Now that President Trump has mentioned Norway (!), let us take the opportunity to reiterate some of what we have already discussed about that very progressive nation. It is quite certain, contrary to Trump’s desires, that we will not soon see an influx of Norwegian immigrants to the US: while Trump presumably wants Norwegians primarily because they are white and successful, it is precisely their success that assures that they have no intention of coming here – their standard of living would go down. And there is little point trying to educate Trump and others like him that it has been immigrants fleeing oppression, poverty and violence – many of them people of color – that have given so much to the United States. Historically, people fleeing countries where they have suffered often have both an admirable work ethic and the drive to succeed. Unfortunately, this lesson is lost on Trump and his ilk: fear of those who do not share their own personal traits supersedes facts, unfortunately.
What is also lost, on Americans of many stripes, is that the success of Norway is due in large part to the “marriage” of a capitalist economy with a robust social safety net – what many US citizens pejoratively and incorrectly label “socialism” or the “welfare state.”
Rather than entertain the ridiculous notion that the US will see increased immigration from Norway or other predominantly white nations, let us look at the country instead with the goal of “stealing” some of the ideas and practices that make them so strong, resilient and enviable. Even though Norway is overwhelmingly Germanic by race, I have never seen a coherent argument as to why our more racially diverse nation cannot implement their beneficent ways in some fashion. (Besides, Norway is also a nation that has welcomed immigrants from many corners of the world over the past two decades.) No matter what our American racial or ethnic background might be, most of us share the same basic desires and goals: adequate (even excellent) health care; good schools for our children; security in our neighborhoods and safety in the air we breathe and the water we drink; jobs that pay a living wage and instill dignity and worth; a comfortable retirement; and a government system that works effectively for all its citizens.
So, let’s complete some telling sentences.
- One of the best countries for kids – #1 in 2017, in fact.
- A nation of very happy citizens.
- A nation with low long-term unemployment.
- A country with a high level of women who hold elected office compared to ours.
- A nation with a very low level of per capita firearm deaths compared to ours.
- A higher life expectancy than ours, as well as an excellent public health system with universal coverage.
- A lower maternal mortality rate than ours.
- National laws outlawing workplace bullying.
- National laws granting generous paid leave in the workplace.
- National laws that help keep prescription drug prices reasonable.
- Excellent infrastructure funded by the government and by partnerships between government and the for-profit sector.
- A multi-party system of governance that makes much of the country’s success possible.
In one sense, President Trump is right to direct our attention to Norway – and all the other nations of the world, including most of the EU nations, whose citizens we admire – but not because we will attract more of their people but because we can learn so much from them. Trump’s Norway comments are racist, bigoted and uninformed. We must be better than our President; we must stand firm against his worst instincts and nurture our best instincts – for our own sakes and those of our descendants.