When Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders asked why we couldn’t be more like Denmark, I must admit I was concerned about the tradeoffs.
Where are we going? To deciding whether we want to be like the Danes.
If you look at a world survey for something good, then Denmark is usually in the top ten. In Gallup’s World Happiness Poll on “How People See Their Lives” Denmark is #2. The Gallup people say that people in more affluent nations tend to see their lives positively. Denmark also landed in the top ten for the World Creativity Index. With technology, talent and tolerance the key criteria, Denmark was #5.
The darker purple indicates a higher creativity score:
And here are some of the data. You can see that Australia is at the top and leads in talent but Denmark at #5 has a little of everything:
As for social welfare, the 5.6 million people who live in Denmark have access to government funded support that includes healthcare, parental leave, unemployment benefits, a university education, and elder care. New parents can get as much as 52 weeks of paid leave, universal day care and a cash subsidy for each child. Collectible for two years (it had been four) to people who meet the criteria, Denmark’s unemployment benefit can equal as much as 90 percent of someone’s previous earnings.
While we could continue citing lots of statistics, instead Oprah Winfrey might have nailed the Danish identity when she said that, “people leave their children in buggies outside of cafés, that you aren’t worried they will get stolen…that everyone isn’t racing racing racing to get more more more.”
Trust has been cited as a part of Danish culture as is a more laid back work attitude. The average Dane works 1599 hours each year while in the U.S. the number is 2087. In Denmark (I have read but not confirmed that) it is typical to leave the job at 4 or 5 pm and take six vacation weeks.
And finally, Legos are from Denmark.
The big downside is the taxes. In The Almost Nearly Perfect People, we are told that in Denmark “you work for the state up until at least Thursday morning…”
Denmark’s income tax has a top marginal rate that is close to 60 percent for the most affluent and a high average of 35 to 40 percent for the middle class. At 25 percent, their value added tax means consumer goods are pricey. Then, they also pay a property tax on home ownership, a car purchase tax that is a whopping 180 percent and a high gasoline tax. Hoping to curtail unhealthy habits, the Danes target sugary foods like ice cream and chocolates and also alcoholic beverages for excise taxes.
In addition to money, we can define cost as sacrifice which takes us to the extra time spent getting healthcare and other government services, the impact of a big safety net on the work ethic and high public sector employment.
Our Bottom Line: Tradeoffs
So, do we want to be more like Denmark? A typical American has less time, less government and more cash.