neljapäev, märts 25, 2010

isa teab paremini

While the Estonian parliament wrestled with a new bill that would raise the age at which residents can begin receiving their pensions, a journalist sent me a few questions: Why don't Estonians take to the streets to protest unpopular government decisions? How come Estonians prefer to cower behind anonymous Internet comments rather than to make their voices heard in public?

Like the men and women on Toompea, I struggled to find an answer. What could it be? What makes Tallinn unlike Athens and Paris? How come other Europeans let their representatives know when they are angry, but Estonians, yawn, are content to yell at the TV set or beat their chests in cyberspace?

Could it be temperament? Could it be that the glacial Estonians are too slow and peaceful to pick up placards and storm the capital to voice their concerns? Or maybe it's the weather? Surely, a late March thaw is no time to stand around in a crowd of cold and unhappy people? I toyed with this idea at first, but eventually came to dismiss it. It is true that the Estonians are stereotypical northerners. It is true that Estonia is cold. But neither stopped the Icelanders from bringing Geir Haarde's government to its knees last winter. Why, they even burned Christmas trees at protests in Reykjavik. So if there is an explanation for the Estonians' aversion to mass demonstrations, that isn't it.

With the iceman theory debunked, I tried my hand at the good old reliable post-communist explanation. Estonians were held captive at gunpoint for around 50 years by Moscow. You needed a visa to visit Hiiumaa. Under such circumstances, of course Estonians are protest shy. Why would anyone conditioned under such a system assemble in public to question the status quo? That's just asking for trouble. I started to buy into this theory too, until I remembered the Latvians with their umbrella revolution and the Ukrainians with their orange revolution. They had communist pasts too, why, they had even been constituent parts of the same commie super state. Still, that hasn't stopped them from taking it to the streets in recent years. Like the iceman theory, the post-commie theory doesn't hold up.

So what could it be? What keeps Estonians indoors accusing each other of being national socialists or communists or both from the comfort of their own homes rather than taking their grievances to the halls of power? Without a simple theory to fall back on, I began to stitch together my own, new theory, a political one at that.

According to my political theory, Estonia has been run by basically the same politicians for years. Since 1999, Estonians have had Mart Laar (Isamaa) as prime minister, followed by Siim Kallas (Reform), who was replaced by Juhan Parts (Res Publica), who was succeeded by Andrus Ansip (Reform), whose current minority government is a coalition with Laar's conservative fusion of Isamaa ja Res Publica Liit, and includes Parts as minister of economic affairs and communication.

It is true that the current coalition is a minority government, which, by definition, means that most Estonians did not vote for it. However, the opposition, a motley crew of Centrists and Social Democrats plus two smaller parties that are on life support, the Greens and People's Union, is in no shape to offer any serious challenge to those in power. Reform and IRL's jobs are secure. And, with parliamentary elections 12 memory-loss inducing months away, Ansip's government is in a position to do basically whatever it wants. Estonians know this and therefore don't bother to waste their time trying to influence those who probably will be unmoved by street demonstrations.

Critics of social democracy often refer to social welfare policies as manifestations of the "nanny state," where the imaginary "nanny" of bureaucracy is entrusted to take care of you from cradle to grave. I would argue that what we see in Estonia these days is a paternal "daddy state," where the government makes its decisions and, in most cases, once the leadership decides on something, it's set in stone. Isa teab paremini, as they say, father knows best. And if you disagree, what are you really going to do? Vote for Centre Party leader Edgar Savisaar? If you're a pensioner, chances are you probably already do. And if you're not? Well, I'm sure the party spokesperson will circulate some talking points to allay your concerns.

74 kommentaari:

Brüno ütles ...

Great writing. Tongue planted deep in the cheek. Loved it.

Kristopher ütles ...

I'm following the NO99 initiative with interest. This is a theatre troupe that has taken out what must be millions of dollars in advertising in Tallinn's city centre (maybe Tartu, too) for a fictitious populist party. They're even holding a national convention at Saku Suurhall in May, the traditional month of civil initiative in Estonia. It's supposed to be a parody of the Centre Party, and expose populism as a sham, but it's subtle enough to draw actual adherents. I can definitely see thousands of people going along with it, tongue in cheek.

Anyway, I think the reason we don't have major demonstrations is that there's a lack of real organizing talent.
Also, there is no real shortage. Even the 110-million-kroon Freedom Monument only cost each taxpayer 85 kroons. That's not much to get riled up about. The bill in Iceland was several thousand dollars per taxpayer.

Kristopher ütles ...

Well, millions of dollars - probably I exaggerate, but where does a underfunded theatre get money for that kind of outdoor media campaign? Beats me

Doris ütles ...

funny :)

Kristopher has a good point: the non-political organisations are not very well developed in Estonia. And protests organised by political parties (or their "young" branches) get the derision of most non-political but still annoyed people.

chiinook ütles ...

I disagree that the issue is either organization or funding. Both are readily available in the business sector where there is the possibility of a monetary gain. I tend to agree with Justin's daddy theory but would expand it to a view of all authority, especially politics. "They are what they are. There is nothing you can do to change it, etc." Maybe that's why we see Estonians voting against what they don't want rather than for something they dare to believe in. Bottom line: Focus your energies on the areas in which you can get some return for your effort (and whine about the rest).

Kaspar ütles ...

