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'Rich on Resources' - An Interpretive Policy Analysis of Producing Public Good in Salmon Governance in Norway

Democracy
Governance
Policy Analysis
Heidrun Åm
Norwegian University of Science & Technology, Trondheim

Abstract

Norway is known for its equality and welfare policies, as well as for its public governance of the country’s oil fortune. However, Norway—like other countries—needs to discuss the future of its national economy in the face of peak oil forecasts as well as demands for more environmentally-friendly energy sources. The ‘bioeconomy’ is pointed out as a potential future source of income. Already now, Norway is the largest exporter of farmed salmon, and current policy strategies envision that Norwegian value creation from the ocean will further expand: the sales value of farmed salmon, it is envisioned, will quintuple by 2050 in the nation’s transition from an oil economy to a bioeconomy. From a political science perspective, the question emerges what a transition to a bioeconomy (e.g., through salmon farming) implies for Norwegian democracy and welfare distribution. Norwegian democracy has traditionally drafted interesting approaches toward collective governance of natural resources. For example, a resource rent taxation on the oil revenue has been a crucial element in wealth distribution. In contrast, aquaculture is so profitable a private business that the term “salmon billionaire” (“laksemilliardær”) has entered the language. This paper interrogates the governance of salmon farming in order to study changes in contemporary democracy. In detail, I conduct an interpretive analysis of current debates on introducing a resource rent taxation on farmed salmon. Methodologically, I analyze a recently published official government report on this pressing issue, the accompanying media debate, public hearing statements, and political party program debates. In this analysis, I focus on the question what is constituted as ‘common’ or ‘public’ (in the sense of ‘pertaining to the collective’). My research follows a pragmatist study of politics. This approach at the intersection of critical policy studies (CPS) (Howarth 2010, Yanow 2007, Griggs et al. 2014) and science and technology studies (STS) (Barry 2001, Marres 2007, Asdal 2008, Mitchell 2013, Laurent 2017) studies the joint production of publics, problematizations, and social order. Bringing IPA/CPS and STS into conversation is a fruitful endeavor because STS’s study of politics (Latour 2007) is wanting on questions of hegemony and power, while IPA studies at times can lack empirical detail in terms of material aspects and technical objects.