Report from Norway – Fall 2016

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This year most of my time I have spent on trying to stop our blue-blue government from destroying our local municipalities through its profit oriented municipality reform. I will write more about that in the last part of this report.

TTIP

A couple of weeks ago I made a visit to Berlin in Germany together with my son William (whom you once met in your home). During the visit we also took part in a guided tour in the Bundestag (the German national parliament). The guide who represented the administration of the Bundestag and was supposed to be professional and politically neutral, really surprised me: She said that on the very big open field outside the Bundestag there often was demonstrations about all kinds of issues. When I asked if there recently had been a demonstration against the TTIP agreement, she smiled almost enthusiastically and said that the week before there had been a demonstration against TTIP outside the Bundestag with about half a million demonstrators. I am not sure she was right in that figure, but she looked happy for the demonstration. I heard from others that the figure more likely was between 70.000 and 100.000 outside the Bundestag but that there were at the same time similar demonstrations against TTIP in a number of other German cities with altogether about 240.000 participants.  When the guide was asked by some of the other tourists why people demonstrated against TTIP she enthusiastically mentioned among other things that the agreement was being developed in secrecy, that it was only through leakages that people had to come to know about the content, that it favoured the big transnational companies and that the proposed Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) threatened the democracy in the member states. Many of the tourist smiled and nodded. All this is an indication of the strong opposition among informed European citizens against TTIP (and CETA). The problem is that too few people are informed about these agreements. But many politicians in EU seems also to be skeptical. So we hope we will win in the end.

The main arguments against TTIP on the European side seem to be:

  • Investors will be able to sue states (ISDS)
  • Corporations will be invited to co-write new laws.
  • Big business has excessive influence on the secret negotiations for CETA and TTIP.
  • The negotiations are conducted in secret.
  • Food quality standards and consumer protection could be weakened.
  • Workers’ rights and jobs are endangered.
  • European countries would be falling under pressure to allow high-risk technologies such as fracking or GM technology.
  • CETA and TTIP will further increase inequalities.
  • Liberalization and privatization will become one-way streets.

In sum: TTIP (https://stop-ttip.org/) and CETA (https://act.wemove.eu/campaigns/chancellor-kern-stop-ceta-INT-EN) want to increase the power of transnational companies at the expense of democracy and the general good. https://act.wemove.eu/campaigns/stop-corporate-abuse?

Professors against ISDS

We are very happy that there is so strong opposition against TTIP and TPP in the USA. Very encouraging is it to learn about the critical letter about ISDS sent to Congress on September 7, 2016 from 223 american professors of economics and law bit.ly/2cOxeCA .

The letter concludes: «… we urge you [Congress] to reject this TPP as long as it includes ISDS and ensure any future investment treaty such as the TTIP and the BIT with China, excludes ISDS.»

I find this encouraging even though I think they fail to mention that there are several additional reasons other than ISDS for rejecting the TPP, TTIP etc. Some of these reasons are listed above.

Sanders, Clinton and Trump

I understand that both Sanders, Clinton and Trump have expressed criticism against TPP and TTIP. But I doubt that Clinton is seriously against these agreements. I guess her criticism was expressed for tactical reasons. I think she is a Wall Street woman and a free trader. Besides, she is married to «Mr. NAFTA», I understand.

Most people among the left and among the greens in Norway favored Bernie Sanders as new president. Most of the establishment favor Clinton, and only some to the right favor Trump.

The end of freedom of speech?

Is Empire getting nervous? Canada and EU are supposed to sign the controversial comprehensive CETA agreement this week. I read in a paper that the French activist and member of the EU parliament for the Greens, José Bové, was invited to the Council for Canadians to talk about the consequences of CETA for agriculture and express his critical views of CETA. Bové never came that far. When he arrived at the airport in Montreal, the day before the French prime minister Manuell Valls should promote the agreement, he was arrested by the Canadian border guard. They took his passport and other belongings and he was told that he was not welcome to Canada and would be deported the following day. Is the freedom of speech going to be sacrificed at the altar of free trade agreements? Canada seems to welcome free flow of goods but not of people like Bové – an elected representative of the EU parliament.

I also read in a paper that in order to secure the passing of the CETA agreement in the French parliament the French government has taken the constitutionally questionable move to persuade the leadership of the Social Democrats to set aside those of their parliamentary members who were likely to block the passing of the CETA and then let them come back to normal the day after the voting.

