Debate Magazine

Dude, We've Spent It.

Posted on the 16 January 2014 by Markwadsworth @Mark_Wadsworth
The Guardian runs the following twattish article:
Last Wednesday, every single Norwegian became a millionaire – without having to lift a lillefinger. They owe the windfall to their coastline, and a huge dollop of good sense. Since 1990, Norway has been squirreling away its cash from North Sea oil and gas into a rainy-day fund.
... converted into pounds, the 5.11 trillion krone becomes a mere £100,000 for every man, woman and child... We pumped hundreds of billions out of the water off the coast of Scotland. Only unlike the Norwegians, we've got almost nothing to show for it.

Yes, we've seen this sort of drivel in The Daily Mail and at ConHome plenty of times, the only variant is the next bit:
Our oil cash was magicked into tax cuts for the well-off, then micturated against the walls of a thousand pricey car dealerships and estate agents.
How the oil money was allegedly spent seems to depend entirely on the prejudices of whoever is writing the twattish article. The Mail and would say "we wasted it on welfare payments to scroungers", UKIP would say "We wasted it on payments to the EU", the Islamists would say "We wasted it on wars of aggression against our peace-loving Brothers in the Middle East", the BNP would say "We wasted it on aid payment to nig nogs" etc etc.
Even worse is the SNP who say that "Westminster stole our oil money", well fact is, the extra Barnett money the Scots get back from Westminster has been broadly equal to the North Sea oil tax revenues and it all nets off.
(I might as well point out that the £5 billion of North Sea oil money we've spent was at least publicly collected and pales into insignificance compared to the amount of taxpayers' money wasted by selling off council houses at undervalue and then having to pay Housing Benefit instead, we're talking tens of billions, maybe as much as a hundred billion, pissed up the wall right there.)
Boring, boring, boring:
Politics aside, the salient points here these:
a) There are only 5.1 million Norwegians. Pro rata for the UK population, our fund would have been £8,000 each.
b) That money has been building up over forty years, so divide £8,000 by forty, the UK has been spending £200 more per person per year, that's your £8,000 gone.
c) Both Labour and Tory governments have appalling records on public spending, that £200 is only about 2% of the total amount they spend per person each year anyway, i.e. the square root of f- all.
d) There's not much point whining about a non-existent £0.5 billion oil fund when the UK has run up a national debt of £1,000 billion (or whatever the horrifying figure is). In relative terms, it's the square root of your answer from c). Maybe our national debt is £0.5 billion lower than it otherwise would have been, who knows?

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