19 July 2007

The Icon Crumbles

How often are we beat over the head with anecdotes and bromides about how the United States is so far behind all the rest of the world? You know the drill; every other nation from Angola to Zimbabwe has better health care than we do and it's all free. Everyone moves about on emissionless mass-transit while we cirlce the mall in our SUVs. Should you have a child, you get 2 years off at double your salary and every soul has every want accomodated from cradle to grave by generous social spending.

They tell us we could have it all here if we'd just pay our fair share, which is code for fleecing the producing class in order to give away the store to the non-producers. Not only is it utopian bliss in every other nation but mine, but all those folks in other countries simply LOVE to pay onerous taxes on everything without expecting any directly-attributable return, right? Not so fast:
Norwegians are among the most heavily taxed people in the world, and that in turn has made Norway one of the most expensive countries in which to live. Most accept the taxes they're ordered to pay on income and even net worth and property, but growing numbers are publicly complaining about sky-high taxes on everything from cars to fuel to consumer goods.

Norwegians differentiate between skatter (taxes) and avgifter (duties, fees or user taxes) and the latter is the most hated. They're what causes a glass of house wine at an Oslo restaurant to cost the equivalent of nearly USD 16, or a gallon of gas to cost nearly USD 9 at current exchange rates. The taxes placed on new cars, which can more than double the price of the car itself, are another bone of contention, even though most Norwegians support measures to protect the environment. "The car tax is much too high, but so are most all the other avgifter also," said Ernst Bendiksen of the northern city of Vadsø, where Norwegians are far more dependent on their cars than those living in cities with good public transit systems. "We certainly don't get anything in return for them."
Something to think about as our congressional delegation keeps promising something for nothing to the largest blocs of voters.

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