TISA

On 21 September there was an informal TISA (Trade In Services Agreement) meeting in Oslo. Norway’s Minister of foreign affairs, Mr. Børge Brende, was the host. Trade ministers from 24 WTO countries were present. Also the Brazilian general-director of WTO, Roberto Azevédo was present. TISA will be an agreement about trade in services between 52 WTO countries. I think it is a very worrying agreement with the intention of strengthening the empire paradigm of greed and dominion. Both the blue-blue government and the Labor Party seem to be positive to TISA. That is worrying. Both Mr. Brende and Mr. Azevêdo have just declared that free trade is the key to prosperity.

Nexit?

If the the TTIP is accepted by the EU and the USA, Norway most likely has to abide by/comply with the agreement because we are a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) which follows the economic regulations in the EU. Some groups are now working for Norway to leave the EEA (you could call it Nexit or Noxit if you like). Norway is not a member of the EU but has to accept most of its economic directives because of our membership in the EEA. The opposition to our membership in the EEA was encouraged by the statement from the political party of the Islandic prime minister that Iceland should reconsider its membership in the EEA. That party represents about 25 % of the voters.

Appropriate policies and the EU

To me the European Union EU is based on some good intentions and a number of flawes. I think some of the original intention behind EU was to end the long time historical conflicts in Europe – particularly between Germany and France – and prevent more wars between European countries. So in that respect it was a great achievement to establish The European Coal and Steel Community in 1952. But I believe the European Union has developed into an empire – consisting first of 6 countries and now of 28 countries, and the European Monetary Union EMU has 19 member countries. To me the failure of an empire is built right into its success. I think that in order to be able to administer an empire and keep it together one needs a great deal of common policy in many areas. But that same common policy will in itself undermine and erode the community or the togetherness, because a great empire consists of many very different smaller communities or societies which are in very different stages of development and may even have very different visions of development. That means they need appropriate policies which are appropriate to each society’s needs and not the same policy for all the different societies within the larger empire. A common policy for all will tend to be more appropriate to the wants of the stronger parts of the empire and less appropriate to the needs of the weaker parts of the empire. This will favor the strong and weaken the weak and thus create greater inequalities. I think each society needs policies which are appropriate to their specific needs and wants.

I think the four economic freedom principles in the EU is self-contradictory on its own terms. It is supposed to be based on the free trade principle of division of labour according to the principle of comparative advantage. Herman Daly among others have written extensively on the point that if factors of production like capital and labour also can move freely across the national borders, division of labour will increasingly follow absolute advantage and not comparative advantage. And that will hardly be to the advantage of all the member countries. Also the argument for this free flow is based on the idea that with such free trade the consumption and welfare in each free trade country will be higher than if we rather choose protectionism. But increased consumption does not have to mean higher welfare. And in a time of a «full» world where we need more than one globe to sustain our present consumption level it can be no good idea to increase the consumption for those who already have enough or far more than enough.

I think it is not unlikely that not only Britain wants to leave the EU. I think the EU is gradually falling apart, and that there will be a need for more dictatorship-like policies to keep the empire together. But that will not solve the problem, only intensify it.

The Euro – an experiment doomed to fail?

To create a monetary union like EMU (European Economic and Monetary Union) with a large number of countries with completely different economic conditions and development paths, but with a common currency (the Euro) and a common rate of interest, does not seem to me to be good for the maintenance of friendship between the member countries. What we have seen so far in the EMU countries of mutual accusations, rising negative nationalism and xenophobia is likely to get worse. The EMU is likely to create more conflicts. The Euro as a common currency for all members of the EMU seems to be like having fixed exchange rates between the members of EMU. EMU as a part of EU is also based on the principle of free flow of capital across the borders of each of the member countries. If you combine free flow of capital with fixed exchange rates (which is the case with a common currency like the Euro) I think you are asking for serious trouble.

Sweden is a member of EU but not of EMU. In the early 1990 Sweden found itself in severe economic crisis, but recovery was far more rapid than was envisaged. I 1992 Sweden could, after several years of higher inflation than among its major trading partners, abandon the fixed rate of exchange and let its currency float, i.e. sink. With a continuous fixed and overvalued rate of exchange Sweden’s crisis could have developed into a disaster. Norway is neither a member of EU nor of EMU. If Norway had been a member of EMU, I guess we would have had much deeper economic problems than we experience today.

