Oprah On Copenhagen

Today I happened to catch the first part of the Oprah Winfrey Show.  No, I did not choose to watch Oprah, it was on in the same room as myself.  Anyway, Oprah hosted a show on various countries and Denmark was one of those countries, specifically Copenhagen.  She must have filmed it while she was there to promote the Olympics.  She did mention that things did not go well in the case of the Olympics.  I laughed out loud.

The main focus was that Denmark is considered by researchers to have the most happy population on earth.  The idea seems to be that the people are taken care of by the government, so they have nothing to worry about.  Oprah interviewed a woman who explained that if she loses her job, the government will help her find a new one and pay her up to four years of unemployment insurance.  University education is not only provided for free, but students are paid to attend school.  People pick their occupations based on interest rather than the amount of money they will earn because everybody earns equal pay.  Healthcare is free as well.  The woman gave a tour of her home that was cramped.  Three children share one room.  Marriage is no big deal in Denmark and so there is no pressure there.  Several Danish women told Oprah that they do not believe in any Higher Power and that most Danes have the same lack of belief.

As a freedom-loving American, i found myself wondering how anyone could be happy under a socialistic rule like this where everyone is treated as an equal even when equal effort is not given.  How can one be happy when they have no way to measure success?  How can one be happy when they are not rewarded according to effort?  The Danish women maintained that they lived under a Democracy and not socialism.  I clear example of how wonderful their free education has been.  It is not until halfway through the interview that the woman being interviewed admits that taxes are 50%.  Some free healthcare and education, eh?  This is the way all of these countries work.  They claim to get services for free even though they are paying immense taxes.  The Danish woman claimed that she did not mind the 50% in taxes.  I certainly would not be happy paying half of my hard earned money to the government.

I would be interested in knowing who exactly are the researchers that came up with the result that the Danes are the most happy.  I bet they were from Berkley or perhaps Columbia University.


20 responses to “Oprah On Copenhagen

  1. interesting… reminds me of a German pen pal I had years ago who lived in an area that was formerly communist and at this point in time was regrouping after a few years of no Berlin Wall…she told me that actually life was MUCH better under communist rule because at least everyone had somewhere to live and something to eat. this sounds similar…

  2. Instead of wanting to know who made the studies, you could find out.
    a British researcher in 2006, his study is ongoing http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/5224306.stm
    A group of researchers from around the world
    The happiness thing has nothing to do with the amount of government involvement since neighboring Sweden and Norway rank somewhat further down. It has to do with lower expectations. At least according to a Danish study.
    The US population is not unhappy, it is quite far up the list.
    Tax or insurance payments, the Danish way is mandatory payment according to income, the US way is based on choice. To each his own I suppose.
    And no it is not socialism in Denmark, the corporate environment is very beneficial, with lower corporate tax than in the US, plenty of libertarian economists will praise that while of course berating the wellfare state. But some parts of the economy have been socialized. Again, it works for us, it might not for you.

  3. I am a danish woman. I have been with my boyfriend for 13 years, and we live togehter in 92 square meters. I do not believe in any higher power.

    When employed I pay 41% of my salary in taxes, happily! I believe that this money will be spend on MY education, MY health and some day MY children.
    In the mean time, the money can help the old lady down the street, when she trips on the street, and need medical care tomorrow.

    These days I can’t work due to illness, but my life does not change much, I still recieve about 10.000 dkkr (after taxes) every month, which means that I can concentrate on getting better, so that I can return to my job as soon as possible. Would you not wish for your loved ones to have such a luxury?

    This however does not mean that everyone is treated as equals. As in America, you create your own succes in Denmark.
    But our succes is not measured by having a better health than others, we want everyone to be healthy, it is not measured by your parents being able to pay for your education, etc.

    The basic needs of the Danes are being met, so that all of us can concentrate on our own personal succes. Some define succes as a happy family life, some by earning money, some by being fit..

    So what makes us happy is that we can afford to take chances in creating our personal succes. If we fail, our safetynet will help us back up, and we can try again.

    But if you meassure your succes on having a better health than the guy sitting next to you, I can see why you would have a problem living in Denmark. Even though we are not a country of believers, we do live by the rule “love your neighbor as you love yourself”.

    Finally I apologize for my poor english, it is a product of our free education. How is your Danish?

  4. My general impression is that when most Americans read the word Socialism they jump right on to Communism/Marxism, so when you use the word “socialistic” about Denmark you give people the wrong impression. There has never been a communist political party of significance in Denmark. We have parties/governments much concerned with social issues, yes, but that’s hardly the same thing.
    The most influential political party in Denmark during the 20th century is called the Social Democrats, which I think is quite descriptive of our political history.

