Posts Tagged ‘Norway’

Oil price destroys viability of Scottish independence

August 24, 2015

The Scottish National Party (SNP) once had budgeted on the basis of oil price being $115/ barrel. Then at the time of the referendum they assumed a price of not less than $100/barrel giving a tax revenue of not less than £7 billion per year which would offset the “subsidy” that Scotland gets from the rest of the UK of about £9 billion per year. This tax revenue drops to zero with a North Sea oil price of less than $50/ barrel.  But the breakeven price for oil producers is even higher:

Forbes (Jan 2015)Some prospects, including almost all activity West of Shetlands, are considered unprofitable below $100 per barrel. Mature oil wells struggle to be viable below $60, so BP has decided that 200 jobs and 100 contractors’ roles would go following a review of its North Sea operations managed out of Aberdeen, Europe’s oil and gas capital. Looking ahead, BP forecasts the oil price to remain in the $50 to $60 price range for next three years. ………

Either way, BP’s take has darkened the mood in the British and Norwegian sectors of the North Sea. However, it isn’t the first to announce job cuts. If anything, BP’s move is pretty predictable given the company has been quite clear about reducing employee headcount.

Shell, Statoil and Chevron have made similar announcements while ConocoPhillips has also been clear about a need to “streamline operations.” As operators downsize, oilfield services companies would invariably feel the pinch from independent upstarts to market leader Schlumberger.

But reality is biting hard. It is now more likely that Brent oil price will be trapped between $30 and $40 for the next 2 -3 years. Costs of production in the North Sea have not come down much compared to the sharp decline in US production costs of oil from fracking. And now Iranian oil will take its market share. At these prices the North Sea oil producers will be losing money on each barrel produced. Production is likely to be scaled down sharply and investment will drop to a trickle. Onshore jobs involved in both exploration and production (Norway, Holland, Scotland) must decrease. The Norwegian and Scottish production will bear the brunt of this turndown. Norway has built up a huge reserve fund and can weather a storm but not a permanent downturn, The UK economy can take the hit but an independent Scotland would be very hard hit. The introduction of shale fracking in England – which could take advantage of the the production cost reductions achieved in the US – could not only mitigate the risk but add a new source of jobs and tax revenue. The largest cost reductions in the production of oil from shale have come in the non-unionised part of the industry. There is considerable oil shale in Scotland as well, but I expect the SNP and the UK unions to be far too short-sighted and to do their damndest to prevent the introduction of fracking.

Nasdaq brent oil 10 year chart Aug 2015

Nasdaq brent oil 10 year chart Aug 2015

At less than $40/barrel, the SNP would need to create some very strange, fantasy budgets to prove the viability of an independent Scotland. Perhaps they could just nationalise everything and print money.

US “sells” Norway Ambassadorship to an uninformed hotelier

January 27, 2014

The uglier side of “democracy”.

That generous donors to the US political parties are rewarded with Ambassadorships is common knowledge. The smaller and “less important” countries are usually the destination for these bought positions unless a very large donation is made. $6.2 million can buy an Ambassadorship to France or Monaco.

And now Norway knows precisely how unimportant it is considered by Obama’s establishment as George Tsunis, a rich Greek-American hotelier and a very generous donor to the Democratic Party made an idiot of himself at the Senate confirmation hearings. After all he can’t do much harm sitting in Oslo!!!

He thought Norway was a Republic and didn’t know which parties were in the coalition ruling Norway. It would have been pointless asking him the name of the King. An ignorant person is a correct description – at least about Norway. He does apparently know something about running a hotel. It does not say much for his knowledge (and perhaps also his intelligence) but it does not say much either for the briefings he must have received from the State Department. A member of the Greek Orthodox church now going to be an expert in a Lutheran country!!

Or did the career diplomats deliberately make sure he was not briefed properly because they wanted to showcase his ignorance? 

