CPH Post

CPH Post voices

Danglish for beginners | Tax cuts make us all poorer


Peter Stanners is a Copenhagen Post journalist. He moved to Copenhagen aged ten and has no intention of leaving. Not quite British, but certainly not Danish, Peter tries to think critically about society, politics and what it means to belong

December 3, 2013
21:20

by Peter Stanners


The local election is over and power has once again been redivided. Around a quarter of councils will have a new mayor take charge, but life for the average citizen probably won’t change dramatically.

And that’s okay. If we’re all going to get along, we have to compromise. We need roads but also cycle paths and public transport; taxes but also incentives to earn money; and welfare but also space for private companies to create wealth.

But one party’s campaign reminded me that we’re not all on the same page. “Respect for taxpayers” declared Laura Lindahl from Liberal Alliance. I stared at the poster in Frederiksberg and ran it over and over in my head. Respect for taxpayers? What does that even mean?

On her campaign website she explains that councils should focus on “core welfare” by cutting back public services to a bare minimum and giving the savings back to the public through tax cuts.

Doing away with wastefulness is one thing – it’s hard to argue that Frederiksberg’s cycling Father Christmas provides a public service – but Liberal Alliance goes much further than arguing for mere fiscal conservatism.

You don’t need to look far to find their anti-statist ideology. Take the press release entitled ‘Politicians are responsible for the mentality of entitlement’ from MP Ole Birk Olesen in August.

“Politicians have medicated Denmark and Danes with so much support over the past many years that it has undermined the will and motivation for people to look after themselves,” he wrote.

Liberal Alliance seems to believe that the state has pampered its citizens into becoming needy recipients of government services and are now too weak to get off the sofa, reach for ‘Atlas Shrugged’ and realise that they are the champion of their own destiny.

The victims, they argue, are taxpayers who are forking out just so people can sit on their bums in front of the TV. They add that most people could probably find a job, but basic economics dictates that people are likely to take free money from the state instead of actually doing something to earn it.

But who exactly are these lazy people? Is their lack of motivation the product of the welfare state? Or are there just not enough jobs to go round?

I don’t have all the answers, but if people think living off 10,000 kroner a month for the rest of their lives is good enough for them, I’m inclined to let them. There is no way I would substitute having a job and having purpose for living hand-to-mouth in a shared suburban apartment.

This is because I am educated, have ambition, see opportunities around me, and am supported by a large network of family and friends who are as privileged as I am.

But not everyone is so lucky. A 2010 study from the Economic Council of Labour Movement showed that 64 percent of children from the poorest ten percent of families had completed an upper secondary education, compared to 91 percent of children from the wealthiest ten percent.

It’s no surprise that my wealthy friends followed their parents into management and finance, while society’s most marginalised groups are the recruitment ground for gangs and religious extremists.

This is where the state can step in, providing education and opportunity for people who lack it.

There are probably people who could work but don’t, in which case the task is to make sure only those who need the support get it. But reducing welfare for the poorest will only make them poorer and Liberal Alliance knows this.

But instead of simply admitting that its ambition is to pad its pocket, it presents a narrative in which the welfare state and those who depend on it are mutually addicted to the other. 

The irony is that its own wealth is also a product of the sickly welfare state, which has constructed a stable and happy country through investment in education, research, welfare and the rule of law.

To be fair, the far-left is also anti-social. Enhedslisten’s anti-corporate rhetoric is awfully simplistic given that Denmark couldn’t afford its welfare bill if it weren’t for major industries like Maersk.

But insidious attempts by the wealthy to disenfranchise the poor insult my intelligence and, as a taxpayer, I deserve more respect than that.



Related stories