Hvad vil du gi' for en efterløn? II

I går kogte jeg suppe i Berlingske Tidendemit nylige CEPOS-notat om dette emne (som jeg tidligere har omtalt og linket til her på bloggen):

Danskernes velfærdssupermarked

Berlingske Tidende 19. april 2006, 2. sektion, magasin, side 11

Måling. Befolkningens støtte til de eksisterende velfærdsydelser er ofte mindre stærk, end mange meningsmålinger antyder

Af Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard Ph.d., professor i statskundskab

Her er et dagsaktuelt tankeeksperiment: Man sender to mennesker ind i et supermarked med hver deres indkøbsvogn. Den ene får et budget, som hun skal holde sig indenfor. Den anden får at vide, at han bare kan tage, hvad han gerne vil have. Mon de kommer ud med helt de samme ting i indkøbsvognen?

Det gør de næppe. Han vil formodentlig fylde vognen til det absolutte bristepunkt med alle de dyreste og mest behagelige varer. Hun vil givetvis tænksomt holde alternativerne op mod hinanden. Han vil gå efter at få mest muligt, hun efter at få mest muligt for pengene.
Dén pointe er værd at holde in mente i en tid, hvor det næsten dagligt svirrer om ørerne på politikere og andre avislæsere med nye meningsmålinger, der viser, hvor mange der går ind for dit, og hvor mange der er imod dat. Særligt populært er det for medierne at fortælle, hvor stor en del af vælgerne, der er bag den ene eller den anden type velfærdsreform, hvad enten det er efterlønnen, folkepensionen eller Socialdemokraternes forslag om udgifter til alt fra vugge til grav.

De fleste undersøgelser bør dog tages med et kilo salt eller mere. Ikke fordi der som sådan er noget i vejen med meningsmålingerne eller med dem, der laver dem.

Problemet opstår derimod ofte på nogle helt andre planer. For det første: Ved vælgerne f.eks. overhovedet, hvad det egentlig er, der spørges om? Man kan f.eks. sagtens spørge danskerne, hvorvidt de synes, at skattetrykket er for højt, for lavt eller passende – men hvor meningsfuldt er dét, når andre undersøgelser viser, at der reelt er relativt få danskere, der f.eks. har en korrekt viden om, hvad de selv betaler i kommunalskat?

For det andet: Giver det god mening at stille vælgerne spørgsmål, hvor man kun spørger om simple ja/nej-spørgsmål til forslag om at ændre på en udgift, når man ikke samtidig fokuserer på, hvor pengene skal komme fra? Det svarer lidt til at sende supermarkedskunden rundt med indkøbsvognen, men uden en budgetrestriktion: Man får givetvis en entusiastisk opbakning til at fylde vognen, men næppe meget som man kan bruge til at fastlægge en gennemtænkt politik ud fra. Skal man det, bliver man nødt til at give vælgerne alternativer at holde op mod hinanden.

Disse pointer fremgår tydeligt af resultaterne af en meningsmåling om efterlønsreform, som Catinét Research for nylig foretog for den borgerlige tænketank CEPOS. Her havde man ikke spurgt vælgerne om et simpelt ja/nej til efterlønnen; i stedet havde man bl.a. spurgt om, hvor meget vælgerne var villige til at betale i skat for at bibeholde ordningen i dens nuværende form. Mens mange meningsmålinger har vist, at halvdelen af befolkningen eller mere ønsker at bevare den nuværende efterlønsordning, gav denne undersøgelse et ganske andet billede. Konkret viste tallene, at kun knap 44 pct. af danskerne ønsker at betale noget som helst for at bevare ordningen (fra 500 kr. og op om året). Et relativt flertal af vælgerne (46 pct.) er derimod uvillige til at betale en eneste kr. for at opretholde efterlønsordningen.

Ser man på, hvor meget et flertal af vælgerne er villige til at betale i skat for at bevare efterlønnen, så er dette ca. 500 kr. om året. Til sammenligning hermed er det skønnet, at efterlønsordningen i sin nuværende form koster gennemsnitsdanskeren ca. 2.850 kr. om året i skat. Med andre ord er et flertal af danskerne uvillige til at betale en skat, der kan finansiere efterlønnen.

