Bernie Sanders and the Truth about Socialism in Denmark

The Democratic Presidential Debate was the setting for an exchange between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders that made them both appear like they don’t have their facts straight.  According to The National Review, Hillary lectured Mr. Sanders that the United States is not Denmark, and Sanders went on to enthusiastically endorse Denmark as an economic model for the US.

So, why was this exchange so wrong?  Apparently Mr. Sanders hasn’t kept up on what is happening in Denmark.  The once socialist country is actually moving toward a more free market economy. Here’s more explanation from The National Review:

Denmark, like Sweden before it, has been engaged in a long campaign of reforming its famously generous welfare state. The country’s current prime minister is the leader of a center-right party, which, strangely enough, goes by the name “Left,” Venstre. (You might even call it libertarian; its former longtime leader wrote a book bearing the positively Nozickian title “From Social State to Minimal State.” ) Denmark has been marching in the direction exactly opposite socialism for some time. Our friends at the Heritage Foundation rank its economy the eleventh most free in the world, one place ahead of the United States, reflecting Denmark’s strong property rights, relative freedom from corruption, low public debt, freedom of trade and investment, etc.

This vignette included in an article by Suzanne Daily in the April 20, 2103, issue of The New York Times does an excellent job of illustrating what is happening with Denmark’s economy:

It began as a stunt intended to prove that hardship and poverty still existed in this small, wealthy country, but it backfired badly. Visit a single mother of two on welfare, a liberal member of Parliament goaded a skeptical political opponent, see for yourself how hard it is.

It turned out, however, that life on welfare was not so hard. The 36-year-old single mother, given the pseudonym “Carina” in the news media, had more money to spend than many of the country’s full-time workers. All told, she was getting about $2,700 a month, and she had been on welfare since she was 16.

In past years, Danes might have shrugged off the case, finding Carina more pitiable than anything else. But even before her story was in the headlines 16 months ago, they were deeply engaged in a debate about whether their beloved welfare state, perhaps Europe’s most generous, had become too rich, undermining the country’s work ethic. Carina helped tip the scales.

With little fuss or political protest — or notice abroad — Denmark has been at work overhauling entitlements, trying to prod Danes into working more or longer or both. While much of southern Europe has been racked by strikes and protests as its creditors force austerity measures, Denmark still has a coveted AAA bond rating.

So Mr. Sanders, Denmark is not the bastian of socialism you think it is, and they are trying to be more like the US model, encouraging a stronger work ethic and less dependence on the government dole.