    And of course our ‘free’ services are paid for through our taxes. Where else would the money come from? What the woman said is true. Most Danes don’t mind paying high taxes for a very simple reason; we feel we get something for our money.
    You say you wouldn’t want to pay half your hard earned money to the government. Fair enough. But that’s another area where Denmark is very different from America. Denmark is the country in the world where the population has the highest degree of trust in their politicians. I guess it’s partly a result of Denmark being a small country (Compared to America more than 200 times smaller in size and more than 50 times smaller in population); we simply don’t feel as disconnected to our politicians as Americans seem to. We feel they have a genuine interest in our wellfare and will use our money if not always correctly at least conscientiously.

    Happiness is of course a subjective thing, hard to measure. But survey after survey in the last 30 years made by organizations and universities from many different countries continuously place Denmark at the top. I guess it must either be true or Danes are continuously deluded about their own happiness.

  5. Being a Dane, but having lived and worked 12 years in the states (and now back in Denmark) – I can compare. Denmark is NOT a socialist country by any means. You can get ahead – and many do – in Denmark same as in the US. However, a “high” progressive tax rate – and on the other end a well established healthcare system, education and social benefits (much dependant on private business providers – incl. doctors) avoid the extremes. So no really, really poor people – but also no exuberant rich people either (bonus payouts like the ones in the US are unheard of)… The benefit of it all: Quality of life. Danes are not looking down into an abyss should they lose their job or become ill. And that allows them to focus more on family and friends – but not least, more focus on their interests. Entrepreneurial spirit therefore lives high in Denmark. Having the bases taken care of allows you to “dare” in business – and Danish business is the fundamental source for one of the highest per capital income in the world. No socialist laziness there. Also, broad social benefits let companies adjust much faster to the economic environment by letting people go when necessary – and thereby be more agile – a fact often overlooked, when trying to portray social benefits as socialism. Socialism lowers the water for all boats, so they end up lying in the sand. A capitalistic “Flexicurity” system like the Danish lifts the watermark for all boats – big and small!

  6. I thank the Danes for all their comments and am happy that they appreciate their country so much – I would expect nothing less. However, I believe their answers are indicitive of what it is like to live under this kind of government your entire life. When one never knows true freedom, they cannot appreciate that I want the freedom to choose to pay for my education and even to go to college. I like the freedom of choosing my doctor and medical procedures. I like the idea that I can become filthy rich if I choose to and work hard for it. And I agree that socialism does not equate to Communism, it just is the forerunner to Communism.

  7. How did you figure Jens has lived his entire life under that government when he clearly states he’s been working in the US for 12 years…
    Further about choice, it’s not like the government decides which education to take or which medical procedure to go with. You can even choose your doctor from a long list.
    Danes can become filthy rich as well (how filthy is filthy to you?), although some will choose to move to another EU country, to avoid the taxes. That’s their choice.
    And in case you missed it, it is not socialism, it is still capitalism, just with a different take on the government’s role, if you suddenly want to write off Western Europe as socialist countries, you at the same time say that socialism works just fine, I would have to disagree on that then.
    You don’t have to like our way, and there are certainly ups and downs about it, but to say it’s because we’ve never tried anything else is just ignorant.

  8. Diane, love your spunk and the way you stick to your guns. But having lived 12 years, almost half my adult life in the US, I think I can honestly say I know what freedom is like in the US. And let there be no mistake: it’s great!!! – I love and adore your country, its people, nature and a thousand and more things about it. But when it comes to freedom, and the ability to truly choose after your hearts desires, how and what you want to spend your time on and more – despite the great freedom you enjoy in the US compared to so many other countries – it’s my honest belief that Danes are freer. That also goes for choosing your own doctors and the like – show me your insurance health plan, and I’ll show you mine – also provided by private providers. The misconception many seem to have, is that Denmark is a socialist country. It is not, or if you still think, pls. define socialism!

  9. In fact we do have rich people in Denmark, and people are not as equal as some seem to think… ask someone on social welfare and you might get a different picture… It’s true though that people in most cases get help from the state when they lose their jobs, are ill etc…. When it comes to the tax-system it’s much more complex than most people mention, and when you consider tax-reductions for all kinds of things eg. pension savings, commuting, interests etc. etc. most people end up paying quite a lot less than the % stated in their tax-papers… We do have a good social-system here, where everyone can get an education, get free healthcare, and where the state helps you to have a descent living when you are unemployed or ill and need the help, but only people who have never been at the low end of the income will say that we are all the same. BTW dsgawrsh, more and more Danes are becoming rich, but admitted it’s much harder to become Oprah rich in a country like Denmark, mostly because it’s a rather small country 😉 and socialism is not the forerunner to Communism, the Scandinavian social system has nothing to do with communism, and considering half of my family being from an ex-communistic eastern European country I know the difference between living in a socialistic and communistic country…. I can understand that from an American point of view the Danish way of living might seem close to communism, but remember everything is not as it seems, and as stated above, we might take care of each other, we might all have a descent living, but there is still quite a difference between the rich, the middle-class and the people on eg. social-welfare… It does pay of to work hard, and earn money, and that’s the way it should be, if not progress would stop and we would not get anything done…

