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How Swedes and Norwegians Broke the Power of the ‘1 Percent’


How Swedes and Norwegians Broke the Power of the ‘1 Percent’

George Lakey

While many of us are working to ensure that the Occupy movement will have a lasting impact, it’s worthwhile to consider other countries where masses of people succeeded in nonviolently bringing about a high degree of democracy and economic justice. Sweden and Norway, for example, both experienced a major power shift in the 1930s after prolonged nonviolent struggle.


The problem in America is people, for the most part, are content with their present condition. It isn't painful enough for the masses to lift their heads from their devices and organize a grass roots effort at a grand scale. We aren't starving, with exceptions. Pain is the touchstone for all political progress. We haven't felt it enough to awaken from our slumber.


This is a must read. If we are to evolve to a more fair and just and environmentally and socially just society, we have to understand the process by which other states have gotten there. It seems to me that we need more coalitions forming between political progressives, environmentalists, and the spiritual community. Each has something to contribute, but we all need to be students of how societies change.


So, I am surprised there is no mention of WWII in this article. Quisling? Nazis. National Socialism. What were the effects on the movement to nonviolently change the national zeitgeist?


Their nations are exceeding our own on so many metrics that it's well past time to steal their ideas and improve our own country by the effort ...


Quisling and his National Socialists was a side show. In a sense, the five year long Nazi occupation didn't mean all that much in the grander scheme of ideas. He was a distraction, and even the Germans must have ridiculed him in secret.

Although infamous and well known to the rest of the world, the social democratic process had been going on for almost a generation when Quisling tried to usurp power and establish his ultra vires Nazi-esque puppet government. He failed, but his attempt was spectacular enough to make headlines.

The real story here took place between the end of WWI, the Labour Party leaving Comintern in 1923 and their complete dominance of the Norwegian parliament (Stortinget) between 1935 and 1965.


I hate to be the bearer of good news, but the US Constitution establishes a far superior government, of the people, than any other parliamentary democracy, and it's based upon the representation of all the people, creating the highest level of demographic and ideological diversity with which to govern, not just the 1%.

Ok, I can hear all the naysayers, wanting to point out all the problems, divisions, and dysfunction interlaced in our current government. What I will respond is, are we actually using the constitution and its principles in our current system of government? Answer, NO! The constitution describes a highly represented republic, not a two party democracy which only represents the interest of the 1%, no matter which side of the political spectrum the party represents.

Representation is the key, and without representation our republic will not work properly, as currently being demonstrated. How many of you believe that 435 representatives for 330,000,000 people is representative? That's 1 representive for every 750,000 persons. That leaves states like Montana, with over 1 million people with only 1 representative in the US House, how can 1 person represent the demographic and ideological diversity of a whole state? Answer, they can't, that's why it is a matter of who has the most money to buy the votes of the people to get the highest bidder represented. Then ask yourself, why couldn't they have two representatives, they both are still representing MT? Answer, there is not reasonable explanation as to why they shouldn't have at least two representatives, that way if they had one to represent the conservative position then the other could represent the progressive position. But then what about the people who don't fit into the conservative or progressive positions, then how about three, that way all those who don't fit into one of the other ideologies will also be represented? Answer, there is no reasonable explanation as to why they couldn't have three representatives, they are still working together for the state of MT and the interest of the people of Montana.

What I have just done to you is subjected you to a math problem, specifically a statistical evaluation of how many samples of a population would be necessary for that sample selection to be representative of the whole population. The framers of the constitution concluded that a sample size of 1 representative for every 30,000 persons would be the proper level of representation and should not be exceeded. In the Federalist Papers this topic is at the core of their arguments for a well represented republic as being far superior to an underrepresented democracy, which we have today, or a true democracy where everyone would vote on every issue, which leads to anarchy.

This one simple adjustment in the level of representation will make our democracy, of the people, again. Our government will have no party control and all the states will be equal, because of the equality of the Senate, the safety valve of our government, and as such cannot have a leadership control structure of any kind, sorry McConnell and Schumer, you must return to your seat beside the other Senator from your State, only voting determines the sense of the Senate and you should be voting based upon the interest of your state, not the interest of a national party.

The argument I'm making here is that underrepresentation leads to all the detrimental symptoms we are currently experiencing with our government. The cure for our terminal condition is to properly represent the people as prescribed by the constitution, then our system of government will be free of the control of the 1%, we the people will then form an enviable society as have other countries mentioned in this article. We already have the tools to form the society we envy, all we need to do is use them as prescribed by the constitution.


Obviously something happened along the way in Norway and Sweden because today they are not Marxist countries. What happened appears to be that it was realized that in a social democracy that everyone must pay high tax rates on earned income.

However, these Two countries have not solved the problem of the "1%". So, called public ownership is not a solution, it is just a way to have higher taxes -- all the profits (100%) goes to the government. The real solution to the "1%" is not to have an accumulation of wealth by a rich class. The Marxist solution of confiscation is not the answer either because it is not a solution. This capital is needed for the growth of the economy. The only real answer is for the people, the working class, to invest their money in capital stock like the "1%" do, then the people actually will own the means of production and distribution. However, this will never happen when a Socialist government provides them cradle to grave benefits including a retirement pension.


Wow! Thank you for that history lesson. I was a child in Norway, did my schooling in Oslo in the 50's/60's. Somehow my very extensive education there failed to make me aware of that turbulent time up until 1940. And I went to the best school, was taught history by the same teacher who taught the now king, Harald. My grandfather was a blue collar worker in the 20's and 30's, so he may very well have been deeply involved in all that.

Maybe I should have paid more attention to my history lessons?


There is a slight flaw in your analysis. Both Norway and Sweden (Norway more and Sweden less) have long traditions of egalitarianism long before the 20th century. There is not, and has never been a "one percent" in either country. There have been and still are class differences, owners and workers, but there is not a tiny group of super wealthy people who owned most of the economy. Some ship owners in Norway have tried to be a sort of one percent but they have been forced to leave the country because of tax laws. Both countries have very strict progressive tax systems where one can pay as much as 75 % in tax. as well as a value added tax (VAT or sales tax) of about 25% on everything including food. When I worked in Norway as a high school teacher my tax rate was about 45%. This taxation prevents the gap between rich and poor to be as it is in the UK or US. That said, there is a gap between rich and poor on Scandinavia and it is growing. I lived and worked in Norway for 30 years.