The country’s ills reveal what happens to the human mind when exposed to social democratic policies for generations.

Democratic socialist romantics often justify their views by lifting up the Norwegian system and disregarding socialist-run states like Venezuela, Russia, and Cuba, which have experienced corruption, poor management, poverty, and/or imperialism. Norway, in contrast, is fetishized and exemplified as the epitome of a strong social state in the absence of tyranny and starvation.

The recurring conservative counterargument to the Scandinavian-style social democracy is that the homogeneity of the population and wealth disqualifies it for comparison.

A better counterargument, however, points to the deterioration we are observing in real time. Interestingly, precisely because of wealth and homogeneity, the experimental conditions are perfect to observe what happens to the human mind when exposed to social democratic policies for generations.

Norwegian Wealth Perpetrates Intrusive Government

The wealth lies primarily in the Government Pension Fund Global (also known as the Oil Fund), the invested surplus revenues of the Norwegian petroleum sector, currently valued at 1.4 trillion USD.

The purpose of building a social state with this state-run oil wealth was to ensure everyone would be afforded good and equal opportunities early in life, to protect the weak and strengthen them by distributing wealth equally. Now, even these praise-worthy feats — only possible because of the Oil Fund — are vanishing before our eyes; the middle class is thinning and the rich fleeing. Meanwhile, Democratic candidates continue to rave about Norway, hoping it’s too far away for anyone to notice its problems.

What also separates Norway from other socialist structures is its people’s dedication to the strong state. From kindergarten, Norwegians have instilled in their minds an unquestioning faith in and complete acceptance of high taxes, balanced by the belief of reciprocity. People grow up believing strongly that some form of ideal governing can fix most things; you’re just one policy change away from utopia.

Any issue — be it bullyingbad schools, high energy costs, few psychiatrists, or drug problems — arises, and the government is called upon to impose regulations and boost programs. The Oil Fund and high taxes from those who can afford them are considered an endless source, much in the way a child has no concept of the parents’ salary.

Government Nannying Undermines Norwegian Spirit

The security of the Oil Fund also shields Norwegians from the sting of the realities that the rest of the Western world feels full force. It is as if a bedridden patient hired someone to run back and forth handing him things instead of seeing a physiotherapist to strengthen muscle functioning. The Norwegian people are sluggishly atrophying and keep reelecting politicians who won’t make them get out of bed themselves; they take more money out of the Oil Fund to fatten the state-budget, despite the historic weakening of the krone.

The steady abdication of responsibility in exchange for the cozy sickbed of oil-money security is leading to individual and societal stagnation.

What is upsetting is that Norwegians are not meant to be a docile, mediocre people. Our history is littered with battles for independence and the settling of uninhabitable places. The true Norwegian spirit is found in Nansen and Amundsen’s polar excursions and in Operation Gunnerside during Nazi occupation, in which six crazy Norwegians made their way through the frozen tundra on skis to bomb the heavy water plant. What had to have happened for this down-to-earth, nonpretentious, and deeply patriotic people to lose both sinew and cartilage?

The Norwegian (and Scandinavian) culture has been shaped by the famous poem “Janteloven,” or “Law of Jante,” which states: “You shouldn’t think that you are anything special, anything more than us or good at anything.” The poem is mandatory curriculum, teaching children to put society ahead of the individual and to not boast about accomplishments.

It not only discourages attitudes of generosity but also provokes those faced with a neighbor’s success. While the humility of the “Law of Jante” is a virtue, the steady abdication of responsibility in exchange for the cozy sickbed of oil-money security is leading to individual and societal stagnation.

Contrast the mentality of Jante to the words of Shakespeare, which influenced English and American societies to encourage the individual: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be, / For loan oft loses both itself and friend, / And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.” Polonius’ advice to his son Laertes in Hamlet encourages self-responsibility for keeping your own house in order and emphasizes the need to embrace some fear of ruin to succeed.

Freedom and responsibility are key drivers of human motivation and self-determination. If you’re no longer held accountable for your actions, you are less opposed to feeling infringements on your freedom. Where other strong social states arose, power and freedom were taken away first, provoking anger and a drive toward revolt. In Vietnam, I spoke to a young couple who, when they eventually felt comfortable enough to speak their mind, were fuming. They had kept their sense of personal responsibility, however, and were working three jobs to afford escape.

Diminished Norwegian Spirit as Root of Societal Ills

The condition of Norwegian society reveals what happens when the first step taken is the voluntary abdication of personal responsibility to career politicians. Just look at the world-renowned universal health care system; last year, 300,000 people neglected their doctor’s appointments, while 467,000 were waiting in line for one — with the average wait time 75 days. Norway ranks third among all countries when listed according to which spends the most on health care, and its people cannot even muster enough sense of ownership and responsibility to show up. Those who can afford it utilize private health care providers, an industry that has seen an explosive growth over the last 15 years, raking in billions in revenue.

The mentality has festered and is causing broader systemic issues. How is it possible, for example, that Norwegian universities trail behind others internationally, and that the levels of reading, writing, and science in children are so low that Norway had a telling off from the OECD? In lieu of this scolding, the government poured money and resources into the problem, and teens are still barely surpassing the average international levels. Government involvement in sectors like education is directly to blame for the poor results as it misdirects from the actual cause: a cultural phenomenon, not a budgeting mishap.

After the poor results were released, A study published in International Education Journal: Comparative Perspectives revealed that 30 percent of Norwegian teachers attributed students’ low work ethic to Norway being a “nanny state,” leading “students to [be] too ‘laid back.’” About 40 percent felt challenged by the increasing emotional and behavioral problems of students, perceived to be instead the responsibility of parents and psychologists. No wonder descendants of immigrants are far outperforming those of Norwegians at the universities, as well as in the elite jobs of law, medicine, and finance.

People have willingly given away both responsibility and the freedom to choose — because “mommy knows best,” and the treatment for atrophy appears too overwhelming. It ensures a hellbent insistence on life satisfaction being high despite Norwegians exhibiting more psychiatric symptoms than ever before, individuals increasingly designated unfit to work, elderly becoming impoverished, and families with children barely making ends meet. A people who was once feared by all is now only outperforming in hydro-electric power, black metal, and chess.

I wonder if the king of champagne liberalism, Pete Buttigieg — who claims to speak Norwegian (he doesn’t, at least not well) and harps on about the wonders of universal everything-care — is aware that he would be paying top dollar encouraging sluggish deterioration with store-brand quality.


Hannah Spier, M.D. is a Norwegian psychiatrist based in Switzerland, the author of the Substack Psychobabble, and the mother of three small children. She has a degree in psychotherapy from the University of Zürich.

Hannah Spier hosts the podcast ‘What Should I tell My Daughter?’ twice a month at Apple Podcast and Spotify.

This article was previously published at on June 2nd 2023, and re-published at Document News with the authors kind permission.


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