Today a number of EMU countries or euro-zone countries are confronted with similar problems as Sweden had in the early 1990s, but without the exit option that Sweden had in 1992. The 19 EMU members exhibit huge and growing differences in productivity and costs. Many, many of them have seen their international competitiveness eroded, not least as a consequence of Germany’s competitiveness and spectacular trade surplus, which made the euro strongly overvalued for the weaker euro countries, but undervalued for Germany.

In order to improve or restore their international competitiveness, the EMU countries in crisis are today forced to internal devaluation, i.e. a drastic cut in costs and wages. As long as these countries are locked into the same currency union as Germany, it seems to me that they have to enter a race to the bottom: an inexorable reduction of incomes and welfare.

The combination of new loans and deflationary policies which is prescribed today has the inevitable effect of increasing their insolvency. As income shrink, the debt burden becomes increasingly heavy.

In a currency union the nominal rate of interest is supposed to be the same for all member states. The real rate of interest, understood here as the difference between the nominal rate of interest and the rate of inflation, is however dependent upon each country’s inflation. If the countries in crisis do manage to implement deflationary policies which reduces wages and prices, the real rate of interest on their debt would become exorbitantly high, with devastating consequences for investment, employment and tax revenue.

A collapse of the EMU – perhaps as a consequence of Germany’s refusal to bail out an increasing number of members of the euro zone – would inflict huge costs. If or when the financial markets become convinced that the EMU will break down, a long period of financial turbulence and an accelerated capital flight from the weaker member countries are likely to occur, as far as I can see.

Need for a Green Multilateral Clearing Union?

I have started to discuss with some Norwegian politicians the idea of bringing back the old proposal of E.F. Schumacher and John Maynard Keynes of 1944 about a multilateral clearing union. My reasoning is as follows:

All governments in more or less all nation states seem to have as one of its top priority aims to increase its competitiveness in international trade. That means they all want to have a trade surplus. When every nation state seeks such an aim that seems unfortunately to be a recipe for war between nations. For a trade surplus in one nation state means necessarily a trade deficit in another nation state. The strong nations are most likely to achieve a trade surplus and they are also most likely to achieve it for a long period of time. That means that weak nations states are most likely to get a trade deficit for a long period of time – in particular if they have a fixed exchange rate between the currencies in the surplus nations and currencies in the deficit nations. Such persistent deficits means accumulating debts to be paid back with interest. That debt with interest cannot be paid back without a trade surplus which the weak are not able to achieve. Therefore they need new loans to pay for old ones. But they become less and less able to service their debt. The result will be austerity, despair, anger, terrorism and even war. Germany and Greece are examples today. The disastrous consequences of the Versailles Treaty after the first world war is another example of misguided policy.

So my question is: Don’t we need an international mechanism today which makes it unprofitable for any nation to maintain a trade surplus over a long period in time? If no country has a persistent trade surplus, no country will have a persistent deficit accumulating unpayable debt. Keynes’/Schumacher’s proposal for an international/multilateral clearing union included a taxation of  too high deviations from balanced trade which would make it profitable to approach balanced trade. In 1944 at Bretton Woods the US negotiator Harry Dexter White turned down Keynes’s proposal because the US had decided to become the world’s great exporter and wanted to secure a persistent big American trade surplus. But with persistent American trade deficit since 1976, would it now be of interest for the US to revisit Keynes’s proposal?

Two people – among many – who have suggested to bring back this old Keynes idea are the former minister of finance in Greece, Yanis Varoufakis and the former managing director of the IMF, Dominuque Strauss-Kahn. Ross Jackson has in his book Occupy Wall Street proposed a Green revision of Keynes’ old proposal. Jackson calls his proposal the Gaian Clearing Union.

Yanis Varoufakis

I have read the former Greek minister of finance Yanis Varoufakis’ two books «The Global Minotaur» and «And The Weak Suffer What They Must?». He seems to be a very clever and knowledgeable economist (a collegue and close friend of the economist James K. Galbraith). He writes about the international economic development since the second world war. He also tells the reader about some of his personal experience of having negotiated with the EU on behalf of his country. He wanted to discuss economics. They wanted to discuss power. The strong they do what they want and can, and the weak they suffer what they must. I found his books highly interesting and relevant.

