Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Happiest Place on Earth

No, that isn't it. According to a 60 Minutes story from last week, it's actually Denmark. I missed the telecast, but heard some people discussing it on the radio. I've never actually been to Denmark, but there are some things about it that make it sound downright attractive. They don't have the best weather, but they don't have a lot of violence or murder either. And education is a little different too:

All education is free in Denmark, right on through university. And students can take as long as they like to complete their studies.

So that PhD may not be so costly after all. A German friend of mine, an MD, told me his education cost about 50 bucks out of pocket, and that his father was actually required to pay it. Compare that to Denmark, where it would have been free. Or compare it to the United States, where it would have represented hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Denmark also provides free health care, subsidized child care and elder care, a social safety net spread the length and breadth of the country.

There's something to be said for not having to worry about those things. A lot of Americans I know are scrambling to keep up with their credit card bills, and haven't got time to even consider caring for their children, let alone preparing for their old age. That's gotta be stressful. I suppose there's always the hope that they may discover the next Microsoft, or strike it rich in the lottery, but things like that don't happen to just everyone.

These benefits are not actually free, of course. The Danes pay 50% of their income toward taxes. Between income taxes, social security taxes, sales taxes, school taxes, town taxes, village taxes, and those weird charges on the phone bill and elsewhere, I'm pretty sure we pay that much too.

So why on earth aren't we demanding similar services? And even if we had to pay a few points more, wouldn't they be worth it?
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