To my Norwegian friends:
As you may have heard, during recent discussions on America immigration policy, President Donald J. Trump exclaimed that what the U.S.A. truly needs is not more people from “shithole” countries like those in the Caribbean, South America and Africa, but newcomers from “Norway.” When I heard this I thought to myself, “Hey, I know some Norwegians! I should let them know about a fabulous opportunity that awaits them.” After all, my own grandmother came to the States from Norway in the late 19th century after the family fishing boat was lost at sea with her father and brothers aboard. The remaining family members sent poor teenaged “Lina” to live with an aunt in Spokane. Hence, I myself am part Norwegian and we’ve flourished here.
Given the door that has recently opened, I want to encourage you and your families to move to “the land of the free and home of the brave.” The country really need your help and wise counsel at present. As I recall, you are all well-educated, wonderfully skillful in your professions and possess the skin color evidently needed to cross our borders. These are exactly the qualities our President wants to promote, especially those marvelous skin tones!
As you ponder Trump’s intriguing invitation, there are many aspects of our way of life that will make it appealing, especially in comparison conditions in poor little Norway. Because some key features are new since we became friends in the early 1990s, I hope this letter will bring you up-to-date on what today’s U.S.A. has to offer.
As regards possible employment, the prospects here are simply excellent. In fact, we have nearly reached a level of “full employment,” unless one counts the tens of millions of discouraged, lazy deadbeats who’ve left the labor market in recent decades. Wages and salaries are also a highly positive feature, especially as regards their unwavering stability. For most working people, earnings leveled off in the middle 1970s and have scarcely budged since then. This establishes a firm foundation for planning and budgeting in people’s everyday lives. No longer are there worries like the ones you have in Norway about how to deal periodic surges of excess cash.
In addition, you’ll be pleased to learn we lack the universal healthcare system that so badly afflicts Scandinavian morale. The scattered, under-funded bits and pieces of American medical insurance plans encourage people to be industrious, working harder to provide for their personal and familial wellbeing. This is widely regarded as an emblem of national and personal pride. In fact, recent attempts to change this model have been quickly and stiffly rebuffed! Even disabled persons and little children from disadvantaged families face the elimination of the modest health insurance they once enjoyed. The maxim -- “Let ‘em rot!” – seems to have replaced that dreary old canard from the “Hippocratic Oath” – “First do no harm” – within our profit driven medical institutions.
You may recall the medical emergency my family experienced during our year in Oslo in 1992. Even as visitors, we received quick, inexpensive, effective medical care, no questions asked. Alas, such wonderful treatment ultimately left us totally enfeebled as civic agents, moral weaklings unable to tackle the rigors of life in the U.S. It took many years to embrace to rock-ribbed American health care schemes and the labyrinthine rules they enforce. But that’s not something you’d have to worry about if you were to move here. We’d soon toughen you up!
Along similar lines, there is no family leave policy in the process of child bearing similar to the absurdly lengthy, overly permissive periods of rest and enjoyment with newborns your country imposes on both mothers and fathers. Standard American practice guarantees that no one’s career will be disrupted (even momentarily) by the arrival of those noisy, messy, troublesome little brats. I’m sure you’ll see the advantages here. We assume that work always comes first, an expression of our cherished “family values.”
Beyond that, our national system of education insures that from kindergarten to grade school, from college to grad school, American students experience the kinds of demanding, costly, practical challenges that prepare them up for the dynamics of today’s neoliberal economy. Thus, there’s none of that “free” university education that afflicts Norwegians, rendering them notoriously lazy and without any clear purpose. Rather we’ve devised an ingenious system in which students (and their parents) are required to take on tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in crushing debt to earn bachelors, masters and PhD degrees. This ensures that young people internalize a firm, no nonsense commitment to wider demands of education as they pay off their loans over many may decades, right up to the point of retirement. We think of this as an exhilarating exploration in “lifelong learning” and advise prospective students that financing of this kind is actually way “to invest in your own future.” Indeed, that’s exactly how my own students proudly describe the shackles of indentured servitude they’ve taken on. Frankly,I’ve come to admire their fortitude.