I would like to tell you briefly of a very suprising experience I had recently. Early this summer I was on my way to Dublin in Ireland as a member of our local men’s choir were I live. At the Oslo airport waiting for our flight to Dublin I was talking about Varoufakis with the leader of our local green party. I told him why I liked Varoufakis books. The strange thing was that about ten minutes later Varoufakis in fact shook my hand physically to my great surprise. I just happened to see Varoufakis standing there waiting for his plane. He seemed to be busy talking to someone on the phone. When I passed him, I looked at him and he then automatically looked at me, and I said «Varoufakis?». He looked extremely surprised as if he did not expect anyone to recognize him among so many people at an airport i Norway. He said «Yes, yes», and then shook my hand. I just got time to say «I have read some of your books and I liked them very much». And he replied that if the flight would let him, he would like to talk with me afterwards, but right now he was in the middle of an interview. Neither his nor my flight schedule would let us talk any more. So it was a very brief encounter. But it was a very strange experience meeting that man minutes after I had talked to somebody else about him. Varoufakis had participated at a meeting in Oslo.

Varoufakis and Thomas Fazi

EU seems to be quite shaky. Varoufakis wants to save EU from itself by democratically reform it Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25). Italian Thomas Fazi who wrote the very interesting book The Battle for Europe (which Fran recommended to me) does seem to agree with Varoufakis’s long term goals, but he does not quite believe in his strategy. I think Fazi has changed opinion on strategy since he wrote his book. At the time of writing I am inclined to agree more with Fazi than with Varoufakis because EU is based on economic principles that are good for the owners of monetary capital but not for the great majority of people. I think, however, both of them are some of the most interesting people to follow concerning the debate about the future of Europe. 

Deutsche Bank 

Will we soon get a new financial crisis? Right now the Deutsche Bank seems to be in crisis.

A major concern for global markets about Deutsche Bank is its deep connections to global financial institutions, which has made some investors fearing a larger bank crisis, though analysts continue to indicate that the situation is nowhere near so dire.

In June 2016 IMF released a report saying that Deutsche Bank “appears to be the most important net contributor to systemic risks in the global banking system.” Underneath you can see how the Deutsche Bank is connected to other banks.

Spillover from Deutsche Bank to globally systemically important banks

Most people in Europe, I believe, have the image that the German banks are very solid and so strong that it is hard to believe that they might be in trouble. The following is based on various articles I have come across.

Deutsche Bank has been wobbly for a year now. Back in July, it announced a slump in profits and revenues. Since a peak in July 2015, shares have fallen more than 65 percent and the stock has erased more than half of its market value. Net revenue fell almost 21 percent in the first half of this year from last year, according to the company’s interim report. Last October, the bank’s shares were at 27 euros. Back in 2007, they were over 100 euros, and even in the spring of 2009, when banks were crashing all across the world, they were still trading at close on 17 euros.

Deutsche Bank has struggled to cut costs and restore profitability, legal challenges have mounted, and earlier this month the US Justice Department hit the bank with a $14 billion fine over sales of mortgage securities. In normal times Deutsche Bank could have written out a cheque with a nonchalant shrug. Right now, no one seem to be sure where it can get the money from. There have also been reports that the German government won’t be helping the ailing bank.

If the German government does not stand behind the bank, then the other banks and institutions it deals with – may start feeling nervous about trading with it. Once confidence starts to evaporate, a bank is in big trouble. If Deutsche Bank does go down, some experts say it is looking increasingly likely that it will take Angela Merkel with it – and quite possibly the euro as well.

An article in Focus magazine quoted senior officials as saying the German Chancellor Angela Merkel was adamant that the bank would not be rescued. There could be no state assistance if the bank was unable to raise the capital it needs to stay afloat, and she was not planning to intervene to get the American fine reduced. If it was in trouble, it was on its own. The risk is that confidence evaporates – and once that is gone a bank may soon be gone as well. Maybe the Germans think that no bank is “too big to fail”. The second biggest German bank, Commerzbank, seems also to have a hard time.

Germany has set itself up as the guardian of financial responsibility within the euro-zone. Two years ago, it casually let the Greek bank system go to the wall. This year, there has been an unfolding Italian crisis, as bad debts mount, and yet Germany has insisted on enforcing euro-zone rules that say depositors – that is, ordinary people – have to take some of the losses when a bank is in trouble.

