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Saturday, 30 September 2017

Abstract: "Prosperity and welfare – a comparison of Brazil, Cuba and Norway"

Below is my abstract for our upcoming research seminar in Havana in collaboration with Universidad de la Habana.

By Morten Tønnessen, Associate professor of philosophy at University of Stavanger´s Department of social studies

There are several reasons why Brazil, Cuba and Norway are of special interest in an investigation of connections between prosperity and welfare: Brazil is one of the BRIC-countries (Wilson & Purushothaman 2003) and has undergone tumultuous economic, social and political changes the last two decades or so. Cuba is internationally known for its excellent results within the health care system given limited resources. And Norway currently has the highest score concerning human development according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

A possible starting point for comparisons is the Human Development Index (HDI), which is calculated based on data on GNI[1] per capita (PPP[2]), life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling (for adults) and expected years of schooling (for children). The overall HDI score for Cuba was 0,676 in 1990 and 0,775 in 2015 (ranked as no. 68), versus 0,611 in 1990 and 0,754 in 2015 for Brazil (ranked as no. 79), and 0,849 in 1990 and 0,949 in 2015 for Norway (ranked as no. 1). In comparison, the global average score in 2015 was 0.717. Both Cuba and Brazil have a «High human development», whereas Norway has «Very high human development» according to the UNDP.

However, since HDI includes GNI per capita as one of its factors, the index itself can not be used directly to look into connections between prosperity on one hand and welfare on the other. In 2015, GNI per capita was 67,614 USD in Norway, 14,145 in Brazil and 7,455 in Cuba (2011 PPP$), compared with a global average of 14,447. This can be taken to imply that whereas Norway had an average prosperity level per capita of 4–5 times the global average, Brazil´s average prosperity level was roughly on par with the global average, and Cuba´s average prosperity level was around half of the global average.

For most countries, there is a fairly good correlation between their HDI ranking and their GNI per capita ranking. This indicates that the welfare level often corresponds to a country´s prosperity level. In the HDI data for 2015, however, Cuba stands out with a «GNI per capita rank minus HDI rank» of 48, reflecting that Cuba is ranked as having the 69th highest HDI, with only the 117th highest GNI per capita. In fact, no country has a higher «GNI per capita rank minus HDI rank». This fact makes Cuba a particularly interesting country when comparing prosperity and welfare levels.

Life expectancy at birth can be considered as a key indicator of health conditions, and is 81.7 years in Norway, 79.6 in Cuba and 74.7 in Brazil, compared with a global average of 71.6. The life extectancy in Cuba is in the top two for countries grouped as having «High human development», and is actually higher than that of the United States (79.2) and Qatar (78.3), with their GNI per capita of 53,245 PPP$ and 129,916 PPP$ respectively.

Actual welfare levels depend not only on GNI per capita – a gross average – but also on a country´s level of inequality. Here, Norway stands out as a country with high equality, e.g. with one of the lowest Gini coefficients (for income inequality) in the world, whereas Brazil still has a high Gini coefficient and considerable equality challenges by other measures too (World Bank 2016). Unfortunately, there are no data for Cuba in this data set.

In addition to making use of data from the Human Development Index, I will consider alternative indices such as the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) and Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW).

A few preliminary observations: Even though there is usually a clear correlation between the prosperity level and the welfare level of a country, there are important exceptions representing deviations from this correlation. The circumstances and specific approaches of these countries may have important lessons for welfare policies.

During our research seminar in Havana, I will be very interested in getting response on my preliminary analysis and receiving suggestions concerning relevant explanations, data and literature.

Wilson, Dominic & Roopa Purushothaman 2003. Dreaming With BRICs: The Path to 2050. Global Economics Paper No: 99. Goldman Sachs.
World Bank (2016). World Development Indicators database. Washington, DC. Accessed 14 October 2016.

