Sanders and Denmark

June 4, 2019

by John McClaughry

Bernie Sanders is fond of explaining socialism by pointing not to Nicaragua or Cuba or Venezuela but to Scandinavia, especially Denmark. Veronique deRugy, writing in Reason magazine, offers some additional information about how the Danes do it, and it’s sure not Sanders socialism.

She explains that the generous welfare benefits Denmark offered in the 1970s dug a large fiscal hole, that ever since the Danes have been trying to backfill.

The Danes lowered their top income tax rate from 73 to 63 percent, lowered the corporate tax rate from 50 to 22 percent, abolished the wealth tax, reduced the length of government supplied unemployment benefits from indefinite to two years, and raised the retirement benefit age.

Its parliament passed an act in 2014 aimed at ensuring a balance or surplus on the general government balance sheet and tight expenditure management across government. The annual deficit can’t exceed half a percent of Gross Domestic Product.

The independent Danish Economic Council assesses annually whether government policy is adhering to the targeted structural public balance, and whether the proposed expenditure ceilings are consistent with medium term projections in the structural balance for public finances. In 2017 the country ran a budget surplus of 1.09 percent of GDP.

In short, the capitalistic Danes are letting economic growth bring in the revenues to pay for the welfare state, under tight budgetary controls. I suppose Bernie has no idea about any of that.

— John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. 

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Thaddeus Cline June 8, 2019 at 12:32 am

Every time this site posts things . I hope that it will send me to google or some other search engines to make life more interesting by learning something new as I do when my left wing friends get something wrong .
But of course it’s not hard to see what’s wrong with your argument that somehow social democracy in some foreign country is wrong and no country including the United States should ever consider it because the devil himself invented it , and if you even say the words you will go directly to hell or pass Go and not collect 200 dollars.
First off what part of social democratic systems are the same as socialism? Again and again you and other conservatives say they are the same .
The short answer is ( and believe me if you would google the difference it’s a lot more complicated) socialism means the state owns the means of production. And social democracy dose not .
Now I could go on and on but I don’t think you want a two hour class on the difference between the two , from me or anyone else.( Like Trump I don’t think you or your readers have the attention span anyway) . The next point is no matter what happened in Denmark or for that matter any other social democratic government where they lowered tax and spending and deregulated something, or cut back on something. They still tax way way more then our country dose , they still regulate more then our country dose . And they still do a way better job with social services then we do .
And the most important point is social services cost less in those country’s because the government keeps it that way . And customer service is rated higher then our country , because there’s less companies that screw over their customers . People are happier because they trust the tax they spend will go towards the things they need at the least cost.
If you don’t need multiple insurance companies because the government runs them in a semi public/ private manner . Then people don’t have to “ shop around “ they don’t get tricked by private companies into things they clearly don’t need
. France has many many health procedures that cost half what our system dose and some even cost 2/3 less .
You sure as hell don’t see them saying “ gee I wish we had the United States system of health care “
Again I could go on and on .
But the point is you not looking at the big picture. Your calling a system that is not what I you called it Your not googling how other countries do things better then us .
You expect others to believe your subjective facts . Rather then objective facts . ( and of course they take it as gospel . Because Fox News propaganda has indoctrinated them to do so not unlike cults do. )
Well someday some reader of yours will be sitting down in a dentists office and they will pick up a New Yorker or Atlantic Magazine and read enough to “get it “.
Because I bet my next paycheck they are not googling your “ facts “.
No country is perfect but many are way more modern then us . And they have better educated people on average then us . They live longer then us . There infant mortality is lower then us . They have longer vacations then us . There healthcare is better then ours . And so on . Why in the world do you not look for what works ?
Oh I forgot you think a social democratic system is the same as communism.


William Hays June 8, 2019 at 1:14 pm

Enough “doses” from Mr. Thaddeus. Maybe, with some luck, he’ll move to Venezuela. Suggestion: take Mr. Bernie along with.


Ted Robinson June 8, 2019 at 2:08 am

Yo Thaddeus,
Please consider some English remediation. In the meantime how about some annotation for your position[s]?


Mark Rocheleau June 8, 2019 at 11:25 am

Well said… I was thinking the same thing.
Also, no mention of the fact that we are a Constitutional Republic and not a Democracy!


Mark Shepard June 8, 2019 at 2:26 am

There is a core reason why moving toward creating more government control fails over and over. It is the same reason we see failure in powerful religious organizations or powerful companies that are able to monopolize a sector. The human design has never been able to handle power.

Many on the left express concern over GMO’s and Monsanto. That is healthy. We should be weary of any situation where an entity could have monopoly power. Where the left fails is their blind faith that if it is government, specifically their government, that concentrates power life will be grand. So they support an education system that greatly resembles their view of Monsanto in the seed industry. And the same is true of their zeal for government to take the reigns of our healthcare system. Again their vision of healthcare is so similar to their view of Monsanto.

If we really think about fundamentals rather than entities, we could agree on most things. Why does the left push so hard against organic education options or organic healthcare options. The inconsistency of the left requires a rethinking of what they really are after. In this, I am speaking of the leaders, like Bernie Sanders who rails against big business, but loves big government … at least if he was on top. The goal is not any type of citizen freedom, but rather simply a power grab technique that he has seen be very effective in many of his favorite spots. And they do include the former Soviet Union, Cuba under Castro and Venezuela under Chavez … all of which he has spoken highly of.

