Denmark Taxes

I’ve been thinking about this one for SEVEN MONTHS, and finally decided stopped being lazy enough to post it. Denmark Thrives Despite High Taxes:

Mr. PETERSEN: Yeah, there’s a kind of slack in the system.

KESTENBAUM: Denmark has an interesting kind of hybrid economy. It has this huge welfare state, but it has also fiercely embraced a lot of free market ideas. The unemployment benefits are generous, but it’s also very easy to fire people. That makes the economy nimble. Employers can get rid of workers when they dont need them and hire them back quickly when they do. Petersen says losing your job here is just not that big a deal.

Now, all countries face choices like this: How do you want to set up your economy? Those decisions shape how you live and your psychology. In Denmark, for instance, there aren’t severe class distinctions because the poor get helped, the rich get taxed, so everyone gets squashed into a big, fat middle class.

One economist told me: Look, we dont have any geniuses and we dont have the best pro athletes - they leave because of the high taxes - but overall we’re doing well.

Naturally, there are some concerns about just being average as a nation. However, with so many people falling out of the United State’s middle class, I think something has to change the distribution of wealth.

I hear all these arguments about raising taxes and welfare: “oh the government’s inefficient” or “I don’t want my money going towards some low-income person who puts rims on their car and gets a cell phone before buying food” or “I worked too hard for what I’ve got to waste it”. These are simply rationalizations for not wanting to part with money. If you don’t want to give other people money to help them, just say that. Don’t do a bunch of logical gymnastics around the issue — you’re either comfortable with trusting your money to a greater good, or you aren’t. Just say which one, and we’ll stop wasting one another’s time.

2 comments left


Mykala +1

I agree with a lot of what is said here, and I am equally as fascinated with Denmark’s economy as you. I don’t think it could work in the US in its current state for a variety of reasons, but from what I’ve read about the rest of Denmark’s culture (crime stats, lack of class friction, etc.) I think it’s an interesting way of functioning as a society. By nature, you’re doing away with extremes— and this would also probably mean pioneers in technology, science, medicine, arts, etc., would make their home elsewhere. It seems it would be quite a challenge to make something of oneself in a culture that looks to equalize. It’s the middle way— very Buddhist. I get it. There are a lot of things I like about it (as we’ve previously discussed in a non-public, non-digital arena).

I do take umbrage (ever so slightly…) with the assertion that supporting increased taxing is “trusting your money to a greater good.” Now, I don’t really know that much about public policy, nor do I know historically what has been most effective in distributing aid to those in need, but I do know that people have very different ideas about what/who is this “greater good”. Some people believe in the power of a strong, democratic government dictating how their money is spent— and some people do not. I don’t think it’s fair to say that those who do not are ALL just looking out for their own personal interests and not the “greater good.” (See research by Syracuse prof Arthur Brooks in his book Who Really Cares? The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservativism)

I don’t have a problem with people not wanting the government to tell them how to spend their money, but I do have a problem with people who are trying to avoid helping at all.

Alexander Micek

I think you make a good point, and I’m glad my confrontational writing got someone’s attention — that was the idea! I appreciate your adding some nuance to my ideas about the situation. Indeed, the US tends to rank highly in the world in terms of charitable giving—so that’s something to consider in support of your position, too. Anyhow, my faith in government and social programs’ ability to make life better for large swaths of the population is probably a vestige of youthful optimism.

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