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Norway: the last Soviet state

by Sirocco Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 12:50:31 AM EST

This summer Norway celebrates the centennial of its peaceful break-up with Sweden, which UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan lauds as "an example to aspire to in... a world still riven by conflict.” It is not just its road to independence that is touted as a model. Seemingly able to combine equality with prosperity, the nation of 4,5 million is sometimes cited by US liberals as proof that Socialism can work. And the media loves to parrot this questionable line. So it was refreshing when on April 17, The New York Times ran a revealing exposé entitled 'We're Rich, You're Not. End of Story.' Declared the paper on the myth of Norwegian affluence: "They believe it themselves. Yet the reality... is not quite what it appears."

As it proceeded to explain, the Norwegian population is systematically spoonfed anti-American propaganda by the Socialist nomenclature:

[T]he Scandinavian establishment... serves up a picture of the United States as a nation divided, inequitably, among robber barons and wage slaves, not to mention armies of the homeless and unemployed. It does this to keep people believing that their social welfare system, financed by lofty income taxes, provides far more in the way of economic protections and amenities than the American system.

Such slander against The American Way is why, in a new World Bank study of good governance based on citizens' evaluations of their respective governments, Norway ranks in the top ten in five of six categories. Foreigners too are easily deceived, for on the surface, things do appear fine. Norway's per capita GDP exceeds the USA's; its public debt is 22% of GDP as opposed to 66% in the US; and it runs handsome trade and budget surpluses due to being the third largest oil exporter.

There is just one little catch. The people can only dream about the oil revenue, most of which goes directly into a fund 'for future expenditures.' Managed by apparatchiks, this fund's investments are subject to anti-captitalist prejudice ('ethical guidelines') and no doubt, calculated to further World Socialism. At least the $7.8 trillion US debt is not controlled by politicians - not by US ones, anyway.

Unemployment is a modest 4,5 percent only because of a popular aversion to work: With a 37,5 hours week and at least five weeks paid vacation, there is always need for more hands. And while all this recreation allegedly makes these people the world's most 'productive' work force on a per hour basis, what are they busy doing? Answer: They waste each other's confiscated income on the exact kind of welfare programs that made them disdain real work in the first place. And so the cycle turns.

In 1999 Björn Rosengren, Sweden's Minister of Commerce, said on TV: "Norway is the last Soviet state." As a Socialist himself, he should know.

The 'welfare state' affords universal health care with free hospitalization and reimbursement of wage loss during sick leave; free college tuition with stipends for living expenses; 52 weeks paid parental leave followed by a choice of cash stipends or subsidized kindergartens; and on and on. No wonder the UN has crowned Norway the world's most livable country for the 4th year in a row: From a bureaucratic point of view, it surely is.

Alcohol is pricey due to taxation for 'public health' reasons. Junkies, however, roam free since there are no efficient corporate prisons to lock them up on minimum sentences and dietary regimes. The enlightened modern approach - a take-all-prisoners War on Drugs - is not even on the table.

Furthermore, as the NYT reported, Norwegians "drive around in wrecks." Cars are in many cases years old and less than huge. If queried, Norwegians might profess to value spanking new SUVs below, say, the mountain or seaside resorts quite a few of them have. Some even pay lipservice to 'non-materialistic' values, which is absurd; what could be more materialistic than to treat cars as mere utilities? A car, as Americans know, can be a potent symbol of the freedom to get rich and show it off.

The NYT's most shocking revelation of human indignity has to be this, however:

One image in particular sticks in my mind. In a Norwegian language class, my teacher illustrated the meaning of the word matpakke - "packed lunch" - by reaching into her backpack and pulling out a hero sandwich wrapped in wax paper. It was her lunch. She held it up for all to see.

MatpakkeAs the paper of record notes, "the matpakke is ubiquitous, from classroom to boardroom." We have personally seen high-paid executives eat them with relish. Far from suggesting a cultural tradition at play, this shows that not even the rich can afford a salad! Worse, on the countryside, food shortages occur with chilling regularity. Every year before Christmas in the town of Voss, smoked sheep's head is consumed in desperation. Knute 'the Gipper' Rockne, who was born there, got out in time.

Will Norway throw off the Socialist yoke before going the way of Zimbabwe? Alas: A Left-Green coalition leads the polls for September's elections, threatening to repeal the modest tax cuts of the current so-called 'Center-Right' regime. The latter, of course, is nothing of the kind. The 'Conservative' Finance Minister brings his husband to government dinners. The former Minister of Commerce, from the same party, pushed through affirmative action for gender equity in corporate boardrooms.

If the future looks grim, the past is hardly inspiring either. It is clear why the union with Sweden was dissolved without bloodshed: With Socialism on the march in both countries, neither could afford a decent war. Nor, 98 years later, could either afford to help invade Iraq. Ironically then, on June 7 - as the Norwegian Parliament celebrated the centennial of its Declaration of Independence - the US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visited Norway's petroleum capital, Stavanger.

