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Communitarian vs. Individualistic Ideologies

The intent of this paper is to examine individualistic and communitarian cultural ideologies within two distinctly different political environments. The first challenge in comparing two nations is deciding which approach is most appropriate. There are several approaches in political science that have proven most beneficial when making comparisons. This study will use a comparative government approach to examine the political institutions, processes, constitutions, and functions of government within each of the two countries selected.

The countries that have been chosen for this study are United States and Norway, respectively. Gregory Scott believes that the fundamental aspects of human interaction in society are the need for community (unity) and the need for individuality. The argument is that the entire history of politics is largely the story of how communities and nations resolved the inherent conflict between the universal needs for community and individuality. With that, the topic that this paper tends to address has emerged, within the study of politics in this class and others, as the single most dynamic in scope and in implication.

Freedom, equality, and justice combine to build a substantial argument for the individualistic ideology. Authority, order, and democracy are all building blocks for the argument of the communitarian. Scott notes that much of what motivates individualist is a strong desire for freedom. This author also argues that we are all interdependent and authority is justified by the need to bring order to societies competing values and thoughts. In studying the history of humanity, the battleground that has been formed between the need for individuality and unity is undeniable.

A persons view of the nature of humanity is fundamental to their view of government, and its scope. If people are seen as dangerous, then a government to protect people from that danger is most appropriate. If people are viewed as capable of fulfilling their own creative potential, you may want a government that protects individual liberties (Scott, 47). These are all examples of core values for the entire foundation of government and of politics. This argument, for the use and scope of government, is divided into many different arguments that address basic issues of political science.

Political scientists believe that individuals and their actions are what lead to collective problems. The problem is that our individual actions, each perfectly consistent with our individual preferences, can and often do combine to produce collective outcomes that none of us would have chosen (Bickers, 11). And thus lead to the need for protection against those outcomes, administered through a democratic government. There are several authors that are noted for their dynamic research on the communitarian movement. The spokesperson for the contemporary communitarian movement is Amitai Etzioni.

He explains that communitarians believe that the fundamental and central political problem is finding the right amount of togetherness and common concern. He continues, if people are to individualistic, they fail to support each others efforts and to respect each others needs. If people are too unified, they become authoritarian and attempt to use the state to impose a common set of beliefs and practices. Like ancient philosophers, communitarians find the lack of unified purpose and direction in society to be a crucial problem.

Those who speak of the joys of not associating with others, but of being left alone by them, are most closely associated with individualism. And their noteworthy spokesperson is author and abolitionist Henry David Thoreau. This early author, observing the pressures, expectations, and demands made upon us by the societies in which we live, concluded that the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation (Scott, 51). The communitarian movement seeks to shore up the moral, social, and political foundations of society.

It builds on the elementary social science observation that people are born without any moral or social values. If they are to become civil they most acquire values. Later, they may rebel against these values or seek to modify them, but first they must have them. Historically, the family was the societal entity entrusted with laying the foundation for moral education. Schools were the second line of defense. Community bonds, whether centered on religious institutions, schools, town meetings, or other establishments, serve to reinforce values that had been previously acquired.

These social institutions were the seedbeds of virtue in which values were planted and cultivated (Scott, 51). Robert Nozick makes an argument concerning the role of the government that also speaks to some individualist thoughts. He begins with his beliefs that individuals have rights, and there are things no person or group may do to these rights. So strong and far-reaching are these rights that they raise the question of what, if anything, the state and its officials may do to comprise those rights. So, how much room do individuals leave or the state?

The conclusion that is drawn from this statement about the state is that a minimal state, limited to the narrow functions of protection against force, theft, fraud, enforcement of contracts, and so on, is justified; that any more extensive government will violate persons rights not to be forced to do certain things, and is unjustified; and that the minimal state is inspiring as well as right (Scott, 65). In all this discussion surprisingly little is said about the compatibility of individuality with community.

It is important to note that there are those who believe, in spite of all the discussion to the contrary, that individuality and community are not necessarily oppositional values. In fact, not only are they both necessary, but each one is a necessary condition for the other. In other words, individuals can only be truly actualized within a community, and a political community can only be healthy and strong, if it supports the creative individuality if its members (Scott, 48).

The two countries studied in this paper both have characteristics of individualism and communitarian ideologies, but in studying the United States and Norway it became clear that each county was more heavily geared towards one ideology, individualism, or the other, community. This paper will give an account of how these underling political ideologies differ and whether these two countries are communitarian or individualist in their governments scope and power. NORWAY This portion of the paper will describe Norways political structure and relevant policies that support the concept of its communitarian ideology.