Hvor mange af danskerne er så villige til at betale et beløb, der svarer til de faktiske omkostninger? Meget få. Den andel af de adspurgte, som vil betale mindre end de faktiske omkostninger, er på 80-83 pct. Mindre end 20 pct. af danskerne vil altså betale, hvad efterlønsordningen faktisk koster.

Hvad er lærdommen? At politikerne ikke bør stirre sig selv blinde på undersøgelser, der viser en markant opbakning bag eksisterende velfærdsydelser. Når vælgere kan svare »gratis« uden hensyn til omkostninger, opfører de sig som supermarkedskunder uden hæmninger. Men når de skal sammenligne fordele og omkostninger, opfører de sig mere tænksomt – og så falder støtten til f.eks. efterlønsordningen betragteligt.

33 Kommentarer

  1. @Cosmicduck”You must understand that society is not a supermarket. Opinion polls may be manipulated in any way the designers of the questionaires like. I’m quite confident that when CEPOS makes a survey it’ll give an entirely different result than when others make it.” Duh! That was the whole point. It would probably be useful for you (and others) to actually read what you are criticizing before jumping the gun.However, the mere fact that two or more different ways of taking a poll may yield different results does not mean that there are no way of doing so that is better or worse than another. I have at length argued (as have others) that asking respondents to prioritize and/or compare costs/benefits is methodologically superior to the way polls are done in the behavioralist tradition–what methods do you favour? And, no less important, why?”It is not correct when you say that the free market free consumers will yield the best results when it comes to financing welfare.”Oh, and where have I ever said that?”You’re probably aware of the fact that in the US they spend 14-15 per cent of their GNP on health.”So what? The fact that any country A spends more (or less) in total/per capita/as part of GDP, etc., on X than country B, does not mean anything with regard to what is socially optimal.”General Motors is on the verge of bankruptcy due to the high costs of employer financed welfare (health and pension costs).”Which, by the way, is partly a result of the government regulation introduced more than half a century ago, rather than leaving the pension schemes to be supplied by a free market. But, again, so what? What does US regulation of health schemes have to do with the Danish “efterløn”?”You may cut down on the Danish efterløn because you and your kind prefer to drive a BMW instead of contributing to the shared costs of running a society.”I am sure this is intended as an ad hominem argument–which as usual says more about the sender than the target–but in that case you have no clue as to how far off you really are. (I have had two cars in my life, both of them run-down VW’s aged 15-20 years when I bought them!) More importantly, I always find it somewhat entertaining when A accuses B of being self-interested, when B does not to take money from C to finance what A wants. Surely, that makes A the more egotistical of the three?(By the way, I have no clue what “your kind” means in this respect–and even if I wanted to, I cannot reciprocate the intended insult, since you have chosen to cloak your identity.)”But the chickens come home to roost. The expenses paid out of private pockets may turn out to be bigger in the end.”Why would it “in the end” cost society to reform or abolish the “efterløn”?

  2. Øøøh Poul … hvad er Mor Danmark og hvornår har jeg kommenteret noget der?Good to see English language interventions here, even though their tone in some cases touches on flaming.

  3. @Niels A. Nielsen:”Hvorfor skal man i øvrigt kende sin korrekte kommuneskat for at kunne udtale sig meningsfuldt om skattetrykket? Jeg er da ligeglad med, hvordan min marginalskatteprocent er sammensat.”Det har du på sin vis ret i, ihvertfald når vi taler om det i dét perspektiv. Problemet er her snarere, at størstedelen af de danske samfundsforskere og meningsmålere, som undersøger danske vælgeres syn på f.eks. skattetryk og offentlige udgifter m.v., implicit kommer til at antage, at dette er viden, som vælgerne faktisk har. Dertil kommer, at det set fra en samfundsforskervinkel ikke er helt uinteressant, om vælgerne har et indtryk af skatternes/udgifternes omfang, som evt. er helt ude af trit med virkeligheden–det vil f.eks. kunne give politikere og interessegrupper rige muligheder for at manipulere. (Det er, hvad public choice økonomer kalder “fiskal illusion”, og det er et emne, der er forsket en del i.)@JR:Fortrinlige pointer.@Søren P.:Jeg er grundlæggende enig i dine bemærkninger. Jeg var involveret i den tidlige og den sene fase af dette survey, men formulerede ikke selve spørgsmålet–som ikke er perfekt, men dog, mener jeg, væsentligt bedre end, hvorledes det normalt gøres.Kunne du–til evt. senere brug–foreslå en helt specifik formulering? Det kunne CEPOS måske benytte.