For Germany to then turn around and say, actually we are bailing out our own bank, while letting everyone else’s fail, looks inconsistent. Some people might even start to wonder if there was one rule for Germany, and another one for the rest. And yet, if Deutsche Bank went down, and the German Government didn’t step in with a rescue, that would be a huge blow to Europe’s largest economy – and the global financial system. It would almost certainly land a fatal blow to the Italian banking system, and the French and Spanish banks would be next. Even worse, the euro-zone economy, with France and Italy already back at zero growth, and still struggling with the impact of Brexit, is hardly in any shape to withstand a shock of that magnitude, some experts say.

The politics of a rescue are terrible, but the economics of a collapse are even worse. If Angela Merkel’s refusal to sanction a bail-out is responsible for a Deutsche Bank collapse that could easily end her chancellorship. But if she rescues it, the euro might start to unravel.

Politicians in Germany and throughout Europe are aware that following the massive bailouts of 2008-2009, any further funding for the banks is “political poison.” A recent poll in Germany revealed that two-thirds of the population oppose any further government funding of the banks.

Recently German Chancellor Angela Merkel denied claims that her government was planning a rescue package for the Deutsche Bank. Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem has stated that Deutsche Bank had to survive “on its own,” without assistance from the German state. Politicians are reluctant to back a group disliked by many Germans because of its pursuit of investment banking abroad that resulted in billions of euros of penalties for wrongdoing.

Eckhardt Rehberg, parliamentary budget spokesman for the ruling conservatives in Germany, signalled he would oppose any support. The same signal has come from Hans Michelbach, the leader of the conservatives in the parliamentary finance committee.

Were Deutsche Bank to require state help, Merkel’s standing as the leader who successfully steered Germany through the financial crisis could also be called into question.

Deutsche Bank got through the global financial crisis without state aid, but Commerzbank, Germany’s second biggest lender, needed an 18.2 billion euro bail-out in 2008.

Experts point out that the problems of Deutsche Bank, once Germany’s flagship on Wall Street, are awkward for Berlin which has berated many euro zone peers for economic mismanagement and pushed for countries such as Ireland and Greece to cope with their banking problems alone.

Deutsche Bank has faced a series of lawsuits that often trace back to the boom years before the crash. Its litigation bill since 2012 has already hit more than €12b.

Writing in the Telegraph recently journalist Jeremy Warner warned, “It’s not just Deutsche. European banking is utterly broken.”

He wrote: “All eyes are naturally focused on the specific problems of Deutsche Bank, but Deutsche is in truth no more than the canary in the coal mine.” Warner went on to say that one of the main problems facing European banks was US taxing of European banks, backed by the threat of removing dollar clearing licenses if the banks did not comply.

German Economics Minister Gabriel, who heads the Social Democratic Party, wrote a memo to the CEO of Deutsche Bank criticising both the bank’s speculative practices and “forces in the market” trying to destabilise the bank. “I didn’t know whether I should laugh or be furious that a bank which turned speculation into a business model now declares itself the victim of speculators,” Gabriel is supposed to have written.

On CNBC’s “Power Lunch” program, US financial analyst Larry McDonald declared that the parallels between Deutsche Bank and the failed US investment bank Lehman Brothers sent chills down his spine, “because we’re in a very similar dynamic.

Escalating conflicts

Norway is traditionally extremely loyal to the will of the USA. During the Cold War I think most people were used to think of the Americans as the «good guys» and the Russians as the «bad guys». Very black-and-white thinking. Few nuances. Still much og that thinking seems to prevail. But gradually many Norwegians seem to start waking up. We are not blindly accepting what Putin is doing. Far from. But we are worried about the way Europe, NATO and in particular the USA is pushing a very provocative policy towards Russia. It is just as if some people intend to create conflicts. An example is the plans to host 300 US Marines at Værnes military base in Norway. That is a totally new kind of policy. Russia has already come up with its first reactions.

We are also very worried about the increased surveillance and how new information technology can threaten democracy and peoples’ privacy. The case of Edward Snowden is a warning sign. It seems that the cost of socalled fighting terror the way it is being done now can soon be a police state where almost anyone can be a suspect for very dubious reasons.

I believe that you cannot fight terrorism simply by killing the terrorists or what you think are potential terrorists. That may sometimes look effective in the short run. But to really fight terrorism one has to do something with the causes of terrorism. There are likely a number of combined causes of terrorism. But I think a key factor is unfair trade agreements and unfair corporate rights. I think that is also much of the main reason for refugees and illegal immigration. As long as unfair trade policies and unfair corporate rights prevail and are strengthened I think terrorism will spread and escalate.

