Thursday, March 19, 2015


Bjorn sat down at his desk. And with the numbers in front of him, he started to estimate the value of all the services he got from the state, so as to come up with a more correct number for his actual net income.

He made a list of all the free stuff he was getting from the state. Then, next to each service, he put an estimate of what the service was worth. For health care, he came up with a ball park number of how much it might cost for a lifetime. Then he took that number and divided it by eighty years to get what may be a fair annual price for an insurance policy. For his pension, he put down fifteen years of modest consumption, and divided that price with forty years of work. And for old people care, he put down a ball park number for what two years of home care might cost, which he also divided by forty.

For his two children, he estimated a price for putting them through school, and divided that with forty. Then he added some numbers for police protection and defense. Finally, he threw two years of unemployment into his calculations. He added up the numbers and divided it by twelve to get the average monthly cost of all the services.

It was a significant number, equivalent to one third of his gross income. But he was being taxed much more than that, so he looked through the numbers again to see if he had greatly underestimated any of the costs. He added to the numbers to make the total bigger, but there was no way to come anywhere close to his total tax rate without putting down ridiculously big numbers.

Somehow, at least half of what he was paying in taxes were going to something other than his welfare. Some of this might be going to the poor and needy, he thought. But even then, the total tax rate seemed more than a little excessive. And this was just the tax on his income. In addition to this, there was sales tax, property tax, licenses, fees and so on. All adding to the total cost of the supposedly free stuff handed out by the state.

Bjorn adjusted his tax rate to reflect what it would have been, had he not been in the unfortunate situation that he was, with back taxes on his inheritance. But there was still a lot of unexplained overhead. Even at a typical tax rate, the numbers were hard to explain.

"So, where does all this extra money go?" Bjorn wondered. Then, he realized that he had not added in the bureaucracy required to process the tax returns, and funnel the money into the various services, and for a moment he thought that this needed to be added to his list. However, when he thought about it a little more, he realized that it would be a mistake to include the bureaucracy as a service. He had listed each actual service with generous numbers that should easily account for their internal administrative overhead. Adding a separate line for bureaucracy, as if it was a service in itself, would be wrong. It added nothing to his well being, and was therefore not a service. Yet it consumed more than half of his taxes, and even in an ideal situation with a typical tax rate, the bureaucracy was consuming at least thirty percent of the taxes.

"But that means that there must be at least one bureaucrat for every three individual working," Bjorn thought. "That's crazy! Surely, the bureaucracy is not that inefficient. We are talking actual bureaucrats here, not people like myself, providing one of the services listed here."

Bjorn had defense as a distinct item on his list of services, so he was not himself a bureaucrat. He was a service provider. The bureaucrats were overhead, pure and simple. And they were, according to his numbers, consuming a large part of people's income. So much so that Bjorn got a distinct feeling that something sinister was going on. "Someone is siphoning money out of the system," Bjorn thought to himself. "There's simply not enough bureaucrats in this country to account for this big number. Something else must be going on. Some fat cat out there is having his pockets lined at the public's expense."

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Bjorn went back to his room after dinner, sat down on his bed and turned on the TV. However, he kept the sound off and watched the news channel as a sort of distraction rather than as a source of information. His thoughts remained centered around what had been discussed around the dinner table.

The atmosphere had been surprisingly relaxed, despite the big differences in perspective. Thomas had made some rather provocative claims, especially in the ears of people like Frank and John, but no one's feelings had been hurt. It had all been quite civil, despite the frank language used, and Bjorn wondered for a minute how that could be. Then a thought struck him, that it might have been Ante, or rather his food and wine, that had set the stage for the open and relaxed atmosphere.

The feeling of wealth and plenty that Ante's meals always conjured up set the stage for the sort of frank and open exchange of ideas that Bjorn had just witnessed. One could not help feeling content and pleased sitting at Ante's table, and with such a cushion to lean on, as it were, mere words and ideas were nothing to be overly worried about. The world would not end, one way or the other. And to think that anyone actually had a say in the matters discussed was delusional anyway. No one at the table had any real influence on the world of politics. Everybody knew that. And in that respect, it mattered little what Thomas or anyone else might think about the state of the world.