And since I’ve brought up the whole notion of “retirement,” you’ll be happy to learn that social policies in America now make that option almost impossible for all but the very wealthy. Over the years corporations and other organizations have done away with those embarrassingly luxurious “defined benefit” pensions. In addition, our politicians are now preparing to slash or eliminate the Social Security system created during the “New Deal,” that ill-conceived ponzi scheme crafted by Frankly D. Roosevelt decades ago. This means that elder folks are no longer faced with the prospects of boredom, meaningless hobbies and lack of social contacts that old-fashioned retirement once involved. No, we keep them working forever in close touch with friends on the job, often as Wal-Mart greeters, until the day the hearse finally pulls up to the curb.
Another distinct benefit of moving to the U.S. is that you’d come to enjoy the joys of a deteriorating infrastructure and almost total absence of public transportation. Unlike your experience on those excellent Norwegian roads, bridges, tunnels, trolleys, and trains, getting around in America now is a daily adventure! Imagine the thrills you’ll have driving down U.S. roads carefully dodging the potholes and wondering if the bridge you’re crossing will collapse under you. The sense of adventure you’ll find far exceeds the dreary pursuits of cross-country skiing or hiking on the Nordmarka forest trails that surround Oslo. And oh, by the way, you won’t be bothered by those silly little restaurant huts with hot dogs and warm pastries that magically appear in the middle of nowhere while you’re out in the wilderness. No, you’ll be able buy a Happy Meal at a nearby MacDonald’s as your rear axel is being replaced after hitting one of the cavernous ruts that litter our highways.
As perhaps the most astonishing feature of all you’ll discover in the new U.S.A. is the rapidly burgeoning rise of economic inequality. You’ll marvel at the small (but, of course, richly deserving) class of moneyed and powerful elites that manages our hedge funds and tech firms while showering exquisite gifts of mobile phones, social media and computer games upon a bemused populace. A notable side effect of this development is that our ingenious oligarchs have generously taken over the onerous work of what used to be called “democracy” in all matters of public life. This feature is on display each day in Trump’s White House and administrative agencies where the scourges of “big government” interference in workplace safety, environmental protection, regulation of food and drug quality, funding of scientific research, and other tasks are being eliminated, enabling the wisdom of the free market and priorities of billionaires (including those from other countries!) to determine which policy outcomes make sense. A nifty side effect of this development, one that I’m sure you’ll appreciate, is that all those worries about “public policy” that we used to talk about endlessly at the Centre for Technology and Culture have become totally irrelevant here. In both long and short term arrangements, the rich now do all the planning for us. As you’ll quickly realize, the extent of their care and generosity is simply boundless!
I could go on to describe other marvelous benefits that life in the U.S. provides, but the list is so long as to defy summary. However, I think it’s important to mention “The Big Picture” that you and other Norwegians should keep in mind as you ponder moving to these shores. In recent decades much of the American populace and almost all of its prominent political leaders have discarded an antiquated theory, one that is evidently still taken seriously in Scandinavia. It’s the odd conviction there exists something called the “common good” and that all citizens, public officials and institutions in a free society ought to help nurture its realization. Imagine that! Fortunately, at long last we’ve come to realize that this idea was never anything more than an absurd fantasy, an obsolete (perhaps socialistic) relic of yesteryear. The noble truth we’ve embraced as an alternative affirms that a person deserves only those goods and advantages that he or she has diligently worked for and successfully amassed in the benevolent “free market.” Having thrown “common good” on the trash heap of history, we’ve begun replacing it with some fashionable 21st century notions such “entrepreneurship,” “share holder value” and (best of all!) “innovation.” Trump’s favorite slogan -- “making American great again” -- highlights some notable commitments within this newly refurbished set of national ideals.
Please let me know if you’d like to embark upon the exciting voyage that the President and I have outlined. I’d be more than happy to use my good offices as advocate and sponsor for any visas and other details of your relocation. I realize it will be difficult to leave your beloved, forward looking Norway, a wonderful place once regarded as “a little and backward country.” But think of it this way: You’d be moving to a nation fast becoming little and backward in astonishingly new ways!
I look forward to hearing from you.
Ha det bra!