A report to Living Economies Forum – Seen with Norwegian eyes. Can we save the Nordic model and can it be a useful guide to a better world?
By Jacob Bomann-Larsen, LEF Fellow
Some time ago Fran Korten made me aware of a new book named Viking Economics written by George Lakey and published by Melville House Publishing, NY & London, 2016. The subtitle of the book is How the Scandinavians Got It Right – and How We Can, Too. It is about the development of the social democratic economies in the Nordic countries, especially Norway. Reading the book made me very proud of what my country Norway and the other Nordic countries have in fact achieved. In a time of more and more market liberalism where plutocracy and corporatocracy more and more replace democracy it is of utmost importance to present alternative models which have through many decades proved to be working very well. The Nordic model has so far been working very well. George Lakey expresses a similar thought in a recent email to me:
People gain hope from knowing that multiple nations have put a new economic model into practice that produces more equality, individual freedom, democracy and shared abundance than any previous national economic model in history. And that the practice isn’t new – there’s a track record of success of many decades.
I think the Nordic countries have been exceptionally good at keeping in a democratic way a good balance between the need for individual freedom and the need for a high degree of equality (limits to inequality). This way, the Nordic welfare societies have developed. In this perspective I think a book like Viking Economics for an English speaking audience is of great importance. So if you are looking for an inspiring presentation of an alternative to market fundamentalism that we know has been working well for decades, I strongly recommend you to read George Lakey’s book Viking Economics.
Perhaps the book also should be translated into Norwegian. George Lakey explains in an email why:
One reason I hoped that a Norwegian publisher would put out an edition of Viking Economics in Norwegian, for the Nordic market, was that the book might be a kind of mirror that would reflect back to Norwegians (and the others) how very proud they can be of their achievement, and that there is growing respect internationally for their authentic, alternative model. I hope that respect coming from the glamorous Western big guys would assist them to regain their self-respect, and resist all these pressures to conform to the dominant paradigm. Who knows? Perhaps to take their path even farther, making new experiments in the new economy rather than feeling defensive about how far they’ve already gotten.
I find the book very stimulating and inspiring, a bit rosy (but right!), and a very good promotion of the Nordic model. It is a very informative presentation of the development of the Norwegian society during the last about 100 years. Much information was also new to me even if I am a Norwegian living in Norway, or at least it gave me a better understanding of how many things in the Norwegian political development were interconnected. I am looking forward to meeting George Lakey when he comes to Norway in August this year. Lakey is a recently retired Swarthmore professor who is keynoting the 24th annual conference of the Nordic Academy of Management, which brings together economists who teach at Nordic business schools. The Academy meets this year at Bodø University in Norway. I plan to arrange myself a meeting with George Lakey in Oslo where he wishes to speak about «Norway’s struggles and achievements seen through the eyes of Americans».
The links below show the results for Norway from an OECD survey of 41 EU and OECD countries. It shows that the Nordic countries are generally on top and I think it shows that even if the survey is using conventional indicators the Nordic countries are very well conditioned to start a new development path if there is a will to do it. From the links below you can easily find the results also for Denmark, Finland and Sweden.
Ecological sustainability: A great challenge to the Viking economies and the Nordic model
But this Nordic development has been on the premise that production and consumption all the time shall keep growing – so called economic growth (that in fact is becoming more and more uneconomic). Then everybody can all the time get a little more, both the rich and those not so rich. But we can’t have unlimited material growth in a limited material environment. There is something fundamentally wrong when we are treating the earth as if it were a business in liquidation, as Herman E. Daly puts it. So now we are consuming the resources of 1.7 Earths and the Earth Overshoot Day is coming 1 week earlier each year; in 2015 it was on August 13, in 2016 on August 8, and this year it will be on August 2. If everybody should have the same consumption level as Norway, I am told that we then would need more than 3 planets.
So a great challenge for the Nordic model in the future will be:
How can we secure both individual freedom and clear limits to inequality, in a democratic way, in a situation where we shall have to reduce the total resource consumption down to a globally sustainable and just level on a permanent basis?