Norways political ideology is based on the concept of the community. According to Webster, a community is defined as a society of people having common rights and privileges. Norway has several public policies designed to ensure equal opportunities and protection of its citizens and immigrants. Some of these policies include an extensive health and social security, gender equality, consumer, and economic policies. All of these policies are designed to benefit the public as a whole. After Norway gained it independence, it adopted a constitutional monarchy political system.

The Norwegian Constitution was written, while the monarchy was still in control of the country. In addition, Norway has an electoral system, similar to the United States, which allow its citizens to participate in direct elections and select representatives. History Norways history included the age of the Viking from 800-1050 A. D. The Vikings were considered cruel brigands, actually came to Norway on a peaceful mission to colonize and trade. Later the establishment of Christianity played an important part in Norways political history. During the 11th century Christianity was first introduced into Norway.

Before the 1100s the first bishoprics appeared. In 1537 the Reformation was enforced in Norway by a royal Decree. This Decree gave the archbishop an important political role. As a result, Lutheran was the primary religion by the year 1060. The Monarchys power increased between 1100 and 1200. From 1319-1343 Norway and Sweden formed a joint monarchy. Norway established a union with Denmark partly due to inter-Scandinavian royal marriages. Norway suffered from economic depression during the middle ages. In addition, the Black Death and other plagues greatly reduced the population of the country.

These economic disparities caused a dramatic decrease in the Norways nobility hold on the country. As a result, Denmark assumed a more important role in Nordic lands, as Danish and German nobles were appointed to the highest offices. Consequently, in 1536 Norway ceased to be an independent kingdom. Furthermore, the Napoleonic wars eventually caused Norway and Denmark to form one kingdom. After 1905 Norway and Swedens union was dissolved, and Norway became an independent nation. A referendum was established which gave political power to a monarchy, rather than a republic.

In 1932 Norway experience an economic upswing, which caused the nations income to rise by more than 1,400 million kroner (Norwegian money). Norway finally adopted a Constitutional Monarchy political system, which included an electoral system. In the election of 1945, the Labour Party gained the majority. The elected governor, Einar Gerhardsens main goal was to build up Norway within five years. By 1946 the industrial production and the domestic product both were greater than they had been since 1938. Subsequently, the country continued to experience a period of steady growth and progress.

Although Norway did not participate in foreign policy in the previous years, the communist takeover in Czechoslovakia in 1948 persuaded them to join NATO in 1949. The social democratic party played an important role in curbing the communist influence in political life and mass organizations. During the post-war years, the most important policy issue was whether or not to join the Common Market, or the EU as it is now known. The election of 1965 created a non-socialist government, headed by the Prime Minister of the Centre Partys Per Borten.

The Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, the Centre party, and the Christian Democratic Party supported the Prime Minister. When Great Britain applied for membership to EU, the issue of Norwegian participation became urgent. The application reviews of 1962 caused violence of political forces in the country. Despite the setback of 1973, the Labour Party maintained control until 1981 when the Conservative Party took over. Political Structure & Ideologies Norway has a constitutional monarchy. The current king of Norway is Harald Finehair who inherited the throne because of his historical ancestry.

After Norway gained its independence in 1905, the constitution was established. Shortly after that Norway elected a king to rule over the country. Norways constitution reflects the political ideology of the country. The first section of the constitution establishes the legality for the existence of the monarchy. It further states that the monarchy may only be abolished by an amendment to the constitution. Upon entering office, the king is given certain executive powers and must choose council member to serve under him. Basically, the king serves as the head-of-state and is primarily symbolic in nature.

He represents his state and his people, and serves as master of ceremonies. He is not allowed to vote, and is not obligated to pay taxes. Additionally, the monarchy is primarily responsible for fulfilling everyday assignments, such as providing endorsements and providing declarations as appropriate. Most importantly, the king and his cabinet may not exceed the boundaries of power that has been declared in the constitution. The check and balance system of Norways Constitution has the same basic concept as the United States Constitution. Political Parties The largest political party is the Norwegian Labour party.

