Something rotten: TNR om Danmark

Det ganske ofte ganske glimrende (og meget indflydelsesrige), "left liberal" amerikanske tidsskrift The New Republic har i sit seneste nummer et langt forsvar for "den danske model": Altså at høje offentlige udgifter skulle lede til høj økonomisk vækst.  Her er (med et groft brud på ophavsretten) lidt at sætte tænderne i:

Great Danes

by Jonathan Cohn

If you want a lower standard of living," conservative policy experts Grace-Marie Turner and Robert Moffit wrote in an op-ed last week, "the Europeans have the right prescription." The topic of discussion was universal health care, but it just as easily might have been government-sponsored child care or generous unemployment benefits. The failure of the European welfare state is, after all, an article of faith among conservatives, from Robert Samuelson ("Europe is history's has-been") to Jonah Goldberg ("Europe has an asthmatic economy") to David Brooks ("[T]he European model is flat-out unsustainable").

The argument generally goes like this. Nowadays, every nation faces a stark but straightforward choice: It can admit that globalization demands a fluid economy–in which people will lose jobs frequently and incomes are bound to be more volatile–and adapt by slashing taxes, government benefit programs, and trade barriers. Or it can try to hold on to old-fashioned notions of lifetime job security and guaranteed incomes by blocking out trading partners, closely regulating business activity, and maintaining a generous welfare state–a formula sure to produce sluggish growth, chronic unemployment, and crippling government debt.

Given their political agenda, it's easy to see why conservatives would be attracted to this analysis. But, even as the pundits wring their hands at Europe's economic decline, a growing number of American economists have begun looking across the pond for inspiration–to Scandinavia and, especially, to Denmark. Over the last decade, the Danes have turned the conventional wisdom on its head by boasting not only one of the world's most expansive welfare states, but also one of its most robust economies. Given the way average American workers' wages continue to stagnate even as their burden of risk–of losing a job, of losing medical insurance–continues to rise, it looks increasingly as though the conservative triumphalism has been misplaced: It may be that Europe has something to teach us after all. And Democrats, who have come back into power promising to address economic insecurity, should be sure to listen.

As in most of the developed world, Denmark's welfare state traces its origins to the Great Depression–specifically, to a dank January morning in 1933 when Prime Minister Thorvald Stauning called several of the country's political leaders to his apartment for a private session to discuss the nation's growing economic crisis. As Eric Einhorn and John Logue recount in a forthcoming essay on Danish history, nearly half the population was out of work and farm foreclosures were widespread. With communism and socialism gaining popularity among the increasingly distressed population, Stauning and his colleagues were desperate to take actions that would not only alleviate the widespread suffering but also save capitalism itself.

Stauning's apartment was on a small, quiet street named Kanslergade. And the resulting "Kanslergade compromise," as it came to be known, would give birth to the contemporary Danish welfare state. Denmark always had an egalitarian tradition, rooted partly in its strong ethnic identity. But, prior to the 1930s, fulfilling that guarantee was largely the responsibility of private associations, organized around jobs or communities. The Kanslergade compromise changed all that. Henceforth, the government would take primary responsibility for making the economy work–and making sure that it worked for everybody–by, among other things, providing a set of social insurance programs that protected against illness and unemployment.

The strategy succeeded. Denmark's political center held, Danes got back to work, and, on the eve of World War II, the economy was back on track. The country continued to thrive after the interlude of Nazi wartime occupation and, from the 1950s through the 1970s, it generally had steady, strong growth. The more the economy grew, the more money the government collected through taxes–allowing it to provide, in turn, even more generous services. By the '70s, Denmark had developed a well-earned reputation for providing what was arguably Europe's most comprehensive and lavish set of welfare benefits.

But the Danish economic model–like those across Europe and in the United States–was challenged by "stagflation" in the '70s and globalization in the 1980s. Denmark's economy, like those in most of Europe, started lagging behind that of the United States. While Americans were going back to work–and, in some celebrated cases, getting fabulously rich–millions of Europeans were joining the ranks of the chronically unemployed, living off of generous welfare payments. Meanwhile, businesses, hamstrung in some countries by rules that made it difficult to hire and fire new workers, weren't investing or creating new jobs.

But, while most of Europe continued staunchly to resist change, the Scandinavians began to embrace it–led, once again, by Denmark. In the early '80s, with unemployment in double digits and the economy slowing to a crawl, voters threw their support behind the Danish conservatives, enabling them to oust the Social Democrats who had run the country for most of the postwar period. Although the conservatives were not very far to the right by U.S. standards, they had run on a platform of rescuing the Danish economy, which they vowed to do by privatizing some government services, modestly reducing welfare benefits, and bringing down government deficits. And, for a few years, they made some headway, particularly when it came to trimming the pension system and bringing the government budgets back into balance.

By the early '90s, the economy had recovered enough–and the public's enthusiasm for the conservatives had waned enough–to swing politics back in the other direction. The Social Democrats took power once again, this time under the leadership of Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, a close ally of Denmark's organized labor movement. But, contrary to the expectations of some supporters, Rasmussen didn't abandon the conservative reforms. Instead, in a classic Nixon-to-China move, he undertook some of the very measures that the conservative coalition had proposed but could not enact on its own.

One of these was the sale of Denmark's state-owned telephone company, which, relative to the size of the country's economy, represented one of the largest efforts at privatization in Europe for the entire decade. Rasmussen also remained committed to balanced budgets, making more low-level spending cuts to keep the budget in line. But perhaps most important were the reforms Rasmussen's Social Democrats introduced to the Danish unemployment system. Previously, unemployment benefits had been not only very generous–equal, in some cases, to 90 percent of lost wages–but also essentially unlimited. Under a new scheme pushed through by the Social Democrats, the government began limiting assistance to four years–and, even then, only on the condition that beneficiaries worked or enrolled in job training.

