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Ethnic homogeneity isn't the only reason comparing the US to Denmark doesn't make much sense, it's also due to population. Denmark is a tiny country with a population of 5.7 million people. That's about the population of Wisconsin.

The United States is a federation of self-governing states within which there are open borders and free trade...just like the European Union. The United States has a population of 320 million people, while the EU has a population of a similar order of magnitude: around 500 million. To many voters, the idea of enacting broad social welfare programs in the United States sounds just as infeasible as enacting similar programs in the whole European Union. California is different from Ohio, both of which are different from Georgia.

If we want to use Denmark and the Nordic countries as examples for our policies, we should move towards the republican (small r) idea of decentralization so that the states can enact such systems. Today, I pay roughly 30% of my income in taxes to the federal government, and 10% of my income in taxes to the state government. This should be the other way around - 10% to the Federal government and maybe 30% to my state. Maybe Wisconsin can have a single payer healthcare system, California can have a universal multi-payer system (like Germany), and Texas can have a universal multi-payer system like that in Switzerland.

TL;DR - We could be more like the European Union.




Great comment. I will also add that the U.S.'s most Denmark-like places, California and New York, are also losing population relative to the least Denmark-like places, like Texas: http://time.com/80005/why-texas-is-our-future/. (There is a longer elaboration on this idea in Average is Over: https://jakeseliger.com/2013/09/13/thoughts-on-tyler-cowens-...) This is another story on or near the front page of HN at the moment: http://www.wsj.com/articles/uncomfortable-truths-behind-cali....

If most Americans are moving towards un-Denmark-like places and voting for un-Denmark-like politicians, I'm not sure how we are likely to be more like Denmark.

Still, I will say that the U.S. has important things the EU doesn't: Everyone speaks English and everyone identifies as "American" before they identify as "Texan" or "Seattlite." A common language goes a long way to creating solidarity among people.

EDIT: Let me add that I live in a Denmark-like place and am not in this comment trying to make a value judgment about one set of policies over another; I am trying to point out some factors that may be more revealing than personal preference, anecdote, or other virtue-signaling efforts.


>If most Americans are moving towards un-Denmark-like places and voting for un-Denmark-like politicians, I'm not sure how we are likely to be more like Denmark.

Are the Americans moving from California / New York ones moving from metro areas like LA, SF, and NYC to other metro areas? I've thought that's usually the case and really doesn't have any impact on the red, rural areas. It's not blue state v red state, it's metro v urban (or gerrymandered red v gerrymandered blue).


Agree with you otherwise, but

Still, I will say that the U.S. has important things the EU doesn't: Everyone speaks English and everyone identifies as "American" before they identify as "Texan" or "Seattlite."

Neither is true. That example is probably opposite of your intended meaning.

edit: for downvoters, what is so wrong with this statement? You can find hundreds of thousands of people within the country that don't speak English.You couldn't make that second statement if you grew up in Texas.

That's all I'm saying. Wish people would engage instead of silently downvoting.


bhups, I don't think you've thought about the implications of this:

"The United States is a federation of self-governing states within which there are open borders and free trade"

The point is, it is rather easy for a wealthy person to move to a low tax state. I've known several retired people who picked a particular state as their new home, once they had retired. And corporations do this all the time -- they move from one state to another so they can be in the state where they can pay the least in taxes. This limits our ability in the USA to impose the taxes necessary for a healthy set of social safety programs. Let's think about this as engineers -- if we see a system of pipes, and there is a leak in one of the pipes, what would we do? In the short term, we would plug that leak. In the long-term, we would ask "Can this system be streamlined so there are less pipes, and therefore less things that can leak?" That line of reasoning has lead me to conclude that we should amend the Constitution in the USA, abolishing all local and state governments, and concentrating all power in the national government. That would allow the government to impose the taxes necessary to give the country the kind of broad social programs that European countries already enjoy.


It's rather easy for a wealthy person in the EU to move to a low tax country as well! Switzerland has one of the lowest income taxes in the developed world, yet most of the wealthy people in Europe don't live there. Wealthy people will choose to go wherever it's most beneficial for the industries that they participate in. London still has a booming economy despite its relatively high tax rate. In fact, post-Brexit, there's speculation that industries will choose to leave London in favor of cities like Paris, Amsterdam, or Berlin to be able to participate in the European common market.

Retirees can definitely choose to move to whatever state they want, but they've never been the contributors to social security programs, they've always been the beneficiaries.

The system that I've proposed seems to be working quite well in the EU. Perhaps provide a counter-example to support your assertion that the opposite is true?

EDIT: and I agree with you - let's think about this as engineers. As an engineer, I would approach this problem using divide-and-conquer: by breaking down the problem into multiple sub-problems (i.e. at the state level) of the same or related type, until they become simple enough to be solved directly. We have come to learn that monoliths do not scale, and we have to scale horizontally.


"It's rather easy for a wealthy person in the EU to move to a low tax country as well! "

This is exactly why many people in the EU argued for a closer union, to harmonize taxes and thus avoid the kind of tax evasion that you mention.

I don't know what to do with this:

"The system that I've proposed seems to be working quite well in the EU."

By what possible stretch of the imagination is the system working well in the EU? The EU has been on the brink of breaking apart since 2008, and Britain just voted to leave the EU this summer. The EU is even more federated than the USA, and they have suffered even more problems with federation. Both the USA and the EU must eventually move toward consolidated governments.


"By what possible stretch of the imagination is the system working well in the EU? The EU has been on the brink of breaking apart since 2008, and Britain just voted to leave the EU this summer. The EU is even more federated than the USA, and they have suffered even more problems with federation. Both the USA and the EU must eventually move toward consolidated governments."

I would argue exactly the opposite. The primary criticism that member nations have of the EU is that there are too many regulations imposed at the EU-level. This was the non-xenophobic argument in favor of Brexit.

By enacting what you would propose: total control at the federal level, we would move closer to such an unpopular reality.


"total control at the federal level, we would move closer to such an unpopular reality."

Surely that isn't true? If we abolish all local and regional regulations, then there is an absolute reduction of regulations. Many of the criticisms that I've read have been about the conflict between regional and EU directives. For instance, regulations regarding milk and cheese, in Wales, regulations that had been in place for centuries, and which came into conflict with the EU directives. Those kinds of problems go away if you simply abolish all the local and regional directives and consolidate things at the top level.

To put this in engineering terms, I've often been part of the debate regarding where Exceptions should be handled in software. Some programmers feel that Exceptions should be handled as close to the source of the problem as possible. Others argue that it's idiocy to allow Exceptions handling code to be scattered throughout the code base, and therefore its best to consolidate error handling at a single top level. Depending on the project, I've been on both sides of that debate, but I've never argued that the decentralized approach lead to less code. The consolidated approach certainly involves less code.

Also, I'll point out the "we keep local control" is the most illusionary of the claims made by those opposed to the EU. Consider the case in England. As long as England has trade with the continent, then England will face long-term pressure to harmonize it's economy with its major trading partners. Look at what's happened over the last 200 years. All of Britain eventually accepted the metric system, even though it was developed in Revolutionary France, who Britain fought against. Leaving the EU doesn't save England from the pressure to harmonize its economy with the EU, it only undermines England's negotiating position.


"If we abolish all local and regional regulations, then there is an absolute reduction of regulations. "

You seem to make the implicit assumption that federal regulations are somehow better than the same amount of state-level regulations. This simply isn't the case. Today, New York has to participate in the same polity as Florida, and it is for that reason that it does not have a single payer system, despite its citizens being in favor of it. This is unsurprising because you can't create one-size-fits-all solutions for all of our states given how different they and their economies are.

Instead, if we allow them to chart their own path, we can allow them to fail (or succeed) fast. The alternative is the limbo state we are in where nobody is moving forward (or backward) and nobody is happy.

