Almost Nothing Rotten in Denmark

My colleague Dan Mitchell complains that Denmark's new tax cuts aren't deep enough. That's his job. And he's probably right. But, I wonder: Does Denmark's tax policy imperil its citizens' well-being? I imagine there are a good number of Danes upset about their astronomically high taxes, but they also must be pretty popular. Also, if you don't mind boring, or blondes, Denmark appears to be one of the best place for human beings to live in the history of world. Look at these various rankings:
GDP per capita: 7th
Human Development Index: 16th
Economic freedom: 13th
Self-reported life satisfaction: 1st
Ease of doing business: 7th
Denmark also gets top grades (not a ranking) from Freedom House for political rights and civil liberties.
Now, I think Denmark should cut their taxes. Their GDP growth is lower than the OECD average, despite their being relatively aggressive free-traders. I doubt they'll stay so high in all these rankings if they begin to fall behind their neighbors over time, GDP-wise.
But these high taxes and slowish growth surely have something to do with this:
Welfare state and social spending as % of GDP: 1st
which leads to:
Low income inequality: 1st
And the Danes seem to like it that way. From almost all indications, the Danish model of a free-market welfare state is a stunning success. They no doubt need to fiddle with their tax rates to keep it sustainable. But it's certainly hard to blame them if they don't think the cuts need to be as aggressive as Dan or I think they should be.
Also, to be clear, I don't want the U.S. to look more like Denmark in terms of tax and social policy. I also don't think Denmark should want the U.S. to look like Denmark. The continued viability of countries like Denmark depends on the success of countries like the U.S. But, unless one insists on being ax-grindingly ideological, you've got to admit that both Denmark and U.S. are huge successes in terms of human flourishing. They'll never have our levels of innovation, we'll never have their Gini coefficient, and you know what? That's OK.
Also, did I say that Denmark is boring?

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center