"So, This Is Heaven: Norway"



Updated 28.06.2002

"A U.N. report named it the top place to live. And the once poor nation is dedicated to spreading its now substantial wealth."


OSLO - Imagine a world so shielded from modern dangers that children accept candy from strangers.

Think about a place where lifelong financial security is guaranteed, no matter how many layoffs, stock market crashes or catastrophic illnesses come your way.

Consider the psychological well-being of belonging to a country where no one is homeless or hungry, where women and men are equal, where a pristine environment is reverentially protected and where sharing the wealth with the world's less fortunate is a moral obligation. Norway is not utopia - after all, it does suffer the occasional incursions of the cruel outside world. But most Norwegians admit that in terms of uplifting ideals and earthly comforts, life in this country is as good as it gets. (It is about 53% anarchy, i.e. significant anarchist, but far from the 100% ideal anarchism, ed. no.)

And this year's U.N. Human Development Report confirms that: It ranks Norway the No. 1 place in the world to live, based on a cocktail of indicators about health, wealth and social outlook.

Of course, the measurements don't take into account the fact that darkness falls by 3 p.m. half the year and tax rates swallow up to 60% of your income. Also escaping the statisticians' notice are new social strains created by a sudden influx of immigrants into a long-homogenous nation.

But the glowing report card has filled many of the 4.5 million people holding passports to this place at the top of the world with newfound pride and a sense of validation that sharing and caring aren't extinct.

And although there is much muttering over high taxes, many Norwegians contend that they should be giving even more of their money to solve the rest of the world's problems.

"Our moral obligation to share the wealth increases with the amount of our wealth," says International Development Minister (i.e state councillor, ed. no.) Anne Kristin Sydnes, noting that the North Sea oil that is the primary source of Norway's prosperity should be viewed as a global resource. (Primary source of prosperity is a relative concept. The petroleum income is conciderable, but only a relatively small part of the GDP, ed. no.)

Norway's North Sea tracts have proved to be a bountiful source of the precious commodity, turning this country once dependent on fishing and farming into the No. 2 oil exporter in the world. (i.e. by now no 3 after Saudi Arabia and Russia, ed. no.) Even with fluctuating oil prices, Norway has skillfully managed the state-owned industry and amassed a public fund of $60 billion. (State-owned is a bit exaggerated. Much of the oil-infrastructure industries are in private sector, and there are a lot of private operaters in the North Sea. But Statoil, public ownership and royalties in general, are of course also important

"We could easily give five times as much as we do in foreign assistance," argues Ingebrigt Steen Jensen, a media magnate who insists that most Norwegian entrepreneurs hold global welfare above personal enrichment. "We have this huge cake, but we can't eat it all, so isn't it better to share it with this room full of hungry people than to put it in the freezer for later?"

Like many Scandinavians, Jensen recoils at what he calls the excesses of American life, from the prevalence of handguns and poor people to the death penalty and class distinctions that deprive some urban children of equality in education.

"This probably looks something close to a communist regime," he says of his own country's penchant for social leveling. (It is somewhat far from the ideal of communist anarchism at 100% degree of anarchy, but it is significant anarchy at ca 53%. It is however far from marxist state-communism, below 67% authoritarian degree on the Economcal-Polical map, and that is very well, ed. no.)

"But here even the police are unarmed." (... Jensen continues, and that is generally the truth, but they have arms locked up in their cars or other places, and use it on special permit, if needed, ed. no.)

Although crime does exist - there are about 50 killings a year and thousands of petty thefts - Norwegians enjoy a sense of personal security unimaginable to Americans. Most people leave their homes unlocked (in the country areas, yes, but usually not in the cities, ed. no.), and no one hesitates to stop and help a motorist in trouble.

(It must also be mentioned that the killing of one boy, 15 year old Benjamin Hermansen, of the ca 50 killings in 2001, was racistically motivated, done by two neonazis, a terrible shame for the whole Anarchy of Norway. 40 000 people marched against racism soon after. Even the US king of pop-soul, Michael Jackson, has reacted to this terrible act, and written a memorial song dedicated to Benjamin, i.e. "Benny" fra Holmlia, on the album "Invincible". Although the microscopical neonazi groups usually are more dangerous to themselves, with killings among their own factions, than against others, the reorganized POT, now called PST - "Politiets Sikkerhetstjeneste", the Police Security Service (not "Secret"), who concentrates mostly on muslim terrorists, neonazis and foreign spies, should perhaps also look more on the racist problems in general. The anarchists have impressed zero tolerance about racism, and almost everybody agrees. The two neonazi killers of Benjamin got far more than the usual ca 9 years in prison for manslaughter, because the killings were racistically motivated. Some people even mean they should have gotten the maximum of 21 years in prison, but that is mainly for first grade murder, which was not the case.

