We're watching the results come in for the national election in Norway. As an American abroad, here's what strikes me as funny:
The Labor party is neck-in-neck with the conservative Right party. The Labor party is doing very well on their platform of "higher taxes". Yes, they are promising to raise taxes, and Norwegians are rallying behind them. Awesome huh? The Right party is promising to lower taxes by privatizing parts of government... sound familiar my fellow Americans? But Norwegians know that privatizing services like nursing homes, construction and kindergartens will end up costing folks more in the long run... a LOT more. Norwegians would rather pay high taxes and reap the benefits of excellent government services.
It will be exciting to see how this plays out!
By the way, there are 21 political parties in Norway. 8 parties are in the national government. The Labor party and the Right are the largest, with about 25-30% each. In order to pass legislation, the parties have to build coalitions in order to get a majority.
One of the financial prognosticators I follow, can't remember which, said it was stupid to keep arguing about how the poor and rural south keeps voting "against their interests." His point? OF COURSE they were voting against their interests. They were voting their VALUES, just the same as the snooty Manhattanites with six and seven figure incomes voting for higher taxes and social programs they'll never use. People don't vote their self-interests, they vote their self-image - "I am a friend of the proletariat, even if I own two BMWs." "I am a believer in free-market capitalism, even if I live in a used single-wide trailer."
Except so much of the conservative platform these days is reductive. Against this, against that. Scott Anderson makes the point in Fractured Lands (tacocat) that prior to the Arab Spring, so much of the political engagement in the Middle East was against things, not for them - against Israel, against America, against Jews, against Shia. Once the dictators fell, the only logical path was sectarian violence because really, that's what first the Ottomans and then the West were containing for the past 500 years.
So it's easy to say that American "values" are against reproductive rights, against the rights of women, against the rights of minorities, against a strong social fabric. But then you look at how a 7% majority is necessary to have more than 50% of house and senate and gubernatorial seats because of gerrymandering and you recognize that in the US, it isn't even really about "values" so much as it's about dirty tricks and oligarchy.
And then you give more money to the NDRC but you know in your heart of hearts it'll never be enough.