  10. The top 1% of the US population controls more than 60% of its wealth, while the bottom 90% have 15%. Is that freedom? Joe average is at the mercy of Mr. 1% and the chances of Joe’s kids getting to the top are minuscule because education is too expensive, Joe has no connections, etc. The wealth discrepancy is basically neo-feudalism where a few mega billionaires control basically everything. In the past feudalism, not socialism, is what lead to public revolt and then to communism or fascism.

    The people in Denmark may pay higher taxes but have more freedom and far less crime. Danish billionaires may be few but many people are still quite well to do, it’s not like everyone earns the same amount of money. Children in poorer families have a much better chance of moving up because of the education system.

    The USA: a country where the government can wiretap anyone, monitor all credit transactions, detain people forever without warrant, start offensive war strikes without senate approval (I could go on); is not a “true freedom” country.

  11. The definition of socialism: refers to various theories of economic organization advocating public or direct worker ownership and administration of the means of production and allocation of resources, and a society characterized by equal access to resources for all individuals with a method of compensation based on the amount of labor expended. This sounds much like what the Danes were talking about. But obviously, the Danes believe that they do not live under socialism and I can respect that. And as for the way America is now, I can believe that Danes very well could be freer than us with the countless laws and regulations we live under and we watch our freedoms get stripped more every day. But as our Republic was initially founded – we were the freest nation ever on planet Earth.

    I think I need to take a trip to Denmark. 🙂

  12. Tx Diane, for your considerate reply. I was afraid this was turning into a “my country is better than your country” debate – which is really not interesting, as we all love our respective countries (I happen to love both) – so we wouldn’t learn anything new… And following your definition of socialism, we can put that question aside. Denmark is not socialistic by any stretch of the imagination – nor the definition of socialism put forward.

    What’s interesting to discuss, is WHY/IF there seem to be a difference in the level of happiness. I believe, as I think you would, that IF we could agree on some measure for happiness – and IF it turned out that Danes were happier according to that measurement – it would be BECAUSE of FREEDOM – and the very ideas you yourself promote on your site.

    The real big difference between our two capitalistic systems is that Danes, using a progressive tax system – builds a higher base (in terms of health, education etc.) from which all people in the population can start building on their individual dreams and desires. But no one is forced to be stay even close to that base level – as they would in a socialistic system.

    Much to Zach’s point. If you start from a base of being able to get educated according to desire and ability (as in the US, you can flunk examinations in Denmark as well) – no worries about health plans – and a minimum wage of 20.50 dollar (touch luck – you have to pay 45% back at that earnings level for your part of the base – so you are “only” left with 11.25… – and people with education typically commands a higher salary) – and can then go work and compete in a field of your choice – the chance of more people creating wealth for themselves and society as a whole is just much higher.

    This is not socialism – this is elevated freedom. And it shows through in a number of ways, of which a few are:

    – Much higher per capita income
    – Higher freedom of the press http://www.rsf.org/en-classement1003-2009.html
    – Sexual freedom (no “beeps” or “black bars” on any television shows here) – and sexual orientation is a non issue.
    – Practically no lonely teenage mothers

    And just for fun:

    Freedom to express alternative ideas and get noted – see Danish Bjorn Lomborg debunk the myth created by people like Al Gore – that preventing global warming is the number one issue for humanity to deal with right now:

    And the last point: Danes feel so strongly about their freedom, that they are among the very few countries fighting (and dying) along side Americans in Afghanistan – in the fight for freedom.

    Yes, you should go visit Denmark! – but wait until summertime 🙂

  13. As you pointed out, dsgawrsh, the main focus of that segment of Oprah Winfrey’s show was to compare the happiness of people in various countries. It seems much was made of how content the people of Denmark are with their lives there under their Socialistisk Folkeparti government. It certainly seems pointless for one to say they are not socialist when their government operates under the auspices of a political party with such a name. In fact, it was founded by the former leader of the Communist Party of Denmark as he combined aspects of western social democracy with socialism. It seems he succeeded. I have no problem with it. If it makes the Danes happy then it makes me happy – just don’t try to force me to live that way if I don’t want to. I’m an individualist to the core. It makes me happy.

    It seems to me that the real focus of the show was to illustrate how much happier we here in the United States would be if we lived under the same form of government under which the Danes pay approximately almost 50% of their earnings to the government to support their nanny state. This was an obvious effort of Ms. Winfrey to use her celebrity status to help out her Chicago buddies, Barack and Michelle, in accomplishing their agenda of fundamental change (radical undermining of the US Constituion) and further assault on the freedom and liberty that most Americans would prefer to keep.

