“We are not Denmark,” Hillary Clinton famously declared at the first Democratic primary debate on Oct. 13. But while the remark elicited a combination of laughter and applause from the debate audience, it also raised an interesting question for many Americans: Should we be Denmark?
According to the OCED Better Life Index, the Kingdom of Denmark boasts one of the highest standards of living in the world. It ranks admirably in work-life balance, environmental quality, and education. Universal healthcare—it almost goes without saying—is a right of citizenship, and the Danish parental leave system is among the most generous and flexible in the European Union. This year, Denmark also received the third highest happiness rating in the World Happiness Report, a study that looks at factors like GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, social support systems, and perceived degree of corruption. Last year, it had the single highest happiness rating in the world, period.
Republican thinking dictates that the road to happiness is paved via less government and lower taxes, but Denmark’s not-so-secret secret lies in its extensive government welfare measures and comparably equitable distribution of income. In an age of gross economic inequality, it is perhaps not surprising that some Americans are beginning to look toward the Danish example.