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None for all and all for none

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By Jennifer Luxton

Growing up in Norway, we are taught Jante’s Laws by Aksel Sandemose. These laws say that everyone is equal.

The laws teach Norwegians to be modest and to not show off our wealth or financial achievements. I think Jante’s Law has shaped Norway into the successful social welfare state that it is today.

Norwegians believe everyone is responsible for the society and the citizen’s well being. I don’t mind paying taxes so my friend or my previous teacher could get the cancer treatment they need, or so the poor boy in our neighborhood can get an education.

For me, education is the key to a better society, which is why I don’t understand why many Americans don’t want to pay taxes to have free education and free health care. I have always thought America and Norway were similar, but after I moved here, I realized I was wrong.

Americans’ minds are set on the idea that everyone is responsible for making their own way in life.

For some people, paying taxes so that your neighbor can get free education and health care is out of the question.

Why would you work nine hours a week so your next-door neighbor’s daughter receives medicine for her leukemia, when you can barely put food on your own table?

It is understandable to think of yourself in this situation. However, paying taxes doesn’t only help your neighbor’s daughter, but it will also benefit your family.

According to Statistics Norway, an average citizen in Norway pays $22,000 in taxes yearly from an income of $73,200, which gives everyone free education and free health care.

“It’s a basic idea in Norwegian society that education is free to secure all citizens equal rights to education regardless of place of residence, sex, social and cultural background and special needs,” said Margunn Instefjord, senior adviser at Norwegian Center for International Cooperation in Education.

Providing free social services like education helps society to be better all-around.

Also, if you educate people, communities will change because people will be removed from the street and given opportunities in the classroom.

In 2010, 1.6 million of 308.7 billion were incarcerated in the United States, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics and the 2010 Census.

In 2011, the Norwegian population was about 4.7 million with a prison population of about  3,624, according to Statistics Norway.
If you compare the numbers, Norway’s prison population amounts to 0.08 percent of the entire population, versus 0.51 percent of the U.S. population.

A 2007 study by researchers from Teachers College of Columbia University, Princeton University and City University of New York, claimed that if the high school dropout rate had been cut in half, the U.S. government would receive $45 billion via extra tax revenue. The study claimed over 50 percent of the state prison inmate population are high school dropouts.

In Norway, 30 percent of 4.7 million population has completed a university degree, according to the National Science Foundation. In the United States, 30 percent of 308.7 billion has completed an university degree, according to United States Census Bureau, however, the majority of the 30 percent who completed a university degree were from the middle or the upper class.

Social services don’t only improve the incarceration rate, but also the rate of unemployment. The unemployment rate in the U.S. is 7.8 percent, while in Norway it’s 2.7 percent of Norway’s labor force.

When it comes to women working in the legislature, Norway has 38 percent compared to 17 percent in the United States, according to the Federation of American Scientists. Other Scandinavian countries that spend more on social services, such as Sweden and Finland, have women in over 40 percent of legislature positions.

The advantages of having a free education for everyone makes education more rigorous and heightens expectations.

Admission to higher education in Norway is based on students’ grades, which means that if you want to be a journalist, but if you are struggling with math and science, there is no way you will be able to attend journalism school.

The popular degrees in Norway such as journalism and medicine of law requires the students to have an American equivalent of a 4.0 GPA. The students who don’t have the grades for it, have to either find another profession or study abroad, which is what many Norwegian students do.

Norway follows the Bologna Process used by 47 countries in Europe, which means that a bachelor’s degree is three years.

The final is a combination of long answer assignments and shorter assignments. There is also a nonmakeup rule in Norwegian education. The final usually counts for about 70 percent of your total grade, which means that if you have a bad day, the chances of you having to retake course the next semester are big.

Multiple choice exams are nonexistent in Norwegian education. Finals are about five hours, and the student will get a combination of different assignments.

Social services benefits individuals, the society and the country’s economy. This country is built upon individualism, instead of thinking of the whole society. Being individualist can be good to a certain extent, but at some point you have to let your pride go and help others.

I’m not saying Norway is perfect, but I think the United States can learn a few things from it.

– Terese Torgersen is an international journalism student from Norway.

15 Comments

  1. jaebre Oct 9, 2012

    David – first of all, Anders Breivik did not receive “only” 21 years in prison. The 21-year sentence in the maximum *initial* sentence, after which Norwegian law provides for the sentence to be extended in 5-year increments if the criminal is deemed to be a continued threat. Breivik will never be free.

    Now, some facts for you. Corporations and individuals are paying the lowest tax rates since the income tax was introduced. The US is trillions of dollars in debt. Healthcare costs are at an all-time high (and no, not everyone in the US can receive heathcare as you assert), and higher education costs are also at historic highs and getting higher.