Norwegian policy

In Norway we have today a very blue-blue government believing in economic neo-liberalism/market fundamentalism. They are making changes very rapidly along a disastrous path in my opinion. The government seems to be planning to open Norway up for the invasion of global corporate capitalism. They seem to be willing to sell Norway for a low price. Whether they do it deliberately or just don’t quite understand what they are doing, one can wonder. I suspect they understand very well what they are doing. They favor the rich so that they can become even richer and they favor plutocracy rather than democracy because the rich are the best rulers because they know best how to develop and implement a policy that make the rich ever richer. The strong and rich do what they want and can, and the weak suffer what they must. I think it will be very important to change government in next years election. The most realistic alternative government seems to be a coalition of the Labor Party, the Center Party and perhaps the Left Wing Socialist Party or the Christian People Party (Christian Democrats). This does not necessarily mean that they will follow a very different path than the present government, particularly not the Labor Party. But it will more likely continue in the wrong direction but at a slower speed, hopefully so slow that we will get time to develop a stronger support for a real alternative in line with the New Economy paradigm. But it is worrying that the Labor Party is so positive to the TISA agreement as mentioned above. I think the Labor Party has a long time naive belief in «international socialism», thinking that the big and necessary changes must be a concerted international effort where you change the system from above. If they try that, I guess they more likely will end up administering Empire and being themselves the new emperors. I think the Labor Party has difficulties in really believing in a «bottom-up approach». They also seem to believe in «big is beautiful».

Municipality reform

I have spent very much of my time in 2016 trying to stop our blue-blue government from reducing the number of local municipalities to just a few. They believe in «big is beautiful» and say the aim for the municipality reform is to increase the efficiency of public services to the benefit of the population. I don’t believe that is the aim. Besides, people in Norway are according to polls generally more satisfied with the public services in relatively small municipalites than in bigger ones. I believe the government’s real aim is to make the municipalities so big that it becomes efficient to privatize the public services so that they can invite international corporate capitalism to take over the public services and then the corporations can make a profit on it which they can take out of the country to whereever the corporations find best for them. The government therefore welcomes TISA and TTIP. In practice I think, as mentioned above, the government is willing to sell Norway to the transnational corporations at a low price. They are willing to replace life with money. That is suicide economy.

The fight about this reform is still not over. But we have had some very interesting victories along the way. The government’s goal was to reduce the number of municipalities from 428 down to about 100. That has been a failure for the government. So far there has only been a fusion of relatively few municipalities into bigger ones. There has been a decision in the parliament that the fusion of municipalities shall be based on voluntary choises. Only in special cases there is given an opening for the government for forced fusions. For example if 3 municipalities want to become only one big one and 1 municipality does not want to but is geographically located so that it hinders the fusion of the 3, then the government can force the unwilling one to also become a part of the new big municipality. I guess the government plans to make use of this possibility. But in most municipalities in Norway the municipal councils have voted no to fuse with other municipalities. They prefer to keep their municipality the way it is.

In my local municipality – called Øvre Eiker – we are a number of people who have spent very much time this year to try to save our municipality from being eaten up of the much bigger city of Drammen and becoming a colony of Drammen. We are about 18000 people (an ideal size for a municipality according to the governments own research team). The government wanted 4 municipalities to become a part of a new much larger Drammen making its new population size about 180.000.

My arguments for why I recommended our local politicians to vote against us becoming a part of Drammen and for remaining an independent municipality was as follows

  1. On 4 February 2015 there was an unanimous decision in our municipal council that Øvre Eiker shall work to become a holistic deep green pilot municipality to the inspiration of others nationally and internationally.
  2. On the basis of this decision there was established a voluntary working group to do the first following up of the decision. The result was a document called “Quality of Life and Sustainability in Øvre Eiker”. The document has not been voted on in the municipal council but it has been worked out and agreed upon by a cross-party political working group consisting of our mayor (Conservative Party), the Conservative group leader in the council, the group leader for the Center Party, the group leader for the Left Wing Socialist Party, a leading politician from the Labor Party plus three non-politicians.
  3. To follow up the above-mentioned unanimous decision and the contents in the document it would be much much easier to do that if we remain an independent municipality. And it would be extremely difficult to do it if we become just a colony of Drammen. Our decision would then not be worth anything because our municipal council would not exist any more. All decisions would be made in the Drammen council and the politicians there would not even have heard about our decision to become «holistic deep green».
  4. I also argued that this reform is a way to open up for corporate capitalism buying up Norway. I mentioned TTIP, TISA etc. etc.