  4. Ad Peter Kurrild KlitgaardJeg har lige et forståelsesmæssigt spørgsmål.Du skriver, at du har spurgt således: “Efterløn finansieres delvist via skatterne. Hvor meget ville du så være villig til at betale ekstra i skat for at bevare den nuværende efterlønsordning?” Det er et yderst relevant spørgsmål, men jeg kan ikke umiddelbart se, at du har regnet ud hvad efterlønnen reelt vil koste EKSTRA, hvis Velfærdskommissionens udregninger er korrekte. I stedet skriver du således: “I denne forbindelse er det værd at bemærke, at efterlønsordningen i sin nuværende form anslås p.t. at koste ca. 2.850 kr. om året pr. gennemsnitsdansker. Men andelen af danskere, som er villige til at betale, hvad efterlønsordningen dermed i virkeligheden koster dem, er væsentligt mindre end den andel, der ønsker at betale mindre end de faktisk omkostninger—faktisk voldsomt mindre.”Dette er sandsynligvis helt korrekt, men sådan som jeg forstår det indledende spørgsmål, så virker det som om de blev spurgt om hvor meget de vil betale UDOVER det som efterlønnen i forvejen koster i sin nuværende form? Altså, deres svar fortæller kun om deres EKSTRA betalingsvilje, eftersom de blev spurgt om hvor meget de vil betale EKSTRA i skat. Har jeg misforstået noget?Men derudover synes jeg, at du har leveret et frisk og tankevækkende pust til efterlønsdebatten. Der skal ikke herske tvivl om at din metodologiske fremgangsmåde er at foretrække over den der oftest bliver praktiseret her i landet. Pointerne omhandlende rationel egoisme og “fiskal illusion” desuden er fremragende.

  5. ad PKKJeg ville såmænd være ret nem at stille tilfreds. Man kunne blot nævne det beløb gennemsnitsdanskeren får i efterløn, således at det er to beløbsstørrelser man vejer op mod hinanden. Jeg ville eksempelvis ikke selv vide, hvor meget man får i efterløn, hvis nogen stillede mig spørgsmålet – men det siger måske mest om mig :)Men jeg har stor respekt for, at der endelig er nogen, der forsøger at kæde omkostniger sammen med godet, når det undersøges, hvorvidt et gode ønskes udbudt eller ikke. Alt andet er nu også temmeligt mærkværdigt omend meget udbredt.En formulering kunne således være;”Efterlønnen på årligt #####kr finansieres delvist via skatterne. Hvor meget ville du så være villig til at betale (ekstra) i skat for at bevare den nuværende efterlønsordning?” Hvis man slettede ordet ekstra ville man også tage højde for Johan Espersens pointe.Mvh Søren P

  6. Oh – in my first post it should of course say _over_estimates the true wtp.

  7. This is a bit off-topic but I hope you will bear with me.”The fact that the US spends so much more on health than Denmark is not necessarily proof that American health care is better for broad categories of the population. It may be so for the select few, i.e. those who have a good health insurance.”I agree, but my point is that you cannot conclude that the American health care system is less effective based on how large a proportion of GDP is spend on it. You have to know the benefits as well.An example is Tajikistan which spends 3.3% on health care. Does that mean that their health care is immensely efficient?”Otherwise the high expenses may reflect bloated budgets, budgets that are bloated because of high doctors’ earnings and high insurance and lawyers’ costs.”That is most likely true and is of course relevant for explaining the cost of the American health care system. It is also true that American doctors are performing more research than doctors in most other countries which is also incurring an additional cost.As I understand legislative steps have been taken in some states (e.g. California where a maximum payout of $250,000 in lawsuits has been implemented) to prevent the assurance and legal costs of health care. But the current state of legislation seems to be a costly one.

