Just in time for the Christmas baking season, Norwegians are facing an acute butter shortage. Last Friday, customs officials detained a Russian trying to smuggle 90 kilos of the creamy goodness into the country by car.
Wait. What?!? Isn’t Norway that rich Scandinavian country with all the oil ?
Yup, that’s the one.
Wow… This European debt crisis is already causing shortages of staples?
No, that’s not it.
Huh. I feel silly asking this, but are they at war with someone?
Not as far as we know.
Well what gives then?
The story linked above claims bad weather hurt crops and milk production while demand has risen due to a high fat fad diet.
Well why don’t they just, you know, import more?
That’s what Sweden’s doing—they’ve had similar weather and they’ve got the same diet fad, but their stores (and soon their arteries) are chocked full of butter. But the Norwegians couldn’t do that.
Why on earth not?
Norway has a butter monopolist called “Tine” that is deliberately protected from foreign competitors by government‐imposed import tariffs.
Well, with all due respect: duh! We’ve only known the damaging effects of monopolies and protectionism for, like a couple of hundred years. You’d think the Norwegian people would have wised up and ditched them by now. Americans would never stand for that sort of thing.
Norwegians seem pretty angry right now, and it sounds as though they may do just that. But I wouldn’t be too smug about the United States. Turns out, it’s got its own $600 billion per year government protected monopoly that makes Tine look like small potatoes indeed. Here’s a hint: