On the surface it’s a contradiction that the U.S. super power reacts with fear of an illusion: Portrayal of the Scandinavian model as socialism.
Getting facts correct is not important to the creators of scare-tactics. Creating fear is. Fear has become a popular tool used to influence the many under-exposed communities throughout the U.S. But worse, it highlights the disconnect in the U.S. and weakens democracy.
One of the Scandinavian countries is Denmark, where the capitalist economy has created many large corporations. For starters you might have heard about LEGO, the number one toy company in the world. Maersk Line is the largest containers shipping company in the world, owned by the A.P. Moller-Maersk Group, the world’s fifth largest shipping company. Novo Nordisk is world renown as a leader in diabetic care and bio-technology. Vestas Wind Systems is the number one wind-turbine exporting company.
All these Danish companies are listed on the world stock exchanges, and the list goes on. This is a free-market capitalist economy. A recent World Bank survey rated Denmark number one in Europe and number three in the world for ease of doing business, and seventh in the world among the most inviting countries for capital investment.
The country is recognized for its large fleet of innovative and competitive businesses that export much more than the country imports. There’s no trade deficit, and accumulated government debt is very low.
Here’s the secret. The Danish democracy is strong and vibrant. Voter participation in general elections is typically above 85 percent, not influenced by TV ads. They are banned. People watch debates and the campaign period is short. Political parties accept donations, but on a small scale. The high degree of transparency, efficiency and accountability in political institutions causes the public to have a high level of satisfaction. The country is considered one of the least corrupt in the world. That too causes a high degree of tolerance.
Second secret. The Danish democracy builds on consensus and cooperation - not to be confused with communism. Despite having 11 political parties, far left and far right are not that far apart.
Third secret: People go and vote as there’s a party they can identify with. The Danish political model equitably measures the interests in business flexibility, social welfare and environmental viability through competition and consensus building, not greed and exploitation. It’s a sustainable model. Sustainability is not socialism.
The Danish model focuses on work-life balance. In Denmark the employer is free to hire and fire, and the worker gets financial support until a new job is offered. Labor unions are strong and built on a long tradition of dialogue between employers and labor unions. Unemployment is around 5 percent.
Taxes on capital gains and sales tax generally cover tuition free education and basic health care. Corporate taxes are lower than in the US. Income taxes are higher and scaled to the amount earned. Most people own property and invest in several ways. In other words, everybody supports, benefits and contributes to the welfare system.
While some postulate that tuition free education and basic health care is socialism, they never admit that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are successful American social programs.
A modern infrastructure and great architecture attract tourists in big numbers. In fact, the country will soon have 10 million hotel beds, almost twice the size of the Danish population.
These attractions are the result of long-term planning and investment. Green energy is supported by everyone, and Denmark expects to generate 69 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2022, making it the world leader. Presently, it’s around 45 percent. Stock buy-backs in European Union countries are limited by Market Abuse Regulations to ensure that companies stay competitive and focus on improving and expanding.
This minimizes and controls corporate greed. It boils down to care. Who cares?
Community columnist Kris O’Daniel of Springfield is a scientist and native of Denmark who raises beef cattle and trains horses.