Our blue-blue government is a coalition of the Conservative Party and the very right-wing so-called Progressive Party. They have a majority in Parliament through a supporting agreement with the Liberals and the Christian People Party. The government’s minister for the municipality reform, Mr. Sanner, has put a strong pressure on the same supporting parties in our local municipal council to support the minister’s wish that we become a part of Drammen. This would mean that at the starting point it looked as if there would be a majority of 1 in the local council for joining Drammen. The Labor Party, the Center Party, the Green Party and the Left Wing Socialist Party were all the time against us becoming a part of Drammen. It was obviously very important for the government that our council would vote in favor of becoming a part of Drammen since 2 of the above mentioned 4 municipalities already had voted against the governments recommendation.

A sudden visit by the minister

I was asked to be a member of an advisory group consisting of ordinary citizens in our municipality. We should give advice to the municipal council concerning the municipality reform. At our last meeting when we should conclude on our advice we were all taken by surprise. 20 minutes into the meeting the door opened and in comes our mayor followed by the government’s national minister for the municipality reform, Mr. Sanner. And the mayor said smiling to us: «I have taken with me a surprise for you today». Then she invited us to tell Mr. Sanner about our experience working in this advisory group. This made me very angry – which very rarely happens to me. It was very obvious that he came to influence our advice to the council. I asked for the microphone and said that everybody should be welcome to our municipality – also a government minister. But I said that I reacted strongly to the way this visit was informed about. It was not informed about at all. There was nothing in the meeting programme indicating that anybody should visit us. I said that very few people experience to be visited by a minister. If they do, it must be considered important by the minister. If we should be visited by the minister we should have been informed well in advance so that we would have time to prepare ourselves mentally and with questions, I said. In stead he comes all of a sudden, right here right now, obviously with the aim of influencing us. If our municipal council decided to reject the minister’s wish that we should be part of the greater Drammen, it would be a serious blow to his reform because we were considered to be one of the key municipalities in his reform. I concluded that surprise visits like this is a very undemocratic way of working which should not be used anywhere at all.

A 100 per cent success

The minister, Mr. Sanner, answered that he had invited himself to come to our meeting, and that he often invited himself to meet people. He added that most often those who are being visited are informed in advance. The mayor answered me by saying that she understood that not everybody enjoyed surprises as much as she did. What an answer!

Half an hour after the minister had left, our meeting voted over whether we should recommend our municipal council to say yes to be a part of Drammen or stay independent. Out of 31 participants 23 rejected the minister’s recommendation that we should voluntarily become a part (I say colony) of Drammen, 4 supported the minister, and 4 said «don’t know».

We got a 100 per cent victory when 37 out of 37 members of our municipal council in the end voted against the minister’s wish that we should be a part of the new and bigger Drammen. No one had expected this result. This again proves that we can succeed with anything if we really go for it and do not give up. That reminds me of Nelson Mandela’s words: ««It always seems impossible until its done.»

Working with members of parliament

As I have mentioned to you before a member of the Norwegian Parliament is a close friend and neighbor of mine. The two of us find that we have basically the same way of thinking. He is the national politician who, in my opinion, is most in line with the New Economy frame. We find that we work very well together. I have more time to dig deeper into a holistic deep green economic thinking and he can more easily reach out with his viewpoints through newspapers, radio and TV since he works daily in Parliament. He comes quite regularly to our home where we often talk for hours. He updates me about the internal life in Parliament and puts me in contact with other members of Parliament.