But before Bjorn had time to think more about Ante's ability to create a good atmosphere for discussions, he was suddenly distracted by the word Lundby on a banner being waved on TV, and he turned on the sound to hear what the news was all about. However, there was nothing new being said. The protests against the colony was continuing, mostly in Oslo, but other places too. People were gathering outside asylum centers, repeating the same mantra about the Lundby colony being cruel and uncivilized.

"We can't send people to the arctic, just like that," people said. "It's inhumane. It violates their rights. It's fascist. It's not worthy of a civilized country like Norway to treat people like this."

But the project had not lost any of it's popularity among the general public, despite the protests, the anchor woman noted. Then she asked a news reporter in front of a gathering of protesters why she thought the general public did not object to the cruelty of sending people to the arctic, noting that many of the refugees were indeed from warm places like Africa and the Middle East, making it all the worse to send them to a place so cruelly different from where they were from.

"It is hard to say," the reporter answered. "It may be the crisis. It is certainly not natural for us as a nation to be so indifferent to people's suffering as we are today."

And with that reply forming the final note on the matter, the anchor woman thanked the reporter for her insights before switching to economic news where the big headline for the day was a private pension fund that had gone bankrupt. Having made tremendous losses on financial papers tied to European debt, the pension fund could no longer meet its obligations, and with the new right wing government unwilling to pick up the pieces, the bankrupt fund had been liquidated.

The assets were already being transferred to another insurance company, the anchor woman explained, and new contracts would soon be issued to the unfortunate pensioners, however, at a substantially lower monthly payout than what had been the case up until the bankruptcy. The pensioners were in essence left without a say in the matter, and when interviewed about it, one angry old lady described it as daylight robbery and a gigantic failure of capitalism.

Bjorn turned the sound off again, having heard enough to feel relieved that he never payed anything into any pension fund. Except, of course, the mandatory monthly contribution to the state pension fund. But that was state run, and could not fold in the same way. Its pay outs were guaranteed, not by some private company, but by the state itself.

And while thinking about the convenience and security provided by the state run pension fund, Bjorn was reminded of all the other services provided by the state. Health care, old people care, schools, police, courts of justice, fire fighters and defense were all provided by the state, free for all. And in that light, Bjorn's salary was not bad at all. To think that he was no better off than people like Aung in Lundby, was just plain silly.

Why had he even thought such a silly thing? Bjorn wondered. Salaries in Lundby were horrendously pitiful. And they had to pay for everything. Nothing was free down there. They didn't even have schools. That's how bad things were. And then, for some reason, Bjorn had nevertheless managed to imagine himself no better off than them.

Bjorn turned off the TV, shaking his head in silent recognition of his own silliness. Then he got up from where he was sitting, found the letter from Oslo on his desk and looked through it again.

Monday, March 16, 2015


"You know, I can't believe you're saying all this nonsense," John said earnestly, looking over at Thomas. "Why are you even here if you hate the state so much?"
"He doesn't know," Frank replied on Thomas' behalf. "Isn't that so?"
"Yeah. It's the truth," Thomas replied with a crooked grin. "It's not like I made any secret of my opinions either, yet here I am."
"But spending all your time watching YouTube videos and looking stuff up on Wikipedia hasn't helped, has it?" Frank suggested. "You're worse now than when you came. I'm pretty sure about that."
"You think so?" Thomas asked. "Well... you're probably right. But it's the truth what they're saying."
"You know! It isn't," Frank replied confidently. "And even if it was. What are you going to do about it? Start a revolution, or something?"

Thomas did not bother to reply. But he was cool about it all. It did not seem to bother him that none of his colleagues were buying into his propaganda, not openly anyway.

"But seriously, how did you end up here?" John asked. "They didn't draft you or anything, did they?"
"No, of course not. I applied for the job, thinking I was sure not to get it. Yet I got it anyway."
"Yeah. So here I am, secretly hoping that Frank will fire me so I can go back to being unemployed."

