by Fergus Hodgson
Director of Fiscal Policy Studies
Last week, the founder and CEO of Saxo Bank spoke at UNC-Chapel Hill on the dangers of European socialism, based on his experience with Denmark. He has now migrated to Switzerland, given fears that an exit would grow increasingly difficult as more productive individuals leave and exit taxes rise. The associated article, the basis for his presentation, is “Capitalism or Socialism,” and I was there along with Carolina Liberty PAC, which covered the event. Although the visual quality is poor, you can watch excerpts of the presentation below.
As Lars Christensen spoke, the stories just kept on coming, from a 200 percent tax on automobiles — yes, you better believe it — to the world’s “leader” in wind energy getting just two percent of its energy needs from wind power. Christensen joked that the United States is now following suit and has become Denmark’s best customer when it comes to wind farms.
Perhaps the most fascinating insight, though, was regarding the immense generosity and redistributive power of the Danish welfare state. Two politicians engaged in a bet over whether there were poor people in in Denmark who needed more generous transfer payments. This “poverty” stunt backfired big-time, since the poorest person the one politician could find in the entire country was a woman who received the equivalent of between $2,600 and $2,700 per month as a government allowance. After all expenses, including cigarettes, television and internet subscriptions, veterinarian bills, and specialist soccer coaching for one of her sons, she still managed to save $900 each month! Naturally, this did not amuse working people who were struggling to make ends meet.
Christensen pleaded with Americans to preserve whatever respect for free enterprise remains here. Once it is lost and a majority of people are beneficiaries of government largesse, he said, reclaiming it is so difficult as to be perhaps impossible without systemic failure and default.
For further discussion of what happens after an extended period of welfare state policies, please see my article, “The Dark Side of the Welfare State,” published with The Future of Freedom Foundation. This includes input from Sven Larson, a Swedish expatriate who now lives in Wyoming and who authored Remaking America: Welcome to the Dark Side of the Welfare State.