New book from the former prime minister of Norway

Our former prime minister in the red-green coalition government Jens Stoltenberg (Labor Party) has recently published his self-biography. Stoltenberg is today the secretary general of NATO. The book is very well written, with a lot of humour and a description of many funny and interesting episodes from his life inside and outside politics. To me the book was extra interesting because much of what he writes about I personally was to some extent part of myself. Many political issues, decisions and episodes I experienced as a government bureaucrat for his two governments. It was interesting to read his account and compare how he experienced things with how I experienced the same things. Generally I find his views reasonable and the book helped me understand why I several times came to other conclusions than his government. I have met Jens Stoltenberg a couple of times personally but that was before he became prime minister. His father I have met quite a few times, and I worked in the same ministry as his mother

From reading the book I get the impression that he has a clear mind, is relatively idealistic, is probably not corrupt, and is well-intentioned. And he did a marvelous job as a prime minister the way he acted after the massacre in Norway on 22. July 2011. He said Norway’s response will be more democracy, more openness, more love and more roses!

At the same time I think he is quite far away from the New Economy frame. While other people believe in God, Marx, money or themselves etc., Stoltenberg writes that if he believes in anything, he believes in Keynes. Keynes ideas can be useful for much, but such a belief is a bit different from believing in a new story of a Holy Living Loving Universe. But it is true that Keynes has been the most important economists for the Labor Party (the social democrats) in Norway since world war two. I believe Stoltenberg is traditionally influenced by «international socialism» in the sense that he seems to believe that the big problems in the world must be dealt with at an international and global level. But I am afraid he as the leader of NATO will in practice rather be a promoter of corporate capitalism under the leadership of the USA.

I think he has problems in really believing in a bottom-up approach. I think he comes from a political culture which is more top-down than bottom-up.

I think the book will be a great help for anybody who is interested in understanding the politics of Norway during the last few decades. I guess the book will be translated into English. I think you would find it quite interesting. I think the book is written in an honest and reader-friendly way.

Conference on alternatives to corporate globalis

The coming weekend I shall give a talk at a big conference in Oslo on alternatives to corporate globalism. The conference will last for four days and is arranged by The Norwegian Social Forum which is an umbrella organization for 69 Norwegian organizations. It is called «Norway’s biggest political workshop». There will be between 100 and 150 speakers all together. In my talk I will concentrate on 1) the need for telling new stories, 2) money is not wealth, but just a number, and 3) the need to use the life seeking household rather than the profit seeking firm as the basic unit of economic analyses.

A coming problem most people prefer to ignore and deny

The new wireless information technology gives great opportunities to mobilize for alternatives on a global scale. The conference mentioned above is a demonstration of that. Both those who work for the old paradigm and those working for the new paradigm seem in most cases to agree with each other that the new wireless computer technology/internet technology is a blessing. I thought so too for a long time – until my wife became extremely sensitive to high frequency electromagnetic radiation and until I myself also became sensitive although not as bad as my wife. Most people we meet does not believe that cell phones and other wireless technology is bad for our health. They call it a psychiatric problem among the people who say they suffer from such radiation. And it is not at all recognized as a problem or potential problem by the various Norwegian authorities. But never the less we suffer from it. http://stopsmartmeters.org.uk/prof-martin-pall-how-wifi-other-emfs-cause-biological-harm/ http://emf.mercola.com/ . Using my computer for a long time (even if it is cabled and not wireless) makes me feel bad. And my wife cannot go anywhere where there is high frequency EMF. She cannot go shopping, visit her old mother, go to her doctor, go to family parties or visit friends without feeling sick, electro-poisoned. The radiation is everywhere and increasingly so. Our free-from-radiation zone is our cabin up in the mountains. We spend much time there. We are members of an association for people who are el-sensitive. The membership is growing. I suspect electromagnetic poison is going to be a huge health problem all over the world before long. My wife whom I consider as one of the very best thinkers I know, says that when she is near a cell phone or an antenna she loses the ability to think and reason. She has several times experienced that when she is going to pay with a card in a shop where there is a lot of radiation she cannot remember the card code. If everything is being computerized I wonder if that may cause a collapse of the society because too many people become sick. Some experts are beginning to discuss this. For example the German brain researcher Manfred Spitzer in his book Digital Demens.

Because of this I have started to wonder if there are better ways of changing society than to rely so heavily on wireless computerized information technology. So far I tend to believe that there is a lot to learn from the old teachings of many indigenous people all over the world. I have started experimenting with that, and so far it seems to work. But I am too new in this to say so much more about it now. I need more experience first.

I think I shall close this report here by promising that I shall never give up!

And I shall not forget Nelson Mandela’s words: «It always seems impossible until its done.»

Best wishes

Jacob

(Read more about Jacob…)

2017-07-05T14:48:02+00:00 June 19th, 2017|Categories: International, Norway|