Frank chuckled. "Hey! It's not that bad up here, is it?" he protested.
"No. It's not bad at all," Thomas admitted. "I'm fine. I really am."

Ante put a fruit salad and a bowl of whipped cream on the table, and there was a pause in the discussion while everybody served themselves desert.

"Did you guys see the latest news from Libya?" Espen asked, as he dug into his bowl of fresh fruits. "Things are really getting out of hand down there."
"They sure are," Frank agreed. "It's just a matter of time before they attack one of those production facilities again. We got to send ground troops. There's no way around that."
"You heard anything about that, though?" Thomas asked. "They are not sending any of us, are they?"
"Not that I know. I'd be very surprised if they did. We're not trained for that kind of stuff."
"Well, actually we are," Espen noted dryly. "You know, border control, skirmishes, insurgence... Or did you guys get a different training than I did?"
"No," Bjorn commented. "But it was a two week thing. Not exactly a whole lot of training."
"Still... It's more than many others out there."

Frank had to admit that Espen had a point, but it was in his view very unlikely that anyone at the checkpoint would be called upon to go to Libya, especially at a time when the village was about to have its first major influx of refugees.

"It's just not going to happen," Frank said confidently. "We're almost as much in the news as the Libya crisis these days. They are not going to shift us around. This project is just too important for them to risk a cock up."
"Yeah, you're right," Espen said with a nod. "The foreign minister even said this whole project is essential for the re-vitalization of the north."
"Really?" Ante asked, genuinely surprised.
"Yeah! It's now suddenly the driving force behind his arctic conquest thing."
"You're kidding! A couple of miners, a casino, and a fish processing plant. And he's thinking he's conquering the arctic?"
"I don't think he means it literally, Ante," Frank noted dryly. "But he has this vision of the arctic, with the North East Passage connecting Europe with the far east. And Lundby is an important part of that vision. It's not a bad idea at all, when you think about it."
"It's a great idea," Espen agreed. "It's the shortest route for ships going between Europe and China. Shorter by at least a week compared to the alternatives."
"When it is ice free," Thomas added. "Which is like a few weeks every summer,"
"Sure! But with the global warming and all. The passage will be used more and more."
"And it explain why the foreign minister is so obsessed with this whole thing," Frank added. "And why we don't have to worry about Libya."

Friday, March 13, 2015


"What John is saying," Frank ventured. "Is that we're all born into society, and that we therefore have an obligation to obey by the rules of society. It's not like we're born into a vacuum. Nobody is suggesting that the social contract is an actual contract. It's only a metaphor for the fact that we are part of society."
"Yeah? And who sets the rules of society?" Thomas asked, not at all deterred by Frank's attempt at ending the discussion.
"Well... We do. We, together, are society."
"You and me set the rules?"
"So, what's the government for?"
"The government?" Frank asked confused. "Well, that's us. We are the government."
"No we're not."

Frank took a sip of his wine. "Well, that's where you are mistaken," he said with confidence. "However, since we can't all be busy governing the land all the time, we have elected representatives who work for us."
"And who came up with this arrangement?" Thomas asked.
"We did. It's the way we've chosen to organize things," Frank replied. "Everybody knows this. It's hardly news, is it?"
"It's news to me," Thomas answered with a grin. "I can't remember agreeing to such an arrangement."

Frank sighed and shook his head. "That's because you signed on to it when you were born. It's the social contract."
"Exactly," Thomas answered triumphantly. "The social contract is not about us and society. It's about us and our so called representatives."
"Whom we elect every four years," John added.
"Sure," Thomas agreed. "But the legal basis for this is still the social contract. The social contract is more than just a metaphor. It's a legal construct. Yet, no one has ever signed such a document. I never gave my consent to be governed by our so called representatives in Oslo."
"What about the constitution?" Espen suggested.
"I never signed that either. It was written and signed by a bunch of self serving elitists, all dead long ago. How the hell can that be considered legally binding for me? I never met any of those guys."

There was a pause of silence, which Frank and Thomas used to catch up on their eating.