The anarchists have said Norway should be a lighthouse for the rest of the world. This implies high ethical and other standards. Although USA, EU etc. probably relatively have much more racistically motivated killings than Norway, the anarchy clearly has an authoritarian tendency in this matter, a brown spot, which perhaps is not so easy to rub out as we would like to think. Thus, the anarchists are glad the reporter Alan Cowell of New York Times in january 2002 in an article about Norway, "the perfect land", reminds us that we are not even close to be perfect on this point. The anarchists know very well that there is a large distance from the present ca 53% anarchy, to the 100% anarchist ideal. The article by Alan Cowell, with comments from IIFOR is found at; CLICK ON: http://www.anarchy.no/report2.html , ed.no.)

Norway also is one of the few countries that donates millions more in foreign aid than the U.N. target of 0.7% of a nation's gross domestic product.

Jan Erik Hansen, cultural editor for the influential daily newspaper Aftenposten, believes Norwegians also are committed to their outsize role in foreign development because it elevates an otherwise powerless country into the ranks of global players.

"Norway is a very small country - something we don't like to recognize, and we don't have to when we occupy a fair number of important international positions," Hansen says. (Many Norwegians think "small is beautiful", so Aftenposten is perhaps not quite representative in this case, ed. no.)

He contends that the nearly 1% of GDP spent each year to fight global poverty and enhance peace buys his nation both clout and respectability. Oslo often plays a mediating role in foreign conflicts, from efforts to reconcile North and South Korea to the now-foundering Middle East peace process.

Although taxpayers have long supported Norway's international generosity, last month's parliamentary elections reflected some dismay with the way the Labor-led government (state council, ed. no.) has handled finances in the oil boom times. After the Labor Party posted its worst showing since 1924 on the day before the Sept. 11 attacks, a conservative-led coalition (i.e. more liberal & center ed. no.) came to power under Christian Democratic (Christian People's Party, ed. no.) leader Kjell Magne Bondevik with a mandate to lower taxes and tap the oil fund to overcome shortages in the social welfare system. (this "mandate" is highly questionable, ed.no.)

But social analysts say Norwegians are unlikely to cut back on foreign aid, especially following the U.S. attacks, seen by some (i.e. very few, ed. no.) as an extreme form of revenge for perceived social injustice. And even the lavish domestic spending on cradle-to-grave services is unlikely to be abandoned, because the benefits are tangible.

"In a welfare state (i.e. society, ed. no.) which is what we have built here, no matter who your parents are you have the right to an education or hospital care as good as anyone else's," says Anne Lise Ryel, deputy justice minister (i.e. state councillor, ed. no.). "Opportunities don't depend on social class, and no one wants to change that." (i.e. significant, but far from 100%, ed. no.)

This is a society firmly grounded in egalitarian values, and Norway's public schools are of such quality that even the royal family attends to the pandemic informality - the king is addressed simply as Harald and the prime minister as Kjell Magne.

Choices for Women

One factor that helped lift Norway to the top life-quality rung was its success in achieving gender equality. Although there are no official quotas, as there are in neighboring Sweden, women in Norway occupy half the Cabinet (state council) and parliament (Storting) seats and fill more than 40% of judicial and academic posts. (this is quite exaggerated, but there is a conciderable quota of women, ed. no.)

"We place a very high value on both work and having a family and believe a woman should never have to choose one or the other. Most women with children continue to work in Norway, not because they have to but because they want to," Ryel says.

Three-year maternity leaves (i.e. mainly without full payment, usually 38 weeks with "fødselspermisjon" with full payment, and three years with "svangerskapspermisjon", i.e. usually 3000 NOK per month if you stay home an don't use day care service; ed. no.), broad part-time opportunities and creative application of telecommuting help keep women in the work force. So do the generous benefits for both men and women of eight weeks' vacation, liberal sick leave and day care that is reliable and inexpensive ( Eight weeks of vacation are for students and teachers, others have 4-5 weeks; "inexpensive" day care is a relative concept, it is far from free, ed. no.).