I would develop this discussion a bit. Even finns, who are even more slower than estonians (that's what we like to think), demonstrate when they don't like something. Usually, demonstrators in Finland are labour unions, and when Finland labour unions strike, then it subsumes everyone all over the country, not few farmers with their cows and "forks" like we have here.
Planes doesn't fly, buses-trams-trains, ports, airports etc. doesn't operate and so on. Everything stalls.
I remember busdrivers demonstration, which took place in Tallinn little while ago, buses didn't operate for an hour and that was it. One hour (!!!) without public transport, nobody couldn't care less. Busdrivers were afraid that when they demonstrate longer, they will be fired (:D:D). But we don't have proper labour unions, why? Because nobody bothers to make one or everyone are too shy or scared of something. Like what? Employer says that you can demonstrate all you want but I have a substitute worker waiting in the list to get your workplace. In Finland, employers are afraid to do anything to a worker who belongs in some union, so employer gives little raise to this worker, so maybe worker won't feel irritated.
My theory is, that people are too scared and they don't know their rights, besides that, people are also lazy and hope that everything will be done for themselves, nobody wants to take responsibility.

But your theory about why we don't protest in front of the government, I think is right. What would it change? Today, we don't have anyone else to elect. Savisaar and socialist party? No, thanks!!! So we have to carry on with Ansip, Laar and and others.

Giustino ütles ...

I really like that photo of Ansip. He must have been thinking about the euro when it was taken.

Evil Purc ütles ...

I would just like to point out that there is no minority government in Estonia since March 12.

peedu ütles ...

http://i.imgur.com/7uJDi.jpg

"A kitten? For Christmas? For me?"

Mart ütles ...

Maybe most people actually recognize rising the pension-age as the sensible decision it is?

Honestly, why should anyone protest against it?

Giustino ütles ...

I would just like to point out that there is no minority government in Estonia since March 12.

Is that really legitimate? I mean, Rahvaliit earned those seats in 2007. Now that one of their politicians decided the party's moribund and headed where the money is, they lose that seat? Discuss.

Giustino ütles ...

Maybe most people actually recognize rising the pension-age as the sensible decision it is?

Honestly, why should anyone protest against it?


The Finns did the same thing last year, and there were protests. The only difference is that Finnish men live eight years longer than their Estonian counterparts. Let's hope the Estonians catch up by the time this new law takes effect.

Miks ütles ...

Might it just be that things haven't quite got bad enough to merit taking to the streets en masse?
Rather that than a place where the barricades go up every time someone's feelings get hurt.
When Estonians do take direct action it'll certainly have more impact as a result of not crying "wolf" all the time.

Kristjan Velbri ütles ...

Only the most naive and foolish people would protest against such a thing without having first taken a look at the facts. The European, as well as the US, pension system is a 'pay as you go' system, which means that current pensions are funded with current income. This system works fine in a system where the size of the population GROWS at a steady rate and the average life expectancy is about flat. However, introduce any change into the system and start having problems - funding problems that is. Usually politicians want to take the easy road and just ignore the problem by pasting it over and making it look like it was okay - ie. not making cuts but instead raising the tax burden (which inevitably puts a burden on economic performance). The US has taken the road of pulling money from one system (Social Sec) and using that money to fund Medicare and Medicaid. Well, surprise surprise, but the obvious results is starting to materialize: now that the baby boomers are starting to retire the Social Security 'Trust' Fund is going to have to pay out more than it takes in.

The fact is that the state pension fund will be under water in a matter of years if something isn't done about it. I encourage everyone to go to the website of The Ministry of Finance and look it up yourself (or request info from them if you don't know how to browse their site). It is very comfortable to sit behind a PS and bash the politicians when in fact they are making the tough but right decisions. I'm not saying I would give my blessing to each and every one of their decisions, but given the fact that Estonia's population IS declining and the ratio of retired people/taxpayers is still on the rise makes it all right for me. If we postpone making the tough but right decision we end up like Greece with debt up to our eyeballs and complacent people trying to figure out why the state is trying to take the promised entitlements away.

Justin, I've noticed that you are one of those who dislike RE and hence bash most of what they do. I don't want to turn this into an argument over politics, but I would encourage you to approach every issue separately and rely on facts, not your emotions toward Ansip or whatever. Also, I highly recommend you read "Riigieelarvestrateegia" available from fi.ee.

Kristjan Velbri ütles ...

I forgot to mention in my previous post:
Since the US Social Security Trust Fund has no money, only IOUs from Medicare and Medicaid (which don't have to money to redeem those IOUs), the US will have to start funding it with debt. The US debt situation is already unsustainable, but if they add this on top of their regular deficit spending, you could see deficits as high as $1.8 T or even $2T. Talk about postponing decisions.

peedu ütles ...

This might sound like another good old reliable post-communist explanation but Estonian old people have had it a lot worse. They definitely know that times can be even less fortunate than they are right now, so maybe the change doesn't feel as extreme to them as it did for Finns, who I dare to presume might not grasp the memento mori of their well-being quite the same way as some elderly Estonians.

Jim Hass ütles ...

We could add the "small country" hypothesis, that Estonians feel a great deal of identification with their state in a big dangerous world, where the bonds of responsibility for the state of the state to all the others. Perhaps the big neighbor next door makes them afraid to embarrass their elected leaders, showing weakness.
Maybe a lot of Estonians remember the big increases during the boom years in pension payments. Remember Reform's promise to double pensions in four years in the 08 budget. I don't know why. I am here in Indiana. It looks to me that the system is moving there is moving in the direction of more support for more helpless (older) people. Not a bad direction I think.

Jim Hass ütles ...

Here's a reference to Tartu I just found, The founder of Wagner's law. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolph_Wagner

ants ütles ...

