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What Norwegians Would Do

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Message Vi Ransel

What Norwegians Would Do

In 2008, Norway's economy grew by 3%.  Norway has no national debt.  Its banks are solvent.  There's an 11% budget surplus.  The US, on the other hand, has a 12.9% deficit, we're $11 trillion in debt, and our recession might become a full-fledged depression.  Norway's banks are only 2% of its economy, and tight regulation, e.g., rules of the game, calls loose money policy "out" before it reaches home plate, so Norway remains untouched by the financial tsunami. 

Is it simply because of its of its $68 billion in oil revenues in 2008, or does it have something to do with the way those revenues are distributed?  Norway is shockingly egalitarian.  Few industrialized countries can match its even distribution of wealth.

In 2006, 10% of Americans took home 41.6% of our national income, while Norway's top 10% took home 20.6%.  Norway's most affluent pay 47.8% on incomes over $105,368 and that top tax rate also applies to capital gains, the product of doing nothing but buying and selling money in the form of stocks, bonds and "securities".  In the US our billionaires pay 35% on income and only 15% on capital gains, which means that billionaires like Warren Buffet (as he has said) pay less of a percentage of their incomes in taxes than do their secretaries.

And Norway goes a step further.  They make tax records public, which discourages tax cheats, while Norway's free press makes careful note of the amount of tax paid by their fortunate few.

But Norway's striking commitment to walking the walk of its egalitarian values comes into sharp focus when it comes to what it does with the nation's oil revenues.  They consider the country's natural resources as actually belonging to the nation, and as such not the exclusive property of one small sliver of the population that refuses to work for a living.

In 2001, Norway's government oil revenues - private oil companies' taxes plus profits from government oil operations - started flowing into the "Petroleum Fund," which the Norwegian government invests in foreign securities and then transfers the expected 4% rate of return to the annual budget, in effect using Norway's oil to guarantee a stable, egalitarian society which includes an iron clad social safety net - for all Norwegians.  (See Alaska's "share the wealth" deal with Exxon to see how this works.)

In a UN Research Paper, "Can Norway Be a Role Model for Natural Resource Abundant Countries?," authors Adne Cappelen and Lars Mjoset note that Norway has "secured broad distribution of the benefits from oil production."

"Securing broad distribution, that's what nations that take equality seriously do." (1)  They don't create their own bad times by immiserating the majority of their people to service an obscenely wealthy few.

(1)  "Too Much" - an online weekly on excess and inequality published by the Council on International and Public Affairs



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Vi's works appear widely both in print and online. She conducts Poetry Workshops and gives readings in Central New York. Her latest chapbook is "Sine Qua Non Antiques (an Arcanum of History, Geography and Treachery).
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