The American Bear


Are Danes the happiest people on earth because they’re “socialists” — or is their capitalism more enlightened?


INCOME EQUALITY AND SOCIAL SAFETY NETS are two reasons usually cited for Denmark’s happiness. But cultural differences, from family to cooking to hairstyles, are some other reasons.

Why Danes Are So Much Happier Than Americans

Danes… consistently rank as some of the happiest people in the world, a fact attributed at least in part to Denmark’s legendary income equality and strong social safety net.

Forbes recently cited another possible factor; the Danes’ “high levels of trust.” They trust each other, they trust ‘outsiders,’ they even trust their government. 90% of Danes vote. Tea party types dismiss Denmark as a hotbed of socialism, but really, they’re just practicing a more enlightened kind of capitalism.

In fact, as Richard Wilkinson, a British professor of social epidemiology, recently stated on PBS NewsHour, “if you want to live the American dream, you should move to Finland or Denmark, which have much higher social mobility.”

[…] we’re not these ‘holy people’ who can manage everything, we just have different ethics. We don’t subsidize corn like you do, and also, there is a 25% VAT. And it’s socially acceptable to leave work at around 4 or 5 o’clock and pick up your kids from school, go home, share a family meal. From a management point of view, if people have a nice family life, they’ll be more productive.

KT: Denmark is famous for having so much less income inequality; do kitchen workers in Danish restaurants make a decent salary?

TH: Yes, a dishwasher in Denmark gets $25 an hour.

KT: Do they get sick days and benefits, too?

TH: Yes, and a pension, and health care, and maternity leave. To me, the more equal your society is, the better it is for everybody. It’s not right for a country as rich as yours to have so many poor people. This thing with Americans and taxes, I don’t understand it.

I make quite a lot of money, I pay 67% tax on much of it, and I don’t mind. I like the idea that the girl who’s sitting next to my daughter, whose mother is a cleaning lady, has exactly the same opportunity to get an education that my daughter has. I don’t think that’s socialism. To me, that’s human decency. That girl didn’t choose her parents, why shouldn’t she have the same opportunities? Read more…