    I do not fault the people of Denmark for being content with things as they are there. I am certain that Denmark is a wonderful country. I’ve spent several years living and working in Europe and still visit there every couple of years for thirty days at a time. However, most of my time spent in Europe has been among their cousins to the south in Germany. Also a wonderful country but not as nice as it once was for reasons I’ll not go into here.

    It would be a mistake for anyone to conclude as a result of Winfrey’s interviews that the Danes are happier because they have free health care, free post-secondary education and other free services provided by the government. First of all, it certainly isn’t free at all. It is still quite expensive and they collectively pay for it with almost half of what they earn . Such government programs, if implemented here, will not be free at all and definitely will result in rising taxes and new forms of taxation, contrary to the false claims and promises of Pretendent Obama and his Chicago-style socialist mobster cronies. Secondly, the main reason most Danes seem to be very happy and content is because they still have many freedoms of choice in how they live their lives. The problem with the comparison is that it is very incomplete.

    Comparing Denmark to the United States in such a way is as misleading as comparing apples to…to a package of lurpak. It’s ridiculous.

    My Danish is certainly not as good as my German but I would still like to say to all our friends in Denmark – Hilsener hen til al af den Ozark Bjerget! Not sure how that came out but greetings just the same.

  14. Great points John and that was my main point – Oprah worships Obama and is willing to do whatever Obama wants and so pushing socialism as a great new development for America was indeed her goal with this program.

  15. Agree with John – except one fact: Oprah got it all wrong in terms of who is in Government in Denmark. “Socialistisk Folkeparti” has never been – and hopefully never will be – in government!!!! The Danish government is formed by two rightwinged parties: The “Conservatives” and the “Liberal” – the last name of cause confusing the heck out of any political discussion between Americans and Danes (and that’s maybe why Oprah got it wrong)… So Oprah was, probably against her own understanding, promoting a country run by soulmates to the Republicans in the US…. (kind of funny when you come to think of it)…

  16. Sorry John, you are wrong, we do not have a Socialistisk Folkeparti leaded government, not that I would mind as I vote for them myself… The leaders of our Government is Venstre (left) who is in fact placed on the right side of the political scale, Konservative (The Conservative People’s Party) , and they base their power on Dansk Folkeparti (The Danish peoples party)… It’s been 8 years since we had a government leaded by the socialistic democrats… I agree with 99% of the Socialistisk Folkepartis politics, but they have had no power for ages, so you are misinterpreting things quite a lot….

  17. oops. I guess you got me on that one. I’ll admit that trying to keep up with the names of just some of the political parties over in Europe does confuse me. A learning point for me. I’ll try to do better next time.

  18. pmh, another dane

    “How can one be happy when they have no way to measure success? How can one be happy when they are not rewarded according to effort?”

    Free Wing, you are so far from true happiness if you think that happiness comes from other people messuring, judging, rewarding and punishing you.

    Happiness is not about money, it’s about appreciating all good, like friendship, kindness, the joy of sharing your wealth, beautiful nature, sunset – every day fresh created and for free!

  19. I also saw what Oprah had to say on Happy Danes. Personally I visit Denmark at least once a year. The situation in the Netherlands (where I live) is not so different from Denmark. I pay up to 52% incom-tax and I am happy about that. I lived without the fear of getting poor and not being able to pay the rent or buy new clothes. I could study at university (Laws) for free. I have acces to all the healtcare and I need can choose my own GP. I drive bicycle most of the time although I have a car. I live in a small house; 62 m2. Less space, less things, more life. It could have been me who said that. I listen live-jazz or go to a classical concert once a week. I visit art-galleries or museums at least once a month. 2 x 3 weeks a year I travel around in Europe, in Scandinavia in summer and in the south of Europe in Spring or in Autumn. I love to be in Berlin so now and then. I am one of those 85% Dutchmen who consider themselves to be (very) happy, but still the Danes beat us!

  20. I am afraid of socialism; however, after watching Oprah on Happy Danes it has left me with a sense of curiosity. I love capitalism! But I hate that we work hard and long for what we accomplish. I miss spending time with family and years go by before seeing and being able to spend time with them. By the time I make it to a wedding or a family gathering I am looking at my watch because I’m tired and want to go home. More money equals more arrogance, jealousy, and greed. I live a comfortable life and want for nothing; however, I feel a sense of sadness to see family members around me struggeling to get ahead, getting older without health insurance and/or without a retirement plan. The only thing that eases my heart is that we are instructed to put our trust in God and not in man or (government). It’s no wonder why God says that money is the root of all evil.

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