Equality in Denmark

As a supporter of equality and feminism, it is interesting to see the Dane’s take on equal opportunity. America is known as the land of the free where everyone has the opportunity to pursue the “American Dream”; actually achieving it is another story. Americans are always fighting for their rights and the idea of being equal. With such disparity in household income in the United States, it’s hard to imagine that equality exists. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe that America is still a land of opportunities. But, when you compare it to the measures Denmark has taken to preserve an egalitarian society, we’re quite lacking.

You can just imagine how much this idea is embedded in the Danish culture when an outsider like me can readily make such an observation within days of living in Copenhagen. What is their secret?

1. Eliminate personal titles, call them by their first name.

“Professor…”

“Please call me by my first name”

In the US, we are taught to formally address someone older or that we are not familiar with  Mr., Miss, Mrs, etc. Why are personal titles considered a polite way to call someone? How can we treat everyone the same, but still being respectful and not rude? Personal titles are creating distinguishments between people, separating them by status. Shouldn’t everyone be treated with respect? If yes, then we wouldn’t need any special treatment to show consideration and make them stick out. Of course once in awhile, additional gestures to those very close and dear to us are appreciated.

2. Factor out money from the equation with high taxes to create a strong welfare beneficial to all.

One of the biggest dividing factors between humans is the social status set by income level. Want a more homogeneous society? Easy. Straighten out the bell curve. Denmark, along with the rest of Scandinavia are known for their notorious taxation. Depending on your income bracket, you can expect up to 60% of your income donated to the state. These numbers should shut all the complaints Americans have on the U.S. tax rates. You’d rarely hear a Dane complain about the high taxes. It’s not that they particularly enjoy losing half their income, but their contribution is going towards the imperturbable welfare system. Citizens are provided with “free” healthcare, education, and flexicurity in the workplace. The unemployment rate in Denmark is competitively low; even if you’re unemployed, expect state aid and counseling for months. Despite how much you earn, everyone alike can enjoy the same benefits from the government. These factors decreases the discussion of comparison if you receive similar treatment in the end.

3. Hire loving and trustworthy politicians.

This is quite a funny one to mention coming from the perspective of an American. Although I’m one of the most politically withdrawn individuals around, even I find it hard to shed such positive light to these public figures. This is where you can see how powerful the word “equality” has its influence here. They love their government and the royal family. The crowned prince participated in the annual Ironman triathlon with everyone else — Casual. The mayor of Copenhagen attends events and walks around without a swarm of armed men making up half the crowd — Trust. Officers from the Parliament would personally pass out flyers and interview locals to support their party — Loving.  It takes a great level of mutual trust for those three observations to be made possible. People believe in the government and politicians would trust that public appearances would not put them in danger. Everyone is equal despite their jobs so there is no security concern.

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The problem arises if you are super wealthy, super intelligent, or maybe super healthy even. If that is the case, you either adopt the egalitarian mentality or adopt a new citizenship elsewhere. Ironically, Denmark is also ranked as one of the world’s most competitive countries. You would assume that “equality” and “competition” would be hard to preserve under  the same society. This paradoxical mix would require some more investigation to comprehend.

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