Part of the answer is to start pursuing a development path that puts people and nature before money. The Norwegian Parliament gave, in fact with a clear majority vote, a lot of money throughout the 1980s to research work to find ways to start on a development path that puts social and ecological values before financial values. The work was named The Alternative Future Project. The Parliament supported the project as a result of an initiative, hard work and hard pressure from The Future In Our Hands which today is the largest sustainability organization in Norway with about 26000 members.
And in my own municipality, Øvre Eiker, the municipal council group leaders of the Conservative Party, the Labour Party, the Center Party, the Green Party, and the Socialist Left Wing Party have together worked out a document called “Quality of Life and Sustainability in Øvre Eiker”. In the document these group leaders suggest that Øvre Eiker municipality shall give priority to a local development path that puts social and ecological values before money values and in a way that will not be at the expense of people living other places on Earth. It was worked out intentionally to be like a template for other municipalities more or less everywhere. The document was worked out on the basis of a unanimous decision in our municipal council on 4 February 2015 that Øvre Eiker shall become a holistic deep green pilot municipality to the inspiration for others nationally and internationally.
Basic Income Schemes
In Norway there is a growing movement in support of introducing a system of a guaranteed basic income for everybody. A debate about this seems in fact to be growing worldwide. See Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN). See also this article, «Universal basic income scheme: Economic Survey to weigh on cost-benefit of UBI».
I think basic income schemes could be a very important instrument to make the future Nordic model sustainable in an ecological civilization.
A basic income is a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement. A safety net as a basis for free creative thinking and acting. End of slavery. I experience that freedom myself today. I have my state pension. It works like a basic income although formally it is my own money which I have earned before my retirement. But it gives freedom!
Market liberalism is threatening the Viking economies and the Nordic model
In Norway we have today a very blue-blue government coalition (between the Conservative Party and the right-wing Progressive Party) 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 at 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 makes 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 this year’s election. The most realistic alternative government seems to be a coalition of the Labour Party, the Center Party, and perhaps the Left Wing Socialist Party or the Christian People Party (Christian Democrats). This does not necessarily mean that such an alternative government will follow a very different development path than the present government, particularly not the Labour Party. It will more likely continue in the wrong market liberal direction but at a hopefully 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/Living Economies paradigm. But it is worrying that the Labour Party is so positive to ‘free trade’ agreements as they are.
I think the Labour Party has a long tradition in 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 a global empire with military support favoring the rich absentee owners and not poor labour (wage slaves) (as secretary general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, is a good example of). They can easily become the new emperors. I think the Labour Party has difficulties in really believing in a “bottom-up approach”. They also seem to believe in “big is beautiful”.
Our present blue-blue market liberal government led by the Conservative Party is learning from the Americans and seems unfortunately willing to destroy the Nordic welfare society and our Viking economies very rapidly: deregulation, centralization and privatization. The government is trying to introduce very quickly market liberal and centralizing reforms concerning defense, agriculture, police, higher education, health, municipalities, and national regions. This is happening so quickly that it makes me wonder if it soon will be relevant for a Norwegian author to write a book about “Cowboy Economics – How the Americans Got It Wrong – and How We Can, Too”. I have been told that there is no other European Conservative Party with closer ties and links to the US Republican Party than the Norwegian Conservative Party.
Corporate globalism seems to be everywhere! Norway has, among other key resources, very much of clean drinking water resources and that is becoming more and more a scarce resource internationally. Transnational companies see great profit in getting their control of our water resources. The European Union (EU) has prepared the way for such corporate control and through our membership in the European Economic Area (EEA) we have to follow the EU rules.
