It seems that everywhere I go these days, someone comments on Scandinavia, and what an amazingly enlightened, developed place it is. The other night someone spoke of Scandinavian environmental habits with almost religious reverence; my social work professor the other day went so far as to imply that Scandinavians are more highly evolved as human beings than Americans(1). Progressive intellectual America has a Scandi-complex; we all want to be like you!
So, I thought I would take advantage of this blog to ask some questions; non-Scandinavian readers, please feel free to chime in with any questions of your own (comments are now available to EVERYONE). And my dear Norwegian cohorts, won't you please enlighten us?
1. First of all, will you please clarify a little bit about the tax law? Up to 56%, said my social work professor (the class bristled). At what point do you have to start paying taxes? I know this was a relevant issue to your summer, Sofie. What are the tax brackets like; ie, who has to pay how much?
2. How does the government justify taxing so much? How do people accept it? Is there a clear general awareness of where exactly the taxes go? Is there a major sense of collective responsibility in Norway? Is it because you are more highly evolved?
3. What, then, is the incentive to work? For example, Sofie, why did you even work the extra hours at Fiskebrygga this summer if you knew that you'd have to work more than double the amount of time for only a little bit more money than you got last summer?
4. It can't be that Scandinavia is without social stratification. There are rich Norwegians and poor Norwegians, right? Or are there just rich Norwegians and richer Norwegians? What is the difference between a rich Norwegian and a poor Norwegian?
5. What exactly do you get from your government? Baard's civil service deal sounded pretty sweet. But Else, are you getting a free education? Sofie, are they giving you money for Glasgow? What about healthcare? Also, is it true that the Norwegian government sends old people on vacation to the Mediterranean in the winter months so that they won't get sick?
6. Finally, Else, I have heard that the Scandinavian countries have the highest suicide rate due to lack of sunlight in the northern regions. Do you have one of those sun lamps up there in Tromso? I certainly hope so.
So, stay tuned for answers to these questions, & feel free to comment with your own!
(1) Or at least that's what I understood. Then I text messaged Ola to ask if it was true, and he replied that it definitely was. Asshole.