Mom! Bernie Sanders is Forcing Me to Learn About Denmark & Socialism!

On Bernie Sanders’ American Dream in Denmark

Senator Sanders frequently references Denmark, when he speaks of his plans to move toward ideals of Democratic Socialism — as if Denmark is a magical land that America could easily be, if we just take his hand. It’s the land of promise.

My family originally came from Norway, and extended family from Sweden, so I have an affinity for Scandinavia as well… but I am hesitant to jump on board — for what I believe are logical reasons. The first reason was, I needed to brush up on what ‘socialism’ truly meant. The others reasons being, equally basic.

I began gathering these reasons and writing a little story — to put out there, and ask for answers. Of course, it included the differences in our nations’ sizes (Denmark=16,000 sq. miles, America=3,800,000 sq. miles), their vast differences in population (Denmark=5.6 million, America=322 million), and considerations about the way citizens in an enormous, highly populated country like ours, can easily get lost, disconnected, and feel utterly distant from the government, or even other people.

I also made note of our utterly different demographics — as in — Denmark is quite a homogeneous population — basically 90% native Scandinavians, with a long, trusting history together. That is not our people. That is not our history.

Part of the American population descended from humans we captured and enslaved — then freed, of course. But then we denied them equal rights. Then, we gave them full rights, of course. But still, we continue to discriminate against them, in systematic and violent ways. Gosh, I don’t know whyyyyy Americans have trust issues! (And that is just the beginning of what is woven into our many ‘issues’…)

I even wanted to speak to the way Denmark is just quite different, via the way they are handling the refugees from Syria. They are making them turn over their remaining valuables to finance their stay in Denmark. It was only after growing comparisons to the treatment of Jews in the holocaust, and an outcry from activists, that the refugees were able to keep special items like wedding rings.

Sentimentality aside, you can see the practicality of ‘paying in’ to a system you are using, even with your personal items, if that’s all you have. That is a major idea of socialism — that you give a lot to the government and they give a lot back (which is also where trust comes into play). It just doesn’t sound like America — or anything we are close to being.

Anyhow… last night, after the Democratic Town Hall in Las Vegas, after Bernie gave a shoutout to Denmark again, I thought I should start my research back up. That’s when I ran across an article that simply covers everything I have gathered, and everything I was hoping to — and more (which isn’t much, actually — I was just going to share basics). So I am abandoning the story I was formulating, to tell you: if, like me, this is something Bernie Sanders has been making you wonder about, you should start reading about it here (and scroll down to the bottom of my story, below for more links to articles!).

I will warn you — even though the article I’m recommending is the most recent article I have read — published by CNN just a few days ago, it didn’t clear up what Bernie intends, for me. It did further confirm the initial thoughts I was having, and that other people are having them — and that people in Denmark are wondering what he could possibly mean, as well.

The article I am recommending to you, called “Bernie Sanders’ American Dream is in Denmark,” as well as another I read previously, suggested Bernie’s dreamland perhaps was the 1970’s Denmark. The article speaks with Lars Christensen, a Danish economist, about their current system(who remarked, in a funny, dry Danish way, that I’ve noted from many Scandinavians):

“I think this system is only possible because we essentially are all the same,” said Christensen. “Maybe if you wanted to introduce such a scheme in Utah, you could do that. But doing it across the U.S., I find it completely and utterly impossible just for the mere fact that Americans are all so different.”

Utah. Or Vermont? Which is rural, has a population of 625,741 — and the white population is 596,292 — which is 90% — mirroring the kind of homogeneous demographic that Denmark has. I think the people in Vermont, have a lot more in common with one another, than do the people of the United States at large — in many ways. It would be easier to look at the needs and problems of the people of Vermont, and imagine developing a structure of Democratic Socialism that would serve them all, in a fair and decent way.

Anyhow, I still have the same basic questions questions about Bernie’s ideas about what Denmark’s Socialism is, and how and which parts could apply to Democratic Socialism working in America. I still worry he is caught up on an idea he got back in the day, that hasn’t evolved with America’s reality or what has been successful in Denmark. Instead I suspect his idea is more like this cool thing he always wanted to try before he died, that he’s trying to get us to help him with (which — if that is true — make him SUCH an ambitious bucket-lister & crowdfunder).

I never had questions about how a socialist system might have positive effects in a Scandinavian country. I HAVE watched Lilyhammer. I do have less questions about Denmark, now. At least a few less.

Yay, learning!


Want to learn more about Socialism in Denmark — from people wondering what it has to do with our election? Here are a few links:

  1. Try this CNN Money article from October 2015: Actually, Denmark is becoming more like us
  2. Or this, which wrestles with the positive implications vs. bits that don’t fit: Double Edged Denmark
  3. Or this, published in October — like many pieces were, as many first wondered about Bernie and why he was mentioning Denmark: Sorry Bernie Scandinavia is No Socialist Paradise After All

No matter the conclusion the author makes, you can pull the facts for your growing wonderstanding about Scandinavian Socialism!

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