Essentially, Rasmussen was triangulating between the two main poles of the country's political debate, in a manner much like
the one Bill Clinton was e
mploying in the United States at roughly the same time. But, because politics in Denmark were generally far to the left of the United States, the resulting compromise actually looked quite different. Relative to Clinton's welfare reform, Rasmussen's invested much more money in worker-counseling and training. The explicit goal was to recognize a social compact: Just as the unemployed were obligated to find new jobs, so the government was obligated to make sure the jobs were there (even if it meant creating them on the public payroll) and that the unemployed received proper training to succeed. Today, largely as a result of Rasmussen's reforms, Denmark spends more than 4 percent of its GDP on its labor market programs–the most of any country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (oecd) and more than 20 times what the United States spends on its worker-training programs.

In some respects, though, what was most significant about Rasmussen's agenda was what it did not include: radical changes to the welfare state. And that explains why, today, the country has programs that remain among the most generous in the developed world. There is universal health care and child care. Lengthy maternity and paternity leaves are available. And, despite the time limit, unemployment benefits are still worth up to 90 percent of lost wages. In all, Denmark spends nearly one-third of gross domestic product on government-run benefits–among the highest in the developed world and more than twice what the United States spends. Naturally, Denmark has a tax burden to match: Half of the country's annual economic output goes through government in the form of taxes–again, among the highest in the developed world and well above the U.S. rate of just under 30 percent.

If you believe the conservative rhetoric on economics, this combination of high taxes, a large public sector, and lavish welfare benefits ought to be killing the Danish economy. But it's not. In fact, Denmark's economy has thrived. And nowhere is that more apparent than in the job market. By the time Rasmussen left office in 2001, the unemployment rate had fallen from a 1994 peak of 9.6 percent to 4.3 percent; in 2002, it fell below the U.S. rate, where it has remained ever since. For the most recent quarter of 2006, Denmark's standardized unemployment rate was 3.6 percent, compared with 4.7 percent in the United States. Moreover, while Europe has a reputation for fostering cadres of idle youth (a reputation that, in countries like France, has at least some basis in reality), in Denmark, a mere 3 percent of its 15- to 19-year-olds are neither in school nor working–the second-best rate in the developed world. (Tiny Luxembourg is first.) In the United States, by comparison, the figure is about 7 percent.

Another important measure of overall economic health is GDP per capita, which in effect approximates the wealth generated per person per year. Here, the United States remains near the top of the developed world, at $39,732. Denmark, though also in the top fifth of the oecd, is at just $31,932. It's a significant difference, but one that reflects, in part, the fact that Americans simply work more hours, don't get as much vacation, and can't take such generous pregnancy or sick leaves. GDP per capita is also an average, pulled up by the extraordinary wealth of America's elite. Once you consider the distribution of income and material goods, it becomes apparent that typical citizens in Denmark are doing as well as–and quite possibly better than–their American counterparts.

Nearly 80 percent of Danish households have access to a home computer, the second-highest proportion in the world; just 62 percent of U.S. households can make the same claim. And, while the United States scores a bit higher than Denmark on the U.N. "Human Development Index," which combines financial standard of living with measures like knowledge and life expectancy, Denmark bests the United States on the "Quality of Life" index, which the Economist Intelligence Unit devised to measure a similar combination of factors. One reason Denmark scores so well is that programs like universal health care and day care mean middle-class Danes don't carry around the same sort of anxieties that their American counterparts do. The existence of such programs also helps explain the most obvious economic difference between Denmark and the United States: America's poverty rate of 17.1 percent is the second-worst in the oecd, behind only Mexico. And Denmark's? It's 4.3 percent, tied with the Czech Republic for the best on the planet.

To critics, the trouble with large welfare programs isn't so much what they do today as what they promise to do tomorrow: Since aging populations will eventually claim more in benefits than younger generations of workers are projected to generate, the programs appear unsustainable. In the general sense, this claim has some truth. The money Denmark owes its future retirees, in the form of pensions and health benefits, will indeed put a huge claim on its treasury–one it's not yet fully prepared to meet. But Denmark is in a far better position to meet those obligations than many other countries, including, yet again, the United States. As it has for several years, Denmark is presently running a small budget surplus, equal to around .65 percent of its GDP. The United States, of course, is running large deficits, in the neighborhood of 4.5 percent of GDP–which is one reason our long-term financial liabilities are more severe, too.

So what have the Danes figured out that conservative American pundits haven't? "High taxes don't hurt [by themselves]," says Harvard's Richard Freeman, a highly respected labor economist who has studied Europe extensively. "It depends on what you are getting for the money." Medical care is the most obvious example of this. Danes have lower infant-mortality rates than Americans and, statistically speaking, live just as long. You can't pin that completely on the medical system (a lot has to do with poverty, diet, and so on), but it certainly suggests Danish health care is no worse than the U.S. version. Yet we Americans pay far more for our system, because it's riddled with inefficiencies as insurance companies compete with one another to enroll healthy beneficiaries, rather than finance good care.

Another thing the government does well is spend money on projects whose benefits are too long-term, or too spread-out, to attract sufficient private investment. Worker-training is a case in point. One of the great virtues of Denmark's worker-retraining program is the way it enables even middle-aged workers to shift gears and pick up a new profession: If, for example, you're an unemployed textile worker whose best prospect for a new job in two years lies in health care, then the Danish government will pay to train you as a physician's assistant.