    Meanwhile, in Norway, the government is sitting on a 600 billion dollar soverign wealth fund because they decided 40 years ago to prudently invest the proceeds from the new oil and gas industry since they had already figured out how to provide most of their domestic energy needs through hydropower. And despite sitting on all this cash, Norwegians still pay an average income tax rate of 30% while the spending rate of the wealth fund is restricted by law to 4% per year.

    What the Norwegians are practicing is called “fiscal prudence”, and that is surely a lesson that the US could learn from.

    1. Yes, the US is trillions in debt and costs are high and getting higher.  We have the highest corporate tax rate in the world, however:  
      World’s Highest Corporate Tax Rate Hurts U.S. Economically

      And yes, personal income-tax rates are mostly lower than they have been over the last century.  That’s a good thing.

      The U.S. needs to drastically reduce spending.  That would be practicing “fiscal prudence.”

      1. Cleveland Steamers Oct 9, 2012

         Practicing “fiscal prudance” by cutting PBS and Big Bird which accounts for .012% of money given to them by the Government? Why not stop the oil subsidies and farm subsidies that are in the billions?

        1. Practicing “fiscal prudance” by cutting PBS and Big Bird which accounts for .012% of money given to them by the Government?

          That would be a good start!

          Why not stop the oil subsidies and farm subsidies that are in the billions?

          That would be a good start too!  Keep going…

          1. Cleveland Steamers Oct 9, 2012

             Get rid of staff that work for the university who spend tax payers money writing comments on a local school paper instead of doing their job?

          2.  I’m not at work, but I’ll give you credit for your wit anyway.  ;)

  2. You have a fundamental misunderstanding of American values.
     

    Norwegians believe everyone is responsible for the society and the citizen’s well being. I don’t mind paying taxes so my friend or my previous teacher could get the cancer treatment they need, or so the poor boy in our neighborhood can get an education.

    American values, historically, are that people help others without the need for government.  Americans give more to charity ($300 billion or so annually) than anywhere else in the world:  Forbes: Who gives the most?  The “poor” in America have a higher standard of living than virtually anywhere else in the world: Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What is Poverty in the United States Today?

    For me, education is the key to a better society, which is why I don’t understand why many Americans don’t want to pay taxes to have free education and free health care. I have always thought America and Norway were similar, but after I moved here, I realized I was wrong.  Americans’ minds are set on the idea that everyone is responsible for making their own way in life. For some people, paying taxes so that your neighbor can get free education and health care is out of the question.

    Outside of a relatively small number of libertarians, myself included, few Americans seem to be averse to voting for every proposition and measure taxing themselves more and more to support our substandard K-12 education system.  We piss away more money on education (more than Norway) and run our schools so poorly that a majority of CSUN students have to take remedial math and English courses just to get started in their heavily-subsidized college education.

    This, Ms. Torgersen, is far from “free.”  And by the way, we have the finest health-care system in the world.  And even without Obamacare, everyone gets health care.  Americans donate millions towards the care for cancer patients and the reasearch of the disease.

    Also, if you educate people, communities will change because people will be removed from the street and given opportunities in the classroom.

    In 2010, 1.6 million of 308.7 billion were incarcerated in the United States, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics and the 2010 Census.In 2011, the Norwegian population was about 4.7 million with a prison population of about  3,624, according to Statistics Norway.
    If you compare the numbers, Norway’s prison population amounts to 0.08 percent of the entire population, versus 0.51 percent of the U.S. population.

    So what?  Is this your attempt to show that the U.S. doesn’t spend enough on education?  Maybe Norway should have more people in prison.  After all, if you murder 77 people in Norway you get only 21 years in prison: Mass Murderer Smirks at 21-Year Prison Sentence

    When it comes to women working in the legislature, Norway has 38 percent compared to 17 percent in the United States, according to the Federation of American Scientists. Other Scandinavian countries that spend more on social services, such as Sweden and Finland, have women in over 40 percent of legislature positions.

    And the significance of this is what?

    Social services benefits individuals, the society and the country’s economy. This country is built upon individualism, instead of thinking of the whole society. Being individualist can be good to a certain extent, but at some point you have to let your pride go and help.

    American volunteerism and charity are the highest in the world.  What’s your point?

    I’m not saying Norway is perfect, but I think the United States can learn a few things from it.

    You’ve illustrated your ignorance of the United States and its values; even the title of your piece exclaims it.  You have a lot to learn.

    1. BurgerLess Oct 9, 2012

      Well said.

    2. Cleveland Steamers Oct 9, 2012

       Do you think if the Government took away the charity tax deduction the amount of money given would still be that high?

      Oh, and the United States ranks second to last in childhood poverty. So your song and dance just took a misstep.

      1. Do you think if the Government took away the charity tax deduction the amount of money given would still be that high?

        Almost certainly not.  If the goverment takes more of people’s money there will be less of it for them to give to charity.