Ansip-Lang government is a government of rich men and Kristjan Velbri seems to be a successful man.
What to do? Allons enfants de la patrie ... ? Too radical. But even I see some fragile signs of unwillingness and more unity – 21.000 candles on Vabaduse väljak; NO99 in Saku suurhall. Näis-näis – nur Geduld zu Warten??

Myst ütles ...

For mass protests, you need loads of angry people and you need someone to organize it. I think the Center Party is the only organization capable of putting together a serious anti-government protest. The angry mass should be there. So I guess the only reason we haven't had serious protests is that the Center Party has chosen not to organize them. So far!

Why? Well, either they have found their sensible streak in these difficult times. Or, they can't afford to do anything serious because they haven't got any money...

Still, as the Parliamentary elections come nearer, I think the probability of Center Party organized mass protests approaches 1.

Giustino ütles ...

Justin, I've noticed that you are one of those who dislike RE and hence bash most of what they do. I don't want to turn this into an argument over politics, but I would encourage you to approach every issue separately and rely on facts, not your emotions toward Ansip or whatever. Also, I highly recommend you read "Riigieelarvestrateegia" available from fi.ee.

I am not bashing Ansip. I am just not fawning at his ability to always do the right thing. It scares me a bit how lock-step some Estonians are behind their government. They'll sell you a change in pension law, they'll sell you a law that can put journalists in jail for not revealing an anonymous source, and I am sure they will have titillating, detailed explanations for why they need to do these things. And people prefer to buy whatever they say because there is the bogeyman of Savisaar or Russia or Latvia-like ruin on the other side of the equation. I think, though, that people should always expect a better performance from their officials.

I am related by law to Estonians, and most of these Estonians aren't very wealthy. My brother-in-law works in the UK. During the boom I was surprised he didn't come back because of the huge demand for construction, but now I see he made the right move for his family. Their living standards have improved greatly because of his British salary.

My other two brothers-in-law are lucky just to have work, any work. One is 32, the other is 22. I can't imagine how either could anytime soon scrap together enough money to say, raise a family. How about my wife's uncles: one is an alcoholic invalid, the other is waiting out the recession, hoping one day again to have a steady job. He used to work in Finland. That's where my neighbor in Setomaa works. A good friend of mine now works in Denmark. He commutes there for two weeks, then comes back to Estonia for two weeks. It seems like, even with such a small population, there isn't enough money to go around in Estonia. That's my reality. There seems to be a wide chasm between the coalition and the people I meet each day. People are waiting for work to return, but what kind of work will it be, and for how long will it last?

Myst ütles ...

they'll sell you a law that can put journalists in jail for not revealing an anonymous source

It has to be said that in this instance, the protest of the newspapers seems to have been quite effective. The Molecule has seen the error of his ways and repented.

http://www.postimees.ee/?id=241603

news ütles ...

I think Trade Unions, which some posters have commented are they main orgnisers of protests in Finland, are the key to the question.

In Estonia and much of the former USSR, trade unions have failed to find a role after losing their Soviet role of being little more than travel agencies and recruiting offices for the Communist Party

As such, nobody now regards them as an organisation that can defend their rights and seriously organise protests against the government.

Put simply, the Trade Unions can now offer little to an Estonian or Lithuanian worker. They are still regarded by most people as having cosy ties to the state (vlast in Russain, valdzia in Lithuania)and stuffed full of careerists who will support any political party.

cammekas ütles ...

Firstly I do agree that Estonia has very weak labor unions. I'll not be surprised if one day it would turn out that their leaders are all bought off by some corporates.

Secondly as studied abroad I know that the second field of force are university students. Not all kind of students but mostly students of humanities and social sciences. The only full university in Estonia is not located in capital, which makes power games kind of distant for this group. At the same time most of this kind of students in Tallinn universities have to pay tuition fee (government strategy?), which means that they need to have full-time jobs, which means that they don't have much time to riot in the streets.

Thirdly there was an appropriate time for rioting last year when it became clear that government has made some huge strategic missteps. And the rioting happened indeed in other Baltic states, but in Estonia the memories of bronze night were still fresh and no-one was really in mood for that. By my opinion this is the major thing that differs Estonian current situation from other Baltic states.

I don not support RE or IRL but I do not care about the pension age. I believe media has not sufficiently informed people who should be concerned about this. Media has been busy destroying Rein Lang with all measures, even lying to public.

Kristjan Velbri ütles ...

Justin,
I don't like the proposal of jailing journalists either, but this is not the topic of this discussion. Furthermore, Lang is behind it, not Ansip. But lets leave it at that.

BTW, the link I gave you was missing one letter, fi.ee takes you to our Financial Inspection website, fin.ee is the correct URL for The Ministry of Finance.

ants,
I'm too young to be categorized as either successful or not. In any case, success is largely up to yourself. We can all whine about the 'external' factors, but the fact is that we all have to deal with negative external factors. Yes, they do vary to some degree, but show me a successful person who hasn't had to overcome personal and external negatives.

Jim Hass,
Stop misleading people with your 'facts'. Take a look at the average pension yourself and you will see that the government has done a LOT to increase the pensions. I don't know what was Ansip's reference period for doubling, but it seems to me that they are very close to their target. The only thing keeping them from it is not enough revenue, and you know as well as anyone that the government cannot magically increase the revenue out of thin air. Have a look yourself: http://img709.imageshack.us/img709/180/eestipensionid.png
The screenshot is from Riigieelarve strateegia 2010-2013,page 8, available here: http://fin.ee/index.php?id=100927

Kristjan Velbri ütles ...

