Jul 22, 2011
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Thoughts on Oslo

I’m not a terrorism or Norway expert, so I’m not going to try to make any policy point about the horrible events that took place today.  I will just say that during my recent trip, I was  stunned by the noticeable amount of trust Norwegian society and institutions placed in one another.   I actually didn’t realize I passed the parliament the first time I did on account of the fact that there were no visible security measures; you could simply walk right up to the walls.  The same could be said about the royal palace, which was guarded only by a friendly military officer.

It wasn’t just protection of key buildings were I sensed a great deal of trust, however.  Security at the airport was a remarkable contrast to the United States.  I never went through customs and felt almost as if I walked off the airplane out of the airport.  There was also no ticket booth on public transport; buying tickets was by and large done on the honor system.  This contrast was really made evident coming back to the US, when I had to fill out my customary form declaring I didn’t touch any livestock or bring home any soil, only to wait in the long security line.

To be sure there are reasons for these differences.  But regardless of whether more security is the correct policy response or not, I found the level of trust in Norway to be beautiful and it would be upsetting if that changed.

Royal Palace (Photo property of David Jandura)

The Norwegian Parliament (Storting) Photo property of David Jandura

Other

1 Comment

  • I suspect that very few people would disagree with you. The problem is that troublemakers (be they terrorists or simply run of the mill muggers) always look for the weak link. Norway may not be a priority target, but at the moment it may be an easy one. They may need to tighten security solely for that reason. It’s a ratchet effect: if all my neighbors get high-tech security, then the probability that my house will be a target rises. Thus, I’ll need to get better security as well, even if this was not my first preference.

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