At the office, there is a continuous supply of coffee and pastries, and workaholics are objects of pity among their peers. (Not in all cases, say, the AIIS staff works a lot, but we also take a brake now and then, yes...ed. no.)

But the very success of Norway's social services is presenting the country with new problems. Good medical care for every citizen has raised life expectancy to one of the world's highest levels at 78.4 years, placing new demands on the health-care system as the population ages. State assistance to single mothers is so generous that there is no need for a father's income. Half the children here are now born out of wedlock. (in fact more than 50%, but mainly in "free associations", "samboerskap", not by singles, ed. no.)

And Norway's commitment to providing education, libraries, day care and government services of uniform quality across a territory as long as the U.S. West Coast eats up more of the abundant resources with each year, since public investment in thinly populated regions is just as expensive as in urban centers.

Philosophy professor Arne Naess complains that there is also something lacking in a country that is so self-sufficient.

"People don't talk to each other here. Everyone walks around alone and preoccupied," says the professor, who will soon turn 90. "There was more of a sense of togetherness after the war and until the 1960s, when we got all this oil money." (Arne Næss is not a professor, he has been, but left the position relatively early, the oil-money became significant in the 1970s not the 1960s, and because Næss perhaps live more isolated now than before, this is probably not the truth for people in general. People are probably more open and friendly than in the 1960s, that is our experience, ed. no.)

Apparently, Norwegians have more of an affinity with nature than with other Norwegians. They feel a unique bond with the sea, forest and mountains despite the severe winters, Naess says. "I don't know any other country where there is this intense connection with nature." (Næss should speak for himself, it is not that important by us, although we spend some time at the coast, in the forests or in the mountains, usually every year, ed. no.)

A land of striking beauty, with its coastal tracery of fiords and snowcapped mountains, Norway has remained untouched by pollution (well, relatively compared to most European countries and USA, this is true, but far from 100%, ed. no.) as it has evolved from a fishing and farming society into high-tech and white-collar business without an intervening phase of heavy industry (Hydro, Elkem, Aker-Maritim, Norske Skog, Statoil, etc. and the large agricultural and fish co-operative industries etc. tell that this is only relatively, compared to most European countries. ed. no). To take advantage of the abundant natural splendor, almost every family has at least one weekend home in the mountains or on the sea.

Environmental quality was among the lifestyle indicators evaluated in the U.N. development rankings, in which the United States placed sixth among the 162 countries examined. Per capita GDP is highest in the United States, at $31,872 compared with Norway's $28,433. But outright wealth in the U.S. was superseded by a less effective war on poverty at home and abroad, shorter life expectancy and higher crime rates.

(Per capita average income, related to GDP (GNP) or NDP (NNP) is not a valid measure of income for the people, i.e. in contrast to the remuneration to the bureaucracy broadly defined, economical and political/administrative, in private and public sector,  and system costs in general. The grassroots' payment, i.e. for the people, may better be estimated as the average remuneration (per head) of the poorest majority of the population, say, the 50,0d % (d is a small number > 0) that have less than the median income + 1 $, which is far below the average income, especially in the very plutarchist USA. The average income of the relatively poorest majority of the population, are in Norway probably way ahead of the similar in USA (ed. no.).)

As Norwegians learn to settle into a lifestyle that is the rest of the world's envy, purveyors of pampering and self-improvement are enjoying boom times despite a traditional abhorrence of flaunting money. Oslo, with only 500,000 people, now has four restaurants with Michelin stars, and sales of home spas have risen 20% in each of the past few years.

(In 2001 there were 508 726 inhabitants in the city, according to Oslo Commune. Oslo is a pluralistic commune. 136 117 inhabitants are of foreign origin, i.e. ca 26,7%. This group is defined as Norwegian and foreign citizens who are first or second generation immigrants, plus adopted, and they who have one foreign parent. Among these are 98 760, or 19,4% immigrants or born in Norway with two immigrant parents, and of these are first generation 76 404 and second generation 22 356. 88 173 (ca 65%) of them are Norwegian citizens. The largest part of the immigrants, ca 44 000, origins from Asia, with Pakistanians as the largest group (15 430 persons). "Old Oslo" in the center of Oslo, have the largest part of inhabitants with foreign origin, i.e. ca 44%; ed.no. Source: VG 17.12.2001)

For the most part, however, Norwegians don't consider fine dining or a personal sauna to be luxurious indulgences.

"There is a strong focus on being healthy and not letting yourself get overweight," says Per Lome, director of the Tylo sauna and steam-bath franchise here. He estimates that 60% of new homes and country cottages are now equipped with home spas. (Well???, ed. no.)