"So what's your suggestion?" John asked, looking over at Thomas as he shoved food into his mouth.
"I'm suggesting we make this whole government thing voluntary," Thomas said with his mouth full. "I suggest you sign onto the Norwegian state, since you like it so much. And then I can sign onto whatever I find convenient and appropriate for me."
"Like what?" John asked.
"Like Canada or Switzerland or... well... maybe nothing. Or I might go for an insurance with Pedro."
"With Pedro? You mean that guy down in the village?"
"Yeah, sure, why not?"

Everyone chuckled at the thought. "And how is that going to work?" Frank asked with a grin.
"Simple," Thomas answered undeterred by his colleagues. "I pay my dues to Pedro, and you guys pay your dues to Oslo. Why would that be a problem?"
"It won't work," Frank said.
"Why not?"
"Imagine the overhead," Espen suggested.
"What overhead?"
"What if we get in a fight or something. Who's rules are we going to follow?"
"That's for Pedro and your representatives in Oslo to figure out."
"Exactly!" Frank noted. "That's why it won't work."
"Not true," Thomas answered defiantly. "This kind of thing happens all the time. It's called international law, and it works fine for corporations. Why shouldn't it work fine for people too?"

There was another pause in the discussion. Then, Thomas answered his own question. "You know why it won't work?" he asked rhetorically. "Because they don't want it to work. They don't really want us to be free to pick and choose our security arrangements. They want to control us. That's why it wont work. Not because it cannot be done, but because they won't let it happen."

Thursday, March 12, 2015


"So, how do I eat this thing?" Bjorn asked, scooping up a strange looking sausage for himself. "Looks like they all exploded. Was that supposed to happen?"
"It's all about the meat mix," Frank answered. "Isn't that so, Ante?"
"Yeah. They burst when you bake them. But that's normal," Ante explained. "You scoop the meat mix out with your fork and knife. Just leave the skin on your plate!"
"Okay," Bjorn answered, satisfied with the explanation.

Bjorn put a baked apple next to the sausage. Then he added a few baked potatoes and some greens.

"So this is what they eat down in Portugal?" Bjorn asked.
"That's what they say," Ante answered. "Here, have some wine to go with that!"

Bjorn tasted the food. It was delicious, as always, and the red wine made the whole setting quite festive, yet again.

"They live like kings down there, don't they?" Bjorn noted.
"It's the poorest country in the west of Europe," Espen corrected. "So no, I don't think they live like kings."
"That's assuming the people are as poor as the country," Thomas corrected. "That's not necessarily so."
"What you mean?" Espen asked.
"A country is not the same as the people of a country. If a country is poor, it may be due to all sorts of things. They might simply have a hard time collecting taxes."
"And they do," Frank noted. "That's what I heard. They refuse to pay their taxes, and so the country goes broke. It's the same with all the other countries down there. It's not only Portugal."
"Still. That doesn't mean the people are rich," Espen noted. "Didn't you see the news the other day? Hospitals closing and old people not getting their pensions. Hardly a sign of a healthy economy, is it?"

Thomas nodded. "If your health and salary depends on the state, you're screwed. But that will be true for us too pretty soon."
"So you expect your salary to be worthless one day?" Frank asked.
"Yep! I do. But not right away. I figure we have a few years to go yet."
"And what are you planning to do when that happens?"
"I don't know. I'll probably go back to fixing cars. Provided there will be any cars to fix, that is."

John chuckled. "No cars? That will be the day!"
"True. So I'm not all that worried about my future. It will be worse for those who have no practical skills. They'll end up starving."
"You are such an optimist," Frank noted with a grin.
"Real earnings are going down, you know," Thomas added dryly.
"They are not!" Espen protested. "We all got a raise I believe. Didn't we?"

