10 Things Bernie Sanders (And Paul Krugman) Should Know About Denmark
Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders’ comments that the US should be like Denmark has gathered media attention including an article by Paul Krugman. This Presidential hopeful eager to win the election describes a Danish utopia with “free” education and health care and that the US would just do it like Denmark.
As an American who has lived in Denmark for the last 5 years, worked in Danish companies, attended Danish universities, and had 2 children in the country, I’d like to shed some light. There are many things the US can learn from Denmark and appreciate about the vital political and economic cooperation between our countries that dates from 1783, as well as the fact that the US has been enriched by many Danish immigrants. But, here are 10 reality checks for the senator from Vermont and the Nobel economist about the so-called Nordic utopia.
1. Education is not “free” in Denmark
There is no doubt that a sustainable funding mechanism for college education is an important policy for any modern country, but if one pays upwards in 56% in income tax and 25% in sales tax (including a 105-180% tax on cars) to fund education and other social services, one would not call it “free”. The downside of the Danish model is that many university students take it for granted and take an additional year to complete their studies.
Americans who pay outright for their education and compete fiercely to be accepted into school tend to have higher expectations of the universities and teachers. It’s not unsurprising that the US has most of the world’s top universities, and even Denmark’s best universities don’t figure significantly in global rankings. In any event, the decline in fiscal revenues means that Danish universities are under financial pressure, so they are starting to look at American models that involve philanthropy and corporate partnership for sustainability going forward.