Just as a well-educated workforce attracts foreign investment, so does strong infrastructure–whether it's in the form of good roads or a speedy information highway. Here, too, Denmark excels. And here, too, government can take considerable credit, as the Economist Intelligence Unit noted in its glowing write-up: "High public spending also translates to an excellent infrastructure…. Denmark has emerged as a global leader in the development of information and communications technology infrastructure, and a pioneer for wireless technologies, including Bluetooth, among others."

Of course, infrastructure is only part of the story–and a modest one at that. A bigger reason, ironically enough, is the tax code. The high rates on personal income, which max out at 63 percent, mask relatively low rates on investment capital and corporate earnings. That relative balance–with investment taxed less than wages–is what many economists prefer, since, theoretically, low taxes on corporations will en

courage them to invest more, creating more jobs, and so on. The reason Danes tolerate such high income taxes, even while corporate taxes are low, is that they feel like they're getting something for the money: good public services. In effect, the generosity of the welfare state creates political room for economic policies that foster higher growth.

That's also true in the larger sense, when it comes to the rules–or lack thereof–about hiring and firing. Studies have shown that Danes change jobs more frequently than their counterparts elsewhere in Europe and that, on the whole, they have the shortest tenures. With such a volatile job market, you might expect the Danes to clamor for the same kinds of protections as, say, the French or Germans. But they haven't. The main reason, everyone seems to agree, is that the combination of welfare programs and job-training means that the newly unemployed needn't fear becoming destitute. Indeed, in some cases, losing a job is actually a way to get a step up. Polls show that, despite the high rates of job turnover, Danes are among the most optimistic about their prospects for finding work again. As Stein Kuhnle, an expert on Denmark who now teaches at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, explains: "One may say that the Danish system is one promoting employment security rather than job security" (my italics).

Earlier this year, an article in The Wall Street Journal on the closure of a Danish meatpacking plant illustrated how fluid labor markets and generous welfare supports produce a virtuous cycle. As soon as the factory was shuttered, the famous Danish job placement and training system went to work. Counselors met with each of the newly unemployed workers, drawing up individual plans of action for each and then monitoring the "clients" to make sure they followed through on their plans. Then, using both state money and some contributions from the old employer, they financed classes to retrain the workforce. The results were impressive: After having spent ten years slicing up pig carcasses, Suzanne Olsen now had a position as a golf landscaping apprentice. Finn Larsen was enrolled in classes to become fully trained as a math and science teacher. Indeed, of the 500 workers the company had laid off, within ten months only 60 were still collecting Denmark's generous unemployment benefits.

Talking up one region's, or one country's, economic model is a recurring phenomenon in politics–and a tricky one. At various times in the last 50 years, the opinion elite has swooned over the Anglo-American countries, the Far East, continental Europe, and even the communist bloc because their economies were in the middle of a temporary boom. But even "successful" countries often have problems that admirers either overlook or willfully ignore. And Denmark has its share of those. To take one obvious example, because the generous unemployment benefits and job-training means nobody wants to work in low-wage jobs, the country's service sector is lackluster. Positions like housekeepers and nannies tend to be filled by immigrants operating as part of an underground economy. "We have a vibrant public sector," says Christoffer Green-Pedersen, a professor of public policy at the University of Copenhagen. "But I've never seen a shoe shiner. It'd be too expensive."

A bigger issue for those who might want to import the Danish model–particularly for a country like the United States–is that Denmark is a small, ethnically homogenous country with a tradition of marked cooperation. Labor and management enjoy one of the least adversarial relationships in the developed world, enabling them to pursue mutually advantageous arrangements. Many experts think the strong sense of common enterprise among Danes improves government services by promoting a strong sense of duty among civil servants.

Still, nobody is suggesting that other countries could–or even should–import the Danish model whole. (Among other things, the strong sense of common purpose has an uglier side: relatively harsh treatment of foreigners and immigrants.) The idea, rather, is to take broad lessons from Denmark's experience. And the broadest lesson would seem to be the most obvious one: that it is entirely possible to have a large welfare state, with generous benefits, without choking the economy. Data from the rest of Scandinavia, which all use variants of the same economic model, support this argument. In a recent Scientific American column focusing on the performance of these Nordic countries, Columbia University economist and best-selling author Jeffrey Sachs blasted the right's anti-tax, antigovernment conventional wisdom, concluding that "a generous social-welfare state is not a road to serfdom but rather to high levels of satisfaction, fairness, economic equality and international competitiveness."

Nor is Sachs the only prominent economist who has taken notice of Scandinavia's success. So have Harvard's Richard Freeman and Nobel Prize-winner Joseph Stiglitz, the former chief economist for the World Bank. Even some relatively conservative economists–like the American Enterprise Institute's Kevin Hassett, who has been an adviser to John McCain–will concede that the Nordic model works, although they are dubious that the United States could copy it: "The Scandinavians," Hassett says, "show that you don't have to have a terrible economy if you have a big welfare state and high taxes."

Scandinavia's success has particular relevance today, when the Democratic Party suddenly finds itself with real political power again–and a mandate to address the rising economic insecurity that many American workers feel. The problem for the Democrats, as my colleague Jonathan Chait recently noted ("Freakoutonomics," November 6), is that the solutions they've pushed for in the last decade suddenly seem inadequate. For most of the 1990s, the Clinton administration pursued a relatively conservative set of economic policies that focused on efforts to improve overall growth, such as free trade and balanced budgets. Most economists believe Clinton's economic policies did, in fact, strengthen the economy as a whole. But it's also becoming apparent that the poor and middle class didn't benefit from the subsequent period of growth as much as the administration had hoped–and that both groups remain surprisingly vulnerable to economic dislocation today.

Of course, even back in the early '90s, not every member of the Clinton administration was so sanguine about the policies it was pursuing at the time. Among those dissenting was then-Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who proposed that "if we blended our flexible labor markets with [Europe's] investments in human capital and put the safety net somewhere in between ours and theirs, you would have the best system in the world." Reich's argument famously lost out to those of Clinton's more conservative advisers–among them former National Economic Council Chairman Laura Tyson and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.

