The Hilarious Thing Norway's Prime Minister Did Last Friday
Consider the case of Jens Stoltenberg, prime minister of Norway. He's currently running for re-election. He's behind in the polls, and the vote will be held in less than a month. But what Stoltenberg lacks in popularity as a policymaker, he might just make up for with his latest stunt.
Stoltenberg's approval rating is at a weak 36%. Government spending has grown by 19% in the last eight months alone. Stoltenberg has been very willing to expand the welfare state, financed by oil money, and causing a rise in inflation. Even greater than the concern that Stoltenberg may be overheating the oil fund is the desire among Norwegians for a change in the government that has had Stoltenberg in power since 2005. What's a struggling candidate to do?
Since this is Norway, one might imagine a Viking raid on is opponent's campaigning headquarters — throwing his opponent off of a fjord,some form of a reindeer attack, or, at the very least, some good old-fashioned mudslinging.
Instead, Stoltenberg spent an afternoon as a taxi driver, talking to everyday Norwegians about things that matter to them.
Some may think of this as just another politician desperate to prove he's a regular guy. But I think that Stoltenberg has done something more here, by setting up a metaphor for governance: The prime minster is in the driver's seat, but it is the people who hired him — the passengers — who are calling the shots. The voters (passengers) decide on a direction for the country, and they hire the head of state to help steer them there.
I personally disagree with the direction in which Stoltenberg has led Norway, but I'm not a paying passenger (a Norwegian taxpayer, for metaphorical purposes). I am solely evaluating his latest publicity stunt, and I think it's been a good one. This exercise in service-based leadership is a refreshing reminder of the intended relationship between policymakers and constitutents.