  8. Mr. Kurrild.I have commented on one of the questions in the Catinet questionaire, and I think it is manipulative. If you tell the respondents what the Welfare Commission thinks of the question they’re going to answer you’re putting the answer into their mouths.The argument concerning American health costs as a percentage of GDP is highly relevant in this discussion. It is part of the discussion whether the state should continue financing transfer payments like the Efterløn, the Efterløn should be dropped, or it should be replaced by private schemes. It is then a question of the cost effectiveness of public arrangements compared to private schemes. And then I point out that we have some bad lessons from the American use of private schemes. People are aware of the fact that they pay for the Efterløn over taxes. And the opinion polls show that they don’t mind doing this. It is probably due to the fact that they know that private schemes or no welfare payment for the sextaguarians might end up being more expensive for society. – For some of the same reasons that health care is expensive in America. Actually Efterløn is a cheap “retirement” scheme. The efterlønners pay taxes. The net payment to them is not that big. And people go on Efterløn when they are exhausted and incapable of work – at the intensity level of the Danish labour market. Use the carrot instead of the stick, i.e. in this case make the work places and the jobs more interesting, and you’ll see a lot more people staying put. My remark about the BMW was meant as a kind of joke, not to offend you. It was, however, also meant as an example of the choice we’re confronted with, the choice between public goods and private goods. In a rich society like the Danish one, we can afford a fair amount of public sector goods and activities. It is not only a token of the solidarity people like showing, but also of societal cost consciousness and effectiveness. Private schemes often end up being costlier, when you calculate costs in an overall societal cost benefit analysis. That is probably one of the reasons why Danes are richer than Americans.

  9. Poul Højlund

    20. april 2006 at 05:51

    øøøh David: kommentar nr. 12 på dette link er signeret David G: http://www.punditokraterne.dk/49248_Mor_Danmark.html#kommentarer?

  10. It’s a strange discussion on pre-retirement pay (Efterløn) taking place on this blog. Peter Kurrild writes that the cost pr Dane of the preretirement arrangement is 2850 kroners a year in taxes. If you ask respondents in a survey if they’ll pay this, you get a more negative answer than in surveys where respondents or asked whether or not they support the preriterment pay. And he claims that if you present this result to politicians it’ll be an eye-opener to them. I hope Danish politicians are wiser than that. By asking in the way in the Catinet research you confront respondents with a completely unrealistic situation. Is the calculation before or after tax? Have alternative costs/expenses been calculated? i.e. you cannot “isolate” pre-retirement from other social “events”. If you do away with pre-retirement pay, that does not mean that you’re going to “save” the kr. 2850,- and instead spend it on lollipops, tours to Crete, or whatever? Some of the pre-retirees (efterlønsmodtagere) would have to get other types of welfare payments if they did not get the pre-retirement pay. So perhaps it is only a fraction of the pre-retirement pay that is actually saved. Perhaps the respondents have a hunch that social situations are more complex than that, and that helps to explain why they respond in the way they do. It might even be a “boon” to Danish society that workers who have served the labour market for 30-40 years are content with living on about 9.000 kroners net pr month. In a way it’s a miracle that they do not want more from society. And the pre-retirement pay has not even been indexed fully to other incomes. The pre-retirees are not capable of keeping ahead in the income race!! They are falling behind due to the deductions on full indexation to wages in the law on indexation.

  11. Niels A Nielsen

    20. april 2006 at 09:53

    Skat og offentlige budgetter kan ikke fastlægges ved hjælp af meningsmålinger, nej.Lidt i samme boldgade, så har man indenfor marketing endnu ikke formået at lave et godt måleinstrument for forbrugeres “willingness to pay” for et nyudviklet produkt, inden det kommer på markedet.Hvorfor skal man i øvrigt kende sin korrekte kommuneskat for at kunne udtale sig meningsfuldt om skattetrykket? Jeg er da ligeglad med, hvordan min marginalskatteprocent er sammensat.

