Part 8: Is Denmark a socialist country?

Part 8: Is Denmark a socialist country?

As part of our long running series, inspired by a social media propaganda poster, we have disassembled numerous false claims about Denmark. Nearly everything in this social media propaganda poster is not true:

A related issue has been the suggestion that Denmark is the happiest nation because it is a socialist country.

As we have documented, Denmark’s “happiest nation” status is highly questionable.

Further, Denmark is not a socialist country. Who says that? The Prime Minister of Denmark.

“I know that some people in the US associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism. Therefore I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy,” [Prime Minister] Rasmussen said.

“The Nordic model is an expanded welfare state which provides a high level of security for its citizens, but it is also a successful market economy with much freedom to pursue your dreams and live your life as you wish,” he added.

In fact, none of the Scandinavian countries, often pointed to as ‘”socialism” done right’ are socialist. The Prime Minister went on to explain an important difference between Denmark and the U.S.:

“So, what is the catch you might ask. The most obvious one, of course, is the high taxes. The top income tax in Denmark is almost 60 percent. We have a 25 percent sales tax and on cars the incise duties are up to 180 percent. In total, Danish taxes come to almost half of our national income compared to around 25 percent in the US. Quite a substantial difference,” he said.

This is true for all of Scandinavia – none of the alleged socialist countries in Scandinavia are socialist countries. Read this column specifically about Sweden’s capitalistic welfare state. Yet this continues to be a popular meme – that the U.S. should adopt Scandinavian socialism. (Or this in 2019: “Sorry AOC, Sanders: Scandanavia is no socialist paradise”. See also this report from J.P. Morgan Chase.)

The “Denmark is the happiest nation” meme is an example of extraordinarily successful propaganda. The meme relies on:

  • Asserting something to be true (even though it is not); Lies. The meme designers know this is not true but also know that people will believe what they want to believe and will not do a fact check.
  • A logical fallacy of confusing the extended welfare state (typical of Denmark) with socialism.
  • A “Get on the bandwagon” approach as some candidates persuade others that socialism is the future and you’d best sign up today.
  • Sometimes relying on appeal to authority, notably quoting a prominent politician.
  • Sometimes wrapped in virtue signaling in the form “we (you) help disadvantaged people through socialism”

This meme continues in 2018-2019 in the U.S. as this is a biannual Congressional election year and a handful of candidates receiving much publicity are pushing socialism (albeit, without defining what they mean).

The assertions are accepted by many as true in spite of evidence to the contrary. As with most propaganda, the messages target your fast acting, emotional response. Countering such propaganda requires Kahneman’s System 2’s rational, time consuming, analytical engagement. Consequently, many find it easy to accept a belief in unicorns, because if you believe in unicorns, then unicorns must be real.

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