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Archive for June 5th, 2009

In bed by two

The current red/green government hereabouts is a majority government. which we haven’t had for a long time. But it’s not necessarily a good idea.

It means that decisions are made behind closed doors, when the leadership of the three parties have made up their minds, the debate is over. Even some of their own members of parliament are complaining about this.

Having to negotiate with a more or less hostile majority in parliament means that some of the more silly proposals quickly end up in the recycling bin. With a clear majority, there is a danger that the same proposals become law.

We have some, very few, areas where local government decides how things should be done in their community. Some towns have a centre-right council, others are run by the social democrats, and this changes over time. The local parties campaign on their key issues, but when in office most of their budgets are linked to expenditure decided by central government. They can make some decisions on local roads, bus services, where to build schools and kindergartens, building permits etc. They used to decide the opening hours for shops, but this was taken away from them. Some also had more liberal licencing hours for selling beer in supermarkets, but that is history.

One topic is hotly debated in many towns, and that is the opening hours for licenced restaurants and bars. The bigger cities, including Oslo, tend to have fairly liberal opening hours – until 03:00.

Well, this is about to change, at least if the governments survives the September elections. A proposal was launched today by the Minister of Health and the Minister of Justice. They propose national legislation stopping the sale of alcohol at 02:00.

The health minister is interviewed by VG online:

We have a set of rules regulating the actions of individuals. That is called society. We have speed limits as well, of concern for the big majority. There is a minority that insists on drinking and partying until three in the morning. This is when ordinary people need to find their beds.

The young liberals have another opinion.

This is the nanny state at its worst. Members of parliament in Oslo should not decide when adult citizens can have a beer. We want to remove all government regulations for serving alcohol – local democracy can find good solutions, says their leader Anne Solsvik.

I can’t remember the last time I was in a bar after two in the morning. And there might be evidence that closing earlier means less violence in the streets. But what worries me is that the last few possibilities for making local decisions are taken away.

I have a feeling that the proposal of subsidising beer for visiting hooligans won’t be on the agenda of this government.

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