My friend, Kosmo at The Casual Observer clued me into a Associated Press article about Norway opening up their country’s tax records. The belief by the Norwegian government is that transparency is the best policy. That transparency comes in the form of releasing a “skatteliste” or “tax list” to the media.
I realize that other cultures have other customs that may seem strange, but imagine this in the United States for a minute. Can you imagine all the privacy advocates in an uproar? (Note: I think I’d be roaring the loudest.) Critics claim that the list creates quite the ruckus in the country. For instance, instead of hearing “My dad can beat up your dad” in the school yard, there’s the “My dad makes more money than your dad.” I guess children grow up fast in Norway, because I didn’t think about money and how much my parents made back then. There’s also the fact that robbers can now calculate the highest return for their thieving effort.
For me personally, part of this concept struck very close to home. A few jobs ago, someone found a disk with the complete company’s payroll information. This quickly circulated around the company through private email accounts. When it got around to me, I was surprised to see that the person who spent half the day asking me questions was making 20% more than me. She also only worked 4 days a week. I know she was a favorite of the managers, but I still thought that was excessive considering I had more experience. In fact, I hinted at the experience as one of my earlier posts on this site.
In a transparent Norwegian-tax world, I would not have been underpaid that long as I would be able to make an easy case for a raise based on knowing what my peers make (and my managers knowing that I know what they make). So maybe this is a good thing for Norway as it can ensure that people get paid more fairly. What’s your take?