This party, a social democratic political group, is concerned with the welfare and social rights for citizens. On the left, the Socialist Party, which is also rooted in social democratic tradition, places greater emphasizes on the governments responsibilities to ensure the health and welfare of the people. The main conservative group is Hoyre (the Conservatives), which follows European standards. Their views of Norways economic policy is directly opposite from the Labour partys views. In between the two parties are the Liberals, the Christian Democrats, and the Centre Party.

Whereas, the Progress Party, which stands to the right of the Conservatives, runs on a liberalistic platform that firmly opposes state controlled taxation. In addition, Norway has two communist parties, the Communist Party (NKP) and the Electoral Alliance (RV). These communist parties do not have any significant control in the political system. Electoral System The Norwegian electoral system is based on the same principles as the United States. Direct elections and proportional representation are the foundation of the electoral system.

The country is divided into 19 constituencies, and then the constituencies are divided into polling places. Furthermore, all municipalities consist of only one district. At general elections, 157 constituencies representatives must be elected to the legislature assembly, which is called the Storting. Municipal and county council representatives are selected by local government elections. Each political leader is elected for a four-year. It is up to the King to set the election date, usually for a Monday in September. Same as in the United States, citizens must be 18 years or older to vote in all elections.

Non-citizens may vote in the local government elections only. In addition, members of the Storting must have ten years of residency in Norway in order to run for office. The Constitution The Constituent Assemble at Eidsvoll established the Norwegian Constitution in May 17, 1814. The principles of the Norwegian Constitution include: sovereignty of the people, separation of powers, and basic human rights. Amendment proposals to the Constitution must have two-thirds vote of the Storting, a quorum, in order to pass an amendment to the constitution.

Moreover, The Constitution clearly defines the executive role of the King and his royal family, the Storting, the Council of State, and the official religion and role. Health and Social Security Policy Norway has a well-developed, extensive health care system, which is designed to benefit the citizens of its country. Approximately 35% of the states budget is spent on health and social welfare. The National Insurance Act and the Social Care Act are the main policies that provide Norwegians with their social rights. The health care system is predominantly public financed through general and individual taxation.

All wage earners contribute a percentage of their paychecks to the national insurance tax. In addition, health services are funded by block grants, with earmarked funds for priority problems or fields as needed. The health care policy is designed to stimulate the local health services to adopt priorities in hospital spending, psychiatry, and cancer treatment. The foundation of the health care system is the municipal health services. Here, citizens may receive preventive measures, general practice, rehabilitation, and nursing care from municipal health service units.

Also, the state controls and regulates all of the smaller hospitals. Recent legislation has strengthened patient rights by allowing each individual to freely choose between hospitals nationwide. In addition, social security covers treatment abroad if the patients condition if potentially fatal or practically burdensome. All employed persons receive sick pay. Additionally, workers can also receive rehabilitation benefits for job-related illnesses, injuries, and defects. Furthermore, Social security provides dysfunctional persons with medical help, home care, and other necessary services.

Old age pensions are also provided by Social Security. Whereas, women who have worked at least worked at least six months out of the last ten months are entitled to maternity leave with pay. A new legislation reform provides cash benefits for one and two year olds of families who do not use day care, or have been offered less than 30 hours per week of day care. The Day Care Institutions Act of 1996 pays 60% of child-care expenses. Most importantly, the most important law passed that affects children is the Child Welfare Act.

This act is similar to the United States in its efforts to assure healthy living conditions for all children. It allows the municipality to intervene and remove children from their homes and place them in foster care of institutions if their health and/or safety are threatened. Gender Equality Policy Equal rights play an important role in Norways political system. The womens rights activists of the 1970s were very effective in getting legislature passed to ensure the equal rights of women. The goal of gender policy is to give women and men the same possibilities, rights, and obligations within all sectors of the society.

In addition, laws were created to protect women against sexual violence, as well as give them the same economic opportunities as men. A Gender Equality Ombudsman was appointed in 1979 to enforce these laws. Immigrant Issues There are more than 100,000 immigrants within the country, which make up about 2% of the total population. Most immigrants entered into the country between 1980 and 1990. The Sami and Finnish speaking groups, which are related to the gypsies, are the most common minorities in Norway. The main political refugees included migrants from Chile, Iran, and Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Turkey, Somalia, and Yugoslavia.

Also, Muslims also constituted a majority of the people entering the country, around 70,000. A policy on human rights was established because of the existence of discrimination and racism. This prompted the formation of several organizations that were designed to protect the rights of immigrants. Because of Norways liberal policy, there are conflicting cultural issues that exist among the immigrants. For example, the country is obsessed with equality between men and women. In contrast, most immigrant cultures emphasize male-dominated societies. Another example is that marriage is based on free will in the country.

