Bring on the 12-month paid maternity leaves, the all-access-pass to nationalized health care. Because while capitalism was showing America who’s your daddy (in our country, he who has the least morals and the most hunger, laughs all the way to his weekend house in the Hamptons), Norway’s socialist finance minister was smugly buying our companies’ depressed stock. The country has a cushy 11% budget surplus, zero national debt, and an economy that grew 3% last year while Uncle Sam was dancing a jig into a 12.9% deficit, $11 trillion in debt, and the Recession we now all know and love…. Banks make up just two percent of the economy; drug addicts are given government-funded fixes (with clean needles); tight oversight means no excessive lending practices. Having recorded comfortable amounts of income from the North Sea oil, Norway saved the money in its sovereign wealth fund; the one that was buying U.S. stock as the markets crashed last fall. The U.K. spent its oil money during the market’s upswing. But are our governments feeling guilty? Nope. They should be, says Norway expert Anders Aslund, “in Norway, there is instead a sense of virtue. If you are given a lot, you have a responsibility.”
OK…to all of you screaming yourselves hoarse over “SOCIALISM!!!”…well, y’all clearly have NO idea of which you speak. If you want to wax apoplectic over Socialism, why not hop a flight to Oslo? You can set up shop outside Parliament and scream until the veins throbbing in your forehead pop from the strain. If you look in the dictionary under Socialism, you may well see a Norwegian flag. Yes, Norway, the home of what’s been called a “cradle to grave welfare state”, operates on a philosophy that would cause your average American teabagger to explode in rage…and Norwegians by and large love it.
Like any system, of course, Norway’s system is not perfect. Taxes are high…but the benefits that accrue from these taxes stretch over all segments of the population. I have a friend in Houston who grew up in Norway, and his descriptions of the welfare system there sounded almost utopian. A system which recognizes that the primary responsibility of government (and the people it represents) is to care for its citizens? What a novel concept…and how beautifully…um, well…Socialistic.
Yes, funding the Norwegian system means taxes are high. Creating a Socialist Utopia isn’t cheap or easy. I’ve heard many a story from my friend about $6 gallons of gasoline and $6 Big Macs. Cars are outrageously expensive because of the onerous excise taxes, but Norway is also a country that disincentivizes automobiles in favor of promoting public transportation. Still, when you look at Norwegians get for their tax kroners, it’s not such a bad deal. Norway is clean, efficient, and well run. Health care is available without question. Life is a much simpler and less stressful proposition…and there’s far less screaming. Except for the weather, I think I’d be pretty comfortable there.
Sure, being wealthy mean paying a high percentage of your income in taxes. But most Norwegians understand and agree with the proposition that to whom much is given, much is expected…as opposed to most American teabaggers, who seem to think that government services grow on trees.
I’m not going to wax philosophic about how we should be emulating Norway. Besides the differences in philosophy that Norwegians and Americans are raised with, there’s the obvious reality that Norway is a much smaller and far more ethnically homogeneous community. I do have to wonder, though, why so many Americans are so opposed to the idea that part of the role of government should be looking after the welfare of its people. After, who’s paying the tax dollars to the government to begin with?
Here’s a radical idea: perhaps if we spent less money on our military, we could spend more on creating a society where people could enjoy some of the things that Norwegians have accepted as their due? Perhaps if we weren’t so focused on creating the means of death and destruction we could spend more on things that affirm life? Providing universal health care for ALL Americans? What a deliciously Socialistic idea…. ;-)
Just a thought….