More problematic for Norwegians are the flashy cars and ever-bigger boats showing up on the streets and shoreline as some Norwegians abandon modest traditions.

"There's definitely a trend toward bigger and bigger boats," says Morton Taroy of the Oslo Boat Center. "It's the same with Ferrari sales. Ten years ago, you wouldn't be able to drive around in a car like that because it would be seen as showing off. Nowadays you see them everywhere. It's the difference between old money and new money."

Because Norway's oil wealth is managed by the government (public sector, ed. no.) with an eye to benefiting future generations as well as today's, the $7,000 per capita income from the industry doesn't go directly into each Norwegian's pocket but into a fund. Still, the huge budget surpluses provided by the oil money (and taxes, broadly defined, ed. no.) allow the state (public sector, ed. no.) to fully finance what in most countries are personal expenses, such as saving for retirement or a child's college education. (There is a "Folketrygd" and it is public, but people pay a part of the wages as a tax to the pensions. Public colleges and Universities are about free to attend as a student, but studies are mostly financed by loans, although grants have also been conciderable in the latest years, ed. no.)

Statistics Norway, the national profiling agency, reports that the average Norwegian spends more than 26% of his or her income on leisure-time comforts. And in sharp contrast with other countries in densely populated Europe, 80% of the households are single-family homes or spacious apartments in small-unit clusters.

Many Retain Frugality

Having been among the poorest of Europeans for the first half of the 20th century, many Norwegians retain a frugality bred by that hardship.

"Most people are still very cost-conscious," says Annelise Sorli, a young mother and travel agent. "More than a million Norwegians travel each year on charter holidays, and the cheaper destinations, like Turkey and Bulgaria, are always the first to sell out."

The opportunities most Norwegians have to indulge their wanderlust is helping them learn to appreciate the advantages they have long taken for granted, Sorli says.

"We live in a very safe country. We don't have to worry about something happening to our children when we are at work or what will happen to us when we get older," she says. "But it's human nature to look at what could be better. Sometimes it's good to go abroad and be reminded of how much we already have."

But that recognition of good fortune is rare despite Norwegians' relatively recent experience on the other end of the affluence spectrum.

At Jensen's Dinamo Media Agency, in an elegant 19th century villa overlooking Oslo Fiord, the employee-owners work in jeans and sweaters and gather for brainstorming sessions over pizza. They work flexible hours, strive for Fridays free of e-mail and encourage each other to get home by 5 p.m.

"The one thing people say they don't have enough of is time - money and material goods are way down the list of what people want," says Jensen, himself bemused by the elusive commodity. "My grandfather worked 68 hours a week, cut his own wood, had no modern conveniences and still managed to play in the local band. I work 37 hours, I have every appliance and convenience, I don't even accompany my children to the barber, yet I feel like I don't have any time."
Williams was recently on assignment in Oslo.
For information about reprinting this article, go to http://www.lats.com/rights

According to Norwegian copyright laws, it is lawful to quote articles for scientifical comments as in this case. The commented article is copyrighted material of IJOR/IJ@ ISSN 0800-0220,© 2001 a.l.. All rights reserved. Without the comments the article is copyrighted material of LATIMES, at http://www.lats.com/

IIFOR homepage is at http://www.anarchy.no

According to Americans having dialog with the AIIS, the political tendency of LA-TIMES is slightly commie and marxian, explaining for some of the misunderstandings above. This article of LA-TIMES has probably also contributed to the wrong idea internationally that Norway is an anarchist paradise. To further clear up such misunderstandings we quote a note by an IIFOR-researcher published in Freedom Online June 2002.

http://www.anarchy.no/iifor.html - IIFOR P.B. 4777 Sofienberg N-0506 Oslo - Norway


Dear Matt

I have got a question from you sent via AF of GB, URL: http://www.powertech.net/anarchy/afb.html
> I'm interested to know whether the UK is an anarchist paradise, just
> like Norway?