My wife and I recently had a dinner guest who for many years has been a top executive officer in one of Norway’s trade unions, a former secretary general of International Graphical Federation (located in Brussels), and a former secretary general of the youth organisation of the Norwegian Labour Party. He said he thinks the Labour Party of today has sold itself to market liberalism and to what he termed “imperiebyggerne” (that means “the Empire builders”). Our guest is clearly one of the most knowledgeable persons in Norway when it comes to the relationship between Norway and the EU. In order to save as much as possible of what George Lakey calls Viking Economics and others call the Nordic model, our dinner guest obviously thinks that for Norway to leave the market liberal EEA is a must. He says that a precondition for a solid people’s democracy is that the national parliament must have political control of the national economy. He says it is the Norwegian parliament that shall rule our country according to our Constitution. He says people have to choose: Do we want a democracy with politics and an economy for people or a market liberal EU/EEA plutocratic system where those with most money can do whatever they like?
I spent very much of my time in 2016 trying to stop our blue-blue government from reducing the number of local municipalities in Norway 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 municipalities 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 wherever the corporations find it best for themselves. The government therefore welcomes TISA and TTIP. In practice I think 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 completely 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 have been relatively few mergers of municipalities. There has been a decision in Parliament that the merging of municipalities shall be based on voluntary choices. Only in special cases there is given an opening for the government for forced merging. I guess the government plans to make use of this possibility. But in most municipalities in Norway the municipal councils have voted no to be merged 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 spent very much time in 2016 working to save our municipality from being eaten up of the much bigger city of Drammen and becoming a colony of Drammen. We are about 18,000 people (an ideal size for a municipality according to the governments own research team). The government wanted 4 municipalities to become part of a new much larger Drammen.
Some of our arguments why we recommended our local politicians to vote against us becoming a part of Drammen and for remaining an independent municipality were as follows:
- 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.
- To follow up the above-mentioned unanimous decision it would be much much easier to do that if we remain an independent municipality. And it would hardly be possible 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 desicions would be made in the Drammen council and the politicians there would not even have heard about our desicion to become «holistic deep green».
- This municipality reform is part of an overall policy for eroding democracy and open the way to plutocracy.
- We also argued that this reform is a way to open up for corporate capitalism buying up Norway. We mentioned TTIP, TISA etc. etc.
A 100 per cent victory
We got a 100 per cent victory when 37 out of 37 members of our municipal council in the end voted against the government’s wish that we should be a part of the new and bigger Drammen. No one had expected this result. Even the local Conservative politicians voted in the end against the Conservative national government’s wish. 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 Mandelas words: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
The Norwegian national election 2017
In Norway we are going to have a new national political election in September this year. I hope we will get rid of the present conservative government which is very pro market fundamentalism. They want to privatize most things and sell it out to whoever is most willing to pay. The Christian People Party says that one of their top priorities is getting rid of global poverty. Yet they support the present market liberal government which pursues a policy which will only increase the inequality – also inside Norway. Maybe the Empire builders in Norway are learning from America: The market fundamentalist conservative government can win the support and votes of the politically illiterate Christian people (and the continued support of the Christian People Party) by paying lip-service to issues like abortion, gay marriage, and a few more issues and by giving the impression that the Labour Party and the socialists are anti-Christian.
Personally I think there are only three political parties it is worth voting for in the coming election in Norway. That is the Center Party (favoring decentralization, local communities and farmers), the Left Wing Socialist Party, and the Red Party. The reason for this is that the only realistic alternative to a new blue-blue government led by the market liberalist Conservative Party is a coalition government led by the far biggest party in Norway – the Labour Party.
But as our above mentioned dinner guest pointed out: The Labour Party is in practice more or less as market liberal as the Conservative Party. The two parties could easily form a coalition government of their own. He said that the present leader of the Labour Party, Jonas Gahr Støre, and the previous leader, Jens Stoltenberg (now the secretary general of NATO) are both as market liberal as anyone, they are ‘free traders’. So he concluded that a new government led by the Labour Party will not make much of a difference. But my hope is that in particular the Center Party and the Left Wing Socialist Party but also the Red Party will gain much support and that all the market liberal parties will lose support. That will mean that if the Labour Party gets the chance to lead a new government, they will have to do it in coalition with the Center Party and possibly also with the Left Wing Socialist Party. The stronger these two parties become the more careful the Labour Party has to be in its wish to move in a more market liberal direction. There is also some chance that the Labour Party will invite the Christian People Party to be part of a new government – depending on the election results.
