IT'S THE moment nosy neighbours have been waiting for – the release of official records showing the annual income and overall wealth of every Norwegian taxpayer.
In a move that would be unthinkable in most countries, tax authorities in Norway have issued the skatteliste, or "tax list," for 2008 to domestic media under a law designed to safeguard the country's tradition of transparency.
Defenders of the system say it enhances transparency, which is essential for an open democracy.
"Isn't this how a social democracy ought to work, with openness, transparency and social equality as ideals?" wrote Jan Omdahl, a columnist for the tabloid Dagbladet. He acknowledged, however, that many treat the list as "tax porno" – furtively checking the incomes of neighbours or co-workers.
Critics say the list poses a threat to the very society the freedom of which it is meant to protect.
"What each Norwegian earns and what you have in wealth is a private matter between the taxpayer and the government," said Jon Stordrange, director of the Norwegian Taxpayer's Association.
He claimed the list, besides providing criminals with a useful tool to find prime targets, generates my-dad-is-richer-than-yours taunts in the playground.