And so it was a little ironic that, a few weeks ago, it was Tyson and Rubin, along with some other former Clinton advisers, who found themselves discussing Denmark at a panel on economic policy co-sponsored by The New Republic and the Brookings Institution. Tyson, who just completed five years as dean of the London Business School, first raised the possibility that Denmark might be a model for the United States, noting that "there is nothing in the growth rates to suggest that Denmark is paying a penalty for having a high level [of taxes and government spending]. … This is not to mention in addition the fact that health care coverage in Denmark is universal, and it is not to mention the fact that, actually, Denmark has one of the lowest poverty rates in Europe and has the lowest poverty rates for children in all of the o

ecd countries."

Upon hearing that description, Rubin quipped, "I think I would like to move to Denmark." That, surely, isn't necessary. But a fact-finding visit might be worthwhile.

Oven på to ugers ferie og fravær er min lørdag simpelthen for kort til at opremse, hvor mange fejl, misforståelser og fejlfortolkninger, der er i artiklen–men andre er velkomne.  Derimod er der (som altid) en række kritiske bemærkninger hér hos vennerne ovre på MarginalRevolution og lidt interessant fra Matt Yglesias og dennes læsere (deriblandt vores gæste-blogger Limagolf).  Her er TNR's egne læserkommentarer.

35 thoughts on “Something rotten: TNR om Danmark

  1. US

    Vil nøjes med at kommentere på flg:”Another important measure of overall economic health is GDP per capita […] Here, the United States remains near the top of the developed world, at $39,732. Denmark, though also in the top fifth of the oecd, is at just $31,932. It’s a significant difference, but one that reflects, in part, the fact that Americans simply work more hours, don’t get as much vacation, and can’t take such generous pregnancy or sick leaves.”Prøv at få det forhold at det amerikanske tal er ca. 25% højere, til at harmonere med det senere udsagn i artiklen om, at: “there is nothing in the growth rates to suggest that Denmark is paying a penalty for having a high level [of taxes and government spending]”Forskellen reflekterer i øvrigt heller ikke, at amerikanerne arbejder mere og har mindre orlov og ferie – men derimod at de _vælger_ at arbejde mere og have mindre orlov og ferie. Det kunne måske være, at danskerne ville gøre det samme, hvis de fik muligheden?

  2. Lasse Birk Olesen

    Det er i det hele taget en skrøne, at amerikanerne arbejder mere. Jo, de arbejder mere på deres arbejdsplads, til gengæld arbejder de mindre i hjemmet, fordi de har råd til at hyre andre til at gøre arbejdet.”Det ses tydeligt, hvis man sammenligner arbejdsugen i et land som Sverige, som vi ofte sammenligner os med, med et land som USA, som har en væsentligt lavere skattebyrde. Mens amerikanerne ganske vist arbejder gennemsnitligt 2,3 timer mere på deres arbejdsplads end svenskerne, så arbejder svenskerne 6,9 timer mere i hjemmet end amerikanerne. Altså arbejder den gennemsnitlige svensker 4,6 timer mere om ugen end den gennemsnitlige amerikaner, og en mindre del af svenskerens arbejde er det, han rent faktisk gør bedst!”

  3. Limagolf

    Man kan da heller ikke være i fred nogen steder…;-)/LimagolfP.S. uanset hvad, er det svært at bevare pessimismen her i Danmark. Ja, jeg vil gerne have lavere skatter, mere selvbestemmelse over sygepleje, skole, m.v. og alle de andre ting vi liberale går og drømmer om. Men det er svært at beskrive Danmark som en økonomisk ruin.De liberalister nok skal øve sig på, er at fremstå mere spiselige for den danske vælger, eks. ved at gentage 100.000 gange på primetime TV: “liberalisme betyder mere velfærd!”!

  4. Christian Bjørnskov

    Jeg synes det er værd at tilføje det helt latterlige i atfremhæve de 4%, Danmark bruger på såkaldt ‘aktiv arbejdsmarkedspolitik’. Det er en hel række tiltag som f.eks. AMU-kurser, daghøjskoler og meget andet. TNR fremhæver_udgiften_ – de rundt regnet 50 milliarder – men glemmer en ting: Forskningen viser, at den aktive arbejdsmarkedspolitik_overhovedet_ikke_har nogen reel indflydelse på folks beskæftigelseschancer! Det er med andre ord en hulens masse penge ud af vinduet. Og så påstår man at velfærdsstaten er gratis?

  5. kgw

    Til US:Du skriver: “Prøv at få det forhold at det amerikanske tal er ca. 25% højere, til at harmonere med det senere udsagn i artiklen om, at: “there is nothing in the growth rates to suggest that Denmark is paying a penalty for having a high level [of taxes and government spending]””. Der er ikke noget selvmodsigende i de to udsagn. USA har et større BNP/capita end Danmark og det har de haft i mange år. Spørgsmålet er, om den danske model betyder lavere vækstrate i BNP/capita. OECDs tal for BNP/capita (i løbende, købekraftsregulerede priser) bekræfter udsagnet i artiklen – at ‘den danske model’ ikke har ført til lavere vækst. Da Nyrup tog over i 1993 var det danske BNP/capita godt 80 % af det amerikanske. Da Fogh overtog regeringsmagten var det knap 85 % og i 2004 (hvor de sidste tal er fra) var det igen nede på godt 80 %. Tilbage i 1970 var det danske BNP på hele 93 % af det amerikanske, men fra slut-70’erne og frem til starten af 90’erne sakker Danmark bagud. Sammenlign selv tallene på: summarum: Der er ikke grundlag for at hævde, at den ’danske model’, som lovprises i artiklen, fører til lavere vækst end den ’amerikanske model’

  6. US

    @kgw: Jeg kender udemærket forskellen på stock- og flow størrelser, og tænkte også over, om jeg skulle uddybe i posten, men valgte altså at lade være.Når du sammenligner vækst, giver det kun mening at se på det relativt lange sigt. Og som du selv fremhæver, var den danske produktion betydeligt tættere på den amerikanske i ’70, end den er i dag. Mere generelt forholder det sig sådan, at de europæiske landes vækstrater var højere end de amerikanske og canadiske samme fra starten af efterkrigsperioden og frem til starten af 70’erne, mens de i de seneste tre årtier har haltet noget efter – det gælder overordnet set også for DK’s vedkommende. Jeg synes det er besynderligt ikke at tilskrive en del, hvis ikke hovedparten, af den dansk-amerikanske indkomstdivergens siden 60erne den omfattende ekspansion af den offentlige sektor, der fandt sted i DK i 70erne. Både fordi forklaringen vinder fin genlyd, når det gælder resten af Europa, og mere generelt fordi vi ved, på baggrund af en efterhånden temmelig stor empirisk litteratur, at der er en ret klar generel sammenhæng mellem vækstrater og beskatning.Hvis vi forholder os til den danske erfaring, så er det næppe den store offentlige sektor, der har været årsag til den, i et europæisk perspektiv, relativt høje danske vækst. I 60’erne lå DK og USA ret tæt på hinanden, og det var altså inden den offentlige sektor rigtig fik fat. Siden da er det gået ned ad bakke i forhold til USA, selvom de for tiden gør en del for at synke ned på vores niveau.

  7. Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard

    @KGW: “Da Nyrup tog over i 1993 var det danske BNP/capita godt 80 % af det amerikanske. Da Fogh overtog regeringsmagten var det knap 85 % og i 2004 (hvor de sidste tal er fra) var det igen nede på godt 80 %. Tilbage i 1970 var det danske BNP på hele 93 % af det amerikanske, men fra slut-70’erne og frem til starten af 90’erne sakker Danmark bagud. Sammenlign selv tallene på: summarum: Der er ikke grundlag for at hævde, at den ’danske model’, som lovprises i artiklen, fører til lavere vækst end den ’amerikanske model’”I tillæg til US’s kommentar, så gå til Penn World Tables og sammenlign Danmark og USA 1960/2004, d.v.s. den periode hvor velfærdsstaten for alvor er vokset, og hvor de to lande er gået fra at have sammenligneligt offentligt forbrug og levestandarder til situationer, der er noget forskellige:Offentlige sektors forbrug som andel af BNP, 1960:DK: 13,16 pct.USA: 13,68 pct.BNP pr. indb. (US $, PPP-justeret):DK: 11438.23 (1960) –> 28447.17 (2004) = +248,7 pct.USA: 12892.02 (1960) –> 36098.15 (2004) = +280,0 pct.Disse tal beviser naturligvis ikke, at det er den offentlige sektors størrelse, der er afgørende, men de viser ihvertfald (i fraværet på mere detaljerede studier), at en påstand om, at forskelle i vækstrater kan forklares med hnevisning til den offentlige sektors størrelse _og_ til fordel for “den danske model” _ikke_ holder. Eller sagt med en parafrase: Summa summarum: Der _er_ (et vist) grundlag for at hævde, at den ’danske model’, som lovprises i artiklen, fører til lavere vækst end den ’amerikanske model’ …

  8. Asger

    @BjørnskovDet er vel ikke helt rigtigt, at den aktive arbejdsmarkedspolitik ingen effekt har. Vi kan hurtigt blive enige om, at de fleste aktiveringstiltag og forsøg på opkvalificering (bortset fra privat jobtræning) i bedste fald ingen effekt har. Offentlig jobtræning har ligefrem en negativ effekt på en ledigs chancer for at få job efterfølgende. Læg dertil omkostningerne forbundet med jobtræningen. Så den direkte effekt er sandsynligvis negligerbar.Skræmmeeffekten af den aktive arbejdsmarkedspolitik er det derimod ikke. Blot udsigten til at blive sendt i aktivering er en god motivator for arbejdsløse til at finde sig et arbejde.Nu må politikkerne finde ud af at bruge pengene på en bedre måde, således at skatteyderne rent faktisk får noget for pengene, der postes i arbejdsmarkedspolitkken.

  9. Cosmic Duck

    “The top rankings of Switzerland and the Nordic countries show that good institutions and competent macroeconomic management, coupled with world-class educational attainment and a focus on technology and innovation, are a successful strategy for boosting competitiveness in an increasingly complex global economy.”Augusto Lopez-Claros, Chief Economist; Director, Global Competitiveness NetworkThis is what the chief economist of the World Economic Forum’s competitiveness reports writes on Scandinavian competitiveness in the world economy. In the latest report Denmark has passed the US and is now nr 4 in global competitiveness, which proves that the Danish model is superior to the American model. So far, the TNR article is right. The Democrats can learn something from the Danish model. Denmark even has a higher standard of living if you look at the latest GDP numbers from the World Bank. Danish GDP per capita is far higher than the American – if you consider the real market values and not the witchcraft bogus numbers of PPP GDP. Furthermore, Denmark is a much more egalitarian society.