Just so that it is clear to everyone. The following is from Riigieelarvestrateegia 2010-2013, page 30:
"Pensionikindlustuse väljamakseteks tehtav kulu sõltub sotsiaalmaksu laekumisest ning pensioniealiste
arvust. Juba alates 2004. aastast ei ole tööealise elanikkonna tuludelt tasutav sotsiaalmaks katnud
pensionideks vajaminevat kulu. Seetõttu on pensionikindlustuse väljamakseteks kasutatud ka muid
riigieelarvelisi tulusid, välja arvatud 2007. aastal, kui sotsiaalmaksu laekumine ületas pensionideks
vajamineva kulu. 2008. aastal muudeti pensionide indekseerimise korda, mistõttu on viimasel aastal
pensionide kulu hüppeliselt suurenenud. Arvestades demograafilisi näitajaid on järgnevatel aastatel
oodata pensioniealiste arvu suurenemist ning sotsiaalmaksu osa vähenemist pensionikulude
planeerimisel, mis tähendab, et suureneb surve täiendavale riigieelarvelisele rahastamisele
pensionikindlustuse väljamakseteks (joonis 5). 2004. aastal oli pensionide kogukulu 8770 mln krooni.
Samal aastal kaeti sotsiaalmaksu laekumise puudujääk pensionide väljamaksmiseks muude
riigieelarveliste vahendite arvelt summas 131 mln krooni. 2012. aastaks on prognoositud pensionide
kogukuluks 19 637 mln krooni ning puudujäägiks 5 106 mln krooni."

The text is accompanies with the folliwing chart:http://img189.imageshack.us/img189/9305/pensionikulud.png

The document is in free domain and is available here: http://fin.ee/index.php?id=100927

If you want to debate the increase in the legal pension age, please get your facts straight. We live in an information age and we also have Google. If you are still unable to find the information, turn to the ministry in charge of whatever you are inquiring about and ask them for help. It's not like sending an e-mail is difficult or anything. Arguing over which decision is the right one without the background information is what kids (a'la my daddy has more money than yours).

Giustino ütles ...

I don't like the proposal of jailing journalists either, but this is not the topic of this discussion. Furthermore, Lang is behind it, not Ansip. But lets leave it at that.

The topic of my post was actually Estonian political culture, not the pension increase.

Kristjan Velbri ütles ...

The topic of my post was actually Estonian political culture, not the pension increase.

Be as it may, you still seem to be unable to respond to the facts and figures I posted here about the pension reform. Don't get me wrong, I don't have beef with you, but it seems to me you are trying to dodge a bullet here. Once it turned out that you didn't have all the facts straight and the pension reform is actually the only solution to the problem at hand, you start talking about other government decisions you are not happy about.

I look forward to your comments about the facts and figures from "Riigieelarvestrateegia" that I posted.

ants ütles ...

Kristjan Velbri
I don’t understand – there are no money for the pensions, because there are TOO FEW people making job to upkeep those in retirement. But at the moment we have almost 100.000 superfluous for jobs. What do You think – when this reserve will be used up?
By the way, I’m afraid – Giustinos ideas are unfortunately fully realistic! J

Giustino ütles ...

Once it turned out that you didn't have all the facts straight and the pension reform is actually the only solution to the problem at hand, you start talking about other government decisions you are not happy about.

Please go back and read my post and read my comments and tell me what facts I did not get straight. I was asked why Estonians do not protest like other Europeans do, and I attempted to provide some explanation -- largely the belief that protests won't change the political facts on the ground, the coalition is solid, Ansip stands no chance of losing his job, and so, what's the point? The government is in a position where it can do as it wishes, at least for another year.

Kristjan Velbri ütles ...

The number of people without a job is indeed very high but this is not the reason behind the pension age increase. They would've had to raise the threshold age even in the best scenario. The current situation is making it worse, but that's a short term problem. The government is raising the threshold age due to long term dynamics, not short term fluctuations in the number of people employed.

I do have to mention that the government is doing much to help those without a job. They are not giving money to people for sleeping out their hangovers in public transportation, but they've given a huge boost to all sorts of employment programs. This has all been done without the media jumping all over it and that's why people generally don't know about this, but all in all, the government has gotten billions of kroons from the EU funds to alleviate the job market's horrendous condition. There are already signs of improvement as the number of job ads has hit record highs. Keep in mind that a large number of those jobs are never coming back, at least not in the way they were back in the days of the almighty boom. People are going to have to get real jobs, not selling real estate to each other.

Overall, I'm optimistic. I'm seeing many 'green shoots' as the said in the States.

Doris ütles ...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_(Internet)

"In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional response[1] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion"

Not saying that your given facts are untrue Kristjan. It's just that in this case, you're trolling.

Kristjan Velbri ütles ...

Please go back and read my post and read my comments and tell me what facts I did not get straight.

Oh, please. Stop playing games already. The whole post was written assuming that Estonians should protest over the pension age increase. Explicit or not, that's why you mentioned the plans to cut the threshold age during the first few lines of your post - to express that you feel they should protest. And that's the reason why I've posted all this information here.

Doris,
Go back and read the post. Then read the comments. And try figuring out why I'm talking about the pension age threshold. Yes, that's right. Because it was mentioned in the post and I felt it was important enough to merit further clarification. That's what I did. To claim that I'm a troll shows an utter lack of argumentation skills.

Doris ütles ...

I did not like this post of Giustino's. I think he's placing too much emphasis on how Estonia should be "more western" by disrupting the government's work when they don't like what's going on. "More Western" to me, in this case, is being stupid. "More Western" right now, in this case is throwing temper tantrums when your parent is trying to put down the fire on the house.

