Sometimes I get the feeling that I won the lottery. Not in terms of winning millions of [insert favorite currency here], but rather in terms of where I was born: Norway. Where you are born is pretty much a matter of luck. I was born in 19781, and at the time there were quite a lot of places on Earth you’d rather not see sunlight for the first time: Augusto Pinochet reigns as dictator in Chile, Ethiopia and Sudan are at war and there are riots in Iran. Norway in 1978? Well, we ban skateboarding and open a natural gas field in the Polar Sea. Not much war or rioting, and not a single dictator in sight.
Thanks to that 1978 natural gas field in the Polar Sea and numerous other oil and gas fields in the North Sea and elsewhere, Norway is in a pretty unique situation. According to Wikipedia, Norwegians enjoy the second-highest GDP per-capita (after Luxembourg) and fourth-highest GDP (PPP) per-capita in the world. Today, Norway ranks as the second-wealthiest country in the world in monetary value, with the largest capital reserve per capita of any nation.
In addition to being the second-wealthiest country in the world, we also have some of the highest income and wealth taxes of any country. This means that there’s a quite lot of money coming in to the government treasury, much of which is being used on a pretty decent welfare system. As with every system that is supposed to help people who actually need it, there are leeches and people who have found ways to game the system. Unfortunately, we’re not allowed to take these people out the back and beat them2, but the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) has started to crack down on the more serious cases of welfare fraud through a department aptly named NAV Kontroll (English: Control). Good times.
But I digress. The point of this entry was to tell you that as of the coming Tuesday, I’m on 14 weeks of maternity leave paid for by gas, oil and tax money. The A Picture A Day will quickly overflow with pictures of Vilde in the stroller, Vilde eating and Vilde playing. Enjoy!
- Interestingly, a lot of computer and video game related events happen in 1978: The first computer bulletin board system is created in Chicago, Nintendo releases their first arcade video game, Computer Othello. Taito releases Tomohiro Nishikado’s arcade game Space Invaders in Japan. The worldwide success of Space Invaders marks the beginning of the golden age of arcade video games.
- I once heard an interview on the radio with a guy in his thirties who was on welfare because he felt he’d “contributed enough to society” and he was planning to stay on welfare for the rest of his life because he “deserved it”. I’ve never had a greater urge to punch someone in the face.