George Tsunis at US Senate in Jnuary 2014 - source screen grab - The Local

George Tsunis at US Senate in Jnuary 2014 – source screen grab – The Local

Future US envoy displays total ignorance of Norway

The US’s next ambassador to Norway has committed a jaw-dropping diplomatic blunder before he even begins, describing politicians from the Progress Party, which has seven ministers, as “fringe elements” that “spew their hatred” in a US Senate hearing.

Asked by Senator John McCain what he thought it was about the “anti-immigration” Progress Party that appealed to Norwegian voters, Greek American businessman George Tsunis seemed unaware of the party’s role in the ruling coalition. 
“You get some fringe elements that have a microphone and spew their hatred,” he said in the pre-appointment hearing. “And I will tell you Norway has been very quick to denounce them.” 
McCain interrupted him, pointing out that as part of the coalition, the party was hardly being denounced. 
“I stand corrected,”  Tsunis said after a pause.  “I would like to leave my answer at… it’s a very,very open society and the overwhelming amount of Norwegians and the overwhelming amount of people in parliament don’t feel the same way.”
The blunder came after a faltering, incoherent performance from Tsunis, in which he made a reference to Norway’s “president”, apparently under the impression that the country is a republic rather than a constitutional monarchy. 
Tsunis founded the hotel management company Chartwell Hotels, which operates properties for InterContinental Hotels, and other major hotel groups. He is one of the leading figures in the Greek-American establishment, and is heavily involved in the Greek Orthodox Church. 
He donated $267,244 to the Democratic party in the 2012 election cycle, and $278,531 in 2010, making him one of the party’s top individual donors. 
His ineptitude has also been noticed in the US (but he was confirmed anyway).

The State Department is filled with veteran foreign service officers with years of experience in international relations. Most of them are products of elite universities, where they studied subjects like conflict resolution or international trade theory. Many are multilingual, and all have deep expertise on the political scenes of various countries.

Yet they routinely watch as deep-pocketed political donors with little or no foreign service experience are appointed to serve as America’s ambassadors overseas. The practice is so common that a pair of international relations scholars at the University of Pennsylvania were able to put prices on various plumb ambassadorships. According to The New York Times, “the study found that political ambassadors who had made campaign donations of $550,000, or bundled contributions of $750,000, had a 90 percent chance of being posted to a country in Western Europe.” The best postings — in France or Monaco — could cost up to $6.2 million in direct contributions. ….

Other Norwegian media described Tsunis as having “trampled through the salad bowl,” according to Olivier Knox at Yahoo NewsKnox added that Tsunis wasn’t the first to fumble the hearing:

McCain, already flummoxed by the apparent inability of Obama’s choice to be ambassador to Hungary to list strategic US interests there, closed his questioning with a bit of sarcasm: “I have no more questions for this incredibly highly qualified group of nominees.”

Viking slaves were probably sacrificed and buried headless with their masters

November 7, 2013

Viking slaves were apparently decapitated and buried with their owners as grave gifts, new research shows. The slaves were buried headless. Moreover their diets differed. High status individuals who were accompanied by their – presumed – beheaded and sacrificed slaves, had much more meat in their diets. Their slaves along with other less exalted commoners had a predominantly marine diet.

Meat for the Viking Lords and fish for all the others but slaves had the dubious privilege of accompanying their masters, headless, into the after life!

Elise Naumann, Maja Krzewińska, Anders Götherström, Gunilla Eriksson Slaves as burial gifts in Viking Age Norway? Evidence from stable isotope and ancient DNA analyses  Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 41, January 2014, Pages 533–540

Full-size image (68 K)

The burial site of Flakstad is situated on Flakstad Island

PastHorizons reports:

Six Late Iron Age (AD 550–1030) graves were discovered in the northern Norwegian island of Flakstad and partially excavated in the period 1980–1983. There were ten individuals making up three single burials, two double and one triple and unusually for this region the bones were in a good state of preservation.

Although much of the contextual information had been lost due to farming activity, the double and triple burials contained one intact individual in each, along with the post-cranial bones of the other occupants. This situation has been interpreted as decapitated slaves buried with his/her master and the theory is supported by a number of double burials found within Norse societies indicating this practice.