Everybody around the table nodded. "And a pretty nice raise it was too!" Frank confirmed.
"It was indeed," Thomas conceded. "But that's because we all got a promotion. Real wages are still going down. If it wasn't for the raise, our real wages, in terms of purchasing power, would be falling."
"And why is that?" Bjorn asked with genuine curiosity.
"Because we have a resource economy," Thomas explained. "The price of iron and oil and coal and timber and fish, and all that stuff, is falling. So our currency is falling, making all our imports more expensive."
"So it's not the state's fault?" Bjorn asked with a smile.
"Actually. The state is to blame too," Thomas added, correcting himself. "They have promised too much, and they can't afford to pay, so they let the currency fall."

Everybody chuckled at Thomas' correction. "It's always the state's fault isn't it?" John asked.
"Sure," Thomas replied defiantly. "They always screw things up. That's how they roll."
"And the solution is to get rid of it, right?" John asked rhetorically.
"But what about people like me. I rather like the state. I don't want to see it gone."
"So you are fine with all the waste and the wars and their empty promises?"
"No. But it sure beats a world with no state at all. Imagine the chaos!"
"Okay!" Thomas noted defiantly. "And all you other guys are fine with it too, right?"

Everybody nodded. "Yeah, of course. We're not buying your nonsense you know," Frank added.
"So why force me to be part of it?" Thomas asked.
"We're not forcing you," John replied. "You can leave if you want to."
"Sure. To another country. But that's not going to help me, is it? I'll still be bossed around by people who think they own me."
"So go to Somalia. They don't have any government. Who's stopping you?"

Thomas shook his head. "So I can't stay here in the country I grew up if I want to live in peace from those people nosing around in my business?"
"No. Of course not," John said. "If you want to live in Norway, you have to live by our rules."
"Our rules?" Thomas asked. "Your rules, you mean."
"It's called the social contract. Didn't you learn about that at school."
"I never signed no stinking social contract," Thomas replied.

Everybody chuckled at Thomas' remark. "Of course not," Frank commented dryly. "It's not something you sign."
"So how can it be legally binding?"
"We signed on to it when we were born," John suggested.
"Really? Are you serious?"

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Bjorn made several more attempts at logging into the website, but to no avail. He was locked out, and there was nothing he could do about it.

"But this is insane," Bjorn though, as he was gradually gripped by anxiety. "They are in on it, aren't they? They have some sort of plan, and they are working with Pedro to have it come true."

Bjorn stood up from his chair, feeling too restless to remain seated. "But why me? What are they after?" he asked himself as he started pacing slowly down to the door. Then he turned and went back to the window where he looked out behind the drawn curtains.

Gus and his men were finishing their work down the road, and the sight of them was strangely soothing. The simple fact that Bjorn was far from alone in the world put things in perspective. His paranoia receded. He felt refreshed.

"So, maybe there is a hidden plan to all of this," Bjorn thought. "So what if there is? It's not necessarily a bad thing. I just have to keep an eye open and make sure I don't get involved in anything dangerous. I'm still in control. It's not like these people can make me do things against my will."

Bjorn was again reminded of Pedro's cryptic message about Tuesday. "Something is going to happen tomorrow, and I'm going to be judged by my reaction. But somehow, I doubt that it will be anything dramatic. It's just a test after all. The real issue is the visit to the airport on Wednesday."

Bjorn turned to the little bookshelf by his desk where he picked up the folder containing the rules and regulations governing the border control of the colony. He had briefly looked through it in preparation for his move to the checkpoint, but had not opened it since. And as a result, he was in fact clueless when it came to the exact wording of the rules.

But now that he was going to inspect the airport together with Espen in less than two days, it was high time he made himself a little more familiar with the details. Bjorn opened the folder, found the section on ports and airfields, and started to read. But his mind started drifting almost immediately. He could not concentrate, especially with so many thoughts and questions still circling around in his mind.

"To hell with it!" Bjorn thought. "It's all just a load of nonsense about distances and little red lines anyway. Who cares if they are followed exactly to the letter or not? I'll just going to fake it when I go down there. I'll use my common sense. I don't need a rule book to tell me if something makes sense or not."

Bjorn put the folder back on the shelf. Then, before he had time to sit down again, he heard Ante call from down stairs that dinner was ready.