  10. kgw

    @Kurrild-Klitgaard og USEn del af vores uenighed skyldes måske, at vi ikke er enige om, hvad ’den danske model’ er. Jeg uddybede det ikke (beklager) og i selve artiklen er det også lidt uklart (men det er da i parentes bemærket fantastisk at de får amerikanere til at læse om Kanslergadeforliget).Opfatter man ‘den danske model’ som summen af den økonomiske politik siden velfærdsstatens grundlæggelse, kan man naturligvis godt argumentere for, at vores model har ført til lavere vækst. Jeg anfægter ikke, at Danmark har haft en gennemsnitlig lavere vækst end USA siden 1960 (men interessant nok har DK og USA haft næsten præcis samme vækst i BNP/capita siden 1950, baseret på tallene fra Penn World Tables: hhv. 320,9% og 321,3%).Opfatter man derimod ‘den danske model’ som den arbejdsmarkedspolitik (flexicurity) og økonomiske politik, der er blevet ført siden 1993, synes jeg derimod der er belæg for at hævde, at en høj skatteprocent er kompatibel med en solid vækst, der kan hamle op med USA. Man kan diskutere, hvor lang tid, der skal gå, før man kan drage konklusioner, men at Danmark fra 1993 til 2004 har holdt vækstmæssigt trit med USA, indikerer da, at vores ‘model’ ikke er vejen til økonomisk ruin.Det kan godt være, at US har ret i, at ”vi ved, på baggrund af en efterhånden temmelig stor empirisk litteratur, at der er en ret klar generel sammenhæng mellem vækstrater og beskatning.” Men den generelle sammenhæng mellem skat og vækst har ikke den store betydning, når vi diskuterer den (nuværende) danske model. Artiklen handler jo netop om Danmark, fordi vi adskiller os fra andre lande med høj skatteprocent og stor offentlig sektor ved at have et fleksibelt arbejdsmarked og relativ høj vækst.

  11. Ole Birk Olesen

    KGW: “[…] at Danmark fra 1993 til 2004 har holdt vækstmæssigt trit med USA, indikerer da, at vores ‘model’ ikke er vejen til økonomisk ruin.”Vi kan glæde os over, at det er gået godt de seneste ti år, men det ændrer dog ikke på, at Danmark er gået fra et købekraftskorrigeret BNP per indbygger på 89 procent af USAs i 1960 til 76 procent i 2004. Og hvordan ser udsigterne så ud for fremtiden? Berlingske Tidende kunne fortælle om det den 29. november:“Danmarks gode økonomi synger på sidste vers. De vestlige landes økonomiske organisation, OECD, offentliggjorde i går sine seneste analyser over den økonomiske udvikling i medlemslandene. Og det er en grim fremtid, der dukker op for Danmarks vedkommende. »Danmark luner sig stadig i et efterspørgselsdrevet opsving. Men hvis man ikke gør mere for at få flere hænder på arbejdsmarkedet, så vil Danmark om to år ryge ned mod OECDs laveste vækst på kun 0,75 procent i gennemsnit frem til 2013,« siger Jens Lundsgaard, som er chef for Danmark/Sverigekontoret i OECD.”Det siger sig selv, at det ikke er uden omkostninger, at hver fjerde i den arbejdsdygtige alder ikke arbejder, men forsørges af det offentlige.

  12. Christian Bjørnskov

    @Asger: Vi er da enige. Den aktive politik betyder i bedste fald intet, men der er en skræmmeeffekt af at kunne ryge ind i denne pulje. Spørgsmålet er bare, om den skal koste 50 milliarder – om den faktisk overhovedet skal koste noget.@Cosmic Duck: I find it odd – and a bit frightening – that you trust the World Economic Forum GCI so much, but at the same time calls PPP-adjustments ‘bogus’. An enormous effort goes into adjusting for price differences across countries while the WEF seems like some rabbit they have more or less pull out of their magic hat. Consider for example on of the elements going into the index: “the ability to provide an environment for economic activity characterized by adequate levels of public safety”. If that is not an inbuilt bias for the welfare state… I also think it is telling that the WEF report states that the Scandinavian countries have “world class educational attainment”. That surely doesn’t show in the educational numbers I know of! Finally, it should be stressedthat part of the macroeconomy index going into the final GCI rests on “budget surpluses and have lower levels of public indebtedness” that_currently_characterizes Denmark. But everyone with some knowledge of growth theory knows that those characteristics are not likely to persist for long, and they are in general not important for long-run growth, and therefore not for long-run competitiveness. So, to make a long story short, the GCI is just pure nonsens and I simply don’t understand why people take it seriously.

  13. Cosmic Duck

    CBThe PPP underestimates the value of public services. One of the advantages – in a growth perspective -of the Danish system is the low price of some public services like health and education.You’re right that it is an open questin whether (university) education is of a high quality in Denmark and other Scandinavian countries, but at least at primary and secondary school level most kids get so much basic education that they know how to read and write and speak some English, and that is a basic requisite for a modern economy. The WEF is also based on estimates by business leaders, and these may admittedly be quite subjective. On the other hand it is interesting that to these leaders high taxes do not seem to be an impediment for investments. The nordic countries have built up infrastructure of a fairly high quality due to a well-functioning public sector. This probably goes a long way towards explaining their high level of competitiveness.

  14. Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard

    @KGW: “Jeg anfægter ikke, at Danmark har haft en gennemsnitlig lavere vækst end USA siden 1960 (men interessant nok har DK og USA haft næsten præcis samme vækst i BNP/capita siden 1950, baseret på tallene fra Penn World Tables: hhv. 320,9% og 321,3%).Opfatter man derimod ‘den danske model’ som den arbejdsmarkedspolitik (flexicurity) og økonomiske politik, der er blevet ført siden 1993, …”Ja, men pointen med at bruge 1960 i denne sammenhæng er, at størstedelen af argumentet går på den offentlige sektors størrelse, og det er post-1960 at USA og Danmark skilles dér–eller rettere: før 1960 havde USA endda en offentlig sektor, der var større end Danmarks. Vil man argumentere for, at det er den offentlige sektor i DK, der gør forskellen (er den uafhængige variabel), er det mest rimeligt at se på udviklingen fra det punkt, hvor den afhængige variabel begynder at være forskellig for de to lande.Tager man iøvrigt 1993 som udgangspunkt er væksten 126 pct. for Danmark og 129 pct. for USA–måske det er “catch up”-effekt … ? ;-)Hvis Cosmic Duck gerne vil anfægte “bogus” størrelser, hvorfor anvender han så overhovedet BNP som velstandsmål?