Elise Naumann from the University of Oslo led a study to investigate stable isotope and ancient mitochondrial DNA fragments in order to better understand the social status, geographical and/or familial links within the Flakstad group

Graves with two or more individuals occur relatively frequently all over the Viking World. The choice to bury people together is not coincidental, but rather a deliberate action based on specific relationships between these individuals, which could either be:

  1. Family members or people with other close connections.
  2. Sacrifice, where one or more individuals are intended to accompany the “main” burial.

The research has revealed some intriguing results and indicates that the intact person in each grave had distinct isotope values from the other individuals with missing crania; the former having a predominately meat based diet, while the latter – in common with the single grave occupants – had consumed a much higher percentage of marine foodstuffs.

The research study noted that ” in a society where most of the daily activities were dedicated to the acquirement and preparation of food, where food shortage and harsh winters are assumed to have been a constant threat, it would seem likely that a different diet should be detectable in people of low social standing compared to the common population. However, isotopic data in this study show quite the contrary. Despite indications that the headless people in multiple graves might represent low-status members of the population, their diet was equivalent to those  in the single burials who are interpreted as representatives of the free population. ”

he ancient DNA results suggest that maternal relations between the individuals buried together are unlikely and backs up the isotope evidence. Therefore, the complete individuals from the multiple burials stand out as a distinct group and may be perceived as having a special social status. This is emphasised by a diet distinctly different from the slaves and the rest of the population and along with the lack of high status artefacts in the multiple burials could indicate that they were not necessarily wealthy, but special in another sense, who were  treated differently than others in death as well as in life.

Why the slaves were deprived of their heads is a little unclear. Perhaps it was to make sure that they stayed in the service of their owners in the after-life and didn’t just go wandering about on their own.

The authors conclude:

Results from stable isotope analyses show that individuals in multiple burials most likely were intentionally placed in the same burial, given the pattern in which the only person buried intact in each burial, had distinct isotope values. Thus, persons sharing a grave had distinctly different diets during their lifetime and were unlikely to share maternal kinship. A reasonable explanation for these observations could be that persons buried headless may have been slaves accompanying their masters in the grave. This interpretation corresponds well with other double burials from the Norse World with similar features, where decapitated and sometimes headless people were deposited as grave gifts. The resemblance in diet between headless persons and individuals buried in single burials was unexpected and calls for further investigation in the future. The present study indicates that also other double burials should be investigated using a bioarchaeological approach.

The next Prime Minister of Norway?

September 8, 2013

Norway goes to the polls tomorrow and Erna Solberg could be the next Prime Minister with a centre-right government replacing the centre-left government of Jens Stoltenberg.

Stoltenberg came into his own after the massacre at Utøya 2 years ago. His low key but enormously effective speeches captured the sombre mood of the country and yet held everybody together. He was even referred to as the “father of the nation”. Paradoxically, even after such a traumatic event perpetrated by a right-wing maniac (Breivik), this election will see the country shift rightwards.

Erna Solberg (photo

Great Tohoku quake in 2011 caused standing waves in Norwegian fjords 30 minutes later

August 13, 2013

Seismic seiches are standing waves set up on rivers, reservoirs, ponds, and lakes when seismic waves from an earthquake pass through the area. They are in direct contrast to tsunamis which are giant sea waves created by the sudden uplift of the sea floor.”

A new paper describes how these seiches -standing waves – observed in the Norwegian fjords in 2011 – for the first time since the 1950’s – have been linked to the Great Tohoku Quake of 2011 half an hour earlier.

