ANSWER: Though on the surface it’s appealing, no.
Henrik Rasmussen at TCS Daily explains why, and in fact notes a phenomenon occurring in Denmark that BizzyBlog has frequently commented on:
“It is entirely possible to have a large welfare state, with generous benefits, without choking the economy,” says Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic in a new series of articles, glorifying the Danish economic model. He enlists the support of several prominent economists from left and right.
….. perhaps a dose of reality from someone who has actually lived in Denmark is in order.
First, let’s compare material living standards …..
….. (the) numbers indicate that the 10% poorest in the United States have roughly the same standard of living as their Danish counterparts while the remaining 90% of Americans are better off than the Danes.
….. Which brings me to my second point. Cohn points out that “Americans simply work more hours, don’t get as much vacation, and can’t take such generous pregnancy or sick leaves.” True, on paper Danes and Europeans in general have much more free time than Americans. However, as Constantin Gurdgiev points out in this article, recent research from Sweden and Germany suggests that Americans have just as much leisure time as Germans and Swedes when one accounts for the time spent on “do-it-yourself” services such as cooking, grocery shopping and home repair. While Americans spend more time on the job, Swedes and Germans spend more time working at home performing basic services that Americans pay others to do for them.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the numbers from Germany and Sweden apply to Denmark as well. For instance, Danes rarely go out to eat compared to Americans, and shopping for groceries, clothes and other everyday items requires more time in Denmark due to smaller stores, higher prices, and a lower variety of goods. In addition, Danes tend to spend long hours stuck in public transportation due to the high cost of cars and gasoline. High taxes tend to complicate life and cut into people’s free time in more ways than immediately meet the eye.
Finally, there are the “generous” non-cash social benefits of the Danish welfare state to consider, primarily the health care system, which all Danes can use free of charge.
….. (But) US healthcare is better than the Danish version, exactly because Americans spend more on healthcare than the Danes. As in most government-run healthcare systems, Danish patients face significant waiting times for many types of treatment that Americans can get immediately. The United States is also ahead of Denmark when it comes to employing modern technology. For instance, America has 62.1 DTX scanners (for osteoporosis) per 1 million people compared to 8.0 in Denmark. The ratio for MRI scanners is 27 to 10 in America’s favor, and the ratio for CT scanners is 32 to 14.6, again in America’s favor.
Furthermore, Americans have better access to many preventive drugs than Danes, who often have difficulties getting prescriptions until they show serious medical complications. Competition between insurance companies is exactly what causes this American superiority in access to drugs.
In fact ….. (a) mass exodus (from Denmark) is already taking place. For instance, estimates of Danes living in London vary between 35,000 and 70,000, which is roughly 1% of the total Danish population of 5.4 million. According to the leading Copenhagen business daily BÃ¸rsen, the average income of these Danish Londoners is more than $100,000 per year.
To put this number in perspective, imagine the reaction if 3 million high income Americans moved to London in search of greater economic freedom. Perhaps even The New Republic would realize that there’s something rotten about high taxes.
If the Danes who can are voting with their feet, it doesn’t seem like a place to imitate.