[1] Gross National Income.
[2] Purchasing Power Parity.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Meeting with animal protection NGOs to prepare council work

Today I took part in a meeting at the Norwegian Animal Protection Alliance (Dyrevernalliansen) with them, The Norwegian Society for Protection of Animals (Dyrebeskyttelsen) and Guri Larsen, currently deputy representative for animal protection organizations in the Norwegian Council of Animal Ethics (Rådet for dyreetikk), to discuss my role as representative for animal protection NGOs there.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

New editorial in process

I am currently contributing to another editorial for Biosemiotics, meant for volume 10, issue 3, along with fellow Editors-in-Chief Alexei Sharov and Timo Maran.

Work lunch with The GreenHouse network

Today I attended the first work lunch with the research network, which has applied for establishment of a program area at University of Stavanger, The GreenHouse. During and after the meeting I agreed to be part of two SAMKUL research applications with deadline in November.

Wikipedia page about Biosemiotics

Here is the current Wikipedia page about the Springer journal Biosemiotics (since 2008), for which I am one of three Editors-in-Chief (since 2013).

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Book launch in Kristiansand

This evening I have taken part, on stage, at a meeting where Vega publishing house, along with Jutitzen publishing house, launched its autumn book releases. I was interviewed for some 10 minutes on the book Ulvetider, co-written with Lars Lenth and Petter Bøckman, which will appear in about a month. Some 50-60 people from local book stores were present.

4 hours of teaching

Today I have taught for altogehter 4 hours - first I moderated two student presentations in the MA course "Philosophy of science and research methods" (topics: deep ecology; the Anthropocene), then a seminar in Ex.Phil., the fourth and last this week.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

2 + 2 hours of teaching

Today I have been moderating two student presentations in "Philosophy of science and research methods", and am currently giving an Ex.Phil. seminar.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Biosemiotics #8 in category "History & Philosophy of Science"

According to citation data from Thompson Web of Science, in 2016 Biosemiotics was the ranked as no. 8 in terms of Impact Factor (0,964) in the category "History & Philosophy of Science".

6 hours of teaching

Today I have been teaching for 6 hours in Examen Philosophicum at Department of social studies - first the sixth lecture, then two seminars. The topic for today´s lecture was political justice.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Final conference of Estonian-Norwegian research programme attended in Harju, Estonia

Today and yesterday I have attended the final, concluding conference of the Estonian-Norwegian research programme. Representatives of some 13 bilateral research projects have been present, including Timo Maran and myself from ours, "Animals in changing environments: Cultural mediation and semiotic analysis". The conference was held on Laulasmaa Spa Hotel in Harju quite close to Tallinn.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Work plan adjusted; responsibility in MEM110

My work plan for University of Stavanger has been adjusted. I will start supervising Joakim Jiri Haaland as PhD student January 1st 2018 (not this autumn). However, next Spring I will lecture for 6 hours and have responsibility (again) for field visits in the course "Welfare state and welfare policy".

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Fifth philosophy of science lecture

Today I gave the fifth and final lecture on philosophy of science in the course "Philosophy of science and research methods". Today´s main topic was research ethics.

Staff meeting

Today I attended (most of) the staff meeting at Department of social studies, which included discussion about streaming of lectures and questions during exams.

Family and freedom chapter to appear in December; renamed book title

Our chapter "Familie og fridom. Norsk familiepolitikk i lys av liberal politisk teori" [Family and freedom. Norwegian family policies in light of liberal political theory] is likely to be published in December this year, I´ve been notified. It will appear in the book Barneomsorg på norsk: I samspill mellom hjem og stat [Childcare in Norway: In interplay between home and state], tp be published by Universitetsforlaget.

Monday, 18 September 2017

No response from UiS deans on philosophers´ educational proposals

Unfortunately, after more than 6 months have passed, we the philosophers at University of Stavanger have still not heard back on the substance of our educational proposals communicated in a letter to the deans of Faculty of Social Sciences (Gro Ellen Mathiesen) and Faculty of humanities and education (Elaine Munthe), sent this February. Only Munthe has acknowledged receiving the letter.