To continue the engineering analogy, this is a divide-and-conquer problem. Denmark and the Nordic countries were able to successfully implement their social systems because they are small, well contained countries. By allowing US states to implement their own systems, we set them up for the same kind of success.


I try to limit how much I write on sites other than my weblog, so I wrote a reply and posted it to my weblog:

http://www.smashcompany.com/philosophy/the-advantage-of-cent...


You would be at odds with most modern political scientists, then.

Federation is a good thing. See Bednar's The Robust Federation.


The EU has actual laws about things like paid time off, wages, and health-care though. Oh, and privacy, and human rights. And it has parliamentary systems that represent people more than the current American system.

I agree with the article that we ought to be able to impose some useful minimums in the USA, just like in the EU.


"...it has parliamentary systems that represent people more than the current American system."

The EU is composed of seven major institutions, only one of which has direct representation by voters (the EU parliament), and the number of representatives of each country is roughly proportional to their size, so any given voter of a small EU country has effectively zero representation (not good). Not defending America where our unelected bureaucrats often have more control over citizen's lives than elected officials, but the EU is very far from a democratic, representative system.


Note the U.S. has survived 240 yrs including the existential crisis of the civil war as well as many lesser challenges. It's proven.

The EU has been around for a much shorter time but it is in crisis now as much as it would like to deny it.


The US and the EU were founded on very very different principals.

The EU started as a trade agreement and when the EU was officially founded one of the founding principals was that it would never attempt to supersede or replace national sovereignty, which has clearly not been the case for the past decade if not longer.

The EU also has fundamental flaws in it's institution and probably the worse monetary institution currently in existence which is the ECB.

The EU needs to either scale back and go back to it's trade agreement roots or stop pretending it's not a quasi federation and just go on with it.


> The EU is composed of seven major institutions, only one of which has direct representation by voters (the EU parliament), and the number of representatives of each country is roughly proportional to their size, so any given voter of a small EU country has effectively zero representation (not good). Not defending America where our unelected bureaucrats often have more control over citizen's lives than elected officials, but the EU is very far from a democratic, representative system.

EU Parliament elections are actually not proportional; smaller member states get more MEPs per voter than larger member states. The interests of smaller member states are primarily protected in the Council of the EU, anyway, with its qualified majority voting; MEPs tend to vote along party lines these days.

The "seven major institutions" is bit misleading, too, as then you'd also have to include the Fed, the GAO, and the Supreme Court for the US. Only the European Parliament, the Council of the EU, and the European Commission are involved in the actual lawmaking process within the EU.

That said, I agree that the EU having a "parliamentary system that represents people more than the current American system" is at best a dubious claim. The EU's system is modeled after a parliamentary democracy, the US has a presidential system; arguing which type represents people more is about as productive as debating the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin.


> The "seven major institutions" is bit misleading, too, as then you'd also have to include the Fed, the GAO, and the Supreme Court for the US. Only the European Parliament, the Council of the EU, and the European Commission are involved in the actual lawmaking process within the EU.

I would certainly include the policy-making organizations in the US as qualified for the title of powerful, unelected bureaucrats, including the Fed, FDA, USDA, DoC, etc., but that's a different topic.

To your point about proportional representation; I said "roughly" proportional -- but please see the full list of the current EUP members by country here and consider whether every nation's (or ANY nation's) citizenry is being adequately represented: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/20130610IPR1...

Overall, I see the EU as one of the biggest bureaucracies ever conceived that severely undermines national sovereignty. There are of course benefits, such as ease of negotiating free trade and travel agreements, but that incentive is not enough to hold up the house of charades. Now ECB policies and the tight-security net will hold all countries to the same fate as the weakest links as Germany runs out of funds to prop up Greece and soon Spain, Italy, France, etc.


> To your point about proportional representation; I said "roughly" proportional -- but please see the full list of the current EUP members by country here and consider whether every nation's (or ANY nation's) citizenry is being adequately represented: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/20130610IPR1....

I'll refer you to the Wikipedia page on Apportionment in the EP: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apportionment_in_the_European_...