Monday, March 9, 2015


Bjorn almost regretted making the calculations. Had he not worked out his change in salary in Grams, he could have fooled himself into thinking he was better off with his nominal change in wages. But now that he had worked out the numbers, it was clear that he was not all that much better off than the people in the village, and that his real income was actually going down, relative to the Gram.

"But the gold price is going down," Bjorn thought to himself. "So how can the Gram go up? It's just a casino token, redeemable in gold. Surely, it should follow the gold price."

Bjorn found a chart  on the web showing the change in the gold price over time, just to make sure he had his facts right. And sure enough, the gold price was showing a clear downward trend. So on the one hand, the gold price was going down, and on the other hand, the Gram was going up.

"This makes no sense at all," Bjorn thought. Then he convinced himself that things would have to balance up sooner or later, and that his salary would then return to its proper level. "It must be some sort of temporary imbalance," he concluded before closing the tabs with the two charts. And with that conclusion, he felt quite a lot better. "Things will return to normal," he thought. "It simply has to since nothing can remain out of balance for ever."

Having closed the tabs with the charts, Bjorn was again confronted with the Blacklist, and this made him think of the official blacklist at the department of justice. That, after all, was the blacklist with real legitimacy. Unlike the web page in front of him, which had no legal authority, and did not really represent anybody, the blacklist at the department of justice represented the law of the land and the will of the people.

Bjorn pulled the official blacklist up from his browser history, remembering that he had not actually looked up Gus and his helpers. And curious to see what the department of justice might have on them, he proceeded to type in their names. But it proved hopeless to find anything on them. With only their first names and their nationality to help him in his search, he either got nothing or too much, depending on what he was typing in.

Then he got an idea. Bjorn could look them up on the Blacklist used in Lundby, and find their full names there. That webpage had the advantage that it did not contain all that many names, and with it being possible to restrict the search to Lundby, the list of names would be very short. If they happened to have an account, or even just a mention, he was sure to find them.

And sure enough. After a bit of hunting around, he found the full names of all three. None of them were involved in any squabble, but had evidently taken the trouble to register themselves anyway. However, Bjorn wasted no time wondering why this was so. Instead, he pasted the men's full names into the database at the department of justice, one after another, to see if they had anything on them.

But nothing came up. The department had nothing on either of them. And Bjorn felt strangely disappointed at this discovery. He had nothing against the men, but a database that listed people like Cecilie, Einar and Katinka as criminals, should in Bjorn's mind at least post a warning about people so clearly involved in shady arms deals.

"It must be some sort of mistake," Bjorn thought. "An unfortunate omission." Then, for some reason, Bjorn proceeded to type in his own name. He hit return, and up came a list of people sharing his full name, all with a green all clear status, except for the one at the top which was marked in red. And to his great surprise, the thumbnail image was of him.

"That can't be right," Bjorn thought, feeling his veins slowly freeze in quiet anguish. He clicked on the link to read the details. "Warning:" it read. "Immediate arrest on charges of: Attempted tax evasion (1 count)." Bjorn stared in disbelief at the webpage in front of him. Then it slowly dawned on him what it was all about.

Immediately after getting his divorce from his ex, Bjorn had applied for a passport, thinking he could do with a break. A trip to a southern country for instance, to clear his mind and put things in perspective. However, he had been denied a passport on the grounds that he still had unsettled affairs in Norway. And thinking this had to do with his divorce proceedings which had not been fully completed, he had simply accepted this as just one more slap in the face from his ex. But now that he saw the text in front of him, he realized that the unsettled affairs might just as well have been a reference to his debt to the taxman.

But if Bjorn was on the blacklist for potential tax evasion, why was he allowed to work as a border guard? This made absolutely no sense. Were the people in Oslo really so incompetent that they would let a blacklisted person serve as a border guard, and now even as a customs officer?

Bjorn clicked on the warning in the hope that it might reveal some more information, but as he did this, the session terminated, and he was sent to the log in screen. "Oh no! Not now!" Bjorn though, his frustration and anguish rising quickly. Then he found the note with the log in and password details to log in again. But he was denied access. "No such user or password it said."