  12. Poul Højlund

    20. april 2006 at 10:07

    Tre spørgsmål, men først en kommentar: Det er godt at få påpeget dette åbenlyse paradoks igen og igen. Folk ved ikke, at den diskriminerende folkepension (efterlønnen) koster hver enkelt dansker, baby som olding, omkring 5000 kr. årligt (25 mia. kr på statsbudgettet/5 mio. danskere).Diskriminationen er helt entydig, for alle betaler, men kun de mangeårigt organiserede a-kassemedlemmer nyder.Tilsvarende på børnepasningsområdet med institutionstilskud i stedet for pengene-følger-barnet. Forældre, der har børn på gammeldags facon, får intet. Tilsvarende på det uigennemskuelige lejeboligområde, dybt infiltreret af socialdemokratiets gamle pampere.Etc. etc.Se David G.’s glimrende kommentar til Mor Danmark for flere af de gale konsekvenser af socialstaten.Og så de tre spørgsmål:1) Hvordan sprænger man socialstatslogikken? 2) Hvilken anden regering har haft større mulighed for at gøre det end denne? 3) Hvorfor sker der ingenting?s.u.

  13. Mr. Kurrild.You must understand that society is not a supermarket. Opinion polls may be manipulated in any way the designers of the questionaires like. I’m quite confident that when CEPOS makes a survey it’ll give an entirely different result than when others make it. It is not correct when you say that the free market free consumers will yield the best results when it comes to financing welfare. You’re probably aware of the fact that in the US they spend 14-15 per cent of their GNP on health. General Motors is on the verge of bankruptcy due to the high costs of employer financed welfare (health and pension costs). You may cut down on the Danish efterløn because you and your kind prefer to drive a BMW instead of contributing to the shared costs of running a society. But the chickens come home to roost. The expenses paid out of private pockets may turn out to be bigger in the end.

  14. It is true that Americans spend more in total on health care, partly due to high transaction costs on the free market. (well, and high ex-post transaction costs in the public market one might add) But the following is a myth that is dubious at best:”That is probably one of the reasons why Danes are richer than Americans.”In my opinion the “fact” that Danes are richer than American is a contrivance of the left wing, which has been propagated through practically government institutions for so long that it has sedimented into a taken-as-given truth. When you take your time to peruse the actual figures of comparative incomes across nations, you will find that Americans on average are significantly more well-off than Danes. Incomes, as PPP adjusted, are hard to measure (partly because of the incommensurability of market baskets) – but I don’t really see any reason why Americans, even with their highly economically unequal society, should be less rich than Danes. On the contrary I feel reason to doubt the oppossite – and I think it is preposterous that this myth is readily being mediated through the public media and our educational system as a “fact”, when in “fact” it is not.Sincerely,

  15. “Opinion polls may be manipulated in any way the designers of the questionaires like. I’m quite confident that when CEPOS makes a survey it’ll give an entirely different result than when others make it.”And you must understand that the most objective way to pose a question is like it was done in the CEPOS survey where both costs and benefits are considered.”It is not correct when you say that the free market free consumers will yield the best results when it comes to financing welfare. You’re probably aware of the fact that in the US they spend 14-15 per cent of their GNP on health.”And you are probably aware that the public spending on health are approximately equal for Denmark and the United States ($2,352 and $2,368, 2002 figures from WHO). The private spending on the other hand are quite different ($231 and $2,906).So is your point that the public health sector in the USA is so poorly managed that it requires Americans to spend approximately the same amount of money in the private health sector?My guess is that Americans are simply getting better health care than Danes although better might just mean single rooms or whatever the Americans are choosing to use their money on.And the large number of rich Americans will of course be willing to privately spend a large amount of money on expensive treatment which will drive up the costs while not affecting the average life span proportionally. That is simply what they consider the optimal way for them to spend money.”General Motors is on the verge of bankruptcy due to the high costs of employer financed welfare (health and pension costs).”And in spite of that American companies support a gross domestic product (GDP) which is approx. 25% higher than the Danish GDP.”You may cut down on the Danish efterløn because you and your kind prefer to drive a BMW instead of contributing to the shared costs of running a society.”Your example with the American health care underscores that private spending is also used in “soft” areas like the health care sector. Why should early retirement of perfectly able men and women be considered “shared costs of running a society”?”The expenses paid out of private pockets may turn out to be bigger in the end.”Yes, if history has taught us one thing it is that the government produces stuff more effectively than the private sector? (hope you sense the irony;-)

  16. The Duck: “The net payment to them is not that big. And people go on Efterløn when they are exhausted and incapable of work – at the intensity level of the Danish labour market.”But they are not contributing taxes any more. And the last five years of your work life is normally some of the best paid years.I don’t buy your argument that it is mainly exhausted people who are incapable of working that go on “efterløn”. But let us for arguments sake say you are right.This effectively means that the remainder of the tax paying population is subsidizing sectors that are hurting the health of their employees and thus increasing the number of people employed in these sectors. Do we really want to reward that?

