They make more than I do
Ah, the joys of equality - full income tax records of every citizen available on the Internet. We're all equal before the Peeping Tom's here in Norway. Look, here's me. And here's the PM! Notice anything odd? That's right - he makes more than I do! So do these people.
It's all part of our new "be soft on crime" initiative. By telling our criminals who all our richest people are, and roughly where they live, we're embracing the criminal community as equals. We're telling them that we trust them, that they have nothing to fear. Thus lowering defense mechanisms on both sides, we're encouraging them to abandon their extra-legal ways, join polite society, and live on state subsidies like the rest of us do.
But here's something strange: As easy as it is, I still can't make myself look up the salary of any people I know. I can't click that button. Maybe I haven't been equalized enough. Maybe I'm still inhibited by archaic notions of privacy. Or maybe it's just none of my business. (Neither should you, of course, click the link above to my tax record. That would be rude. And it's none of your business. But look at it, so tempting, so clickable. And - here it is again! It's begging to be clicked! Go ahead, noone will know.)
Minister of Finance Per Kristian Foss (Conservative) seems to have some archaic notions of his own. This year, the tax records will be online for only three weeks. Next year, the practice will stop alltogether. The records will still be public, but only as printouts handed out in person at the tax office, as in the old days. Those brave corruption hunters the newspapers say they're doing this for will just have to find some other hobby.
Update: TV2 Nettavisen is more principled than the others. In proud violation of a government directive, they're showing people's full street address. They're doing this in the name of "freedom of speech", and to prevent "confusion". Hooray, what "courage".
Graham, US | 2003-10-10 20:24 | Link
Sorry, I clicked. Couldn't make heads or tails of it because of the Norwegian, exchange rate factors and so on. I wasn't curious enough to find out either.
Very strange concept though. It seems highly intrusive and I am hard pushed to think of what social benefits it could provide. In the US you can find out, over the web, what sex offenders are living in your area, names, addresses, details of offenses. When you have small children the social benefits are clear of being informed on these matters.
I can only assume that in Norway suspicion and the consequences of ignorance surrounding matters involving income and taxation are percieved to be important enough override privacy concerns, much like they do for sex offenders in the US. Please enlighten me because I am assuming there is some sort of antipathy toward wealth accumulation at work here.
Jennifer | 2003-10-10 20:59 | Link
Do most Norwegians feel uncomfortable about this?
Bjørn Stærk | 2003-10-10 21:50 | Link
Graham: It has to do with openness, somehow, and fighting corruption, tax evasion etc, but I'm not sure what the connection is. In any case it goes back to a time when "public" didn't mean "available to anyone at a click".
Jennifer: Probably not. The records are hugely popular.
James Haney, El Paso, TX | 2003-10-10 23:19 | Link
Bjorn, don't you have webstats that can tell you how many people clicked the link? You may not be able to know who clicked the link, but you can probably find out how many.
I didn't, BTW.
Sigivald | 2003-10-11 01:46 | Link
I clicked on the first link to you, but I took your putting the link there as an invitation to do so.
(Why are there two entries for you at the same address, anyway, with only one having income for each of the past two years? Looks like the system has issues at a mere technical level...)
BarCodeKing | 2003-10-11 04:50 | Link
Different cultures, different ways. In America, there'd be lawsuits six ways to Sunday over the violation of privacy rights. As far as publishing street addresses as a "freedom of speech" issue, don't they realize that with freedom comes responsibility? I guess not...
Angie Schultz, USA | 2003-10-11 06:19 | Link
Bjorn---You are a strange feller. (You are also a young whippersnapper.) Of course I clicked the link. It was there. Like Graham, though, I couldn't figure it out, and didn't really want to.
I was more curious about the "god support" webhosting offered in the banner ad.
BarCodeKing---Lawsuits, hell. There'd be murders.
