Something Not Rotten in Denmark

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/16/opinion/denmark-socialism-fox.html

By Paul Krugman
Aug. 16, 2018

To be or not to be a socialist hellhole, that is the question. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

Last weekend, Trish Regan, a Fox Business host, created a bit of an international incident by describing Denmark as an example of the horrors of socialism, right along with Venezuela. Denmark’s finance minister suggested that she visit his country and learn some facts.

Indeed, Regan couldn’t have picked a worse example — or, from the point of view of U.S. progressives, a better one.

For Denmark has indeed taken a very different path from the United States over the past few decades, veering (modestly) to the left where we’ve veered right. And it has done just fine.

American politics has been dominated by a crusade against big government; Denmark has embraced an expansive government role, with public spending more than half of G.D.P. American politicians fear talk about redistribution of income from the rich to the less well-off; Denmark engages in such redistribution on a scale unimaginable here. American policy has been increasingly hostile to organized labor, and unions have virtually disappeared from the private sector; two-thirds of Danish workers are unionized.

Conservative ideology says that Denmark’s policy choices should be disastrous, that grass should be growing in the streets of Copenhagen. Regan was, in effect, describing what her employers think must be happening there. But if Denmark is a hellhole, it’s doing a very good job of hiding that fact: I was just there, and it looks awfully prosperous.

And the data agree with that impression. Danes are more likely to have jobs than Americans, and in many cases they earn substantially more. Overall G.D.P. per capita in Denmark is a bit lower than in America, but that’s basically because the Danes take more vacations. Income inequality is much lower, and life expectancy is higher.

The simple fact is that life is better for most Danes than it is for their U.S. counterparts. There’s a reason Denmark consistently ranks well ahead of America in measures of happiness and life satisfaction.

But is Denmark socialist?

The libertarian Cato Institute says no: “Denmark has quite a free-market economy, apart from its welfare state transfers and high government consumption.” That’s some qualification.

It’s true that Denmark doesn’t at all fit the classic definition of socialism, which involves government ownership of the means of production. It is, instead, social-democratic: a market economy where the downsides of capitalism are mitigated by government action, including a very strong social safety net.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/16/opinion/denmark-socialism-fox.html

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