Sometimes I get the feeling that the United States is in a better situation than Norway in regard to corrupt politicians. In international rankings Norway scores way ahead of the US in terms of public perception on the level of corruption in society. As a Norwegian myself, I can confirm that most people on this side of the Atlantic are “true believers” in a manner of speaking. They really believe that politicians have the best interest of the population at heart rather than personal enrichment. Politicians may fail to achieve what they set out to accomplish, but it is failure rather than corruption that is the big issue. In the same manner, lack of political skill might result in botched reforms and proposals going nowhere. This is not reflected back negatively on the political system as a whole.
In the US people know that their elected officials have questionable ethical purposes. No one bats an eye upon learning that a political figure with a 100k/year official salary has a net worth in the multi-million-dollar range. Backroom deals in cigar-smoke filled rooms is not out of the ordinary and is to be expected. The cosy relationship between politicians, Wall Street, big money donors and corporations is well known, and has been public knowledge for a long time. The voting public is surprised if their congress critter defers from exploiting power for monetary gain. I fully believe that Norwegian politicians, bureaucrats, and other political operatives are corrupt as well. How the corruption manifests might be different. Perhaps there is less money deposited into hidden accounts and more “I’ll scratch your back, you’ll scratch mine” secret dealings going on. Bureaucrats helping out friends and family while bypassing official guidelines on for instance paperwork approvals is something I expect is a global phenomenon.
There is a fundamental honesty in the American approach to political corruption. People know about it. In Norway, we deny the reality. We don’t ask ourselves “why would this person seek out political power over his/her fellow citizens?”. We don’t question the motive. Accordingly, we don’t have the same anti-politician culture with marches, protests and the like that you’ll find in the US. That is a personal regret of mine. In order to build a more free society. A “woke” public is a necessary first step. We cannot build upon a missing foundation. In the US, there is a healthy liberty movement with real traction. They can enjoy the fruits of a fertile public intellectual soil of people that can be converted to being freedom lovers. They are receptive to the arguments for freedom and against politicians in a way that Norwegians are not.
I believe that the openness of the corruption has a value of its own. As Dr. Phil famously said: “You can’t change what you can’t acknowledge”.