        Oh, and the United States ranks second to last in childhood poverty. So your song and dance just took a misstep.

        Sorry, but your little “gotchya” doesn’t hold water.  Do you think that we measure poverty like the rest of the world does?  You think that a child in poverty in the U.S. has a lower standard of living than all but one other country in the world?  Please tell me you’re not that gullible!

        Poor life choices, primarily single-parenting are the cause of most child poverty, and poverty in general, not inherent flaws in U.S. governmental policy.

        From the Heritage Foundation:  Marriage Reduces Child Poverty

        Child poverty is an ongoing national concern, but few are aware that its principal cause is the absence of married fathers in the home. Marriage remains America’s strongest anti-poverty weapon, yet it continues to decline. As husbands disappear from the home, poverty and welfare dependence will increase, and children and parents will suffer as a result. Since marital decline drives up child poverty and welfare dependence, and since the poor aspire to healthy marriage but lack the norms, understanding, and skills to achieve it, it is reasonable for government to take active steps to strengthen marriage. Just as government discourages youth from dropping out of school, it should provide information that will help people to form and maintain healthy marriages and delay childbearing until they are married and economically stable. In particular, clarifying the severe shortcomings of the “child first, marriage later” philosophy to potential parents in lower-income communities should be a priority.

        1. Cleveland Steamers Oct 9, 2012

           I know your type. You pick and choose what information you want to believe and bash information you don’t. If you don’t like it find some source to say its false or discredit it. If you like the information advertise it as fact. I am pretty sure I know there is no point to debating you as you will never open your mind. You have a closed mind. But if this is what makes you happy then go for it.

          1. So Mr. Cleveland… Do you believe everything you read?  Or do you weigh the evidence and throw in some life experience and common sense to decide what’s credible, what’s important and what seems like spin to further one’s agenda?  I went to the trouble to research the UNICEF study and discovered that you failed to cite it properly.  I even delved into it further to understand how the U.S. “fails” in relation to other developed countries. Have you done the same?

            For example: One measure as to why the US ranks so low is that the study fails to take into account that the median income in the US is so high relative to other countries that there are a larger number of “children living in households with equivalent income lower than 50% of the national median.”  So the US get “dinged” because more children aren’t in “rich” families.

            The study also dings the US for not spending more on families as a percentage of GDP, not actual per-family spending!  Wow…  This is why your coveted study means so little.

            Also, just for fun, here are all the areas measured for the “child deprivation” section of the study.  How many US kids do you think are “deprived”?:

            1. Three meals a day
            2. At least one meal a day with meat,
            chicken or fish (or a vegetarian
            equivalent)
            3. Fresh fruit and vegetables every day
            4. Books suitable for the child’s age and
            knowledge level (not including
            schoolbooks)
            5. Outdoor leisure equipment (bicycle,
            roller-skates, etc.)
            6. Regular leisure activities (swimming,
            playing an instrument, participating in
            youth organizations etc.)
            7. Indoor games (at least one per child,
            including educational baby toys,
            building blocks, board games,
            computer games etc.)
            8. Money to participate in school trips
            and events
            9. A quiet place with enough room
            and light to do homework
            10. An Internet connection
            11. Some new clothes (i.e. not all
            second-hand)
            12. Two pairs of properly fitting shoes
            (including at least one pair of
            all-weather shoes)
            13. The opportunity, from time to time, to
            invite friends home to play and eat
            14. The opportunity to celebrate special
            occasions such as birthdays, name
            days, religious events, etc.

            I’ll be bold and say I “know your type” as well.  If you disagree it must be a result of the other having a character flaw.  If you want to debate, I’m game.  If you don’t, I’ll understand.

        2. Adam_Irae Oct 12, 2012

          There are several different types of poverty. The family of four that constantly has to borrow money from the grandparents to make ends meet, the homeless guy who eats out of trash cans, the family in the favela where both parents work six day weeks to put food on the table -all of them are poor by some definition.

          You want to look at what is known as “Absoulte Poverty”

          And the notion that the poor in the US are better off than poor elsewhere? No, dude! As long as the US have homeless people, people who can’t afford food, people who can’t affort health care, and there are nations where there are no such social layer -no the US poor are worse off than poor in other developed countries.

          1. About a third of America’s homeless are mentally ill.  We used to institutionalize them but the ACLU was successful in its arguments that doing so was a violation of their constitutional rights.  So now they’re on the streets.

            There are enough government programs and charitable organizations to keep most off of the streets but many decide not to take advantage of these programs and/or spend their benefits on drugs and alcohol.  Our laws cannot force them to be off the streets.

  3. BurgerLess Oct 8, 2012

    There are less people in all of Norway, than in just Los Angeles. How diverse is Norway? Not much. Trying to compare Norway to America is just silly.

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