But you Kristjan, are being unnecessarily belligerent. The point of the post was to discuss why Estonians don't protest (and in order to illustrate the point, an example was needed. The best current example is the pensions). You got off on a tangent and keep insisting that that tangent was the original point. It wasn't.

or maybe I'm just being stupid. could be, it's a bit late on a Friday, after all.

Kristjan Velbri ütles ...

Doris and Justin,
I'm sorry if I've left the impression of an internet bully. That wasn't my intention. I felt that Justin deliberately brought in the topic of pension reform and I had to respond. Since there is no commenting guideline, I felt it appropriate to comment on the pension reform, as it was referenced to in the original post.

Internet conversations sometimes tend to go overhand, since you cannot see or hear the other person/people. I will try to be more polite in the future (but I would also like to see Justin respond, not a troll-response, an argumentative one, please :D)

By the way, if you want to know about a successful Estonian protest, go and talk to the people who were behind the Politseriigi seaduseelnõu protests. It was one of the most successful grass roots efforts in the last few years (my brother was one of the organizers). One thing needs to be pointed out about protests overall: they are all unsuccessful if the protest is the only means of reaching the objective. In that particular case, the protest was the last resort. Before that, the organizers sat down with the leaders of political parties and got around 70% of the text removed from the original draft act.

Giustino ütles ...

Oh, please. Stop playing games already. The whole post was written assuming that Estonians should protest over the pension age increase. Explicit or not, that's why you mentioned the plans to cut the threshold age during the first few lines of your post - to express that you feel they should protest. And that's the reason why I've posted all this information here.

No, Õhtuleht contacted me, it was the newspaper that suggested this was protest worthy. I am not playing games with you. I just gave their questions some thought -- Why don't Estonians take to the streets more often, like the French? -- and put my thoughts here for others to discuss.

My own feelings about this pension dispute? Well, the newspapers made their opinion clear on Lang's proposed law. But what was the pensioners' position in this debate, and how was it factored into the decision making process? You would figure since it effects them, they would have input into the process. Ma küsin ausalt, Kristjan. I come in peace.

Myst ütles ...

I think it's way too much to call Kristjan a troll. All he did was call Giustino's bluff. Trouble is, Giustino didn't really make it. :)

Bit of a misunderstanding, that's all. Nothing to upset about though, as it's added to the discussion.

Temesta ütles ...

@ Kristjan Velbri:

I do have to mention that the government is doing much to help those without a job. They are not giving money to people for sleeping out their hangovers in public transportation, but they've given a huge boost to all sorts of employment programs.

You can put as much money into employment programs as you like, but if there are almost no vacancies it will not help. You like facts and numbers so maybe you can look up the number of unemployed and the number of vacancies?
I think it's sad that in these difficult times people are losing their unemployment benefits when the chance to find a job is so small.

Myst ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Mart ütles ...

Giustino, in my opinion you do bring up some sensible points regarding the lack of protests in general. It is just that in this case, raising the pension age might be one of the most sensible things that the coalition has done recently.

Is it so hard to believe that sometimes a difficult but sensible decision might be recognized as such by the general public?


http://www.stat.ee/public/rahvastikupyramiid/

Mart ütles ...

Oh, and Kaarel Tarand wrote a pretty good editorial on the "source protection law" in Sirp.

http://www.sirp.ee/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=10400:lehtede-luehikesed-jalad&catid=9:sotsiaalia&Itemid=13&issue=3292

Wv Sky ütles ...

Estonia is exactly like West Virginia in the US. You couldnt get a protest together here unless you offered them an all-you-can-eat-buffet. West Virginians have been beaten down for so long that they just accept whatever comes their way. There's no good.. no bad...just indifference. Like Estonians, we'll write lots of letters to the editors and blog about the injustices here, but other than that we wont actually do anything to show how serious we are.... because we aren't. We just don't care any more...

Rainer ütles ...

You might as well ask why are Estonians so irreligious, and ponder if there's a connection.
It's all about the big picture, man.

Brüno ütles ...

Like in West Virginia, this indifference could also be blamed on inbreeding. The only ones who expressed their discontent in recent memory in the streets were foreigners. Estonians were cowering indoors at the same time, watching Dancing with the stars or Moment of Truth or Formula 1 racing or something.

Myst ütles ...

Now that's what I call trolling.

Brüno ütles ...

I like to call it equal opportunity offending.

tartuense ütles ...

Myst ütles...
Now that's what I call trolling.

Ha, ha, excellent Myst. Brüno came out of nowhere with that. Funny how racists like Brüno expose themselves for the racists they are, all by themselves.