JumpingIn between official duties there was time for a tour of the nearby Lyse Fjord, whence majestic cliffs rise steeply to 3,600 feet. Given luck and good binoculars, Mr. Rumsfeld may well have witnessed a spectacular phenomen which occurs with increasing frequency in this dramatic landscape.

Unable to endure another day of homemade sandwiches, pricey beer, and five year old Toyotas, young Norwegians gather to fling themselves off the cliffs into the fjord below. After saying their goodbyes, they line up for the ultimate protest against Socialist oppression. Then they jump.

Yet Norwegian dissidents now eye a glimmer of hope. Could it be, they ask themselves, that Mr. Rumsfeld's Independence Day visit was a sign of things to come? May liberation of another oil-rich nation soon be in the offing?

Even in a worker's paradise like Norway, it is allowed to dream.

The dose of sarcasm is a little too heavy for me to digest. :-)
by Lupin on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 01:07:00 AM EST
Trust be, digesting a sheep's head is worse...

The world's northernmost desert wind.
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 01:55:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for a good laugh, Sirocco!

Sarcasm is best when it has a little ring of truth...
I am disappointed you didn't mention/scold the head of the Swedish Telecom operator Telia in this diary. A couple of years ago when an anticipated merge of Telia and its Norweigian counterpart TeleNor finally went sour that man in fact came out referring to Norway as the last Soviet state!

by high5 (high5104@gmail.com) on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 03:25:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I see you've covered that part. Didn't take notice of the picture of Rosengren on my first read.
by high5 (high5104@gmail.com) on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 03:31:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sirocco - I'm crushed.  The database crash wiped away your comment with the sheep's head recipe!!

No, really, you don't have to offer it up again.  And you can eave out the Lutefisk, too.  ;)
by Hoya90 (hoya90jmk-at-yahoo-dot-com) on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 03:42:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, I suspect it was the recipe that caused the server crash.

The world's northernmost desert wind.
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 03:53:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I told you Americans wouldn't warm up to it, and apparently the servers didn't like it either.  :)
by DH from MD on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 04:52:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Made me think of the horsehead in the Godfather movie.

What happened to my tail?
by Eyore on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 05:09:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
asking: who exactly is the last Soviet State?

Because, from my occasional reading of the Wall Street Journal, I had been convinced that it was France...

Venezuela also coems to mind.

Maybe this is some kind of badge of honor???

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 01:12:53 AM EST
I guess there are several such regimes. Why don't they as well form a new Warshaw Pact?

The world's northernmost desert wind.
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 01:57:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you have any suggestions on how we can bring freedom and democracy to this sad, blighted country?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 01:15:42 AM EST
I believe a couple of Marine divisions should do it. You will be hailed as liberators in the streets.

'Operation Norwegian Freedom,' please come soon.

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 01:54:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Being Irish, we're more likely to try a large shipment of Guinness and whiskey. We will be hailed as liberators.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 02:16:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, you would. Not least by myself. A decent single malt is easily £40-50 around here.

Let's hope the stunt goes better than Roger Casements's.

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 02:24:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wouldn't joke about that. Norway has OIL, and you know
democracy is on the move. lol

What happened to my tail?
by Eyore on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 05:01:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, you could always spread a rumor about hidden WMD's and invade..

You have a normal feeling for a moment, then it passes. --More--
by tzt (tzt) on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 01:57:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Stockpiles of toxic lutefisk, maybe?

The world's northernmost desert wind.
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 02:06:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Senator Norm Coleman is investigating the subversive profusion of Grieg Clubs around his home state.  
by kaleidescope (notmyemail@igc.org) on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 08:36:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
obvious much?  the answer is "bomb them."


by Kevin Lyda (kevin@ie.suberic.net) on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 01:57:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Norway is the third largest oil exporter in the world.

Just say it loud enough.

Maybe have one of Bush's cronies in the oil companies that are active in the country complain about the punitive tax rates they are facing, and the restrictions and extravagant regulations imposed by the State-owned company Statoil...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 02:10:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
cover surgical removal of your tongue from your cheek?

(If you can cross-post your diaries, I can cross-post my smart-ass comments, eh?)

Maybe I should do a similar piece about Canada, but . . . oh well.

Pogo: We have met the enemy, and he is us.

by d52boy on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 03:05:45 AM EST
If such operations are covered in Norway, is there any chance we could send George over to have his head surgically removed from his ass?

Pogo: We have met the enemy, and he is us.
by d52boy on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 03:22:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's more a question of whether the surgeons will be able to that. Methinks it may exceed their powers.

The world's northernmost desert wind.
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 03:48:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
cranial-rectal inversion is inoperable.  

