By CRAIG MEDRED
Norway’s version of the Alaska Permanent Fund hit the $1 trillion mark last week.
That’s $1,000 billion, or about 16 times the $61.2 billion the state of Alaska is now sitting on. The Norwegians created their account in 1990. Deposits into the Alaska Permanent Fund began in 1977.
Cue the discussion about how Alaska, which is now suffering through the worst recession since the 1980s, would be better off if it was more like Norway. This idea has popped up so many times in recent years it has almost become a cliché.
Only months ago, the Alaska Dispatch News ran a story headlined “Norwegians and Icelanders let Alaskans in on the secrets to economic prosperity.”
Beneath that story, reporter Jeannette Lea Falsey wrote that Norwegian economist Morten Brugard had a plan that “might appeal to Alaskans all along the political spectrum: Efficient government and a strong social safety net are the keys to Norway’s economic prosperity.”
Oh, if it were only so simple.
Certainly Alaska’s government could be more efficient. But it’s unlikely there’s a government of which that can’t be said. Not to mention that government efficiency is a hard thing to score.
When it is scored, Norway ranks from third to 11th in a comparison of various indices pulled together by the Institute for Government, a United Kingdom think tank. The highest U.S. ranking is seventh.
“The disparities in performance highlight a key problem with these cross-national studies: they may see the job of government differently, use different variables, and even measure the same thing differently,” the Institute notes.