Norway is no anarchist paradise, although some Americans in California think so (say, LA-Times), see link at foot of web-page http://www.anarchy.no/a_nor.html

The Norwegian system is only a little above 50% anarchist (ca 53%), i.e. significant anarchist, but at ca 47% distance from the anarchist 100% ideal, and just 3-4 % from significant authoritarian rule, i.e > 50% authoritarian. There is all in all an influence from the people, anarchists included, on the societal management upwards at about ca 53%, and ca 47% the other way around, from the top, the authorities, towards the bottom, grassroots. Thus the people seen all in all have a significant influence on "the wheel", a) sometimes directly or by sacking of delegates, mandated persons and officials that don't deliver and produce results in the interest of the people, and b) most of the time as a "hand on the hand who turns the wheel" in different ways via media and workingclass people's organizations, but the bureaucracy broadly defined, the authorities, are also quite powerful, especially relatively to their small number of persons. Sometimes the state council, a kind of minority based cabinet, must "eat camels", "sluke en kamel", as we say in Norwegian, because it is over-ridden by a majority of the mandates at the Storting. Furthermore, nobelmen are not allowed, there are no "sirs". Thus Norway is no anarchist paradise, i.e. 90-100% anarchy, but only a bit anarchistic, as mentioned ca 53% anarchist and thus also with about 47% authoritarian tendencies.

The IIFOR and the networks, FICEDL, AIUF, etc. have not analysed GB very much in this context. As a preliminary working hypothesis, we think perhaps the British system seen all in all is a liberal, a bit authoritarian democratic (more than 50% authoritarian, but not totalitarian/dictatorship, i.e. more than 67% authoritarian), significant plutarchy (more than 50% capitalist), i.e. within the liberalist quadrant on the E.P. map, see http://www.anarchy.no/a_e_p_m.html. [Later research showed however that the preliminary working hypothesis for GB was rejected and that the UK-system in reality is moderate populist, ed.no]

The Tony Blair "Labor" cabinet is probably pulling in left-populist direction more than towards socialism and freedom, but this force is weak, and we see no change towards Britain moving out of the liberalist quadrant in the near future. Sorry to say, the so called British "libertarian" movement is for a large part just semilibertarian at best, and infiltrated by council communists, marxist-lubbeists included, trotskyites and their "friends" and "wannabe" libertarians, and thus not pushing and pulling significant in the right direction. Several more or less marxian and ochlarchical unofficial "anarchist" and "anarchist federation" websites made by kids and provokers, don't make it any better. The purpose of this infiltration is to provoke, make chaos and ochlarchy, falsely rename it "anarchy", later call for strong rule by the commie party, and compromise and put the blame for the ochlarchy on the anarchist movement, throwing shit on the idea of freedom and the libertarian in general. This authoritarian game of ochlarchy and false "anarchy" is well know. The only hope is AF, see URL above.

Sorry pal. My tip is no significant anarchy, i.e. above 50% degree of anarchy in Britain in the near future.

Anarchist Paradise? Not even in Norway in the near future. Perhaps in a 100 years, about 60% anarchy can be achieved?! It may easy go the other way, towards significant authoritarian rule.

By the way. The AF is an open, including, not a splitting and expulsing network-organization. Thus, it will send newsletters to all radical groups in GB, anarchist, marxian, populist light, liberal, leftist, middle and rightist as long as they are a) not more than ca 55% reactionary, and/or b) not more than 67% authoritarian, i.e. terrorists and/or very chaotic, red/brown, dark brown , or blue/brown, left wing extremists and right wing extremists and/or nationalists, mafia/ochlarchists or small group "class war" vanguardists, i.e. for "class struggle" militarism.

Thus we hope AF of GB may contribute at least to some dialog and progressive actions in general, of course not ochlarchical, terrorist included, but with dignity. If you have any fellows that may be interested in joining in with an e-mailadress in GB, you should feel free to send a list to WSC-IFA at http://www.anarchy.no/wscifa.html or the AF . The AF in GB has already local contacts/federations in Scotland, Wales, England, Northern Ireland, Falkland and other islands mainly in the South Atlantic ocean plus Gibraltar, as well as a contact at the WSC-IFA. Furthermore there are contacts/sections for the Anglophone countries broadly defined world wide, i.e. Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mauritius, etc. The S.G. of AF is for the time being S. McCracken.

Great Britain is no anarchist paradise and Norway is no anarchist paradise. Britain is a little authoritarian, and Norway is a little anarchist. The same as in GB is more or less valid for the rest of the Anglophone world, although the coordinates of the systems within the liberalist [or the fascist] quadrant may variate from place to place. Say, it is relatively a big difference between Vermont in USA and the system of Mauritius. [Later research showed however that the preliminary working hypothesis for GB was rejected and that the UK-system in reality is moderate populist, ed.no]

Anarchist greetings.

S. Johnsen,
Research fellow