Stein BondevikBjørn Gjevik and Mathilde B. Sørensen, Norwegian seiches from the giant 2011 Tohoku earthquake, Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1002/grl.50639, 2013

Abstract: Seismic waves of the giant 2011 Tohoku earthquake triggered seiches in western Norwegian fjords. The seiching began a half hour after the earthquake origin time. The oscillations were noted by eyewitnesses and recorded by surveillance and cell phone cameras. The observations show maximum trough-to-peak amplitudes of 1.0–1.5 m and periods of 67–100 s. The water waves were not triggered from the arrival of the surface waves, the timing inferred for other seiches. Instead, the seiching began during the passage of horizontal waves. We reproduced the S wave trigger by means of a shallow-water wave model calibrated previously to Norwegian tides and storm surges. The simulations, which used the observed earthquake motion as forcing, show water waves with periods and amplitudes similar to those in the film clips. However, the strongest horizontal ground oscillations with shorter periods (20–30 s) did not contribute much to the formation of the seiches.

It is not the first time that such standing waves have been observed so far away. As the US Geological Service notes:

The term seismic seiche was first coined by Anders Kvale in 1955 to describe oscillation of lake levels in Norway and England caused by the Assam earthquake of August, 1950. But this was not the first time that seismic seiches had been observed. The first published mention was after the great earthquake of November 1755 at Lisbon, Portugal. An article in Scot’s Magazine in 1755 described seiches in Scotland in Loch Lomond, Loch Long, Loch Katrine and Loch Ness. They were also seen in English harbors and ponds and were originally described in the Proceedings of the Royal Society in 1755.


Seismic waves from the Alaska earthquake of 28 March, 1964, were so powerful that they caused water bodies to oscillate at many places in North America. Seiches were recorded at hundreds of surface-water gaging stations – although they had rarely been reported following previous earthquakes. Indeed, four seiches were observed in Australia.

Some of the 1964 seiches were very large. Waves as high as 1.8 meters were reported on the Gulf Coast – probably because they were generated in resonance with the seismic surface waves.

In the case of the Norwegian fjords and the Great Tohoku quake, PhysOrg reports:

The scene was captured by security cameras and by people with cell phones, reported to local media, and investigated by a local newspaper. Drawing on this footage, and using a computational model and observations from a nearby seismic station, Bondevik et al. identify the cause of the waves—the powerful magnitude 9.0 Tohoku earthquake that hit off the coast of Japan half an hour earlier.

In closed or semi-enclosed bodies of water, seismic waves can trigger standing waves known as “seiches.” Seiching had not been recorded in Norway’s fjords since 1950. Scientists have traditionally thought that seiching is caused by seismic surface waves, but the authors find that the fjord seiching was initiated before the surface waves had arrived.

Using seismic observations and a model for local fjord behavior, they find that in this case the seiching was triggered by S waves, which travel through Earth’s body, and later was amplified by Love waves, which travel on Earth’s surface. There are a lot of open questions surrounding the connection between earthquakes and seiching, but the authors’ research supports the idea that not all earthquakes will cause seiching in all enclosed bodies of water. The occurrence of the Japanese earthquake?induced seiches depended on the period and orientation of the seismic waves aligning with the natural frequency and orientation of the body of water.

Undersea volcanic activity creating new island chain at Norway’s Loki’s Castle

August 3, 2013

South of Svalbard between Norway and Greenland there is vigorous and active field of hydrothermal vents on the sea floor along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The field lies in Norwegian waters and is located at  73°33′N 8°09′Ø, about 300 km west of Bear Island and about 600km east of Jan Mayen Island and at a depth of about 2,350m. It was discovered in 2008 by researchers from the University of Bergen and has been called Loki’s Castle (Lokes slott in Norwegian).

Loki's Castle on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge

Loki’s Castle on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge

In 2008, University of Bergen researchers found metal deposits and unique wildlife in the environment created by the hydrothermal vents.

University of Bergen News

This summer a team led by the director of UiB’s Centre for Geobiology, Professor Rolf Birger Pedersen, discovered five new hydrothermal vents in Loki’s Castle. The vents were discovered at depths ranging from 100 to 2,500 metres. In this area, which is the most geological active part of Norway, a new volcanic seabed is formed at a rate of two centimetres a year.

