James Smart's Philadelphia
Of All Things
February 21, 2018
by James Smart
Does this country need more Norwegians?
When President Trump suggested, a few outbursts ago, that he would rather see immigrants from Norway barging through our unwalled borders than those from darker-hued countries, a lot of writers declared that maybe we could use a few Norwegians.
Their reasoning in general was that Norway is a well-run country and a great place to live. They didn’t seem to notice that their argument almost seemed to validate the Trump opinion. Factoring out the difference in skin color, a Scandinavian country generally looks to be better run than many of the 54 nations on the African continent.
The pro-Norway pundits piled on the wonderfulness of Norway. They say that Norwegians have a high gross domestic product per capita, or GDP.
GDP is the wealth of the nation divided by the number of inhabitants. Depending on which experts using what figures, Norway is second or third or so in the world. The United States is eighth or 11th or thereabouts on various lists. It seems that each of us United Staters is worth maybe $59,000. Does that make you feel good? Well, Norwegians are worth about $70,000.
Citizens of some small central African countries can have a GDP per capita, as the folks down at the statistics works call it, of maybe 800 bucks or so. But they don’t have to buy expensive fur hats for their capita, as Norwegians do.
Norway has taxes, mainly 7.8 percent social security type contributions from wages, that support free public education, universal health care for everybody, sick leave payments, retirement at 65, and assorted other goodies. Employers pay in, too.
The Norwegians ban all firearms not suitable for hunting, and have strict laws about storage of ammunition.
And the country has a diverse population, with people from other European countries, plus Morocco, Iraq, Iran, Kurdistan, Somalia, and maybe even a few folks from one of those African countries that our president described so colorfully. Thousands of immigrants’ children have been born in Norway.
But one thing Americans didn’t mention when daydreaming of a Norwegianish system. Norway is a very small country.
Norway has about 5,250,000 people. New York City has a bigger population. There are 21 of the United States with a bigger population than Norway. Philly’s metro area, (as defined by the U. S. Census Bureau, which includes Reading, Camden and an odd assortment of other such satellites), has a bigger population than Norway.
I may be wrong (it has happened before), but I think that it must be easier to govern and regulate a smaller population than the huge one faced by a U. S. President and all his merry men in Washington.
Our president presides over the inhabitants of more than 300,000 square miles, and that’s not counting such disconnected real estate as Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the northern Marianna Islands and the Virgin Islands. Have I forgotten anyone?
Norway averages about 14 people per square mile. Our population works out to a bit more than 90 persons per square mile, although we haven’t sorted ourselves out that neatly. The president has about four million federal government employees to help him, and every state and city and county and all sorts of local governments are also busy.
I don’t think that importing Norwegians would help us operate this confused and confusing country that has been stumbling along fairly successfully for nearly 250 years. They can’t bring their GDP with them.