European Economic Area (EEA)
The Center Party, the Left Wing Socialist Party and the Red Party want Norway to withdraw from its membership in the free trade based European Economic Area (EEA). I share this view. But both the present government and the Labour Party disagree. They would in fact both prefer Norway to become a full member of the EU. In practice Norway basically already is a member of the EU because by being a member of the EEA we have to implement into Norwegian law almost all EU legislation related to EU’s single market except laws on agriculture and fisheries. The Labour Party and the Conservative Party have agreed with each other on 100 % of all the EU directives that have come from Brussels so far. We have to comply with the EU’s market liberal principles of free movements of goods, services, labour and capital. This is now beginning to kill our well-regulated labour market and is threatening our welfare state. And the free movement of capital and investment is threatening our resources, like for example the drinking water supply. So many of these EU directives seem to be killing our Viking economy which George Lakey so beautifully describes in his above mentioned new book.
Healthy and unhealthy nationalism
I think it is important to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy nationalism. The corporate globalists seem to undermine the healthy form of nationalism by criticizing the concept of nation states and warning against isolationism. One can of course criticize the way many borders of nation states have come about – often with military means. But in today’s world I think healthy nationalism would be a world with self-governing nation states in fruitful cooperation with other self-governing nation states: international cooperation between self-governing nation states.
Norway is not for sale!
In my opinion Norway is not – or should not be – for sale. But the neo-liberals in both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party seem to be willing to sell Norway bit for bit to the global corporatocracy. Democracy is bit for bit replaced by plutocracy. From a society point of view I cannot see any reason why foreign or stateless capital should own domestic resources in general and in particular not vital resources like soil/land, water, energy and important public services. From a corporate profit point of view I can see every reason for foreign or stateless capital to own as much domestic resources as possible or at least as much as they find profitable.
Appropriate policies and the EU
I think it is interesting to follow the situation in the European Union (EU) these days. I think the EU is built on very shaky and flawed economic principles both as regards the euro currency and as regards the principle of free movements across national borders of both goods, services, labour and capital. I find it interesting to follow among others the work for a changed Europe by the former Greek minister of finance Yanis Varoufakis and his DIEM 25 and the work of Thomas Fazi, author of The Battle for Europe. Varoufakis wants to democratize the EU from the inside while Thomas Fazi held the same view earlier but not any more. I think my above mentioned dinner guest is more in line with Fazi than with Varoufakis. I believe he thinks 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 both he and Fazi agree that giving up European nation states and building one federal Eurostate instead is a dangerous idea.
I found Thomas Fazi’s book The battle for Europe very constructive and inspiring. He is drawing up concrete proposals for a deep green social democratic alternative to the present EU technocratic tendency to replace democracy with expert technocracy and corporatocracy. I think many of Fazi’s proposals could be of great interest to both those who are positive to the EU and to the sceptics. After publishing his book, Fazi seems to have changed his opinion about the possibility of changing EU from the inside. I have also read Yanis Varoufakis’s 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 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.
To me the European Union (EU) is based on some supposedly good intentions and a number of flaws. I understand that for many 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. But I believe the European Union has developed into an empire – consisting first of six 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 for development. That means they need appropriate policies which are appropriate to each society’s needs and they do not need 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 strengthen 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.
EU based on self-contradicting economic principles
I think the four economic freedom principles of free flow of goods, services, labour, and capital across national borders within the EU member states are self-contradictory on its own terms. It is supposed to be based on the free trade principle of division of labour according to member states’ comparative advantage. Herman E. Daly, among others, has 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. But it will be to the advantage of the strongest economic actors. Also the argument for this free flow of both products and factors of production 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 1.7 globes to sustain our present consumption level, it can be no good idea to increase the consumption further for those who already have enough or far more than enough. That is one of the many reasons why TTIP is not a good idea. Free trade may be “good” for the rich, but not for the poor. All countries that have experienced a high material standard of living have used protectionist means to achieve it, not free trade. For example, protecting ‘infant industries’.
