Should you move to Denmark?
This “meme” has been running around the internet.
I had thought before i started researching for this article that McDonald’s workers in the US were paid below the minimum wage, using legislative tricks that McDonald’s who advanced, pretending their food service workers got tips. Turns out this is completely wrong.
US McDonald’s workers make somewhere between $8/hour and $9.15/hour, the latter number is for workers with 5 to 8 years experience. But if the age of our Danish worker is correct, she has not been working at McDonald’s since she was 13, so the lower hourly rate of $8/hour is likely a better comparison number.
So should low wage workers pick up and move to Denmark? Perhaps. It would be foolish to move some place principally because of the disposable income rates, especially if you are working a low end job. And as our libertarian friends are quick to point out, costs are different in Denmark, so our fast food worker is not seeing a real income increase of 260%.
One of the better pro-business critiques points out that consumer prices are 38% higher in Denmark. But even with these higher living costs, it would seem that Denmark has something figured out that the US does not. And as several reviews of this “meme” point out the key difference is labor unions. Denmark has them and the US does not (for fast food workers at least).
Republicans and Libertarians have all manner of bad things to say about labor unions. They stagnate economic growth, the slow business hiring, they increase product prices. But really, unions are one of the very few brakes on the unfettered exploitation by capitalists who nearly universally prefer taking care of shareholders over company workers. And if they don’t, their stock will get dumped and they will go out of business (and yes i know about the miracle of CostCo).
But there are all kind of reasons that one might want to live in the 4 Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway) over the US, including that they are better fulfilling of the “American Dream”. These countries score well above the US in entrepreneurship (including government incubation support), education and happiness (with the Nordic countries taking the top 3 happiest spots and all scoring better than the US according to pro-business Forbes magazine).
But for me part of what made living in the Netherlands so desirable (which is similar to the Nordic countries in it’s deep social welfare net, free education, greater tolerance and fairer income distribution) was not feeling like i was supporting the US war machine. What Republicans and Democrats don’t want to talk about (though, to their credit, the Libertarians do) is the incredible economic drag the US military places on the economy.
The Iraq and Afghan wars have cost the US $6 trillion. That works out to $75K per US household. Perhaps you would have spent that money a different way.