It appears to be the same information in your link. My point stands; a Finnish citizen can elect 14/705 representatives to make major policies that affect his country. That is not sovereignty. And I think it's reasonable to call it "roughly" proportional.


Okay, I think there is some miscommunication here. What I was getting at was that the number of MEPs per inhabitant (shown on the Wikipedia page, but not yours) can vary by over an order of magnitude.

Nor was I making any statement about whether this accomplishes anything; it was merely a factual correction. Representation that differs by more than an order of magnitude cannot be called roughly proportional.

As for the material point you raise:

The EU is de facto a confederation; joining a confederation means that a country purposely accepts some duties as the result of membership, but also expects benefits. And within the EU, smaller countries generally are the bigger beneficiaries (with exceptions). Aside from the obvious (free and unencumbered trade within the EEA), some of them are:

* The EU can negotiate as an equal with world powers such as the US, Russia, or China, countries that have a habit of engaging in arm twisting to get their way vis-à-vis smaller trading parters. Being a member of the EU generally results in more equitable treatment or being able to negotiate treaties at all.

* The EU has a centralized system for the market approval of drugs and treatments; this means that smaller countries will generally not experience a delay in access to new state of the art treatments, but will get them at the same time as (say) Germany and France.

* The EU has a mutual defense clause; this is of particular interest to countries bordering on or close to Russia at the moment, especially if they aren't members of NATO (Finland and Sweden).

Obviously, this needs to come with safeguards so that smaller countries aren't run over by bigger countries:

* Voting in the Council of the EU (the upper house of the EU legislature, which represents the interests of the member states) requires a qualified majority or unanimity. While no individual member state can block ordinary legislation, for any unreasonable request there will generally be a coalition sufficient to oppose it. Certain sensitive matters also require unanimity and can be blocked by any member state.

* Principles to protect the interests of the member states are enshrined in the treaties, such as the principle of subsidiarity, the principle of proportionality, and the precautionary principle; legislation that violates these principles (or the EU Charter) can be overturned by the CJEU through judicial review. (This was how the data retention directive died, for example.)

* The European Parliament cannot propose legislation directly, but only indirectly through the European Commission; while this is considered a flaw by some, one of its purposes is to give the European Commission – composed of one commissioner each per member state – veto power over legislative proposals.

Finally, let me note that the use of "sovereignty" here is imprecise; accession to a treaty, even where you let other entities exercise sovereign powers on your behalf, does not constitute loss of sovereignty. Consider, for example, the NATO Status of Forces Agreement, under which (Article VII), the receiving state explicitly permits the sending state to exercise criminal jurisdiction over both military and civilian members of the forces of the sending state on the territory of the receiving state. Criminal justice is a sovereign power, yet nobody (outside a few crazies) assumes that SOFA rules imply a loss of sovereignty.

As Michael Dougan (Professor of European law at the University of Liverpool) put it [1]:

So let us start with a couple of myths. The first is the myth of sovereignty, there is no doubt whatsoever that the United Kingdom is a sovereign state under international law. There is no doubt whatsoever that the parliament in Westminster is the supreme law making authority in this country.

Conversely there is no doubt whatsoever that the EU is not a sovereign entity, far from being a sovereign state, it is not even a sovereign entity, it has only those powers which has been given under the EU treaties. If the UK courts sometimes give priority to EU law in the event of a conflict with domestic law, it is purely because our parliament has expressly instructed them to do so in our own legislation.

So it the UK a sovereign state? Yes.

This should not distract from the fact that de facto member states experience substantial constraints on what they can and cannot do by virtue of their membership.

[1] https://news.liverpool.ac.uk/2016/06/22/transcript-professor...


Not that you're wrong, but this is just to remind you that the EU isn't a country. Especially worker-laws varies quite a bit between countries.

Surprising perhaps, the nordic countries have very liberal worker-laws, compared to other european countries. For example, there is no minimum wage in Denmark, and most workers are more or less employed as fire-at-will.