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 are 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 1990s, Sweden found itself in severe economic crisis, but recovery was far more rapid than was envisaged. In 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 reduce 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.
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.
Free trade regimes
I believe that the principles of free trade are beneficial to the rich and detrimental to the rest. It seems to me that most existing or planned international trade agreements/organizations have one basic principle in common even if it might be given different names like “level playing field”, “national treatment” or “the principle of non-discrimination”. The common principle is that all economic actors belonging to the trade agreement area shall compete with each other according to the same rules. This means that the economic strongest company shall have the chance to compete on equal terms with the weakest one. Guess then who will win and who will lose. This basic principle seems to apply to trade organizations and agreements like WTO, EU, EEA, TISA, TTIP, TPP, CETA, NAFTA and others. They seem to outlaw the principle of giving a domestic producer any advantage over a foreign producer, thus eliminating the most basic principle of mercantilism (protection of domestic producers), which as far as I can see is perhaps the only way to develop into a competitive industrial state, and which all industrial states used to get to where they are today.
Such rules and free trade principles should be reversed if sovereign states are to have any real control over their countries. Fortunately TPP seems to be dead and TTIP seems to be seriously ill.
The rules of trade are probably the single most important decision for a sovereign country that wishes to be master of its own destiny, and not a slave to foreign interests. For example, is WTO based on the principle that everything is allowed into your country unless it is forbidden? This is the principle of “free trade”. Living economies for the future should be based on the opposite principle, namely, that all imported goods are in principle forbidden unless they are specifically permitted. This principle Ross Jackson calls the principle of “sovereign trade”, and this trade regime is, according to Jackson, the only one that can deliver a sustainable future. The reason why “free trade” cannot deliver a sustainable future is explained by Ross Jackson in Occupy World Street this way:
The problem is that protection of the environment is impossible without the mechanism of protective tariffs to prevent foreign products produced with lower environmental standards from undercutting environmentally friendly domestic production.
Need for a Green Multilateral Clearing Union?
It seems to me that it could make sense to bring back the old proposal of E.F. Schumacher and John Maynard Keynes from 1944 about a multilateral clearing union in order to approach balanced trade between nations. 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. Because 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 of 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 IMF, Dominuque Strauss-Kahn. Ross Jackson has, in his book Occupy World Street, proposed a Green revision of Keynes’ old proposal. Jackson calls his proposal the Gaian Clearing Union. The Gaian Clearing Union is an institution to regulate and settle international trade without the use of any national currencies, based on a model originally proposed by E.F. Schumacher and John Maynard Keynes. The Clearing Union will reduce the likelihood of new financial crises, free up substantial funds now tied up in foreign exchange reserves, and resolve the financial instabilities that inevitably arise when a national currency (currently the U.S. dollar) is used as the primary source of liquidity and foreign reserves.
Norway is traditionally extremely loyal to the will of the USA. During the Cold War I think most Norwegians were used to thinking of the Americans as the “good guys” and the Russians as the “bad guys”. Very black-and-white thinking. Few nuances. Still much of 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 plan 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 reactions. The government also wants to buy many American F35 military planes. But these planes cannot be used for defense, only for attacks. Just like nuclear weapons cannot defend anything, only destroy everything. So what is the point? Destroying life in order to defend it? We against the others?
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. It seems that the cost of fighting terrorism the way it is being done now can soon be a police state where almost anyone can be a suspect for very dubious reasons. 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. So an impolite but natural question is: Who are the terrorists? Are those fighting terrorism in reality the biggest terrorists themselves? Who represent the causes and who represent the symptoms? And an even more impolite question: Is it possible that those powers that have declared war against terror in reality deliberately hire people to carry out terrorist acts in order to frighten people so that people will accept more of a police state which gives more power to the rich and mighty and less freedom to most people? I don’t know. I only ask. Think about it.
