The Nordic Fairytale

Why Denmark isn’t the utopian fantasy Bernie Sanders describes

It is fantastic in theory, except that, in Denmark, the quality of the free education and health care is substandard: They are way down on the PISA [Programme for International Student Assessment] educational rankings, have the lowest life expectancy in the region, and the highest rates of death from cancer. And there is broad consensus that the economic model of a public sector and welfare state on this scale is unsustainable. The Danes’ dirty secret is that its public sector has been propped up by — now dwindling — oil revenues. In Norway’s case, of course, it’s no secret.

High taxes and lots of private debt

Yes, many economists have specifically warned of the Danes’ private debt levels. Perhaps more seriously, productivity has been somewhat stagnant and there is a dire skills shortage.

“Healthcare in Denmark is universal and all citizens have equal access to it” – it’s just that it’s not very good and those who can afford private healthcare will opt for that. All countries that have ‘universal healthcare’ also have private options for those who wish to have better service and elective procedures, but if universal healthcare were as great as the left insists it is, all these private hospitals would go out of business, but instead they are thriving. An elective procedure is merely a non-emergency surgery which is medically necessary; it’s not for nose jobs. The healthcare Americans take for granted would not be available under a ‘universal’ plan like Sweden or Denmark, or at least you would have to wait a very long time. A hip replacement is not an emergency, so wait times can be months, even years, as documented below:

Görann Persson had to wait eight months during 2003 and 2004 for a hip replacement operation. Persson was not considered to be a very pleasant person to begin with, and he became even grumpier due to the pain he endured while waiting for his operation. As a result, Persson walked with a limp, reportedly used strong pain medication and had to reduce his workload.20

What made Persson unique was not his wait for hip surgery. Despite the government promise that no one should have to wait more than three months for surgery, 60 percent of hip replacement patients waited longer than three months in 2003 (see Figure 2).21 Rather, Persson stood out because he was Prime Minister of Sweden at the time. Persson could surely have used his position in the government to gain access to private care, essentially jumping the waiting list. Yet Persson stated that he planned on waiting for his surgery like everyone else.

And from the OECD

Waiting time of four weeks or more for a specialist appointment:

Waiting time of four months or more for elective surgery:

The Nordic countries have among the longest wait times.

America has the shortest wait times:

An America tops the world in cancer survival rates:

That’s why cancer patients will choose the private plan over the universal plan if they can afford it.

Although the Nordic countries have higher wages, it’s offset by higher costs as evidenced by ‘Big Mac’ index that shows that workers and Denmark and Sweden need to work longer to buy a Big Mac than workers in America:

Although it’s from 2003, it’s still relevant today.

And an update Big mac index:

And a much higher CPI (150> vs. 83):

People on zer0hedge complain about ‘shadow stats’ and other conspiracies yet sing the praises of the Nordic countries, oblivious to the fact those countries have more inflation than America. Or ignore the fact that the Nordic countries have a much higher level of private debt than America:

And from Quora: Why does Norway have the most expensive Big Mac and how is that representative of the economy (in terms of food/beverages) in Scandinavian countries?

Norwegian minimum salaries are very high compared to in most other countries. Most people working at McDonalds will earn in excess of $20/hour, and that’s coupled with strong worker-protections where you for example have paid sick-leave and 12% of the previous years earnings in vacation-money. As a result, the staff of Mcdonalds is probably at least twice as expensive in Norway as it is in most other countries.