Tag Archives: migration

Those great Danes

The love Bernie Sanders and his coterie of propagandists have for Denmark is disgusting in its selectivity. They have lots to say about the country’s generous social benefits but nothing to say about who gets to receive them or how the polity’s access to them is protected.

Denmark was the first European country to close its borders this summer and instituted strict new asylum laws specifically for people that were fleeing the brutality in Syria, Eritrea, and other places. The government even placed advertisements in newspapers in Middle East newspapers discouraging people from migrating there because their families would not be able to join them and because there would be a four-year wait before they would be issued even a temporary residency permit. Bernie’s social-democratic paradise was called the Hungary of the north for good reason, except that it was probably even worse: at least Hungary allowed, at intervals, migrants to travel through; Denmark’s policy this summer was to detain and deport.

The government that instituted these emergency measures was the recently elected rightist Venstre party, but they were mostly an extension of the logic of citizenship-based policies instituted by the Social Democrats, which controlled the previous government and admitted that it had to tightly control immigration in order to protect the welfare state.

The Social Democrats saddled the migrants that are able to stay with the strictest requirements in the EU: migrants must marry someone with citizenship to a EU country; migrants earn points toward citizenship by showing they’re serious about linguistic and cultural assimilation through active labor force and civic participation, by being tested on their knowledge of Danish history and culture, and by attaining advanced educational degrees, and those who came from certain places (EU and Nordic countries) are awarded more points than those that came from other countries; the state instituted a nine-year waiting period before a permanent residency permit would be issued, and longer even for full citizenship; and those that need to access social services first have to place 13,000 euros into escrow.

None of this is to even make the argument that social-democracy is inherently racist. But if people are going to lionize the Danes, it’s worth pointing out that even by the country’s own estimation, the continuation of those social benefits and the happiness they create entails a managed cultural homogeneity and universal acceptance of the nation’s communitarian principles. Not even those fleeing war, famine, and climate change can be exempted from those requirements.

On the other hand, Bernie and his fans — the guy who called open borders a “Koch brothers proposal” and blames migrants from driving down wages — are not being selective when they ignore all this. Maybe they just don’t care.

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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.