Last week Denmark hit the global headlines and was thrust into the forefront of American’s minds when Bernie Sanders, in the Democrat presidential debate, said that the US should be more like Denmark. He used the examples of the support parents get from the welfare state here and how Denmark looks after its working people and how America could learn from this.
Of course rather than taking this idea as a positive suggestion and for the US media to turn its eyes to what does work here, albeit in a much smaller country, the large element of the US media immediately took to its keyboards to rip Danish ideals to shreds. Despite Denmark not being a socialist country per se, that ‘insult’ was immediately bandied around. There is nothing the US right-wing media and its supporters hate more than this shadowy threat of socialism, which from what I gather they think means anything that may actually help the majority of people of a country from universal healthcare to a positive welfare state, not the actual dictionary definition.
It comes down to something I have noticed for a long time. The moment someone praises or adopts something that differs from the norm, the immediate reaction is to assume this is a massive criticism and to take on an overly defensive approach. I read many articles last week where the journalists had worked hard to find all the things wrong with Denmark (and seemed to think it was Holland again as the concept of two separate nationalities beginning with the same letter (Dutch and Danish) is far too complex to differentiate) and the biggest one was the idea of higher taxes to fund this scary Socialist dystopia or utopia depending on the editorial slant of the outlet. Most of the criticism showed more about what it important to the US – consumerism. High taxes – income tax, purchase tax (25%), 180% tax on car purchase, carbon tax of 13 USD per ton of CO2 and then the price of everyday consumer goods (which the connection between purchase tax and also currency conversion between dollars and krone was ignored). Oh and the size of the country and the bad weather.
And yet Denmark still seems to consistently be one of the top three happiest countries in the world, far above the US. Baffling. Perhaps it is the smaller gap between the rich and the poor, fewer cars and less obsession with buying consumer goods, less pollution, a cost-effective approach to public services such as transport and refuse collecting, universal healthcare, shorter working hours (yet still rated by Forbes as being the best country for business), paid parental leave, heavily subsidised childcare and free education including university.
Plus we have hygge!