It only takes a sincere look for consistency to see a persons real goals.


paul sciortino June 8, 2019 at 11:21 am

so true Ted, where are the fact check annotations. what Thaddeus also misses along with other bernie like fans is that these Scandinavian countries are small and homogeneous populations. usa has exponential larger populations and ethnic groups which make it harder to manage and costlier. the usa population that has the best social benefits are our national politicians!
Cadillac health care, tax exemptions, the ability to not go to work but go around the country campaigning for other colleagues. i would be fired if i use the time i was hired to do my job to go out and raise money for others. until the politicians fix their own house you have no case. oh by the way, you want to look at universal health look no further than the VA or how much money the US postal system loses. great people for sure but fix your house first.


jim June 8, 2019 at 12:49 pm

Hey, Thaddeus, Got a wonderful suggestion, if Denmark is the land of milk and honey, why not move there? Poof, now you can live in Utopia.


Jim June 8, 2019 at 12:52 pm

Hey, Thaddeus, Got a wonderful suggestion, if Denmark is the land of milk and honey, why not move there? Poof, now you can live in Utopia.


Thaddeus Cline June 8, 2019 at 2:43 pm

Please explain to me what the difference is between Venezuela and Cuba is to Denmark , Sweden, Norway . Hint it had something to do with social democracy and socialism
Rather then complain about my English or spelling or syntax or grammatical mistakes.
Or that old song America love it or leave it.
Just google the facts . Who’s country has more happy well educated lower healthcare costs people in it. ? What do they know that we don’t?
Except for culture and societal norms . What things do they do that we could do?
Last time I checked most people want there kids to live longer then our country’s kids do . They want a better education system for there kids . They even want longer vacations. And shorter working hours as France has .
Is there something wrong with checking the facts your self ?
Is there something wrong with looking at the big picture?
I don’t want you to believe anything I or anyone else says on the internet. But I do want you to read objective vetted and verified facts . That most school children do in schools every day . Subjective facts and opinion don’t count .
My country right or wrong I will stand by it no matter what . But when disinformation is spread in America I will speak out as I want you to .
Now please please with sugar in top . Will you read what’s positive and negative about social democracy’s . If it’s negative and of course some is I will be right there with you yelling about it . But I will not support lies , or half truths . It’s take but a few minutes to check out how other countries do things better then us . Do it and you will be better able to answer you kids homework questions.


William Hays June 9, 2019 at 11:52 am

Thad: time to enlist a second-grader as your’proof-reader’.


Hank Buermann June 9, 2019 at 2:00 pm

I had this conversation with a friend of mine who is a Dane awhile ago. I believe one thing he pointed out to me is that every person pays an income tax regardless of level of income.
As to France having a shorter work week and longer vacations, we do work for a French company that is in exactly the same business as ours. He contracts his work to us because he cannot maintain a production schedule due to the hourly and vacation concessions that you cite. He also has a hard time maintaining a production cost that allows him to be competitive with products that he sells to a world market so it is cheaper for him to contract to us rather than do the same production in house.


C. DeFreitas June 9, 2019 at 2:33 pm

Mr. Cline: Denmark has a population of 5.78 million. New York City alone has a population of 8.623 million. The U.S. population 327.2 million. There is a vast difference in the size of these two countries, not only in population and area but in the problems that the U.S. is dealing with regarding illegal immigration and what it is costing the taxpayers in billions of dollars to deal with illegal immigration alone. If Denmark had to deal with the outlay in Homeland Security, and welfare, in addition to the billions illegals cost us, I don’t think they’d be quite as solvent. Comparing Denmark and the U.S. is like comparing the proverbial apples and oranges. Without Capitalism, there is no Socialism. No form of government is perfect, but our Constitution has provided the closest thing to perfect the world has seen, so far. The biggest problem the U.S. has is the ruling class in Washington. They ALL need to have strict term limits and NO special health or retirement benefits after serving limited terms. Our forefathers did not envision politics as a profession or vocation and did not realize the need for term limits, therefore, there was no provision for term limits. Democratic Socialism is the step before Socialism, then on to Communism. There will always be those few who want the power of life and death over others and will go to any lengths to obtain it. If you think I’m being melodramatic, think Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin, Chairman Mao, Pol Pot, etc.


IVAN June 10, 2019 at 8:37 pm

Some people believe that if it appears on “google” then it surely must be factual when in fact they are actually looking for search results that support their view whether on the right or the left.
There is something to ponder for the thinkers in all of us, Capitalism and (FREE MARKETS ) produce products and services that people actually want to buy and are able to pay for, whether at the lower or higher end of the scale.

That activity generates , wait for it ……………PROFITS !!!!!
Those profits are taxed which supports worthwhile government activity such as Defense ,border protection, highway construction, and basic “safety nets” among others

Socialism sucks the life blood out of a healthy free economy and benefits only those
favored socialist enterprises such as wind, solar and government run medicine where choice is frowned upon.
Denmark has at least begun to figure that out while Cuba and Venezuela are stuck in the 1950’s hoping for the next comrade to fulfill the promise.
Maybe Bernie should run for President in Cuba, I am sure he would be welcomed there


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