  17. “And you must understand that the most objective way to pose a question is like it was done in the CEPOS survey where both costs and benefits are considered.”The question posed by CEPOS was; “Early retirement is financed partly by taxes. How much would you then be willing to pay in extra taxes in order to keep early retirement benefits at the present level?” (It was – surprise! – posed in Danish so its my translation of the question)The possible answers are money amounts. My claim – and i’ve made it before – is that the way the question is posed includes an asymmetry and that a more balanced question would include the amount of money you receive in early retirement benefits. My point being; we should demand the same amount of rigour from ourselves that we require from others.

  18. “…a more balanced question would include the amount of money you receive in early retirement benefits. My point being; we should demand the same amount of rigour from ourselves that we require from others.”Point taken.

  19. Duck: I would like to add to JR’s remark about the validity of the survey that if anything, the CEPOS survey underestimates the true willingness to pay, due to an obvious bias among quite a few of the respondents (unless of course they have foreseen this issue and tried to solve it – PKK?).The whole point of the efterløn is that some people gain, and some other people pay. If you ask the people who gain (or expects to gain later on) what they are willing to pay in order to keep the efterløn, they have a rather obvious incentive to exaggerate their willingness to pay. They know that the higher the average willingness to pay, the less likely it is that the politicians decide to reform anything. The higher the willingness to pay, the more (government) money should be invested in the efterløn – that is, if the politicians care about oppinion polls.And since the respondents expecting/wanting to receive efterløn are not paying anything in the first place (the part that they finance themselves have nothing to do with this issue), there’s no risk involved for them in exaggerating their wtp.None of those who don’t want to receive efterløn are biased in any similar way – there are no free riding effects that could make their stated preferences untrustworthy.

  20. “Spørgsmål: ”Man kan i dag gå på efterløn når man fylder 60 år, hvis man bl.a. opfylder betingelserne. I Velfærdskommissionens rapport anbefaler man en gradvis afvikling af efterlønnen. Mener du at ef-terlønsordningen skal bibeholdes, reduceres eller gradvis afvikles?”Kilde: Catinét, December 2005″To ask in this way is manipulative. The respondent is told what the welfare commission report recommends. This would be very “authoritative” to most respondents. In spite of that 47,5 per cent want to keep the efterløn. The Catinet poll is a more convincing validation of Goul Andersen’s research results than of CEPOS’. The fact that the US spends so much more on health than Denmark is not necessarily proof that American health care is better for broad categories of the population. It may be so for the select few, i.e. those who have a good health insurance. Otherwise the high expenses may reflect bloated budgets, budgets that are bloated because of high doctors’ earnings and high insurance and lawyers’ costs.

  21. …After having read the paper more carefully, I see that the bias problem mentioned above is at least partly adressed (however, I still think PKK grossly underestimates its influence).

  22. Martin Rannje.It is a question if the American figures are not inflated artificially by the inflated budget and military expenses. Unlike all other countries the US possess the only wholly accepted international currency. That means they can play “central banker of the world”. They can so to speak print money to cover the big foreign accounts deficit. That also means that the country can inflate the state budgets. In that way the country’s GNP is artificially “pumped up”, and thus their GNP figures are artificially high. The “eurosclerotic” France and Germany do not follow such Micawber policies. In many ways their economies’ structural balances are much sounder. And if you take the currency corrections into consideration they probably end up with GDP per capita figures not much under the American figures.

  23. Martin Rannje

    21. april 2006 at 09:24

    @Duck:”If you take the worldbank’s latest figures for 2004, the US GDP is 11667 bn $. The Danish one 243 bn $. Divided by population, 295 and 5,4 mio. respectively, you get a GDP per capita of US: 39.549, Denmark: 45.000. The Danish lead has increased since 2004 due to currency rate changes.”Yes, but measuring in exchange rates makes even less sense than comparing PPP adjusted figures – because they do not say anything about what the individual consumers can actually buy. And when it comes to real growth rates, the gap between Denmark and the US has expanded, not decreased. (and this is much more true for the comparison between the abysmal growth rates of continental Europe vs. the U.S.) The only problem about the U.S economy is their disastrous situation with regard to the balance of payment.

