In 2008, as the United States suffered the worst recession since the Great Depression, the effects of the economic downturn were felt worldwide. Therefore, as great was the economic collapse in its seismic systemic damage to global capital markets, it seemed that nearly every leading industrialized nation had not escaped the global economic contagion. Nearly everyone that is, clearly, except for one. And as the then-finance minister in 2008, Kristin Halvorsen made certain of her nation's escape from economic harm. Why? Only it's because she's a Viking that's why.
Now some may say, okay she's Norwegian -- so what? Well, let's go deep some. Native citizens of Norway and other Scandinavian countries all have in their cultural history a societal governing belief as close as I could describe it, called Jante Law. Its origin dates back to 1933 by the Danish-Norwegian novelist Aksel Sandemose.
Jante Law has about ten ethical codes of conduct, one of which says, "You shall not behave as if you are better than others." Now it must be said that even some Norwegians dislike Jante Law, considering some of its ethical rules as being a bit harsh. One example is one who commented to the site dated Oct. 15, 2010, authored by Sarah, titled, "Jante Law: The Underlying Rules of Norwegian Society?" at anewlifeinnorway.wordpress.com. But whatever critically may be said about the cultural belief, overall as a way of life it's to nurture humility.
There's another excellent source titled, "Norway: Norwegian Culture and Etiquette" at the site Kwintessential at www.kwintessential.co.uk. For under the subject Egalitarianism it states, "Norwegians like people for themselves and not for what they do for a living, their professional accomplishments, or how much money they earn."
In the classic 1987 film Wall Street there's a scene where a father and son, Carl Fox and Bud Fox, acted by real-life father and son actors Martin Sheen and Charlie Sheen, are having a serious argument. Carl Fox simply doesn't trust corporate raider Gordon Gekko, acted by Michael Douglas who won Best Actor in the role. For in the film, the young and ambitious Bud Fox is influenced by two father figures. So it's really just a question as to who will win as Carl Fox says about himself to his son, "What you see, is a guy who's never measured a man's success by the size of his wallet!" And his reply to his son could just as well also be that of Scandinavian virtue.
In the New York Times web article titled, "Thriving Norway Provides an Economics Lesson" on May 13, 2009 by Landon Thomas Jr. at www.nytimes.com, it describes how then-finance minister of Norway, Ms. Halvorsen managed the country's $300 billion sovereign wealth fund during the 2008 global economic collapse, while investors all over the world were in panic.
Well what did Ms. Halvorsen do while managing the sovereign wealth fund? Answer: She didn't treat it as if it's a highly leveraged MBS or CDO product or some other risky derivative. That she didn't do. And instead of profligate spending, since Norway is in the top ten in oil exporting countries in the world, its oil revenues go straight into the sovereign wealth fund. It's state money which can also be used to launch investments all over the world. While at the same time as other nations' economies perhaps slowed to a crawl, if not a halt, Norway's economy grew.
As Swedish economist Anders Aslund in Washington, D.C. had said in the previously mentioned Landon Thomas Jr.'s NY Times web article, "The U.S. and the UK have no sense of guilt. But in Norway, there is instead a sense of virtue. If you are given a lot, you have a responsibility."
Indeed, for after the 2008 financial collapse began after receiving $10 billion from the U.S. government bailouts, Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs proceeded in giving huge bonuses to its cadre of top bankers. "With great power comes great responsibility," so says Uncle Ben Parker to his adopted teenager nephew Peter Parker in the Marvel superhero 2002 film Spiderman.
And not only is Norway a prominent oil-producing country, according to the April 19, 2012 website Greenbang the country gets nearly sixty percent of all its energy from hydropower. That is compared to the U.S. getting 2.6 percent at www.greenbang.com. Along with that in this land of five million people, the state takes care in managing the country's vast natural resources of fjords, forests, and water.
So that's about it on Norway. Yet why is it that the United States leads all nations in the world in military might according to the website Global Firepower at www.globalfirepower.com, while also a country with a life expectancy rating of 50 compared to 27 in Norway, according to the CIA website at www.cia.gov? Furthermore according to Time magazine's Nov. 14, 2011 issue cover story by Rana Foroohar, from a list of eight Western industrialized nations, why is it that Norway ranks second in economic mobility whereas the U.S. ranks last?
Alright, alright, but it doesn't have to be that way. The U.S. has been known to defy critics before. And I'll prove it. So let's all step into a time machine and go back nineteen years. We'll all arrive in Lillehammer, Norway for the XVII Winter Olympic Games February 12 -27, 1994.
Do you remember the U.S. Alpine ski team? Do you remember that Sports Illustrated magazine had called the team the snowplow brigade? And this is before they even step foot in Norway.
Enter Tommy Moe, who on Feb. 13, 1994 won the men's downhill, a premier event in alpine skiing with the longest course, steepest and fastest, with turns, jumps, and glide phases. He beat skier Kjetil Andre Aamodt, Norway's version of Jean-Claude Killy the famed skier from France. Four days later, Tommy Moe wins the silver on his 24th birthday. Being of Norwegian ancestry, his great-great-grandfather emigrated from Norway, the Norwegians sang to him happy birthday as he shares his cake after the Super G event to Germany's Markus Wasmeier who won.
Enter Diann Roffe-Steinrotter; it was said that she was so nervous before the Super G event, that she had an aching upset stomach. But as she skied, she said it was as soothing as a waterfall experience. She won. And enter Picabo Street, for she took silver in the downhill, but would win an Olympic gold in Nagano, Japan. The article in the Chicago Tribune on Feb. 20, 1994 by George Diaz says it all, titled, "U.S. Ski Team Continues To Surprise The World." Then it goes on to say, " The world assumed the Austrians and the Norwegians would feast as kings and queens, leaving those woeful Americans to pick up leftover scraps of salmon jerky."
It's not my intention, to paint a portrait of Norway being a blissful Shangri-La on earth. For the country did suffer a horror on July 22, 2011, as Anders Breivik blew up government buildings in Oslo, and killed a total of 77 people all in the name of white supremacy. And then there's the recent Norwegian news website article in, the Foreigner, on Aug. 13, 2013 titled, "Norway election shunts aid, poor, unemployed to side," by Michael Sandelson at theforeigner.no. Then again according to prominent Los Angeles talk show host Tavis Smiley, the candidates in the 2012 election, incumbent President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney both also neglected mentioning the poor and the unemployed as a campaign issue.
It's just that, any nation of people can learn from another nation of people, and not succumb to both myopic and tunnel vision. Especially while that nation still has a measure of greatness.