… Norway is a volcanic country on par with Iceland. The difference being that whereas Iceland’s volcanoes are onshore, Norway’s volcano landscape is in the deep sea. Norway’s volcanoes are lined up underwater in large active earthquake zones, and there are hydrothermal vents churning out hot water – at 320 degrees Celsius – which gives rise to unique ecosystems and metal deposits on the seabed. ….

…. For the past ten years, researchers and students from the centre have explored this volcanic underwater world. Through their summer expeditions to the area, they have discovered new Norwegian nature every year. In this period they have surveyed hundreds of undersea volcanoes and a number of hydrothermal vents. Loki’s Castle (Lokeslottet), Soria Moria and Trollveggen are the names given to the hydrothermal vents discovered by the UiB researchers in 2005 and 2008. ..

 They have found significant metal deposits that are formed around the hydrothermal vents in Loki’s Castle. The material value of these deposits remains unknown, but the mining industry is already showing a growing interest in exploiting these resources on the seabed. Deep-ocean mining could become a reality in the not too distant future. The distinctive wildlife in the deep seas, with the hydrothermal vents as oases of a unique genetic life, means that any industrial activity must be weighed against environmental concerns.

Based on their knowledge, the UiB researchers are thus proposing that deep-marine nature parks should be established as soon as possible. This is of particular importance for Norway, with vast deep-sea areas to manage. This management must be based on scientific knowledge.

Video of the undersea volcanoes.

The Local

“We have discovered five new vent fields in Norwegian national waters between Jan Mayen island and Loki’s Castle,” Rolf Pedersen, the professor leading the research, told The Local.  “The vent fields were discovered during a cruise with RV GO Sars in July this summer. ……. 

Pedersen made his name in 2008 when he discovered the underwater volcanic range Loki’s Castle. The new discovery comprises hundreds more volcanos, some just 20m below the surface. 
“We have found volcanoes at such a shallow level and they could break the surface at any time and form a new island group,” Pedersen told VG newspaper.  “We have long known that Iceland has both volcanic activity and hot springs, but we thought that we did not have anything like that in Norway. But we do, it was only under water.” 
The scientists have already discovered some 50 new species on the site, which Olsen said could lead to new drugs being developed. 
“There are biological species which haven’t been discovered before that live in extremely harsh environments. This brings the potential to discover new molecules that we haven’t been aware of which could be used in the development of drugs.” 

In Norse mythology Loki was one of the jǫtnar, a mythological race, and a god.

Loki is the son of Fárbauti and Laufey, and the brother of Helblindi and Býleistr. By the jötunn Angrboða, Loki is the father of Hel, the wolf Fenrir, and the world serpent Jörmungandr. By his wife Sigyn, Loki is the father of Narfi and/or Nari. And by the stallion Svaðilfari, Loki is the mother—giving birth in the form of amare—to the eight-legged horse Sleipnir. In addition, Loki is referred to as the father of Váli in the Prose Edda.

Loki’s relation with the gods varies by source. Loki sometimes assists the gods and sometimes causes problems for them. Loki is a shape shifter and in separate incidents he appears in the form of a salmon, mare, seal, a fly, and possibly an elderly woman. Loki’s positive relations with the gods end with his role in engineering the death of the god Baldr. Loki is eventually bound by the gods with the entrails of one of his sons.

Norwegian goat genes in 300,000 Tanzanian goats

April 12, 2013

Now this is a project which makes sense to me unlike so many of the WWF or other so-called “conservation” projects. A project which looks forward rather than looking back, which looks to manage change by adapting livestock  for new realities rather than trying to stop change.

Science Nordic reports that 80 Norwegian dairy goats which were transplanted into Tanzania 30 years ago have bred with Tanzanian goats to create a brand new goat dairy economy where none existed.


Eighty Norwegian dairy goats were flown into Tanzania thirty years ago. Now there are 300,000 goats with genes from these founder animals on dairy farms in mountainous areas. 

