Is Denmark A Socialist Country 1

Defining the Danes: Is Denmark a socialist country?

Is Denmark socialist or capitalist? Today, we’re going to clear up the confusion regarding socialism vs. capitalism, and answer the question, is Denmark a socialist country? For the answer to this question, and more, read on…

As the nations of the world struggle to find a way out of the economic devastation Covid-19 has wrought, many leaders are looking to countries that have come through the crisis with relative stability.

Denmark in particular always seems to come up when the US and the UK are considering better economic protections for their citizens, which inevitably prompts the question: is Denmark a socialist country?

Is Denmark A Socialist Country 2

Nothing’s rotten in Denmark of today

Denmark is a tiny nation of just 5.6 million mainland residents, the smallest of the trio of Scandinavian countries if you don’t count its ostensible territory Greenland. 

Danes enjoy great social benefits, a perpetually booming economy, and some of the highest marks in terms of citizen satisfaction year after year. 

One other topic that comes up every year is socialism in Denmark. Politicians from around the globe and across all parts of the political spectrum formulate their own arguments asking is Denmark socialist or capitalist, which inevitably fit into their preconceived beliefs about how the world should be run. 

They almost always miss the mark.

We’ll look at some of the subtleties surrounding the notion of how Denmark socialism works as well as how capitalism in Denmark is employed. 

We’ll also examine how the innovative nature of the Danes in the context of the larger region of Scandinavian countries has led to the development of the Nordic Model, a system that cleverly balances stability, progressiveness, and profitability all at once.

What type of economy does Denmark have?

If you’re looking for the “too long, didn’t read” answer to the question is Denmark a socialist country, it’s this: 

No, Denmark is not a socialist country — but actually kind of. 

Or, conversely, Yes, Denmark is socialist – but not really.

In other words, if Denmark were a person on Facebook, it would have to mark its relationships with both socialism and capitalism as “complicated.”  

Is Denmark capitalist? Yes. 

Denmark is classified as a high-income economy by the World Bank, running on what is loosely termed a developed mixed economy. 

That simply means that Danes celebrate free trade and market economics, but also enjoy considerable social safety net benefits. 

Here’s a snapshot of some facts about Denmark’s economy that make the case for people trying to establish its capitalist cred:

High gross national income
As of 2017 Denmark ranked 16th in the world in gross national income per capita based on purchasing power parity (PPP), a measure economists use to take the prices of specific goods and compare the absolute buying power of each country’s currency.

Economic freedom
According to a measure called the Index of Economic Freedom developed by the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation and the famously market-oriented Wall Street Journal, the truth is that Denmark is a free market economy that’s ranked the 8th most free in the world in 2020. 

The index’s creators based their system loosely on principles put forth in economic philosopher Adam Smith’s seminal 1776 work “The Wealth of Nations.” 

Competitive economy
According to the 2018 Global Competitiveness Report put out by the World Economic Forum, Denmark enjoys the 10th most competitive economy in the world, and the 6th most competitive in Europe. 

Even Danes say they’re capitalist
Hell, even the Prime Minister of Denmark was quick to point out that his nation’s system shouldn’t be confused with a traditional planned economy like you see in truly socialist nations. 

During the 2015 US presidential primary election when then-candidate Bernie Sanders called Denmark socialist, then-Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen used a speech at Harvard to correct the social democratic US Senator. 

“I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy,” Rasmussen said. 

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Is Denmark socialist? Yes.

However, shortly afterward, Rasmussen went on to lay out exactly what aspects of the Danish economic model social democrats like Sanders admire like some of these listed below. Certainly, there’s plenty to admire from a social benefits perspective that we can identify as socialism in Denmark. 

There are many legitimate reasons that politicians and activists in areas like labor, family, healthcare, homelessness, drug abuse, childcare, education and other fields praise what they see as Denmark’s “socialist” system.

Danes enjoy social benefits the likes of which people living in the UK or the US would be flabbergasted to imagine in their own countries. And these socialist tendencies occur not only in terms of government benefits, but also in the informal culture as well. 

Unlike in most English-speaking countries, Scandinavian culture in general is focused around prioritizing the good of the group over that of the individual. There is a strong emphasis on making sure the least among the group are taken care of as well and are as comfortable as the most prosperous. 

Here are a few other, more formal ways Denmark shows its socialist-leaning side:

Top in worker’s rights
Denmark is ranked number one in the world for labor rights. Workers in Denmark enjoy a system in which they make great pay, have robust job protections, and are well provided for should they be laid off. 

Even low-level employees typically have a say in how their company is run as that famous Scandinavian tendency toward consensus means taking the time to hear everyone’s opinion and reach a decision that everyone can live with. 

Danish workers average around 37 hours of work per week, and there is a strong cultural bias toward maintaining a healthy life-work balance. 

The streets of Copenhagen flood with workers heading home at 5:00 on the dot every weekday, and office blocks are almost completely deserted by 5:30, an unimaginable state of affairs in, say, New York or London. 

Another unimaginable state of affairs showing capitalism in Denmark is very different is that it’s considered bad manners to come to work sick. Workers are encouraged to stay home to get better faster — and not infect the whole office.

Free education
Denmark socialism offers its citizens a free education up to and including university. As a result, the country has the 4th-highest rate of post-graduate degree holders in the world. 

Danish children are eligible for public daycare as early as nine months old, and according to the Danish government’s figures, some 98 percent of children are attending public kindergarten by age three at no cost to their families. 

Even after university education ends, many Danes continue their education — a third of Danish people aged 25-64 takes some kind of continuing education course at any given time, with much of it paid for by employers or grants from the state. 

Family support
As if all that generous socialism in Denmark support from the state surrounding children’s education wasn’t enough, the Danish government also offers robust support for people trying to start or raise a family. 

Mothers who have a child can expect 14 weeks of leave, much of it paid at their full salary rate. They can also take four weeks off before the projected birth date. 

Also, the other parent gets paid leave to help welcome the new child into the household, two weeks during the first 14 weeks after the child is born at full pay. Then they can split 32 weeks with the mother however they see fit to share the time off.

Public services and parks
Danes enjoy immaculately maintained and extensive parks and public wilderness areas across the nation. What’s more, even the city streets are well cared-for and kept pristine, all financed by the state. 

The Danish people also have tremendous public transportation, with trains, buses, and bike lanes crisscrossing every city. 

In Denmark, every citizen receives free, equal, and universal healthcare. Primary care, preventive care, specialists, hospitals, mental health, long-term care, and children’s dental care are all covered 100 percent. 

Citizens who wish to buy more coverage are able too if they wish, but it must be noted that the state program is pretty much hailed as an unqualified success. Lifespan in Denmark is among the highest in the world at 81.2 years, compared with 78.7 years in the U.S., for instance. 

Another important point is that while Denmark spends a lot on healthcare—10.8 percent of its GDP—the U.S. spends far more, fully 18 percent of the GDP. 

Higher taxes
Of course, nothing in this world is free. Indeed, the boogeyman of higher taxes in Denmark in order to deliver all these benefits to its citizens is based in reality. 

Indeed, the average Dane—who makes about $43,000 per year—pays around 45 percent in taxes, whereas the average American pays about 29.8 percent

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What type of economy does Denmark have?


The bottom line is that no, Denmark is not a socialist country. On the other hand, is Denmark a free market economy? Yes, but with heavy caveats regarding the social safety net citizens (happily) pay for with their taxes.

At any rate, the answer is the truth is somewhere in between — and politicians with little understanding of what kind of economy Denmark has would do well to avoid making blanket statements from either end of the political spectrum!

Scandification: Discovering Scandinavia.

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