrants still see children as a kind of retirement plan. While I do agree to some extent with Paul and think that wealth has become a social contraceptive (all over the world as societies get richer their citizens bear less children), I am not sure that economics explains the whole phenomenon. If concerns over the cost of raising children was the main consideration, Europeans who enjoy free education and free medical care would have more children than Americans. But they don´t.

Personally, I think that immigrants have more children than the native-born population in rich countries for a more relevant reason than financial planning. One reason is religion. Europe is now mostly atheist or agnostic but immigrants are frequently religious and more willing to carry through with unwanted pregnancies. Nevertheless, my theory is that the most important reason why immigrants have double the amount of children than the native-born in Spain and well off countries is that they represent the segment of the population who is most likely to have children wherever they are in the world. At home or abroad.

The native-born populations in wealthy countries tend to view immigrants as poor people from poor countries. But this is not the case. Even if they are frequently poor, these immigrants represent the most entrepreneurial and optimistic subset of the native-born population in poor countries. The ones who leave. The ones who want to get ahead: those who are the most optimistic risk takers.

Emigration is a risky enterprise based on sacrifice and immigrants are the people who went through this filter and survived. My explanation of why immigrants have more kids is that they represent the part of the population that in any country would have more kids, namely the optimists, the ones who think that their children will lead a better life than themselves, the ones who are used to sacrifices in life and who do not see the sacrifice of child raising as a big burden. Moreover I think that in America birth rates are higher than Europe because USA is a country of immigrants who are by nature more optimistic than those who their ancestors left behind.

I believe that it is the unique, particularly driven personality of immigrants that makes them more likely to have children. We immigrants (I am an Argentine immigrant in Spain and proud father of 4) believe that we are bringing kids to a better world than in our native countries and are willing to make the sacrifices that it takes to raise them.

Some statistical facts:

US natives have about two children on average; immigrants have 2.7 children on average. In 2000, the U.S. fertility rate of 2.06 – close to the replacement rate of
2.11- was considerably higher than that of the major industrialized countries of Europe.

In Europe, coherent data is difficult to assemble, since European countries categorize immigrants, foreign-born, and citizens in different ways. However, while 2.1 children per woman is considered to be the population replacement level, these are national averages: Ireland: 1.99, France: 1.90, Norway: 1.81, Sweden 1.75, UK: 1.74, Netherlands: 1.73, Germany: 1.37, Italy: 1.33, Spain: 1.32, Greece: 1.29.

Posted at General on February 17, 2007 | # Permalink | Comments Off | TrackBack

World´s View of USA From Bad To Worse :(

Many of us share the perception that the world´s view of the United States was much better in the 90s than now. Now BBC has released a poll entitled “World View of the US goes from Bad to Worse” that shows that respondents in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Korea, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and the very United States agree on this

Personally, I think this is sad and I do hope that the enormous dissapointment that most of us felt around the world when Bush was reelected is not experienced during the next American elections and a Democratic President is chosen to run a country. Blake Fleetwood has an interesting comment on this poll. But USA is still not just the most powerful nation on the planet, which for me is if anything a negative, but the most creative nation on the planet: a clear positive.

Most of us outside the States enjoy a lot of what we have in our daily lives thanks to the creativity of American universities and companies, but a lot of these contributions to the world come from foreigners who were traditionally attracted to the openness of the USA. This attraction greatly declined with the military adventurism and repressive policies of the Bush administration. Let´s hope that the damage done by Bush, Cheney and others, can be undone and what´s great about USA finally prevails over what´s ugly about USA.

Posted at General on January 26, 2007 | # Permalink | Comments Off | TrackBack

Why Is Bombing Acceptable And Placing Bombs Isn´t?

I just read the news on Reuters/Yahoo that the USA entered Somalia with an AC 130 plane and bombed the village of Hayo because there was “at least one Al Qaeda suspect”. The result? Reuters sources says: “I understand there are many dead bodies and animals in the village”.

Now while most of us strongly prefer a world without Al Qaeda, an organization that has killed a lot of innocent people, from a moral and tactical point of view I think that flying into a foreign country chasing “at least one Al Qaeda suspect”, bombing a village and killing many civilians, is wrong.

An air attack of this kind makes USA lose not only from a moral point of view, but also from a tactical point of view. Terrorism is an industry fueled by angry young men (occasionally young women as well) who are looking for a reason to fight. The USA tactics in the Middle East, in my view, just make it more likely for Al Qaeda, an organization which operates in a region where birth rates and unemployment rates are among the highest in the world, to recruit angry young men.

In Spain, where I live, we also have a lot of problems with terrorism. A few days ago ETA attacked in Barajas Airport. We also had a terrorist attack by an islamic terrorist organization on March 11th 2004 that left as many dead per capita as 9/11 did in the States. Still I can´t possibly imagine Spanish police demolishing the homes of relatives of suspected terrorists as Israel does or simply bombing suspected targets from the air as USA does. If the Spanish government did that it would turn thousands of Basque citizens and well adapted Muslim immigrants into ETA and Al Qaeda supporters.

I think it´s time that USA realize that Al Qaeda has many more sympathizers now than before 9/11 as a result of its flawed policies. Most of the world supported the USA led invasion of Afghanistan. That act in itself was rational and probably understood by most muslims as well. The Taliban government working jointly with Al Qaeda had attacked the USA and USA responded invading the country and replacing the government. But things started going wrong with the invasion of Iraq, a country that basically had no terrorism until the USA´s actions unfortunately produced it.

USA in Iraq managed to create the enemy it did not have before the invasion. This was achieved in part by the unreasonable use of force, including air bombings of cities like Fallujah. How can you explain to a rational person that air bombings on civilian populations are justifiable, but placing car bombs or human bombs is not? Same with Israel. Hezbollah now has many more supporters than before the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, because that invasion included bombings among civilians, heavy civilian casualties and enormous destruction of Lebanese infrastructure.
As a result many Lebanese who were not Hezbollah sympathizers now are.

Democracies do not need to resort to an eye for an eye tactics to win against terrorism as those tend to backfire. The Somalia attack will now again increase the fear of Muslims that the US just wants to kill Muslims anywhere they are.

The best way to defeat terrorism in Israel or USA is great police work (as USA and Israel have been doing internally), superb intelligence (as Israel has had for decades), a fair and well functioning judicial system, in short all possible strategies short of bombing civilian populations and violating human rights. Imagine bombing Scarsdale because there´s at least one Al Qaeda operative believed to be there and killing “many civilians and animals”. How would you feel if they bombed you because you happened to have a terrorist in your town? Well that´s what USA is doing in Somalia. More comments in Spanish on this post are here.

Posted at General on January 9, 2007 | # Permalink | Comments Off | TrackBack