Tuesday, September 11, 2018

[NJFAC] No Gloomy Danes? Frank Stricker, NJFAN Board, and Deborah Schopp

            Most of you know something about the advantages of social democracy in the countries of Scandinavia: generous health care, decent wages, free college, less income inequality, and more. These countries and others like them including the Netherlands, are not utopias: some have racist anti-immigrant movements, some are privatizing public services and trimming benefits. More of their citizens believe in science than is true in America, but they are not perfect on fighting global warming. (Norway gets rich selling North Sea Oil.) But in these countries there are extensive income support programs, virtually universal government-supported health insurance, and many other things that help people live more securely.
            And against conservative assumptions, generous government programs aren't demoralizing people. We felt no gloom and doom during two weeks in Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands in June. Most of the people we met were friendly and upbeat. In fact, the Danes were recently judged the happiest people on earth. As the attached article mentions, a Fox Cable commentator recently talked about the horrors of socialism in Denmark. Nothing new with that. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was knee-jerk among American right-wingers to harp on high suicide rates in Scandinavia. The explanation for the high rates was that when everything is given to people, they lose initiative and sense of worth. But the people we met were getting help from the welfare state and/or paying for it in high taxes)--but they were professional, friendly, positive, and proud of their social democracies. The tour guide who led us through the spectacular murals in Oslo's city hall emphasized that people in Norway valued the practice of helping one another through their government. So did the guide for our food tour in Copenhagen. By the way, on the food tour, we visited six businesses that ranged from very small to almost medium-sized. None were owned by the government and none, as far as I could tell, were being run and ruined by Bolsheviks working out of Commie Central. Some of these businesses were cutting edge and there was pride among the beer-makers and bubbly enthusiasm from the guy who knew all about hard cider. In other words, there is plenty of entrepreneurialism in these countries.
            There are many lessons that Americans can learn in Western Europe. The idea of Americans learning from the European social democracies is second nature to socialists like Bernie Sanders, but a fearsome thing to others. One Democratic candidate--not a conservative-- stated in 2016 that we should not learn from the Danes. But young people in America are less resistant to things socialism and the Democrat Socialists of America have recently had a surge of new members. Maybe it will get harder for Trump and Swamp-dwellers to flail away at the welfare state while they are beating up on the working class. The attached article, "Something Not Rotten in Denmark," is Paul Krugman making good points about the Danish system. By the way, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway have suicide rates below those in the United States. So does Iceland.

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