Course evaluation and planning

Today I met with a colleague to discuss experience with the MFAMILY course Welfare state and welfare policy and possible plans ahead.


Today I gave the 5th lecture in this autumn´s Examen Philosophicum at Department of social studies. The topic was political freedom.

Friday, 15 September 2017

MAN board meeting

On August 29th I chaired yet another board meeting of Minding Animals Norway.

"Ulvetider" book featured on catalogue front page

The autumn 2017 catalogue of Norwegian publishing house Vega forlag has been released. On its front page it features Ulvetider, co-written by me with Lars Lenth and Petter Bøckman and due for publication in November.

Biosemiotics special issue on "Constructive Biosemiotics" published

Biosemiotics no. 10(2) has been published. This issue is a special issue gest-edited by Tommi Vehkavaara and Alexei Sharov on "Constructive Biosemiotics".

Guest-lecture on basic income organized

Yesterday I co-organized the guest lecture by Nanna Kildal (Rokkansenteret, Uni Research) on basic income at University of Stavanger´s Department of social studies, along with my colleague Eilef Meland. Some 100-150 people attended.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

2 hours of my life

Today I have taught for 2 hours in Examen Philosophicum - given the fourth and last seminar this week.

Chapter revision

Yesterday I contributed to another round of revision of "Familie og fridom" [Family and freedom], a book chapter co-written with Svein Tuastad.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Another seminar

Today I have taught the third seminar this week in Examen Philosophicum.

Future of growth paper rejected by First Conference organizers

I have been notified by the organizers of First Conference, to be held by Paris School of Economics in mid-December, that my submitted paper "The Statistician´s Guide to Utopia: The Future of Growth" has not been accepted for presentation.

Fourth MA lecture

Today I have given the fourth lecture in philosophy of science in the MA course "Philosophy of science and research methods". Today´s topic was rationality in the process of scientific change.

Monday, 11 September 2017

6 hours of teaching

Today I have taught for 6 hours straight in Examen Philosophicum at Department of social studies. First the fourth lecture, on contractualism (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant), and then two seminars.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Research network on hunting to be established

A research application I have been involved in for establishing a research network on hunting, "Jakt i endring" [hunting in change], has been funded. It is headed by Ketil Skogen at NINA and will operate 2017-2019.

To host Short-Term Scientific Mission in February

Pending official approval from a COST action, I am in the process of scheduling to receive a research visit in February 2018 where the visiting scholar and myself will work on an article on the ethics of laying hen breeding.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Abstract evaluation for Havana research seminar

Today I met with two colleagues at Department of social studies to evaluate four abstracts submitted for consideration in relation to our Havana research seminar in January 2018.

Third MA lecture

Yesterday I gave the third lecture in "Philosophy of science and research methods". The topic was Knowledge II and Language and Reality.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Second MA lecture

Today I have given the second lecture in "Philosophy of science and research methods". The topic was reasoning and theory conception and confirmation.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Third lecture

Today I gave the third lecture in Examen Philosophicum at Department of social studies this autumn. The topic was normative ethics.

Feedback to NSD on EMP151 research

I have just given feedback to NSD concerning extended time for use of data collected during interviews Spring 2015 (use until end of 2017).

Friday, 1 September 2017

Basic income guest lecture announced

The guest lecture by Nanna Kildal on basic income I am co-organizing with Eilef Meland September 14th has been announced on the UiS internal webpage in a news story. It has also been informed about in an email to all staff at Faculty of social sciences.

"Future of growth" paper submitted to First Conference

I have submitted my published paper "The statistician´s guide to Utopia: The future of growth" (click to download PDF) to the organizers of "First Conference", arranged by Paris School of Economics (Paris, December 14-15th 2017).