The Danish model

If I have to hear one more goddamn time about the Danish model…. The Danes are the happiest people in the world! Denmark taxes oil companies highly to fund infrastructure! The Danish welfare system enables a wonderful life-work balance! Everyone in Denmark rides bikes!

Denmark, it’s said, is the model that the rest of the world should follow to find universal happiness. This widely circulated article, for instance, raves that Denmark has “lower unemployment than the U.S., less inequality, more social mobility, lower budget deficits, more opportunities for women.” It’s helpful, however, to read to the end:

I asked [Nick Haekkerup, Denmark’s minister for trade and European affairs] about Denmark’s problems incorporating poor, unskilled immigrants. He said “this has been an extreme struggle within my own party,” the Social Democrats. The party’s current policy, he said, is to limit—though not cut off—immigration to protect the welfare state.

Indeed. Denmark has some of Europe’s strictest immigration laws, which is also to say, some of the most nationalist and race-based: for instance, migrants to the country can only marry someone who is a citizen of the EU, and potential migrants earn “points” toward gaining residency by attaining advanced degrees, proving their language and cultural proficiency, and hailing from preferred countries. Also, if they might receive public assistance, they have to put 13,000 euros in escrow.

There are some other notable features of the Danish model, ones that are both politically awful and technically irreproducible: it’s essentially a petrostate-tourist state of just 5.5 million people; it has a monarchy; and it’s employment regulations are cutely called “flexicurity,” which really means it’s a right-to-work state, so that collective labor arrangements are nearly impossible and the acceptable form of association is communitarian nationalism.

This is a model I want no part of.

2 thoughts on “The Danish model

  1. Collective labor agreements are nearly impossible in Denmark? How do you figure? The unionization rate in Denmark is one of the highest in the world, and collective agreements cover most of the labor market in that country.

    (By the way, that high rate of unionization may reflect, at least in considerable measure, the Danes’ use of the Ghent system in the area of unemployment insurance.)

    Or perhaps I’ve misinterpreted you here? You didn’t write “collective agreements”; rather, you wrote “collective arrangements.” Perhaps, then, you have something else in mind than collective agreements in the usual sense?

  2. Yes, I did write “arrangements”, and I meant it in the sense that since the ability of workers to associate in the ways they want is constricted by employers’ freedom to fire at will. I could also add that the major unions participate in this scheme; their independence is many ways nominal…. I’m not saying that the arrangements there are necessarily worse than, say, the U.S. I just don’t think it’s much to aspire to.

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