The point isn't about the pension age increase (no biggie with that, even if we all know it's necessary since all the baby boomers. i.e., the pensioners of today, will have sucked dry the pension funds by the time we guys retire, and anyway, working past your retirement age is actually healthy for you and your mental wellbeing), nor about the sources' confidentiality. It's about what the political culture in Estonia is. Those were just examples thrown out in a conversation with a journalist, just for that person to name a few of the current discussion topics. The issue is about how those topics are discussed (or not, i.e., the lack of serious discussion and mass involvement). I personally don't like strikes and fear they damage the workers more than the owners/government, and riots are also dangerous since they tend to be hijacked by the more extreme and less rational elements (either embedded, as we saw in the bronze nights, or who show up for the 'fun'). But the analogy Justin makes is bang on the head. The analogy with an intransigent and strict family father is quite appropriate. Only the case here would be a father on steroids, in a small house. And there are less people willing to risk their careers to protest strongly (mind, it doesn't need to be by protesting/rioting on the streets, forceful opinions can be made in all sorts of ways). Or maybe it's like in the old days, and what we have now is a mini-ussr which is harder to shake off than in a place that is easier to be anonymous or part of a critical mass like it was in the Ukraine (although that's history now).
Endlessly cutting budgets is not the solution, it's like chopping bits of your body in order to get rid of a flu. And tax increases do not need to be damaging to the economy if the tax revenues are invested wisely (innovation, infrastructure, education, health care). Those things would only improve the economy mid to long term. So why not discuss things like introducing the astmeline tulumaks? The nordic/scandinavian societies have done quite well with it. OK, I'm not asking for 50% income tax, but I think recent history has shown that (most of) the rich people in Estonia do not even invest in Estonia, so there is no benefit in reducing their taxes. (The only exception here may be Kilk, perhaps).
Or another, if the current political parties do not offer the solutions people want (as they showed by the huge performance of the independent candidate Indrek Tarand at the recent elections), why not create new ones? Why admire the president's good speeches, but just leave it at that and not actually acting on them? In a sense, Estonians may be good at team work, like in the Teeme ära campaign, but sometimes they like to do things on their own, witness the great achievements of solo sportspeople like Baruto, Veerpalu, Smigun, Kanter, etc., etc., and the fewer successes of team sports. Then again, I'd rather be in an economic, scientific and social powerhouse that Estonia may become, than in a sport powerhouse.
Of course, there is the other extreme, where people discuss ad infinitum, and lots of hot air is expelled and nothing is done. In that case the Estonian version is better, and we will just adapt to a new situation, relieve our pent up anger in the sauna or chopping wood or breaking ice on the pavement or working harder at our jobs, and be decisive and press for the right thing when it matters. I think the next riigikogu elections will be quite interesting, even if I can't vote. Unfortunately, populism will again play a large part, hello pensioners!

Doug0212 ütles ...

Some relative comments:
1. My father was Estonian (died in 1979). He came over to the U.S. after WWII and had me in 1953. The entire contents of my life's conversations (if you want to call them that) with my father could easily be contained within one evening's conversation between any two people speaking at a reasonable pace. He was very stoic and I believe that he exemplifies the oldest generation in Estonia today. He fought the Germans and the Russians and lived to "not" tell about it. He was a good man but protesting would not have been one of his traits. If my father is indeed representative of the older population of Estonia then that's one significant contributing factor.

2. "Could it be temperament?"
I think that Justin dismissed this idea a little too quickly. I don't see how Icelanders, Danes, Fins, Swedes and Estonians would react similarly to the same situation within each of their countries. Their cultures and history are very different.

3. If Latvians and Ukrainians can do it then why can't Estonians? Again, Estonians are not the same as Latvians or Ukrainians and again I think that history and culture provide a reasonable answer as to why Estonians don't do what other nations and cultures do.

4. The rest of Justin's post examines the various political parties of Estonia of which I am completely ignorant and so I won't comment on them specifically. I can, however, compare the reactions of Estonians to their political environment to that of the people of the U.S. since that is where I've lived my whole life and since Justin spent most of his life in the U.S. he should certainly be able to relate. The U.S. and Estonia are 180 degrees apart in historical and cultural constitution. We in the U.S. are born to protest something we don't like because it's in our nature and remarkably after new immigrants have lived in the U.S. for a while they too take on the this trait. Estonia is so different from the U.S. that it would make a good masters thesis to compare the differences.

In short, Estonia is Estonia like it or leave it :). They may change over time as their new found independence grows on them which is what it must do one person at a time and one generation after another. Estonians didn't invade their country and take it from aboriginal peoples who couldn't defend themselves. Their last independence was "granted" to them after many years of Soviet domination. I remember my father sending clothes and money to his relatives. They had it hard - very hard. It's easy to criticize when you haven't lived through it.

tartuense ütles ...

Great post by Doug0212.

I don't think what has been said is an attack on RE. This blog discusses aspects of Estonian culture, political culture included.

I don't see a "united left" victory bringing better things though. The sotsid should have stayed in the coalition and not get themselves forced out a year ago at the most critical point. They could have fought for their policies even while still in the government, like IRL did. I don't think their strategy of forming an alliance with KE will work, since even most of the sensible sotsid are against it.

Justin ütles ...

I wish I had jumped into this conversation earlier -- lots of good points made.

I won't get into the pension thing as I haven't studied the issue closely enough.

In general, Guistino raises a good point about why people don't take to the streets in protest. There have been many events over the last 2 years that I thought would bring people out, and not much happened. The government made cuts in many areas that pissed off many people (and then increased spending in other areas... like the salaries of people in riigikogu), but nothing happened.

Anecdotally, the people I spoke to about this just sort of threw up their hands and assumed nothing can be done. I actually think it's the opposite -- in Estonia since it's small, it's easier to win an election or make some kind of difference in other ways.

Temesta ütles ...

I started to buy into this theory too, until I remembered the Latvians with their umbrella revolution and the Ukrainians with their orange revolution. They had communist pasts too, why, they had even been constituent parts of the same commie super state. Still, that hasn't stopped them from taking it to the streets in recent years.

Maybe Estonians didn't take it to the streets yet because Estonian governments haven't mismanaged their countries and economies as Ukranian and Latvian governments did.
Ansip's government made estimation errors and chose (in my opinion) for the wrong priorities, but this is nothing compared with the complete mess made by the Latvian government, that even managed to run budget deficits in years with 10% growth rates. The Latvian's protested and their government fell, but after the new government came in charge and pushed through austerity measures that are much harder than the ones in Estonia I haven't heard much anymore about protests in Latvia.
In Ukraine people started to protest because of fraud in the elections. Would Estonians accept that? I hope not. By the way, Ukrainians also have the reputation of being a people that stoically accepts its fate.

