Review of

PragerU Video: Is Denmark Socialist?

Our summary of Otto Brøns-Petersen's argument: Otto Brøns-Petersen asserts that those who like to say Denmark is socialist are wrong. It is, rather, a full-on free market capitalist country. There are no minimum wage laws. Since World War II, Denmark has done well when its taxes were low and poorly when its taxes were high. Denmark today has very high taxes, and its citizens earn 15% less than the average American. Health care and college are provided by the state, but it is incorrect to therefore say they are free, and there are challenges.

Getting to the real Denmark

Elton Högklint Sweden Published 07 Feb 2020

As opposed to the typical PragerU video, “Is Denmark Socialist?” has a correct central premise: Denmark is not socialist. However, Otto Brøns-Petersen, the host for this video, uses this true premise to extrapolate arguments that have nothing to do with that premise, and beyond that there are a number of falsehoods in the video that I will point out.

Denmark

The video starts off with Brøns-Petersen rightly claiming that Denmark is not a socialist country, but then proceeds to say that if it was, it “would have gone ‘Venezuela’ a long time ago”. So Venezuela is the most recent example in the string of “socialism has never worked” arguments, and just like all other strands of that argument, it is completely debunkable. It is very simple to know if a country is socialist. Do the workers democratically control the means of production? If not then it’s not a socialist country. The means of production were never controlled by the workers in Venezuela. Furthermore, the tax revenue to GDP ratio of Venezuela is lower than that of the United States, at 25% and 27.1% respectively. As recently as 2011 Venezuela’s economy was growing more privatized, going from 65% of the economy being in private hands in 1999 to 71% in 2011. Venezuela is not an example of socialism.

After providing a fallacious example of Socialism in the form of Venezuela, Brøns-Petersen focuses on the economy of Denmark. He mentions that there are no minimum wage laws in Denmark; the reason this is brought up is that it is a major part of the platform of progressives in the United States. The fact that there is no minimum wage is true; however, something that is very important to keep in mind is that these videos are designed for an American audience. What this statement sounds like to an American audience is “Minimum wage laws are bad for the economy”. However, in Denmark and other Nordic countries, unions are very powerful. In fact, 70% of wage earners in Denmark are part of a union. In the US, only 10.5% of wage earners are. So if Brøns-Petersen wants to make an honest argument for the Danish wage regulation model, he has to talk about unions.

At this point in the video, Brøns-Petersen decides that it’s time to attach a label to Denmark’s economic system. Now, Denmark’s economic and broader political system is actually a social democracy, which happens to be what the United States progressives are advocating for. Social democracy is characterized by a liberal democratic capitalist economy with heavy economic and social intervention to promote social justice. Some examples of these measures include income redistribution, regulation of the economy in the general interest and social welfare provisions. This definition most adequately describes the political structures of Denmark. However, Brøns-Petersen avoids the term social democracy and instead labels Denmark as a “small capitalist country”, and, while this is true, it does not effectively encompass the key differences between a social democracy and the economy of the US today. And this drastically undersells the platform of USA Progressives.

In the following segment, Brøns-Petersen discusses his interpretation of how Denmark bounced back from World War II. He claims that Denmark bounced back because of “low taxes”. And a source in the form of an Encyclopaedia Britannica article is used to support this claim, and I’ll get to that later. This interpretation severely oversimplifies Denmark’s recovery and misleads the audience. Brøns-Petersen fails to mention that Denmark’s infrastructure was nowhere near as destroyed as other parts of Europe as a result of the war, and therefore they were able to get back on their feet faster than most other countries. In fact, Denmark can be said to have suffered the least of all the European combatants from the war. Denmark also possessed very many important natural resources that were critical for the rebuilding of Europe post-WWII, such as natural gas, petroleum, and stone, so their economy benefited from that too. I also went through the Britannica article they provided to back up their claim that Denmark bounced back due to “low taxes” and the actual content of said article directly contradicts that claim. The Britannica article mentions stringent wage and price freeze programs, an institution of value-added tax, more wage and price regulations, an increase in the payroll tax, measures to curb private consumption and making private borrowing less attractive as ways to recover from the War. This article paints a picture of a strongly regulated post-WWII economy that is far divorced from Brøns-Petersen’s “low taxes” interpretation.

Brøns-Petersen continues his questionable analysis of the Danish economic history by bringing up an economic recession in the 80s and claiming that it was caused by Denmark expanding welfare spending, which was not the case. This economic recession was caused by an international oil glut that harmed many oil-producing regions such as Northern Europe (including Denmark), Northern Asia and even certain oil-producing regions of the United States.

Brøns-Petersen promotes some other dishonesties too, among them claiming that private health insurance is growing in Denmark, despite the fact that the market share for private hospitals went down by 50% between 2008-2017 which raises serious doubts about his claim. Brøns-Petersen also says that the government allowance given to university students in Denmark is impeding their ability to graduate, which is accompanied by an animation of a man sitting at a school desk growing old. This is very misleading, as Brøns-Petersen’s own source for this claim states that the average university “overstay” only lasts about a year which clashes with the depiction of a student growing old behind the desk. Furthermore, this problem is also a shrinking one that the Danish government has made strides towards rectifying and not a damning piece of evidence against government handouts as the video suggests it is.

In summary, Brøns-Petersen has consistently misled and misinformed the audience of this PragerU video in a failed attempt to undercut many of the arguments and suggestions laid forth by the US Progressives. Remember, the progressives of the United States are not arguing for the abolition of capitalism, they are arguing for the implementation of regulation and welfare spending similar to the social democratic model of Scandinavian countries, who are doing great when it comes to the economic wellbeing of their citizens relative to the United States.

Elton Högklint has a politics-focused YouTube channel under the name of “Rose Wrist” which includes a response to this PragerU Video.

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