Symptoms and causes – single issues and systems
It is a big problem generally that so few people seem to look for the deep causes of the problems we experience in real life. In general I find that many people are single issue and symptom oriented and few are system and cause oriented. Very few people seem to have any overall picture of how things are connected. Most have rather fragmentary knowledge. We have to treat the symptoms as they come, but the symptoms will only grow if we don’t remove the causes that generate the symptoms. We can easily be full time occupied working with single issues that really are symptoms that are caused by a system based on greed and dominion that cannot cure itself. Like cancer. So we have to find ways to realistically change the system. To get a good understanding of this some of the best help I have come across so far are David Korten’s various books.
Smart meters – the end of privacy and health?
More and more people in Norway start worrying about the increased surveillance (some suspects are the US industrial-military complex, NSA and CIA) and how new information technology can threaten democracy, freedom of speech and peoples’ privacy.
The introduction of compulsory smart meters in private homes opens the way to register what is going on in private homes. End of privacy. That can silence free conversations between people which are a precondition for real democracy. The main catalyst for the mass installation of smart meters in Europe (including Norway as a member of EEA) came in July 2009, when a European Commission Directive made it a requirement that 80 percent of EU households have a smart meter installed by 2020.
I know many people in Norway who shortly after the installation of smart meters in their homes – often against their will – have become unexpectedly and surprisingly ill.
Electronic pollution: A coming huge problem most people prefer to ignore and deny
More high frequency electromagnetic radiation makes it very difficult for people who are electromagnetic hypersensitive, like my wife and to some degree myself, to find any safe place to live. So what shall we do and where shall we be when we cannot be anywhere? And it makes it even worse when national authorities, the health industry, and most people who have not yet felt the problem say that it is all imagination. Go to a psychologist and take a pill to calm you down. I know a Dutch top level computer builder/developer who has become so hypersensitive to electromagnetic radiation that he has moved with his family from his homeland to the wilderness in Norway because he could not find anywhere in the Netherlands where it would be possible for them to live. They have become electromagnetic refugees. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_hypersensitivity).
The electromagnetic radiation is increasingly everywhere as the wireless digital society develops. More and more people become sensitive and ill and this will, I believe, soon create a new form of digital divide: Between those who can take part in everyday society and those who cannot. I guess this is going to become an enormous problem in society all over the world before long. I suspect that in the coming years various health damage will be skyrocketing, like brain cancer and testicular cancer, Alzheimer’s, autism, and other health damage.
The new wireless information technology gives great opportunities to mobilize for alternatives on a global scale. Avaaz, 350.org, WeMove.EU and other groups are good examples of that. Both those who work for the old paradigm and those who work for the new ecological paradigm seem in most cases to agree with each other that the new wireless computer technology/internet technology is a blessing. I have in fact experienced several times that even people who work for the same ecological new paradigm as I do get very upset when I bring up the electromagnetic radiation issue. Don’t touch my addiction to my Computer God. And this radiation it is not at all recognized as a problem or potential problem by Norwegian authorities. But nevertheless 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 electromagnetic fields, 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. It is not realistic in practice to ask everybody to switch off the WiFi, cell phone or the I-pad-God they have become addicted to. The radiation is everywhere and increasingly so. Our free-from-radiation zone is our cabin up in the mountains. My wife and I spend much time there. We are members of an association for people who are hypersensitive to EMF. The membership is growing. My wife says that when she is near a cell phone that is turned on 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 ill in various ways. Some experts are beginning to discuss this. For example the German brain researcher Manfred Spitzer in his book Digital Demens.
No health risk?
A Norwegian government commission concluded unanimously some years ago that radiation from mobile phones poses no health risk. All the members of the commission had the same view before the commission started its work. Scientists with lots of international credentials who had reached different conclusions were not included among the members of the commission. This makes me wonder if it is more truth than I earlier had thought to the statement: “Tell me who pays you and I shall tell you your view and opinion.” Who funds what kind of research work and why? Why are conclusions so often what can be expected when big business funds the research work? Why not listen to people with different viewpoints? Why is there so little information about this problem when more and more people experience it as a problem? Who wants to hide relevant information and why? Profit?