Tanzania’s Uluguru Mountains are a green paradise, with verdant slopes that rise over 2,600 metres. But now, not far from forests populated with yellow baboons, blue monkeys and black-and-white colobus monkeys, you’ll find goats of Norwegian ancestry in the mountain towns of this East African country.

The goats live on steep terraced hills planted with corn, bananas and coffee, at altitudes that would be barren and rocky in Scandinavia. They are a result of a long-term Norwegian-Tanzanian research partnership aimed at boosting small-scale milk production. The partnership has helped many farmers diversify and has yielded tangible benefits. ….. 


Professor Lars Olav Eik has decorated his office at UMB in Ås, Norway, with Norwegian and African cowbells. As an up-and-coming agronomist he accompanied the first goat kids to Tanzania in 2009. He still coordinates the Norwegian input to the project. Professors Martin Luther Kyomo of Tanzania and Asmund Ekern and Ola Syrstad of Norway initiated the effort. The outset was a desire to boost the East African country’s dairy production. Goats were a natural choice. “Goats are known as the poor man’s cows,” says Eik.

“We discovered that Tanzania had no dairy goats and decided to send them some Norwegian kid goats,” says Eik. The first goats were transported by air, with the young goats shipped in cargo cages designed for dogs — three kids per cage. 

The animals have since interbred with local goats. There may be as many as 300,000 goats in Tanzania with Norwegian genes. That figure is just a rough estimate because no one has actually conducted a goat census. What is certain is that the popularity of the Norwegian goats expanded way beyond the framework of the research project. …..

Dairy goats with Norwegian genes are now established in the economy of many peasant farmers in Tanzania. Simforiani L. Mahenge and his wife Jovita Joseph with their favourite goat, a ten-year-old animal named Chama. (Photo: Asle Rønning,

Indian surrogate mother dies after delivery of child for a Norwegian couple

April 2, 2013

UPDATE – from the Norwegian press

The surrogate mother bore twins but one of them died after birth.

The Norwegian Embassy in India confirmed that preparations were underway for the other child to be taken to Norway.

The surrogate mother was apparently paid 31,000 Norwegian Kronor (about $6,000) (corrected below)


This report in the Svenska Dagbladet today is disturbing not because there is anything inherently wrong with surrogacy but because it smacks of exploitation – of wealth being used to pass on the risks of childbirth to a “poor” surrogate mother. There are some very gray ethics involved in a “rich” Norwegian couple exploiting the poverty of a “poor” surrogate mother who dies – especially in doing something not permitted in Norway. No doubt the surrogate was paid the “going rate” for surrogacy (about $6,000). But I doubt the surrogate had made any real assessment of the risk of losing her life or that the “contract” had a clause to cover for the death of the surrogate.

Svenska DagbladetAn Indian woman who was the surrogate for a Norwegian couple died shortly after birth. The woman, who was married and had children of  her own developed Hepatitis E during the pregnancy. 

“Pregnancy and childbirth is unpredictable for us all. Unforseen things can happen and the surrogate contract and the parties should take this into account”, says anthropologist Kristin Engh Førde.

Surrogates are not allowed in Norway and Norwegians make use of egg donation abroad.

The article does not report on the condition of the baby nor on the condition of the surrogate’s own children.

I hope the Norwegian couple get their child — but what is their responsibility for those other children?

I am not sure if the quote from anthropologist Kristin Engh Førde is meant to imply – and I hope it does not – that it is the responsibility of every surrogate mother to accept the risk of dying and contract accordingly.

Would the surrogate have died if she had been giving birth at a Norwegian hospital? Would her Hepatitis E have been treated in time?

Mortality rates are generally low, for hepatitis E is a “self-limiting” disease. …  However, during the duration of the infection (usually several weeks), the disease severely impairs a person’s ability to work, care for family members, and obtain food. Hepatitis E occasionally develops into an acute, severe liver disease, and is fatal in about 2% of all cases. Clinically, it is comparable to hepatitis A, but in pregnant women the disease is more often severe and is associated with a clinical syndrome called fulminant hepatic failure. Pregnant women, especially those in the third trimester, suffer an elevated mortality rate from the disease of around 20%.