Jim Hass ütles ...

Since Bismark and state pensions, we have been taxing the young, and getting less of them, while subsidizing the old and getting more of them. Is there an optimum level of effort here that produces growth and comfort in old age?

Giustino ütles ...

I don't know about today's crop of pensioners, but historically Estonia was politically volatile. (I'm thinking of the Vaps Movement as I write this, but we might as well factor in the December 1924 attempted coup). I still can't figure out how this past informs today's politics. Maybe it makes Estonians less willing to rock the boat.

Doris ütles ...

So I've just skimmed over the comments once more and I think one very important part of why Estonians aren't protesting right now is what someone already pointed out: The Bronze Night. It's too close and people remember too well how easily things can get out of hand.

Another point I caught was from Giustino's comment about gettig the question from a journalist in the first place. I don't think I need to go on a rant about journalists in Estonia as I've done that before (on several, some of them regrettable, occasions). To put it shortly, I agree with Lang in that the Estonian media thinks they run the place. Even the "yellow" journalists think they can tell the politicians what to do and it will happen. Hell, the vallalehe ajakirjanik has infinitely more political clout than the municipal politicians. So in this case, it seems like a journalist's bafflement at "hey, I think the people should protest now." -nothing happens - "I SAID, the people should protest now"...

The general Estonian media-users might be somewhat gullible, what with all the Dancing with the Stars and Formula 1 and suchlike but I don't think they're quite that blind. Or they are, the media has simply entertained all the protest out of the people... and then complain that there's no protests going on...

Justin ütles ...

To Temesta's point about if Estonians would accept fraud in elections:

Well if you take a very broad definition of fraud, then yes. At the last elections in Tallinn (for city council), more than half the people who received the most votes never went on to do the job. Instead, their parties just made a back-room decision about who would replace them. As a result, the council is filled with people that weren't elected, including a 12th grader in high school.

That doesn't seem like democracy to me, but I suppose it's not outright fraud either.

Temesta ütles ...

@ Justin:

That's a reprehensible but legal practice common in most European democracies, that, as far as I know, has never caused significant protests and demonstrations.
Still, I think it's better than people who gain power through fake votes.

Lingüista ütles ...

Mart, who said: "Is it so hard to believe that sometimes a difficult but sensible decision might be recognized as such by the general public?"

In a sense, yes, it is.

When I look at how local political culture shapes popular political behavior in many Western countries -- healthcare reform in US, agricultural subsidies in France, and also the petty you-can't-call-yourself-Macedonia disputes in Greece -- the suggestion that Estonians would actually accept a decision like raising the pension age simply because it does make sense and may actually be the best response to the problem at hand (therefore completely ignoring the personal disadvantages that it may bring) does make the Estonians stand out as a rare kind of population indeed.

As Giustino mentioned, the Finns did protest -- even though you might argue the measure would make as much sense in Finland as it does in Estonia.

If you're right, Mart, then the Estonians do deserve a congratulation (and perhaps a fieldwork team from some sociology or political science department to understand how exactly they achieved this level of political wisdom).

Andres ütles ...

At the last elections in Tallinn (for city council), more than half the people who received the most votes never went on to do the job. Instead, their parties just made a back-room decision about who would replace them. As a result, the council is filled with people that weren't elected, including a 12th grader in high school.

Didn't that 12th grader get like 400 votes (more than a sitting vice mayor) and a personal mandate to the council or smth? Which seems like science fiction to me but whatever.

Doris ütles ...

hmm, at the risk of engaging in the same kind of trolling I axccused Krisjan of myself now, I'd like to point out something about the pensioners in Estonia.

Currently the system is: once you reah the pensionable age, you're "retired" from your job usually whether you want it or not. Now, the pension generally isn't very high and in a LOT of the cases, pnsioners try to find an additional source of income. Only this can be very hard since if they find a full-time job, they lose their pension (I think?) and besides, no-one wants to hire them. So. I have seen intelligent, educated women and men of the past-pensionable age working as part time jantiors, or selling home-made pickles at the market just to make ends meet. So have most Estonians, I think. So maybe part of the reason why Estonians aren't protesting against the pension age increase is that they see it as an insurance that they will have a good job for longer AND once they do eventually retire, they can do so with dignity.

plasma-jack ütles ...

I don't know about today's crop of pensioners, but historically Estonia was politically volatile.

You don't need to look back to the first republic, because Estonia's politics was rather volatile in the late 80-s and early 90-s (jäägrikriis, Ida-Viru kriis etc).

But about the pensionireform - well, consider the history again. My grandmother was born in 1915 (I think), so she lived through the Russian Empire, Russian Republic, Bolshevik Soviets, German occupation, Estonian Republic, the Silent Era, ENSV and another German occupation. When she retired, she got her pension first from Soviet Union and then from Estonian Rebublic. That's 9 regime changes and who-knows-how-many laws on retirement. Talking about "justified expectations" would seem rather silly in a situation that is constantly evolving.

plasma-jack ütles ...

Although, even I can remember a horde of old women gathering on Toompea (I think that was in 1992) and trying to lynch Marju Lauristin who told them that the state had no money to fulfill their expectations.

Andres ütles ...

Currently the system is: once you reah the pensionable age, you're "retired" from your job usually whether you want it or not.

I don't know about that. There are plenty of school teachers who are past pension age and get their pension as well as their salary.

Doris ütles ...

hence the "(I think?)" ;)

Doug0212 ütles ...

