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Europe: New Challenges, New Directions

by John Brian Shannon | August 30, 2016

Europe is at a crossroads and it’s time to make some decisions

Very conveniently, however, there are really only 3 problems with Europe.

Map of Europe includes the EU and non-EU nations.

Map of Europe includes the EU and non-EU nations. EU nations that aren’t part of the Eurozone (the euro) are light blue. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

I: The trickle-up economy continues to move trillions of dollars out of the bottom 4 quintiles and place it into the hands of the top quintile. This remains a recipe for failure, and the longer it continues the more draconian the solutions will need to be.

In 2016, half the world’s wealth is concentrated into the hands of the 1% — but by 2030, three-quarters of the world’s wealth will be concentrated into the hands of the 1%.

That’s wholly unsustainable. And nobody is even talking about it.

Unless addressed, Record Inequality will become Social Breakdown. And that will be the end of Europe as we know it.

II: Globalization is a truly wonderful thing. It continues to bring cheap goods to consumers since the Arab Oil Embargo in 1974, which caused millions of Americans to buy cheaper, more fuel efficient cars. That was the beginning of it, but the flood of electronics, textiles, and other goods soon followed.

For one such example of this; Each iPhone would retail for over $2000. with some sources asserting each iPhone would cost $3000. if manufactured in the United States.

But globalization has piggy-backed on Record Inequality to the detriment of workers and families in the West and it looks like (however fairly or unfairly) ‘The People’ are sick of globalization.

Declining living standards due to Inequality and Globalization have ‘The People’ thinking that change is necessary.

And change will come. The People always get their way. Maybe not with Perestroika and Glasnost, but the will of the people eventually becomes reality.

III: “You are leaving the American Sector”

We all remember those signs in postwar Europe. But what is actually happening is that America is leaving the American Sector in Europe.

Yes, America has realized that 58% (and growing) of all global trade is happening in the Pacific and the Americans are lowering their commitment to Europe and the Middle East.

Europe should be all grown-up by now, and the Middle East is a rambunctious, late-teenage, regional power. You should try to get along.

Prior to the Brexit referendum, the normal course of events would have been for the U.S. to become the Pacific Power and for the EU to become the Atlantic Power.

However, for that to happen, the EU needed Britain (which is by definition) the world’s seafaring nation and Britain is leaving the EU.

Consequently, history is still happening as the logical course of action post-referendum is for the UK to become the dedicated Atlantic Power, while the EU becomes the dedicated Mediterranean Power.

And that means strong (and fair) linkages with MENA nations and it means a strong invite to join the EU for every single southern European nation.

As 97.1% of Crimeans voted to rejoin Russia, it also means ‘Hands-Off Crimea’ but either Turkey or Ukraine (sans-Crimea) will eventually join the EU. But not both.

Russia won’t allow the EU to have both, so choose the option you prefer and get it done with as little upset as possible. The EU already has too much on its plate — troubles with Russia is the last thing the EU needs — especially in view of decreased American commitment to Europe.

The next 10 years will be a vulnerable time for the EU; Meaning, this is not the time for the EU to go shooting itself in the foot with a Russian gun.

Summary

Europe has only three problems. The ways I’ve outlined are not the only ways to solve them. However, they align with what is already happening.

What I’m saying, is that instead of governments being steered by events European leaders need to steer the thing even if it means continuing on with what was already going to take place anyhow.

Which is:

a) Friendly divorce with Britain.
b) EU lowers Atlantic commitments and ramps up linkages and commitments in the Med and MENA.
c) All southern European nations join the EU.
d) Choose either Ukraine (sans-Crimea) or Turkey and make one of them an EU nation, ASAP.
e) Friendly relations with Russia are imperative — if the present leadership can’t get it done, Fire Them and get new leaders — it’s that important.
f) Friendly relations with the Middle East (stop bombing your neighbours)
g) Address Inequality in no uncertain terms.
h) Stop using the word globalization and seek Win-Win bilateral trade agreements exclusively, where that trade actually benefits both sides — instead of just dumping your goods in other countries and getting the loot. You need (true) Interdependence instead of Globalization.
i) Harmonize EU economic policies around the best existing model in Europe (Norway) where deficits are limited to 4% of GDP, plan for a 3% unemployment rate, free university education for residents, low crime rate, high productivity, very high SPI and UN Happiness Index scores (and those two metrics drive all other positive stats) revenue surpluses directed to a sovereign wealth fund, and so much more.

