Never believe anything you read about Norway or Scandinavia
May 24, 2009 3 Comments
Here’s some advice for my foreign readers.
Every once in a while pundits bring up Scandinavia as an example of why one should or should not walk down some political or cultural road. In American politics, Sweden in particular is the archetype of socialism and cultural liberalism, but Norway may be used instead if that better proves the point one is making.
Never believe any of it.
Here’s why: We’re small countries. People don’t care what happens here, except when they’re out to make a point. There’s no reason why they should. Which means there are basically two sources of information available about Scandinavian countries: Statistics and myth.
Statistics are reliable, but difficult to interpret correctly, especially without the right context, a role that is often then filled by myth.
So don’t believe anything you read. If you must believe something, choose the alternative that is the most boring. As in:
“Does Norway prove that socialism works?” No, because we’ve abandoned so much of it.
“Does Norway prove that all socialist ideas are bad?” No, because we’ve kept several of them, and we’re doing okay.
“Should everybody copy Norway?” That would probably be difficult.
The same applies to anything Norwegians tell you about their country, which falls into three categories: People who boast about it because it’s the only place they know, people who complain about it because it’s the only place they know, and English-writing bloggers with marginal viewpoints.
You can, of course, believe everything I’ve written here. Or can you?!