So let's assume that Estonians, as a whole, are the equal in intelligence and ingenuity as their counterparts in Finland, Sweden and Denmark - and I have every reason to believe that they are! Therefore, they are, theoretically, capable of generating a Nokia but they don't because of historical or cultural reasons or for reasons we just don't understand yet.

Then, as I naively look at Estonia from the outside, I see a country where a significant portion of the population - old and young alike - are underutilized. They are a cheap labor force ready to be, dare I say, exploited by the right business interests.

If Estonia cannot solve its economic problems from the inside then perhaps it should seek to do it from the outside. Then again Estonians are a bit wary of "outsiders". Nevertheless, if they want to match their Nordic counterparts they need to get with it. So work with the university types and other shakers and doers in Estonia and get the government to set up economic incentive zones - very low or no taxes, good infrastructure at low cost, etc. - and let some outsiders gen up the country. Sorry, I meant "green" up the country :).

Estonia needs a bigger pie and quibbling, excuse me - protesting - over who gets pension money and when is not going to fix the problem.

Andres ütles ...

I'm a bit worried that the government seems to be too occupied with attracting foreign investment. Shouldn't they be more concerned with improving the level of development of Estonian companies? Or is that achievable only by foreign investment? Juhan Parts talks about the Ericsson plant, while in reality it's just former textile workers placing electronic components onto PCB-s, aka pretty much what they do in China. Doesn't seem very high-tech to me. What real prosperity and independence can we enjoy if we are only seen as reasonably priced labour force? We need to be owners, god dammit. Not sell every possible part of land and labour force to the Finns, Swedes and Russians.

Myst ütles ...

We need to be owners, god dammit.

What's stopping you/us? Start a company, make it work, make it profitable. You can't regulate who owns what in a free enterprise environment. It's all about competition.

FDI brings jobs. Jobs that we need desperately.

Andres ütles ...

Making a company work and profitable doesn't make it an international success story. Selver is successful but they got raped in Latvia. Prisma is successful in Estonia though, so is Maxima, so is Rimi. Maybe the government can lend companies a hand to get successful abroad? Or maybe our investment environment is too liberal? Is it too easy for a foreigner to make a buck on Estonians? Maybe we shouldn't try to sell everything? Maybe in the long term it would profit us to keep the companies under local supervision and not let all decision making procedures slip away to foreign countries? Like if banks are mostly managed from Sweden, how do we expect to grow good bank managers etc.

I'm just speculating and brainfarting though, I have no education in economics sans a brief course in micro- and macroeconomics.

士凱 ütles ...

TAHNKS FOR YOUR SHARING~~~VERY NICE ........................................

Giustino ütles ...

So let's assume that Estonians, as a whole, are the equal in intelligence and ingenuity as their counterparts in Finland, Sweden and Denmark - and I have every reason to believe that they are! Therefore, they are, theoretically, capable of generating a Nokia but they don't because of historical or cultural reasons or for reasons we just don't understand yet.

You have to invest a lot of money to get a "Nokia" -- you need to lose money year after year by investing in R&D before something like that surfaces. And in order to even have a good R&D sector, you need to map out your priorities and invest in education. You'll need good infrastructure so that you can fly in specialists, transport your goods, house your start-ups. Finding your "Nokia" isn't cheap.

Myst ütles ...

Maybe the government can lend companies a hand to get successful abroad?

Well, we have Kredex, which I think does a good job. But all measures obviously require do-re-mi...

We've made a choice to be in the EU though, and in principle the EU is all about the free movement of capital, goods and labour. It's not really possible to make any restrictions. And I don't know of any free countries that do. Even China has loosened the restrictions on the inflow of foreign capital, realizing its benefit.

I think the most important thing the government can do is build up an education system that produces globally competitive individuals. That's the way to prosperity. But it won't take 15 years! 150 is more like it.

Myst ütles ...

PS. I really wish we'd have non-nationalistic right wing party to vote for. Nationalism -- though understandable -- is holding us back, I think. Also in education.

Kristjan Velbri ütles ...

Andres,
I can't leave your comment without a response, so here goes.

When Selver entered the Latvian market the Latvian economy had grown in double digits for a very long time and was already showing signs of strain. The growth in personal consumption was huge, but Selver thought they could make a buck. I don't know the exact ins and outs of their Latvia business, but from my viewpoint I'd say they underestimated the supply side (there were already many competitors on the market) and they got in too late.

However, there are many successful Estonian companies doing business outside of Estonia: Tallink, Olympic Entertainment, Baltika, Enefit (which is the international name for our Eesti Energia). These are just some of the most known ones, but there is a whole list of growing Estonian companies whose primary market isn't Estonia (think biotech, software, high tech equipment). There are already many government programs in place to help start-ups and exporters (Kredex is a great example). Last, but not least, there is always the option of finding investors or borrowing the money.

-raul- ütles ...

> Is that really legitimate? I mean, > Rahvaliit earned those seats in > > 2007. Now that one of their
> politicians decided the party's
> moribund and headed where the
> money is, they lose that seat?
> Discuss.
Yes, thats also part of us Estonian happily accepting immoral politicians. Now there's two of those bad apples in parliament (who got elected with votes of party and after leaving their party are happily sitting in parliament) -- Jaan Kundla and Tarmo Mänd.

And what's my excuse -- I didn't vote neither of those parties, so it's not my vote that got lost to bad apples.

-raul- ütles ...

> PS. I really wish we'd have non-nationalistic right wing party to vote for.

What about Keskerakond, which is member of European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party? Are they nationalistic?