Norwegian Democracy

Norwegian Democracy

Norwegian Democracy

Norwegian Democracy

Excerpt

Democratic government is not new in Norway. Even as the Vikings were marauding the continent, the British Isles, and -- as is now fairly well established -- the coast of North America, primitive lawgiving institutions were being developed. These assemblies or, as they are called in Norwegian, tinger, served as the model not only for the Norwegian parliament (Storting), but also for the parliament of Iceland (Alting).

Although the beginnings of Norwegian democracy can be traced to the middle ages, the modern ideological and institutional structure had their origins in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries. The absence of a native nobility and the presence of a vigorous, if not well organized, agrarian group enabled the government established by the Constitution of 1814 to assume a degree of independence in the newly formed Norwegian-Swedish Union which finally led to responsible parliamentarism in 1884.

During the last years of the Dano-Norwegian Union and throughout the period from 1814 to 1905 while Norway was united with Sweden under a common king, nationalism, as well as democracy, became increasingly strong. And in present-day Norway both remain vigorous. Occasionally one is struck by certain conflicts in modern Norway, e.g., the conflict between the extremes of nationalism and the inevitability, due to location and resources, of a high degree of dependence upon other states. Also one discovers an intense type of individualism growing initially out of the very nature of the topography, but this has been tempered by well organized cooperative ventures. Running through all of these -- nationalism, individualism, and cooperation -- is the thread of democracy.

Much of the institutional fabric and many of the procedural arrangements of Norwegian democracy are not dissimilar from those found in other Western countries, particularly the United Kingdom. But certain institutions, like the parliament (Storting), are unique. And the combination of judicial review and separation of powers with cabinet government has given the Norwegian government a character unlike that found either in the United Kingdom or the United States.

The treatment of Norwegian democracy that follows is reasonably traditional. Introductory background chapters are followed by descriptions of the institutions and practices associated with the legislative, executive, administrative, and judicial functions of the national . . .

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