What happened to my tail?
by Eyore on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 05:04:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bad as it is, does Norway have anything as bad as Haggis?
by Rick B (jayray21 at hotmail dot com) on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 04:44:17 AM EST
seems to be having some problems.  After all, Thomas
Friedman says the world is flat. <snark>

What happened to my tail?
by Eyore on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 05:17:53 AM EST
This diary is just another glaring example of the failure of the Norwegian educational system. Despite the puzzling failure of the Norwegian people to embrace their Leninist  brothers in the USSR (they were right next door too) the Norwegian socialist juggernaut rolls on flattening all before it. Soon Nordic paratroopers exclaiming "Uff Da!" as they land, will be everywhere expropriating old American cars ("Ja, you got Oldsmobile, maybe Pontiac?"), world stocks of Wildroot Cream Oil For Your Hair, and Ray-Ban sunglasses. Vicious stuff.
by Rolfyboy6 (rolmsted@hawaii.rr.com) on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 06:55:29 AM EST
Great diary, Sirocco.
My colleagues are sending me worried glances amidst my chuckles.
On a (somewhat) serious note, wonder what planet this Mr. Bawer is from. Or maybe it is some bad psyops activity.
Here's what the IMF had to say yesterday:
Norway's strong economic performance in recent years has been underpinned by a sound macroeconomic policy framework. In 2001 Norway adopted an inflation targeting framework, as well as fiscal guidelines (effective for the 2002 budget) designed to preserve petroleum revenue for future generations. This revenue, which guarantees substantial fiscal and current account surpluses for some years, is invested abroad in financial assets by the Government Petroleum Fund (GPF).
Real mainland GDP growth rebounded strongly in 2004, after a slowdown that began in late 2002.

But I guess that the great protector of socialist governance - the IMF - has been thoroughly duped.
(Disclaimer; ask is a Norwegian - though in 'exile' for the last 18 years)
by ask on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 08:34:17 AM EST
The amazing thing is that Bawer apparently has lived in Oslo the last 6 years. Perhaps he's been exposed to an overdose of Norwegian patriotism - I admit that stranger things have happened - and felt the need to lash out.

Somebody suggested I should e-mail him the link to the lampoon. Might just do that...

As to the IMF, I am sure we have bought them off! ;-)

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 09:27:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Minor correction.  Prekestolen (the Pulpit) has a vertical drop of 600 m - just under 2000 feet.
by ask on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 08:48:04 AM EST
Yep - but Mt. Kjerag is 800 ft., I'm reliably informed. By the base jumpers, that is.

Gorgeous pic!

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 09:23:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I confess I am now tempted to abuse my admin privileges to delete that last utterly confused comment of mine...

Sorry - you're right! Thanks for the correction, I will fix the glitch.

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 09:31:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Aha - sorry for the confusion.
Left a comment over at kos as well, though the diary has scrolled off 'most recent'.
by ask on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 09:31:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What a beautiful sane country.  This is one American who seriously considered moving there after the last election fiasco.  Is it like the EU where you can get citizenship if one of your grandparents come from there?  (Is this true of EU citizenship?  Someone told me this.)  

One little niggling question, though.  Is it really cold there in the winter?  I know the winter sports are great.  But how is it possible to go skiing when the days are so short?

I know this is off topic, but this is for those who might heed the siren call of the last Soviet state.

La vie n'est de soi ni bien ni mal, elle est la place du bien et du mal selon que vous faites.

by Time Waits for no Woman (time.waits_at_gmail.com) on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 09:44:35 AM EST
Weeell, winters are long and can be cold.  There are the obvious differences between coastal and inland climate:
The Gulf Stream makes the climate in Norway more comfortable than in other countries of northern latitudes.

I prefer a day at 15 C below freezing in 'dry' Oslo over a day with 0 C in damp and drafty NY.
by ask on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 10:06:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Descent is not a factor I'm afraid... (I'm not sure what is the case with the EU.) And the immigration policy is strict, albeit possibly not as much as in the US. If you really want to settle here, I think the best option is to find a job first; either via the net or on a three months tourist visa. Your employer then attests that your skills are needed and a residence permit will be at hand.

Southern Norway isn't all that cold compared with the Midwest or the upper East Coast. A typical midwinter day in Oslo would be 5-14 degrees Fahrenheit, say. Here in Bergen it is even milder because of the Golf Stream.

Skiing - well, it depends on where you live. There are well-lit tracks near many of the cities, including Oslo and Bergen. And on weekends it's not a problem anyway, since you can start out in the morning/early afternoon.

As far as I'm concerned, you are infinitely welcome!

PS. If you ever have dealings with the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, please note that it's among the most aloof and arrogant institutions on this earth and not representative of regular Norwegians...

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Tue Jun 14th, 2005 at 11:07:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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