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Differences that matter

If political contempt is to be reduced, there must be visible differences between the parties.


[24. February 2006] Whether the Prime Minister's name is Thorbjørn Jagland, Kjell Magne Bondevik or Jens Stoltenberg does not seem to play a major role. It can be tempting to conclude this way when new figures this week show that the wage differences in Norway are increasing continuously – regardless of who has the power of government. Over the past ten years, salaried employees in NHO companies have received almost 100.000 more in salary increases than hotel employees. The new figures for executive pay are not yet clear, but they are unlikely to improve the picture. Even with Kristin Halvorsen as Minister of Finance, it may seem that the development continues.

To Dagbladet, Halvorsen has said that the market is to blame. It may then also appear that the pressure of economic globalization is forcing us to state the goal of equalization. But breaking it is no alternative. So far, all attempts have ended in totalitarianism.

Rather, reducing disparities in a responsible way in a globalized world requires political innovation and political action. In the tame climate of ideological idea development that has long plagued our country, there are too few such attempts. A special responsibility rests with the majority government, which has a unique chance of creating a new vision – a successor to the welfare state project in the post-war period.

A first step could be to improve conditions for those sitting at the very bottom of the table. In this week's Ny Tid, you can read about the immigration boarding school at Trandum, where refugees whose asylum applications have been rejected are in a gray zone in terms of rights. Here, people sit in prison-like conditions, only in worse conditions than in prison – some for months. It may be tempting to think that the only alternative is closed asylum reception centers, which would be correspondingly unacceptable. We are faced with a situation where globalization has created an urgent need for innovation.

Good reading, and good political idea development.

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