Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Away for work

Blogging has been extremely light lately, and I apologise.
Ever since starting a new job in Feb, there has been little spare time to devote to blogging. And there are plenty of stories that deserve attention.

From Kevin Rudd's sacking, to Julia Gillard's snap election announcement, to the myriad of stupid policies being proposed by meddling "public servants", there is no end to my daily frustration at how the government and its actions are treated as the essence of society and the definition of newsworthiness for our brain-dead media.

Socialism, and the idea that governments can and should spend a large chunk of our money on things that we need, is not a rational philosophy and is far more crazed than many perverted cults and sects. No matter how often governments prove that they are incompetent, no matter how many hundreds of billions they gather and spend on stupid things, and mismanage our wealth, squander our taxes and introduce red tape into our every day lives, the people seem to focus on who is currently PM, the head honcho of the government and not the abhorrent things that it does.

Expensive school halls, people killed by deadly insulation, a centralisation of the health system in Canberra, handouts to parents and family groups and whoever else puts their hands up, bailouts, stimulus spending, handouts to home owners.. its all just a massive waste and a tragic mess.

Right now, I am in Norway, and from today's experience, I'll guarantee that it is no socialist paradise. Five of my co-workers in the cafeteria all agreed that taxes (48% + 7.5% health levy) are too high in this country. They discourage people from working, and they didn't create equality anyway.
But this morning, my own personal experience with the Norwegian postal service, a government monopoly, got my blood boiling.

You see, I commited the *crime* of ordering a mobile phone online. It arrived in Norway, and instead of having it delivered to my hotel, I received a letter from the post office about tax and customs, and collecting it from their post centre.
I wasted 40 minutes of my time travelling there, to encounter layers of bureacracy, incompetence and extortion.

  • I take a number, and proceed to the counter with my letter and my passport. Guy #1 explains that VAT is payable (about $150 worth). It was 25% based on the price on my invoice, which includes postage. I asked them why VAT was payable on the postage as well as the item, and they said "yes, it is payable". He told me to proceed to the collection counter to get my item.
  • At the collection counter, I meet Guy #2, who goes out back and looks for my parcel for 5 minutes. He comes back, and instead of handing it over, tells me to take a number again and go back to the first counter to do the paperwork.
  • Back at the first counter, I meet Guy #3. He also agrees that the system is too complex, but needs my passport. He tells me to sit down for 15 minutes whilst he busily types away and enters all my details into their system. 2 other co-workers are standing around behind the counter just chatting over a coffee and having a laugh. 15 minutes later, he explains that I have to pay the VAT, but when I leave Norway, I can get a stamp at the airport to show the items have been taken out of the country. ONLY THEN can I write a letter to the customs agency with the stamp and paperwork to APPLY to get the VAT refunded. Meaning it would take a few weeks !! He stamps my papers, gives me the passport back, and I proceed to the collection counter.
  • Guy #2 comes out again.. He asks me if I am paying the total by card. I explained that I would pay the VAT with cash and opened my wallet to start counting. Then he drops a bombshell. There was a processing fee and a payment fee !! They added up to nearly $40. Now I knew I wouldn't over have a chance of getting this money back, so I started complaining and said that its too much, and that I shouldn't have to pay it.
  • I was left with only one option, to refuse to pay and have them return the item back to sender. It would be cheaper for me to post it out to Australia then deal with these pricks, and on principle, I didn't want to pay these communist technocrats for their meddling.
I let each and every one of these paper-pushing idiots know that this isn't how normal countries behave, and this isn't how you should treat people. You cannot just shake-down and extort money out of people to fund these public sector parasites.

Furthermore, this system of VAT across Europe is overly complex and ridiculous. It is extremely difficult to have it refunded, it requires 2 or 3 rounds of paperwork.

Back to the Scandinavian system... social democracy isn't perfect at all. They have very high prices, largely due to high taxes and VAT. Whenever they do repairs on their train system, there is an army of unionised workers in fluorescent vests standing round. For the entire month of July, the westbound train lines from Oslo are shutdown for track works. Each train station has replacement buses, and the platforms have been manned with at least 6 of these people who simply point towards buses and make announcements through a megaphone.

Whilst the unemployment rate is extremely low in Norway, perhaps due to their oil industry and resources boom, they have huge unemployment with migrants and huge numbers of people living off welfare. Their debt to GDP ratio is well over 50% and they squander all their wealth on wasteful government spending. Their health system, like most socialist countries, is based on rationing and queues:

Waiting Times. There are significant waiting times for many procedures. Many Norwegians go abroad for medical treatments. The average weight for a hip replacement is more than 4 months. “Approximately 23 percent of all patients referred for hospital admission have to wait longer than three months for admission.” Also, care can be denied if it is not deemed to be cost-effective