  24. Martin Rannje.If you take the worldbank’s latest figures for 2004, the US GDP is 11667 bn $. The Danish one 243 bn $. Divided by population, 295 and 5,4 mio. respectively, you get a GDP per capita of US: 39.549, Denmark: 45.000. The Danish lead has increased since 2004 due to currency rate changes. You’re right with regard to PPP. There the American figure is higher. I’m a bit sceptical of PPP comparisons. There’s a bit too much economic witchcraft gone into calculating the baskets they are based on. All in all, however, the Danish wealth is based on much sounder economic data with regard to balance of payments, state budget, less wasteful consumption in the private sector, etc.

  25. JR.You’re right. That kind of subsidizing is not healthy economics. I would however rather regard the “Efterløn” as a consumption item. The Danes have an option for consuming more leisure time. This option must be distributed more equally in the population than would have been the case, if it had been left to market forces alone.

  26. @Cosmic Duck:Surveys show that nine out of ten who start the “efterløn” are perfectly healthy and not worn out. I have even been told once that it is a requirement to be healthy, although I am unable to corroborate this.

  27. David G.You cannot take equity values as a proof of the wealth produced in an economy. America is living above its means. Due to artificially low interest rates house prices have shot up and provided many American households with equity that makes it possible for them to up other kinds of assets for instance by investing in the stock market. Furthermore, they finance overconsumption through loans. The effects can be seen in the balance of payments position (in the red at 6 per cent of GNP or some 7-800 bn $). If you’ll compare with Denmark, look at incomes, – and income distribution. There’s no doubt that the US has a serious poverty problem. You could for in stance read in the Boston Globe after the Katrina disaster: “When ordering people to leave New Orleans while Hurricane Katrina lurked in the Gulf of Mexico, state and federal authorities apparently failed to consider that 27.9 percent of the city was below the poverty line and therefore unlikely to have transportation” (The Boston Globe). The official poverty line is about 20.000 $ for a four-member household. Quote: “On August 30, 2005, the U.S. Census Bureau published its poverty report for 2004. The official poverty rate rose from 12.5% in 2003 to 12.7% in 2004. This puts the number of people officially living in poverty in the U.S. at 37 million. For a family of 4 persons the threshold was listed as $19,307” (Census Bureau). That is considerably lower than a corresponding Danish family. In the US a lot of workers make no more than the minimum pay, which at the national level is very low, much lower than in Denmark. Quote: “Workers who are covered by the FLSA are entitled to a minimum wage of not less than $5.15 an hour” (US, Department of Labor). In the other end of the income scale incomes are very high. Quote: “The average CEO of a Standard & Poor’s 500 company made $11.75 million in total compensation in 2005” (Paywatch.org). Income disparities have been widening as a consequence of the neoliberal economic order. Of course, for a comparison, what is interesting is to look at average pay, and what you can get for that pay. According to most surveys, the average American wage earner/salaried employee made about 17 $ an hour in the beginning of 2005. Here it is noteworthy that taking inflation into consideration, average pay has barely budged since the beginning of the 1980s. The neoliberal model has led to sharpening competition in the labour market and outsourcing to low-income countries. And average wage earners are the losers in the income race compared to high income earners. And how much – or rather – how little do they get for the average income? Quote: “Meanwhile, those who secure the middle-class jobs of the 21st century will have to make $17 an hour stretch further than ever as they pay more for health care or risk doing without insurance and assume much or all of the burden for their retirement. Meanwhile, those who secure the middle-class jobs of the 21st century will have to make $17 an hour stretch further than ever as they pay more for health care or risk doing without insurance and assume much or all of the burden for their retirement” (Washington Post 31st of December 2004). You talk about taxes in Denmark being so high. You’re right when you look at taxation on high income earners. When you look at middle or low income earners, Denmark is not the country with the highest tax burden. In a publication from the Danish ministry of Taxation, “Skattetryk en international Sammenligning, 2005, it is shown how several countries tax low and middle income earners more than Denmark does. The US is lower in this comparison than most EU countries, but for instance taking families with or without dependent children, the US is not so much lower that it compensates for the lower earnings plus the higher living costs to health care and other insurances.