These are not big challenges compared to the challenges faced by WWI and WWII leaders, and by leaders in the immediate postwar era. These are tiny challenges.

But these challenges will require persistence by leaders who can keep the main objectives in the forefront of their mind, even as (seemingly) everyone else wants to go in different directions.

The question is not; “Does the EU have good leaders?” (Of course it most certainly does or the EU wouldn’t have ever existed, nor would it still remain)

The question is: “Does the EU have the leaders it needs to actually accomplish the remaining goals?”

Related Article:

Brexit? Or Brexit + Enhanced Commonwealth?

by John Brian Shannon | April 22, 2016

When a thing isn’t working, it’s time to quit. Whether it’s a marriage or a political union there comes a time to say a respectful ‘goodbye’.

And it appears howevermuch joining the EU has propelled the UK economy, the social cost of millions of eastern European economic migrants and Levant refugees streaming into the UK is higher than British citizens are comfortable with.

The raison d’être for the creation of the EU is quite wonderful — inspired even. But there can be a difference between the theory of a thing and what has actually occurred.

Sir Winston Churchill information courtesy of Gov. UK

Sir Winston S. Churchill was an inspirational statesman, writer, orator and leader who led Britain to victory in World War II. He served as Conservative Prime Minister twice – from 1940 to 1945 and from 1951 to 1955. Gov.uk

Scary statistics have been trotted out in order to push Brit citizens into voting to stay in the EU, but when analyzed turn out to be speculative at best.

It looks like the EU project is in trouble. I wish them well, and I hope they solve their problems.

In the meantime, the UK must do what is best for the UK. And in my opinion, that means they should get out now, and invite the Scandinavian nations and Ireland to join The Commonwealth with the goal of increasing economic and social integration with those sovereign northern European nations. (The Scandinavian nations are gone anyway as far as EU membership is concerned. As soon as the first opportunity appears that meets optics standards, they’ll quit the EU)

If the UK, the Scandinavian countries, and Ireland form a loose economic and social cooperative union (or become members of a re-energized Commonwealth) it will immediately boost economic and social metrics across those nations, without the downsides of EU membership.

Without wishing any harm to the EU; The European Union can better concentrate on southern European issues with Germany and France leading the way, and without northern European concerns to complicate things.

I wouldn’t rule out a future UK/Scandinavian nations/Ireland bid (as one bloc) to accede to the EU once things have stabilized there.

But for now, the United Kingdom and northern European countries can do better by joining The Commonwealth and working towards interdependent socio-economic success.


The question is; Do we choose ‘safe’ or do we choose ‘Carpe Diem’?

The European Union is deep in it’s own problems for the foreseeable future, and in that context I make the case for the UK to leave the EU. As there’s no precedent for the Brexit situation it could now become anything the UK government wants it to become.

How about this?

  1. The UK leaves the EU and adopts a similar relationship to the EU, as Norway presently enjoys.
  2. The UK invites all Scandinavian nations and Ireland to become part of The Commonwealth.
  3. The UK institutes a 1% Tobin Tax, keeping one-quarter of one percent for administrative purposes, and remits the remaining three-quarters of one percent to the IMF — to be held in a special account that only the UK government can spend on the UK and other Commonwealth nations.
  4. Every Commonwealth nation should phase-in a 1% Tobin Tax over a 5-year period. And just as in the UK, one-quarter of one percent would be retained by each Commonwealth nation to cover collection and administration costs of the Tobin Tax.
  5. It’s obvious that perhaps a trillion pounds of Tobin Tax revenue would accrue quickly — and be available to each Commonwealth nation to spend in any other Commonwealth nation. (Need a new SASOL headquarters with a London address? Perhaps you need to double the export capacity in the port of Accra? Or, with the proper funding you can finally build that 1 GigaWatt wind farm and export billions of dollars/pounds/rands worth of electricity to neighbouring countries. Now you have instant funding!)
  6. If you’re the UK there’s one thing you want, countries lining up to join The Commonwealth! And within 5-years of joining The Commonwealth, beginning to contribute their own Tobin Tax revenue to the special IMF account which is only used to strengthen trade links with other Commonwealth economies.
  7. The ultimate goal of course, would be for the entire Commonwealth to copy the Norwegian economic model (as uniformly as possible) in order to attain Norway’s enviable statistics — such as the world’s highest per capita income, among the world’s highest productivity, free university for all citizens and residents, free universal healthcare ranked almost as highly as the UK healthcare system, and so much more. (Keep in mind Norway’s #1 ranking on the Social Progress Index (SPI) and very high ranking on the UN Happiness Index. And remember, all positive indicators flow from those two stats, not the other way around)