The commission’s report is one of the key foundations for the policy of the Norwegian health authorities and the Norwegian Radiation Protection Agency on radiation from mobile phones and cellular antennas: Mobile phones and antennas pose no health risk. No scientific basis for any other conclusion.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement in 2005:
Governments should provide appropriately targeted and balanced information about potential health hazards of EMF to EHS individuals, health-care professionals and employers. The information should include a clear statement that no scientific basis currently exists for a connection between EHS and exposure to EMF.
Even if my wife and I knew we could not prove we were right we were neither convinced that the opposite view was right. It seemed quite reasonable to us that if people are more and more exposed to high levels of electromagnetic radiation in an unnatural (man-made) way for a long period of time (years or decades), it cannot be very beneficial to people’s health.
Therefore we were looking for other people with the same kind of suffering. And there were many and the numbers are growing. We knew already that the former WHO leader and former prime minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland, also suffers from electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS). I remember on one occasion in 2002 when I was working in our Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Oslo, we where arranging an international conference where Gro Harlem Brundtland and Jeffrey Sachs among others should speak. When the floor was given to Mrs. Brundtland everybody (several hundred, I remember) where asked to switch off their cell phones because of her hypersensitivity. And so – of course – everybody did.
Health risk? Yes!
There are many highly qualified researchers with lots of credentials who have come to conclusions that contradict what the official authorities base their policy on.
Lennart Hardell is one of the world’s most respected researchers on cancer medicine. Dariusz Leszczynski is an associate professor in biochemistry in Finland and was a member of WTO’s cancer panel which concluded in 2011 that radiation from mobile phones and wireless networks can possibly cause cancer. He was a professor at the Finnish Radiation Protection Agency but was fired because of too critical viewpoints. Both of these researchers have come to other conclusions than the Norwegian health authorities and the above mentioned government commission.
Martin Pall is a professor emeritus in biochemistry and basic medical sciences from Washington State University. The links below give some short information on him and his work and conclusions taken from a presentation he has given in Portland, USA and a full YouTube presentation of the talk he gave in Oslo in 2014.
New strategies for changing society
Because of my wife’s and my own experience with electronic pollution 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 need more experience to be good at it.
In this book John Perkins writes:
A friend handed me a book by a native North American shaman, John Fire Lame Deer. One particular passage so impressed me that now, a decade later, I continue to read it to my classes. Lame Deer describes the people of modern cultures as follows:
They have forgotten the secret knowledge of their bodies, their senses, or their dreams. They don’t use the knowledge the spirit has put into every one of them; they are not even aware of this, and so they stumble along blindly on the road to nowhere – a paved highway which they themselves bulldoze and make smooth so that they can get faster to the big, empty hole which they’ll find at the end, waiting to swallow them up.
I am interested in learning by doing this secret knowledge. To me the basic idea is that thoughts are creating reality. If you have a well-defined goal/dream/wish, you are well-intentioned in your heart, you give focus, you concentrate and you believe in the realism of your goal, then you can achieve anything. I am sure that in this way I can in fact sit in my own home influencing high level politics (even without a computer). I know I can because I have experienced it several times already.
Realism and hope
My conclusion is and my experience through many decades of working tells me that the world problems will continue to grow, there will be more and more crisis, many things will collapse, the market liberal plutocratic system cannot be fixed, and people with an imperial consciousness cannot be convinced about what is wrong with the system.
So then I end up with what David Korten writes in The Great Turning:
There is evidence of an emergent global cultural turning associated with the widespread awakening of the Cultural and Spiritual orders of consciousness. … It is this awakening that makes the Great Turning possible. … Metaphorically, the strategy might be thought of as a process of «walking away from the king» because it centers not on confronting the authority of the king, but on walking away – withdrawing the legitemacy and life energy on which the king’s power depends. … We are creating a new game with new basic rules based on the values and principles of Earth Community.
I think I shall close this report by promising that I shall never give up!
And I shall not forget Nelson Mandela’s words: «It always seems impossible until it’s done.»