A retirement age of 78 will be needed in Norway for children born today

January 23, 2013

Increasing lifespans are real and the period during which we can be productive is increasing and what follows is inevitable. At the present rate of longevity increasing by about 3 months every year, by 2500 most people will live to be 200. Considering that world population is likely to be falling slowly after 2100 it seems not unconnected that any consequent decrease in human economic activity will be (will have to be) compensated for by people having a longer productive life.

A year ago a trial balloon was sent up by the Swedish Prime Minister when he imagined a retirement age of 70 rather than the current 65. Now a suggestion that retirement age will have to be increased to 78 has been floated in Norway. The necessary debate is starting but the result is not in doubt – only the timing is.

But before not too long the  human condition of “study for 20 work for 40 and live to 80”  which probably applies to me will change to “study for 25, work for 50 and live to 100” and will apply to my children. And probably within another 200 years it would have become “study for 40, work for 80 and live to 160”.

Svenska Dagbladet:

Work until you’re 78. It could become necessary for Norwegians born today if the financial burden on the productive section of the population is not to become too large. The calculation and the challenge is from the Norwegian business newspaper Dagens Industry and has created a heated debate in Norway.

Life expectancy is on the rise in both Sweden and Norway. It will force today’s young people to work longer than today. But to retire at 78 years of age is not what many are convinced about.  Sweden had a similar debate when Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt spoke of 75 years as an appropriate retirement age.

In Norway, the suggestion is that 78 years is the appropriate age but Professor Hilde Björnland has doubts: “ The calculation is interesting because it shows the increased pension obligations we face. It is not enough to work up to age 67 if we are to cope with the coming demographic challenges”. But, she says, there is a difference between a long life and increasing mental and physical health. It is uncertain whether we can work much longer than 65-70 years even though we live longer. It depends on how the jobs look like in the future, it depends on how the tasks are suited to us as we get older. Today, only 2.3 percent of the Norwegian population work between 67 and 74 years. After 74 years, it is so small that it is not measurable by the Norwegian Central Statistical Office.

Those who want to raise the retirement age to 78 years at Den Norske Bank believe in any case that today’s young people must be prepared to work much longer than their parents’ generation did. But to get people to work more years in a country that has huge oil revenues and would like to convert income to more leisure time will not be easy. … 

Breivik and Holmes and guns and massacres

July 23, 2012

A year ago Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in Norway. He used home made explosives and firearms.

Two days ago James Holmes killed 12 in Aurora, Colorado. He used firearms to kill but also had explosives.

My perception is that the number of lone individuals carrying out these murderous rampages is increasing. And I wonder if suicide bombers are not part of the same social phenomenon.

Banning the sale of firearms or the ingredients for making explosives to individuals would not have influenced their murderous intentions. Controlling the sale of firearms may have hindered them somewhat in the scale of the execution of their intentions. If firearms were not available to them they would probably have used other methods (explosives most likely) to fulfil their intentions.

It is possible that there have always been such individuals who wish to attack the society they live in. I suspect that our societies themselves create the stresses which take some individuals over the edge. And we don’t really know what these are. But I can’t help thinking that the focus on the availability of firearms is a red herring. It is not access to firearms that creates these individuals or which causes them to undertake their murderous rampages. But while the solution will finally lie in understanding and preventing the development of people with such murderous intentions, controlling the sale of guns may well be a necessary step along the way. Restricting the availability of the tools available to implement a massacre may perhaps restrict the scale of some of these massacres.

But banning the sale of guns – by itself – will not prevent the intention to massacre. All laws banning certain kinds of behaviour are fundamentally coercive and inevitably attack “freedoms of the individual”. They can – at best – be a stop-gap measure to be used while addressing the causes of the “unwanted” behaviour. And if these causes are neither understood or addressed then these coercive laws quickly degenerate to become oppressive laws used by majorities against minorities. Controlling the sale of guns only makes sense if the causes of the lone “berserker” are also addressed.

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