Norway has higher standards of living, welfare, environmental protection, agricultural subsidy and women's advancement than the 12-nation European Union, supported by oil and gas wealth and fish-rich coastal waters. Why would Norway share its wealth to obtain lower standards?
Why, indeed? It won't. The negative vote in the advisory referendum on joining the European Union, Monday, insures that the parliament will keep Norway out of the EU when Finland, Sweden and Austria join on Jan. 1. It was probably the wrong decision, but only time will tell.
As a result, the Nordic Union will remain disunited, with Norway, Denmark and Iceland (sort of) in NATO and Sweden and Finland out; and with Denmark, Sweden and Finland in the European Union, and Norway and Iceland out. Norway will remain in the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) outside of the EU, along with Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Don't laugh. Liechtenstein is one of Europe's richest countries.
The dream of a Nordic bloc having more say on the single European currency-to-be than Germany -- as promised in the Maastricht Treaty -- now will not materialize. The European Union will be deprived of what would have been its least enthusiastic member, after Britain. That will favor the rapid integration sought by France and Germany.
This is the second time Norwegian voters said no. The first was in 1972, when Britain, Ireland and Denmark were going into the European Community, as it was then called.
The yes vote this time was favored by business, bureaucrats, sophisticates, people who travel. The no vote, reflecting Norway's independence (of Sweden) dating from 1905, came from fishermen worried at Iberian competitors depleting home waters, farmers enjoying subsidies, provincial folk of the north and west, women who work for the government in larger numbers than elsewhere administering a more generous welfare state.
What can possibly have been misguided about their vote?: The disadvantage of Norwegian products as traditional markets go European, isolation from Nordic cousins, the depletion of North Sea oil in a decade or two, missing the higher trade and production the EU promises its members.
The Swedes might have wished to stay out, too, in their recent referendum, but their economy went sour and reduced confidence. The Finns would have wanted to, but they are still frightened of Russia and crave company for protection. Norway, a large country of only 4.3 million people, has made its lonely choice. Now it must live with it.