  15. Niels A Nielsen

    @P. K.-K:”Hvis Cosmic Duck gerne vil anfægte “bogus” størrelser, hvorfor anvender han så overhovedet BNP som velstandsmål?” Man behøver ikke foretage meget mere end kursorisk læsning af hans blog for at få svaret. I sine “TRAVELS FROM GLOBALIZATION VIA COSMOS TO PLACES UNKNOWN”, som han så poetisk kalder sin blog, plukker han blot alt, der støtter hans dagsorden (som nu ikke-pp-justerede BNP-tal), og kalder resten for “bogus”. Hans seneste indlæg har handlet om latterliggørelse af Bush, et forsvar for den koldblodige massemorder, Che Guevara og en besynderlig beskyldning mod undervisningsminister Bertel Haarder for totalitære tendenser. Haarder demonstrerer, ifølge COSMIC DUCK, sine totalitære tendenser ved at kritisere skolebogsforfattere for at agitere for egne meninger, når en af dem stempler Dansk Folkeparti som et nyfascistisk parti, en anden beskriver Bush-regeringen som “en besynderlig kombination af påvirkninger fra det religiøse højre”, og en tredie mener, at “Bushs krig minder om en jihad.”I øvrigt ser “Rumanden” ud til at have et mere end galaktisk kendskab til det danske sprog og samfundsforhold i Danmark i øvrigt.Jeg har en kraftig mistanke om, at manden (eller kvinden) skam er lige så indfødt som de fleste af os andre, der kommenterer her, og jeg udleder denne formodning af, at han/hun ustandseligt på sin blog linker til og refererer fra dansksprogede artikler stammende fra seriøse kilder med højt gennemsnitligt lix-tal. —-Christian Wilster (1827) om tilstandene i København da Ludvig Holberg ankom dertil som ung:”Hver Mand, som med Kløgt gik i Lærdom til Bund, Latin paa Papiret kun malte,Med Fruerne Fransk, og Tydsk med sin Hund, og Dansk med sin Tjener han talte.”

  16. Peden

    AGL:Heller ikke jeg, men gælden trækker vel kun ned i væksten ved tilbagebetalinger. Altså er størrelsen af gælden ligegyldig, det er kun “prisen” det koster at have gælden der har noget at sige.

  17. Poul Højlund

    Midt i den meget lærde diskussion om hvilke tal, der bedst udtrykker systemets materielle produktivitet, undrer det mig en smule, at graden af indkomst- og formuefordeling ikke medtages. Et højt BNP per indbygger eller andre tilsvarende tal, der kan nås under varierede styreformer, kan ikke alene være måltallet for samfundets kvalitet på det økonomiske område. Med risiko for at lyde som en socialdemokrat: Lad os medtage den fordelingspolitiske diskussion også. Hvordan er sammenhængen mellem højt BNP og flad fordeling? Er der i en meget liberal økonomi indbygget en “kapitalens tendens til koncentration”? Der må være masser af ny forskning på området; oplys mig venligst.

  18. Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard

    @Højlund:Spørgsmålet om empirisk sammenhæng mellem økonomisk frihed og fordeling er–mig bekendt–kun behandlet af relativt få. Bl.a. vores faste læser Niclas Berggren (Sverige) i denne artikel:Berggren, Niclas, 1999. ” Economic Freedom and Equality: Friends or Foes?,” Public Choice, Springer, vol. 100(3-4), pages 203-23, September. (Den kan downloades her: )Hans svar på dit spørgsmål er formodentlig: Nej.Der er derimod skrevet meget om de empiriske sammenhænge mellem fordelingsmæssig lighed, velstand og økonomisk vækst. Der synes at være en relativt veletableret, men ikke-lineær, sammenhæng mellem velstand og lighed: Når der sker store velstandsforøgelser, leder det i første omgang oftest til større ulighed; over tid har (og her er man uenige om årsagerne) høj velstand en tendens til at associere med større lighed.Jeg har selv set på sammenhængene mellem lighed og vækst og fundet noget, der minder om Barros resultater, d.v.s., at den sammenhæng som umiddelbart synes at være mellem lighed og vækst, _totalt_ forsvinder, når man kontrollerer for andre faktorer, der normalt tillægges en rolle for at skabe vækst. Noget kunne endda tyde på en svagt negativ sammenhæng mellem de to størrelser. I virkeligheden er der formodentlig tale om, at lighed ikke er en entydig størrelse som uafhængig variabel: Det kommer an på, om den er tilvejebragt gennem omfordeling eller gennem “trickle down”-effekter.

  19. Poul Højlund

    Tak for informationen. [Desværre synes Berggren’s artikel kun at være tilgængelig mod betaling.]

  20. Limagolf

    Det er faktisk et meget godt spørgsmål, det med væksten!Hvis man kører med store underskud på statsbudgettet, vil det øgede offentlige forbrug vel automatisk øge landets GDP?Og tæller indenlandsk gæld med i størrelse af den finansielle sektor i et givent land? Den tæller vel også med i GDP?Bare et par spørgsmål fra en økonomi-mongol!/Limagolf

  21. Lars Andersen

    Off-topic: Hvis man følger JC’s link, kan man finde den oprindelige artikel i British Medical Journal. Og JC’s spørgsmålstegn er velvalgt. Artiklen virker mest af alt som en joke. Jeg kan godt forstå, hvis serøse lykkeforskere synes det er lidt op ad bakke.