The question would then become; “Which country wouldn’t want to join The Commonwealth?”

Commonwealth countries, plus Scandinavian countries 2016

A UK exit (Brexit) from the European Union could now become anything the UK wants it to become. Commonwealth countries (in green colour) plus Scandinavian countries and Ireland (in blue colour) Image courtesy of maproom.org

In this, the 21st-century, it should never be a case of looking at a glass, half-full. It should always be about creating a massively better system; One that is a whole order of magnitude better than the presently sputtering economic model.

Previous generations of politicians rose to meet the challenges of their time, and likewise the UK government must also rise to the so-called challenges of our time.

But meeting the challenges of our time must be considered passé as the UK is sufficiently advanced that it should blow past the challenges of our time — in the same way a Bentley Mulsanne Speed blows past a Trabant on the M6 motorway.


Who Should Lead an Economically-Empowered Commonwealth?

Whomever is the most recently dismissed Prime Minister of any Commonwealth country should (within 180 days of losing office) be given the top job — Secretary General of The Commonwealth.

In that way, a flow of different approaches from highly empowered and knowledgeable people will lead The Commonwealth of Nations and each former PM will undoubtedly leave their stamp on the broad policies of that organization.

A former Indian Prime Minister sitting as Secretary General might advance the cause of microgrid power generation across all developing Commonwealth nations, while the next SecGen (from the UK for example) might take up the cause of getting resources from all Commonwealth nations to China and other major markets. And during the time of an African Secretary General of The Commonwealth, the preferred cause might be improvement of all Commonwealth port facilities in order to dramatically expedite trade — getting Commonwealth goods to every market, faster, fresher, and better.

What matters to me, is that each Secretary General leaves a positive impact on The Commonwealth using his or her unique worldview, experience, contacts, and ability.

It will be this synergy that will make The Commonwealth all that it can and should be.


The Commonwealth of Nations is a group of interdependent countries.

“The Commonwealth is a name for countries which were part of the British Empire before they became independent. This group of states works together on many important matters, like business, health and the fight against poverty.” — Wikipedia


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Paddling in Different Directions: Today’s EU

by John Brian Shannon | April 14, 2016

Today’s EU is functioning like 31 people in a small boat, and each one of them is paddling in a different direction and at a different cadence. But when a crisis occurs, they all paddle furiously (towards Greece, for just one example) to deal with the issues there.

Upon arriving in Greece, some deal with the economic problems, some hit the other paddlers over the head with the oars, while others try to paddle the boat away from Greece — and then, united in common cause, they all blame Greece for their trauma.

It’s exactly the way a team functions whenever there is no grand, overriding vision.

And it’s exactly the worst way to operate a political union.

The EU will continue to act this way until someone arrives on the scene with a huge, bold, and all-embracing vision who will lead the masses over the carcasses of the fallen elite. Just as in 1939.

EU member nations in 2016.

EU member nations in 2016. Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

That’s the fate of the 28-member EU, plus the EC, the ECB, and the Eurozone, unless that destiny is superceded by a better vision.

Let us pay our respect to visionaries in this very short, shortlist: There would’ve been no Apple Computer without Steve Jobs. There would’ve been no NASA Moon landing without JFK, there would’ve been no Marshall Plan without General Marshall, and no Ford Motor Company without Henry Ford.

And without a ‘visioneer’ to scope out a grand vision that a vast majority of European Union citizens can enthusiastically embrace, there will be no EU.

Here’s a worthwhile model to consider. One with a proven track record.

Read: The Secret of Norway’s Success

It’s so easy when you know how…


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