I find DNA molecules amazingly beautiful. Those double helices of intertwining spirals and the links formed by the base pairs are like looking at life itself. DNA makes me think about genes and about our genotype, and it is from this starting point that I now want to talk about politics.

Although it is something of a political simplification, many of my compatriots associate the almost unimaginable progress towards greater prosperity and a better quality of life that took place in the decades after 1945 with the Norwegian Labour Party [Det norske Arbeiderparti — which used to be represented by the initials DnA, although it is currently represented by the acronym AP]. For several generations, which grew up after the war, it was not unnatural to think DnA = DNA.

And let’s note in passing that in his book, Ill Fares the Land, historian Tony Judt has documented how that this period of social-democratic consensus was marked by a hitherto unseen level of progress.

However, few people today would associate the Labour Party with DNA. It appears that the “A” for Arbeide [“work”] has been replaced by a “B” for “bank” [DNB is Norway’s largest bank].

Our DNA has changed

In days gone by, the idea was to take a little from the rich, and to give it to the poor. Now everyone wants to be rich. Our moral genotype has therefore changed, and the collective drive for a more equitable distribution of wealth has been replaced by the quest for individual financial gain.

This is not only a criticism of the Labour Party. The political efforts made by Scandinavian countries in the postwar era were marked by an admirable attempt to establish an alternative to socialism and capitalism, a sort of third way. Today it seems that this goal has been set aside, and the DNB mentality has the upper hand.

Not so long ago, we thought it was obvious that the basic needs of society (education, health services, care for the elderly, public transport, research, infrastructure) should be addressed by more than the mere incentive for financial gain. Today, commerce has come to the fore in every one of these fields, not least with the idea that they should all be privatised.

It does not occur to us that we are squandering our inheritance

It does not occur to us that we are squandering our inheritance – faith in the moral principles of equality, justice and solidarity – which has been replaced by the sole value of freedom. And as we no longer have any ideological debate, but a politics of spectacle and the race to compete in the polls, there is hardly anyone left to understand that this amounts to a shift between two different models of society. Because more freedom accentuates differences between individuals, which inevitably means less equality.

Norway PLC

But the principle I really want contest is the dogma of “more growth”: the idea that growth can continue forever, and that turning a generous profit is the main priority for a nation. From being a society, Norway has been transformed into a company: Norge AS [Norway PLC].

Look at how rich we have become! So rich that we are almost anaesthetised. The rest of the world no longer exists. And the meagre discussion of international politics and the state of the planet in the current election campaign is symptomatic of this fact.

We show our disapproval when we visit countries where the rich have built special enclaves to keep out the poor. But we do not see that we are doing exactly the same thing. The whole of Norway is in the process of becoming just such an enclave. As it stands, all we need to complete this project is a wall topped with broken glass along our borders.

It is oil that has brought us this fairytale success, which has made us so prosperous and so spoiled. But it is a happiness that can only be enjoyed by gagging our collective conscience. The fact that we grow richer when there’s a war, or as the Aftenposten editorial pointed out on August 3, the fact that “Norway often does well when things go wrong in the world,” is just the half of it. It is even more difficult to turn a blind eye to the damage done to the atmosphere by our oil and gas production.

Oil-based economy is vulnerable

Virtually every day, we read in the papers that climate change can only be addressed by a new economy. But you can be sure: Norway is not going to take the lead in this. Such an about-turn would be so unpopular that our leaders would not dare even to suggest it.

So they make do with symbolic measures and a “carbon tax”, which does nothing to slow the pace of extraction. Of course, politicians talk about the obligation to work towards a carbon-free economy, but, behind the scenes, they are determined to seek and exploit new deposits of gas and oil.

And the majority of Norwegians support them. Who really wants a binding international climate agreement that will slow the development of Norwegian oil? Who wants innovation that will result in lower oil prices, when it is clear that such a change will undermine our economy, and our quality of life while raising the level of unemployment in Norway?

Our oil-based wealth is extremely vulnerable, which is why we try to hide the moral dilemma it raises, even if we are aware of the negative repercussions of the production of hydrocarbons.

Should we not embrace a policy that advocates a radical change to this system? Why do we not all vote for candidates that support this cause? Because we still want more. Because this country is not being run by DNA, but, in a figurative sense, by DNB. Norway has turned into a bank, which raises yet another democratic issue.