I know there are many systems in Europe, with many differences. Most of them are still better than what we've got in the United States, excepting maybe a few states that are known as "progressive" for having basic standards in line with the rest of the OECD.

For instance, in Massachusetts, employers are required to give each full-time worker five sick-days off each year, we have a state-level health-care law so that MassHealth will still operate if/when the federal Obamacare system is repealed, and we raised the minimum wage to $11/hour. There is still no paid family-leave law, no minimum amount of holiday/PTO, and unions still have a hard time expanding here.

For this, we're considered the most left-wing state in the Union, except maybe California.

This is just plain silly.


The US has a tightly constrained political spectrum. This means places like Arizona, and Texas are considered viciously rightwing (and utterly bigoted and racist if you listen to left-wing US blogs), simply because they want to protect their industries from non-citizens and perhaps deport non-citizens who illegally reside within their borders.

To contrast, France opposes nearly every multinational who wants to a buy a local company with more than 50 workers, and for that it's still considered a silly left-wing EU state.


Left versus right is about labor versus capital, not local versus national versus transnational.


Important context for Denmark not having a minimum wage is the fact that more or less everyone (including managers) is in a union, and if you are fired you'll get paid unemployment that is not too far from your actual wages.


Certainly. The nordic model is basically that the labour market is kept quite liberal, to the benefit of companies, but this is balanced by a strong social security net. This is in contrast to how things work in most of the rest of Europe, where there are strong laws in place that protects workers. The result is that it's much easier to start and run companies (and to fail in doing so) in the nordics.


EU law has very limited affect on PTO, wages and healthcare, in fact there is little to none.

If the EU attempted to mandate wages and PTO it would be the end of the EU, you can't have the same wage in Estonia as you have in Germany or Norway or Denmark.

There is no pan European legislation on any of the subjects you mentioned really besides privacy and human rights, and as far as human rights goes countries do have exemptions ;)

Denmark for example opted out of the following EU principals: security and defence, citizenship and police and justice, as well as the Euroblock.

This means that Denmark does not fully participates in the AFJS https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Area_of_freedom,_security_and_...

The only real financial EU laws/policies are those for the Euroblock and a few that were defined in the Maastricht treaty and those in general are very vague like a country should not have a higher inflation by X% for 3 consecutive years than the average of the 3 worst performing members of the union and other such nonsense that isn't really acted upon when the shit hits the fan...


> If the EU attempted to mandate wages and PTO it would be the end of the EU, you can't have the same wage in Estonia as you have in Germany or Norway or Denmark.

Paid time off is regulated via the Working Time Directive, which sets minimum standards for paid leave (inter alia). You're largely correct about wages and healthcare, though, where the EU has only a very limited role.


The WTD has exemption that nearly all companies require workers to sign, primarily the 48 hour a week cap even if you don't work that much even Cisco, Amazon, Google and the rest force you to sign those opt outs. It's also not uniformly applied the as PTO requirements can count public holidays as paid leave and so most countries meet the 28 mandated days with ease, especially considering that the PTO requirements do not apply to contractors, temporary, part time and seasonal workers.

As far as other things Article 153 specifically excludes wages and collective bargaining rights from any EU laws or directives.


> The WTD has exemption that nearly all companies require workers to sign, primarily the 48 hour a week cap even if you don't work that much even Cisco, Amazon, Google and the rest force you to sign those opt outs.

This possible derogation is pretty much a UK-only thing. Remember that the UK opted out of the social chapter entirely until Blair ended the opt-out. More importantly, that is not really about paid leave.

That member states can work around aspects of the Working Time Directive does not change the fact that it does mandate paid leave.

> As far as other things Article 153 specifically excludes wages and collective bargaining rights from any EU laws or directives.

If you're referring to Article 153 (5) TFEU, keep in mind that the EU Charter includes a right to collective bargaining and read up on the Laval case (Laval Un Partneri Ltd v Svenska Byggnadsarbetareforbundet).

In short, even where the EU cannot legislate directly, treaties, directives, and regulations can have an indirect effect.




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