  28. I’ve written more extensively about the neoliberal model and the European social model on my blog . There is also a link to the comparative tax investigation mentioned in the post.

  29. If all or at the very least a large fraction of the people who receives “efterløn” do it because they’re unhealthy, it sure is a terrible development we’re experiencing at the moment.Since 1994, the number of people who have not yet reached the normal retirement age and who are in such a bad state that they can no longer work, has almost doubled – going from 111.098 in 1994 to 187.247 in 2004. Why do the politicians not adress this problem? Why do they instead keep telling the firms that they should hire some more people in this age group, even though most of these people are clearly too ill to work at all?And why have we experienced this rapid development when at the same time, the amount of fysically demanding blue-collar jobs have been decreasing by the hour?

  30. Poul Højlund

    23. april 2006 at 08:05

    Der synes at savnes lidt harcore viden om efterløn blandt debatdeltagerene.Se eventuelt min kronik “Den amoralske efterløn” i JP fra februar sidste år, hvor jeg prøver at gennemhulle noget af den almindelige uvidenhed / agitprop om fænomenet.http://www.jp.dk/arkiv:aid=2907656

  31. Martin M.You claim that surveys show that most of those who start the “Efterløn” are perfectly healthy. That may be correct. I do not know what survey you are referring to. You try to give your arguments weight by referring to investigations that is presumed known. What you’re actually doing is promoting a political agenda, and then you try to find the most appropriate arguments to support it. That is common tactics. When you ask those who get the “Efterløn” you generally get other kinds of answers. You see pictures in the media of the golf club swinging “Efterlønner”, but when you ask the union of public employees, FOA, or the 3F union they can corroborate the fact that a lot of these people need some kind of pre-retirement.One of the questionable aspects of the before mentioned political agenda is that it is heavily influenced by the business cycle. We should not let our day-to-day political agenda for the welfare society be determined by ups and downs in the level of unemployment. When the rate of unemployment is low, we want the seniors to be at the disposition of “hungry” employers, when it is high, they have to give room in the labour market to the young unemployed. That is not a decent way of treating citizens in a rather rich country like the Danish one. The welfare society is a set-up for the long run economic perspective. I’m well aware of Lord Keynes’ famous remark that “in the long run we’re all dead”. It was, I think, applied to another case.

  32. You can prove anything with statistics, even that Danes (on average) are richer than Americans (on average). However, even taking the $45K-$39K gap at face (nominal) value, we are forgetting not just PPP (most things, esp. consumer goods and services, are much cheaper in the US), we are forgetting the most important difference which is the tax burden. As CEPOS has shown, Danes are poorer than even other Europeans after tax.Latest figures show that the number of US taxpayers with net worths (apart from equity in their residences) of over $500K is now about 25 million. If you add the likely number of dependents to that figure, you get a number of Americans living in remarkable affluence of somewhere between 75-100 million. That’s a third of the population. Do a third of Danes live in households with net worths (other than equity) of more than 3m DKK (or 4.215m if you assume the PPP rate, which still doesn’t take account of taxation, of 1 USD = 8.43 DKK)? I’d like to know, but somehow I don’t think so.Many Danes, of course, think they get some value in return for their taxes. This mysterious superstition, daily contradicted by evidence of dirty hospitals, waiting lists, low life expectancy, bad schools, rickety trains that don’t run, etc. etc., is the biggest barrier to serious reform in this country.American life expectancy is now 77 for males and 80 for women. That includes all the dysfunctional addicts, overweights and others. People with reasonable genetic endowments and reasonable behavior obviously live even longer. Now in Denmark we hear that those with reasonable g.e. and behavior live about as long as ALL Americans. For this, Danes pay the world’s highest income and indirect taxes. Nobody would take such a deal in private life; why do they take it from the government?This is a far cry from the CEPOS-Catinet study, but my point is that people really do not seem to have much notion of the vast sums they are forking out for little benefit and much cost. They apply far more rigorous analysis to choices over which they have power, such as buying goods or houses. It is a good thing to begin to open their eyes to the tradeoffs inherent in paying taxes for assumed benefits which may not be worth it.

  33. Og Poul, tak for påmindelsen. Jeg er hyppig gæst her for tiden og blogging er et flygtigt medie. Eller også er jeg bare ved at blive senil.

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