Bjørn Stærk | 2003-10-11 09:12 | Link
Lol - hey clickers, don't worry. Just my twisted idea of fun, to make a link at the top of a piece and tell readers at the end that they're rude if they've clicked on it. And without knowing conversion rates _and_ price differences it won't tell you much anyway.
Leif Knutsen, New York | 2003-10-11 13:43 | Link
OK - I didn't click the link, though I'll admit I have in previous years looked people up. But I felt so bad doing this once that vowed never to do it again, and honestly it isn't important to me how much Bjørn Stærk makes, as long as it pays the bill.
My biggest concern isn't that this kind of registry makes it easier for burglars who think that way. I think it's a violation of people's privacy, pure and simple, and what's worse it caters to old-fashioned Norwegian envy.
eddie, Rep of Ireland | 2003-10-11 16:05 | Link
Actually, Access to the income tax records of everyone in Norway is a bit intrusive but harmless.
I wonder,however,if this seemingly free availability of information extends to the number of innocent wales the Norweigns have slaughtered over the past years and the names plus the full street addresses of those guilty of their murder?
Rune Kristian Viken, Oslo | 2003-10-11 23:36 | Link
eddie: But.. but.. whales tastes gooooood! :-)
Rune Kristian Viken,
Rune Kristian Viken, Oslo | 2003-10-11 23:37 | Link
Oh, I forgot my address
Rune Kristian Viken
Now go get me.
George Turner | 2003-10-12 03:46 | Link
This looks like a clever kickback scheme to increase phone company revenues by having everyone endlessly gossip about everyone else.
Jennifer, USA | 2003-10-12 12:13 | Link
Eddie, what the hell do whales have to do with taxes? Murder? Have another drink, pub hopper.
Mike - Cleveland, Ohio | 2003-10-16 02:12 | Link
Doesn't Norway have a class of criminals called scam artists who look for wealthy targets to steal from? It seems that Norwegians are too trusting of their neighbors. Fairy tale naivete, I'd say.
Hopefully, your politicians at least are provided with security guards to protect them. Unlike your neighbor Sweden.
Bob Hawkins, Somerville, Massachusetts, USA | 2003-10-19 06:05 | Link
It has become traditional for American Presidential candidates to make their tax returns public. It turned out that I paid more in Federal income taxes than Bob Dole. A comparison of his tax return to mine was very educational for me.
kim sook-im | 2005-07-11 06:34 | Link
Rune KKKristian Viking,
Yes , yes koreans eat dogs etc...I'm working on that too, and believe me I am dreadfully ashamed of certain koreans whenever they engage in such barbaric culinary predilection. Be assured i am actively engaged in the eradication of this un-buddhist dietary anomaly ( korean buddhists tend to be vegetarians , regretfully some small % of christian koreans still engage in this unwholesome habit of animal slaughter and consumption of meat of dead animals !!!yesss this correspond well to the practises of adamikkk kkkults and old testamental rites and rituals of burnt animal offerings to propitiate their blood-thirsty 'jealous God'. Same applies to the islamists who have to say their prayers before engaging in the gory business of slicing the jugular of the poor helpless animal -- making it halal , my foot !
I suspect you are a connoisseur of meat of whale carcasses made into whale sushi a la noruege -- yukkky.
Kindly kkklick www.buddhanet.net for karmic purifikkkation ;)
Sister Aisha Nyahnyah ponika Kim
kim sook-im | 2005-07-11 06:50 | Link
just a little bed-time story for you, aside from Hvitbjoern Kong Valemon :)
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Dean's World: Good Lord!, October 11, 2003 11:30 AM
I'm glad I don't live in Norway. And here I thought our IRS was too nosy and intrusive! [shudder] By the way, Bjorn, I never...
Interested-Participant: INCOME TAX RETURNS POSTED ON INTERNET, October 16, 2003 12:03 PM
This story made my jaw drop. The country of Norway has made a leap forward in disclosing government records to the public.
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