Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Norway has just elected a new conservative government

Some background

    "Conservative Party leader Erna Solberg — nicknamed “Iron Erna” — will become Norway’s new prime minister as the leader of a center-right coalition government likely including an anti-immigration party.

    Preliminary results from the oil-rich Nordic country’s parliamentary elections shows the Conservative Party got 26.8 percent of votes, the best result for the party in 28 years. Solberg, who will be Norway’s second female prime minister after Gro Harlem Brundtland, thanked the voters Monday for a historic victory.

    “The voters had the choice between 12 years of red-green government or a new government with new ideas and new solutions,” Solberg said. …

    The discovery of oil and gas in Norway’s waters in the 1960s turned the Scandinavian nation into one of the richest in the world, with a strong welfare system and a high living standard. The oil wealth helped it withstand Europe’s financial crisis and retain low unemployment throughout Stoltenberg’s years in power. Still, the Conservative Party has managed to attract votes amid pledges to increase the availability of private health care and cut taxes on assets over $140,000."

Although much of Europe continues to stagger beneath the tremendous weight of their own imploding welfare states and the accompanying fiscal and economic burdens, borne of their very progressive- and labor-influenced state-spending policies, Norway is still a relative island of plenty amidst that sea of European debt. Norway, too, has an extravagant welfare state, but the constant stream of wealth that comes from their nationalized system of tapping their vast reserves of oil and gas mean that they have a robust revenue stream that enables them to keep the welfare state going.

Norwegians take a lot of pride in their economic inclusiveness, and they boast some of the highest living standards in Europe with an unemployment rate of only 3.5 percent and a relatively (and I do mean relatively) good GDP growth rate of 3 percent in 2012. That 3 percent, however, is still a slowdown, and the conservative-minded politicians in the running want to avoid injecting too much public spending into the economic in the misbegotten attempt to spur growth as well as keep taxes low and business-friendly. What’s more, as the United States’ shale oil-and-gas boom continues to grow and as countries like Germany and the United Kingdom think about fracking for themselves, using oil riches to cover a full third of your country’s revenue stream isn’t necessarily a dependable plan for the future, and it sounds like they’re at least taking small steps toward a more definitely sustainable public-spending plan for the long term.

On a semi-related note concerning energy riches and Scandinavia, President Obama stopped in Sweden on his way to Russia last week and hailed the tiny country as an example to us all in bringing about the cleaner, greener future to which we should all be aspiring: “Sweden is obviously an extraordinary leader when it comes to tackling climate change and increasing energy efficiency, and developing new technologies. And the goal of achieving a carbon-neutral economy is remarkable, and Sweden is well on its way. We deeply respect and admire that and think we can learn from it.” That prompted RealClearEnergy‘s editors to wonder: …Er, Obama does know that Sweden is 40 percent nuclear, right?


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).

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