  22. Niels A Nielsen

    @Lars AndersenJa, hold da op. Jeg troede British Medical Journal var et seriøst tidsskrift. Åbenbart ikke.Kan det passe, at jeg har set/hørt “resultatet” refereret i medierne som et seriøst videnskabeligt forsøg på at nå frem til en forklaring på danskernes høje grad af tilfredshed med livet?

  23. Mumitrolden

    Tja sådan kan man vel godt stille det op hvis man læser med det ene øje lukket.I det mindste har de en flersidet debat i USA, det kan vi desværre ikke prale af i Danmark.

  24. Niels A Nielsen

    Og “historien” er på forsiden af JP i dag!Det er sandt, at man ikke skal tage sjov udelukkende for sjov, som Storm P påpegede, men det er dog problematisk, når vittigheden tages som videnskab!

  25. Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard

    M.h.t. “Cosmic Duck” og hans/hendes tilbagevende indvending mod, at amerikanernes levestandard er større end danskernes, d.v.s., at købekraftsjusterede beløb (“Purchasing Power Parity”) skulle være “bogus”, så er det da korrekt, at disse udregninger ikke kan siges at være mejslede i marmor; hvilke varer, man fokuserer på, o.s.v., vil givetvis påvirke, hvor store eller små forskellene er. Men det er jo ikke et argument for _ikke_ at forsøge at få de bedst mulige og mest meningsfulde størrelser at sammenligne, vel? Det er da åbenlyst, at hvis man skal sammenligne levestandarden på tværs af lande, så må man dels have et fælles mål (og her er det mest udbredte så USD), og dels at den reelle værdi af den pågældende valuta ikke nødvendigvis kan købe det samme i alle lande, fordi priserne er forskellige. Sammenligner man f.eks. levestandarden i USA med den i DK, tror jeg, at enhver, der har boet i begge lande, har oplevet, at der er forskelle på priserne på de samme/sammenlignelige varer og tjenester. F.eks. er næsten alt, der involverer lokal arbejdskraft, generelt dyrere i DK. I nogle lande vil man kunne overleve for 5 USD pr. dag; i DK og USA vil det ikke engang kunne betale et lille franskbrød hos Emmerys. Skal man ikke tage højde for, at man for en dollar kan købe sig forskellige ting i forskellige lande?

  26. David G.

    Dejligt at amerikanere læser om Kanslergade, skidt at det de læser er løgn, ligesom det er skidt, at de får så mange halve sandheder og subtile forvrængninger serveret som seriøs analyse.Har I forøvrigt set Henrik (Fogh) Rasmussens kølige kommentarer til TNR-artiklen på håber ikke at far statsminister og hans udvandrersøn taler politik, når de snakker i telefon, det kunne føre til alvorlige skænderier.Iøvrigt er jeg sikker på, at hvis TNR-artiklens forfattere eller læsere virkelig blev udsat for danske lønninger, danske afgifter og dansk offentlig service, ville de hurtigt skifte mening, og det med rette.En lille ting blandt mange man kunne tage op: sundhedsvæsenet. Ikke blot er de danske ydelser ringere end de amerikanske, danskerne betaler også mere i brugerbetaling. I USA dækkes 85 pct. af sundhedsudgifterne af forsikringer eller det offentlige. I Danmark betaler vi 21 pct. i brugerbetaling, hovedsagelig fordi optik og tandpleje ikke dækkes og ydermere domineres af karteller, der leverer dårlig service for verdens højeste priser. (Da jeg sidst boede i USA var såvel mine briller som tandbehandling naturligvis omfattet af min forsikring med beskeden brugerbetaling til rest).

  27. RasmusE

    Jeg ville lige kritisere statsministersønnens kølige kommentar:”In addition, Danes tend to have fewer household amenities than Americans. A case in point: my wife and I recently hosted a Danish friend at our home in Virginia. During the clean up after dinner, our guest was astonished by our garbage disposal, having never seen one or even heard of one before in her life.”Det er et vildt gæt, men måske kunne dette forhold hænge sammen med, at sådanne apparater af forskellige årsager slet ikke er tilladt i Danmark eller andre europæiske lande, men det er vel i grunden også et frygteligt brud på ens “frihed”.I øvrigt kunne brugen af Garbage disposals jo også skyldes manglende og dårlige affaldsordninger i staterne. I nogle dele af USA brænder man f. eks. sit private affald af.Udover det kan jeg da kun være enig med dig i, at den ekstreme brugerbetaling på tandbehandling og optik bør afskaffes og overtages af sundhedssystemet 🙂

  28. ML

    Godt spottet!Interessant at læse juniors tanker. Men meget af det virker altså som ting, han har stampet op af jorden. Ikke bare det med affaldssortering, men også det her f.eks.”Anecdotal evidence suggests that the numbers from Germany and Sweden apply to Denmark as well. For instance, Danes rarely go out to eat compared to Americans, and shopping for groceries, clothes and other everyday items requires more time in Denmark due to smaller stores, higher prices, and a lower variety of goods. In addition, Danes tend to spend long hours stuck in public transportation due to the high cost of cars and gasoline. High taxes tend to complicate life and cut into people’s free time in more ways than immediately meet the eye.”.Anecdotal evidence… Hm.

  29. Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard

    Da jeg næppe afslører for meget ved at sige, at jeg har læst manuskriptet til bog med sammenligninger af Danmark og USA, der nævnes, kan jeg også tilføje, at der i den kun er ikke-anekdotiske eksempler.


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