Whereas, most immigrant cultures value arranged marriages, some even with multiple wives. Other cultural issues include native language and religion practices. Consumer Policy The Consumer Council was established in 1953, and the Ministry of Family and Consumer Affairs came into existence three years later. The main focus of the Consumer Council was to protect the commercial interests of the consumer in relation to public administration. Later, two other special consumer institutions, the Consumer Ombudsman and the National Institute for Consumer Research, were established to further promote consumer interests.

All of these institutions fall under the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs. The Norwegian Competition Authority, established in 1994, is responsible for controlling the supply, production, and competition within the market. Their responsibilities include eliminating price fixing, preventing the division of the market, promoting free competition, and assisting the EFTA Surveillance Authority and the European Commission in the enforcement of competition rules. The Consumer Ombudsman administrative body is an independent institution established in 1973 in conjunction with the Market Council.

Its primary responsibility is to ensure the Marketing Control Act is complied with in practice. The Marketing Control Act is intended to protect consumers from unfair marketing practices and methods. In addition, the institution has the authority to prohibit and pass resolutions to prohibit illegal marketing. The Consumer Council is mandated to increase the influence of consumers in social and commercial affairs, and contribute towards consumer-friendly development within the society. The council plays an active role in the preparation of all new legislation and regulations as they relate to consumer policy.

The Consumer Councils highest body is the National Conference. The National Conference elects their members, and then the King appoints the head of the Council. The National Institute for Consumer Research is the center for investigation, research, and trial projects that benefit customers. The institutions primary task is to disseminate the final results the proper authorities, manufacturers, and other research establishments and consumers. In addition, the institute also keeps abreast of developments in consumer affairs outside of the country.

Special regulation of television advertising was created in April 1991. The responsibility is divided between the Norwegian Media Authority and the Consumer Ombudsman. The Mass Media Authority must ensure that television advertising does not exceed the stipulated 15 percent of daily broadcasting time, and that the commercials are broadcasted in blocks between programs. For example, advertising can be only aired once during the course of a feature film. In addition, advertising is only allowed during the breaks of plays or sports events.

Most importantly, Norwegian rules prohibit advertising that directly targets children, even during children programs. The Norwegian integration with the EU internal market has led to organizational changes in product security. Therefore, the Norwegian Electrical Safety Directorate was established to control and enforce the markets product security regulations set by the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement. A new law, that took effect in January 1999, sets opening hours for all local establishments within the entire country.

According to the law, maximum weekend hours are between 6. and 21. 00. Kiosks and grocery stores (up to 100 square meters), and filling stations (up to 150 square meters) are exempted from this law, and are allowed to stay open on Sundays. In addition, the County Governor has the authority to give exceptions for the areas with high tourist traffic. Economic Policy Norwegian per capital income ranks among the worlds highest. The North Sea oil and gas fields are the main cornerstones of the economy. Norwegians rely on fishing, pulp and paper, forestry, mining, manufacturing, and shipping as their main sources of income.

The economic growth was most favorable in 1993 with the dramatic economic upswing in 1993. During this period unemployed decreased, and the stable budget allowed the development of sound budgetary policy and successful income policy cooperation. In addition, price and cost inflation remained at a very low level. The main challenge facing Norways economic policy is to reduce inflation. Norway still remains higher than any of its other trading partners. Currently, Norways gross domestic product is 1192. 8 NOK billions.

The volume for 2000 was 3. and 2. 6 for 2001. In addition, the wage growth has remained higher than its other partners over the past two years. The fiscal policy is responsible for ensuring growth in demand for goods and services is balanced with the economy. Furthermore, the policy is very important in determining competitiveness within the markets. The monetary policy stabilizes the krone (Norwegian money) exchange. The labor market policy is designed to assistant job seekers in finding jobs by posting the job vacancies and qualifications.

Norway uses the tax policy to ease pressures experienced by the economy. Also, the government has put several measures in place to reduce the number of loopholes in the system. The main tax proposals for 2001 are: supplemental payroll tax of 1. 5%, dividend tax of 14%, reduction of 50 ore per liter on the excise duties on petrol and diesel, reduction of 17. 5 on liquor and spirits, reduction of taxes in labor and pension income by 10%, changes in the child benefit scheme, and the increase of taxes in electricity and heating oil consumption.

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