Hank Pellissier, Ethical Technology
Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies
26 March 2011
The miniscule Scandinavian nation is a world leader in multiple best-nation categories. But is it a role model for technoprogressives?
The fevered goals of the Enlightenment are still hot today in the cold, flat, windy peninsula and archipelago of 400 islands that contains fewer inhabitants than Maryland. Once the base camp of ravaging Vikings, Denmark is now the world leader in multiple harmonious categories.
EXTRACT: To summarize … here’s a rundown on the Danish dynamo:
#1 Happiness .. #1 Most Democratic .. #1 Most Egalitarian .. #1 Least Corrupt .. #1 Press Freedom .. #1 Engineering .. #1 Best Country for Business .. #1 Best Country for Entrepreneurs .. #1 Clean Technology / Sustainable Development .. #3 Fewest Prisoners Per Capita .. #3 Most Charitable .. #5 Per Capita Income .. #7 Women’s Equality .. #7 Peace
Below the Line: the meat vis a vis the USA contrast. Reliable authorities from Denmark have informed us that this is half-fairy tale and half-real, but certainly a model to aspire to for all.
Hank: I have heard that Danish wages are near-equal for most occupations. Can you provide some information regarding this?
Joern: It is true, we are the most equal in the world in terms of income. For example, a doctor at a public hospital makes less than $70,000/year (starting wages) and a garbage collector—or, to use the politically-correct term, “Renovation Technician”—also earns $70,000 on average. In Denmark, the income for the 10% richest is only five times higher than the 10% at the other end of the scale, whereas in the USA the difference is 16 times higher.
Hank: Do you think having wage equity results in numerous benefits for society?
Joern: Yes. In a book titled The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, the authors found a strong connection between income disparity and social-and-health problems. Mental illness is five times higher, risk of ending up in jail the same, risk of getting murdered is many times higher, there are more drop-outs from school, number of teenage-mothers is higher, number of drug-addicts is higher, violence is more severe, social mobility is low, etc. etc. A large number of statistics consistently show that the USA, England, and Portugal do poorly in all of these areas, compared to Japan and the Scandinavian countries. In addition, the authors claim that the same is true when you compare the USA state-by-state.
Hank: How would you change the United States, to make it more egalitarian like Denmark?
Joern: First and foremost: a change of mentality—coming to terms with outdated models of who works and who cares for families. Then I would mandate, for starters: public childcare, higher minimum wage, more equal pay, more flexible work schedules for families, and redesigned family and medical work leave.