The first thing we did when the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded its peace prize to the European Union was click on Wikipedia to look up the year in which the Norsemen had joined the union they were honoring. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that the online encyclopedia offered a map and a list of members that seemed to suggest that Norway didnít belong to the European Union. Could we have forgotten something? So we dialed the phone number of our friend Andrew Whist, who is a Norwegian who has lived for years in New York and is one of the great sages. Sure enough, he confirmed the ironical information. Norway may be honoring the European Union, but it has never joined.
It turns out, moreover, that our friendís cousin, Jarl Whist, a distinguished Norwegian banker, once led an effort to bring Norway into the EU. So, while sitting at breakfast at our club, we put in a conference call from our cell phone to Jarl Whistís cell phone, and within a twinkling all three of us were palavering about this question. It seems the first time Norway considered joining, in the early 1970s, the measure lost by a very slim margin. A generation later, it tried again, and also lost. The leaders of the two major political parties like the idea of joining, but they are not so hot about the idea of putting it to another referendum.
Jarl Whist pointed out that Norway already funds part of the Union and participates in some of its more enlightened policies ó free movement of labor and capital, for example. He also points out that Norway and Switzerland have prospered relatively well without joining the EUís full political structure. He thinks it unlikely that this will change in the next few years. Although neither of the Whists pressed this point, we would observe that itís not hard to see at least one reason why Norway has demurred. Since its first vote against joining the EU, Norway has become a rich country, owing to all the North Sea oil.
Why in the world would a super-rich country like Norway want to join a European Union whose main mission these days seems to be to separate the rich countries from their hard earned and well-saved earnings and redistribute them to poor countries that are hostile to capitalism? And what are the rest of us to make of an award by Norway to a political contraption it wonít join? No doubt there are those who will suggest that in giving the prize to Europe, the Norwegians are seeking to bolster the idealists who dreamed of a united Europe at the EUís darkest hour.
Our own view is that it is an unconvincing gesture. Increasingly the Nobel Peace Prize is political prop ó its recent American winners have been Vice President Gore, President Obama, and President Carter ó whose lessening luster will add little to a European Union that itself has become a shackle of socialism. It is a sad story. And maybe some day, it will take a surprising turn. One can always hope. We intend no slight to the great strivers for a better Europe when we observe that in the coming generation the dreamers will look elsewhere than Brussels for the beacon of liberty.