(Frontpage) -- For thirteen years in a row, Business Insider – citing its standard of living, health-care system, and high life expectancy – has put Norway at the top of its annual list of “best countries to live in.” The high life expectancy is an objective fact; the other items are a matter of debate. Norwegian health care? It works admirably, unless you require an operation or treatment that the government considers too expensive or for which there's a waiting list. Standard of living? Incomes are high, but so are taxes.
But I'm not here to argue with Business Insider's rankings. I'm here to point out an aspect of Norwegian life that never figures on any of these “best country” lists, whether put out by Business Insider or the United Nations or whomever. I'm talking about statism – the degree to which the state is a palpable part of everyday life.
Briefly put, Norway is pretty much statism central. I'm more accustomed to it now, but when I was first living here I was acutely aware every single day of the presence of the government in my life. I'm not talking about some abstract, theoretical phenomenon. It's a real, palpable feeling. A feeling of being a bit less of an individual and a bit more part of a collective. An awareness that your eleven-digit “person number” (which includes your birth date) comes up a lot more often than your social-security number ever did back in the U.S. A sense of being covered by an umbrella, but also surrounded by a wall.
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