There's much more to Danish contentedness than just being quaint and orderly. It's all built upon a firm cultural foundation. Danish society seems to be a finely tuned social internal-combustion engine in a glass box: Highly taxed, highly connected, and highly regulated, with all the gears properly engaged. Their system is a hybrid that, it seems, has evolved as far as socialism can go without violating the necessary fundamentals of capitalism and democracy. It's socialistic...but, with its unique emphasis on society, it's also social-istic.
What happens when a tune-up is needed? My Danish friends tell me they rely on their government. Rather than doing what's best for corporations, the Danish government clearly looks out for the people's interests. The Danes say, “If our government lets us down, we let ourselves down.”
This strong social ethic permeates the whole of Danish society. A traveler can find it in its raw and indigenous form in the rural corners and small towns — places where anyone is allowed to pick berries and nuts, but “no more than would fit in your hat.”
On a recent visit to a Danish small town, I saw this social ethic in the way a local friend of mine reacted to a controversy. The biggest hotel in his town started renting bikes to compete with Mrs. Hansen's bike rental shop. My friend was disappointed in the hotel manager, saying, “They don't need to do that — bike rental has been Mrs. Hansen's livelihood since she was a little girl.” Of course, there's no law forbidding it. And with our American business ethic, we'd just say that competition is good. But in Denmark, to look out for Mrs. Hansen's little bike rental business was a matter of neighborly decency.
About This Entry
You are reading "Danish "Social-ism"", an entry posted on 18 November 2009 by Rick Steves.