Two items just caught my eye within a relatively short period, and taken together they illustrate some of the problems Danes and Americans have when trying to understand each other’s politics.
The first item was a headline from DR: “Sundhedsministeren kan bestemme, hvad et mundbind skal koste – men han afviser at tvinge prisen ned.” The subhead is even better: “Vi skal have markedet i gang, lyder det fra Magnus Heunicke (S).”
The second was a tweet from Notorious AOC:
Both of these items, the headline and the tweet, are such perfect examples of their particular idiocies that they should be preserved in amber and sold at museum gift shops.
Let’s take the headline first.
“Sundhedsministeren kan bestemme, hvad et mundbind skal koste – men han afviser at tvinge prisen ned.”
There’s a very basic economic reality that everybody ought to know by know: price controls don’t work. Anywhere. Ever. In most cases they produce exactly the opposite of the intended result, creating scarcity out of plenty. Thomas Sowell covers this in depth in Basic Economics, but this four-minute video will do in a pinch:
The price of a thing can be set by anyone, but it’s only likely to find buyers if it’s set at a level the market finds attractive–and it’s only likely to be sold at that price if the seller feels appropriately rewarded by the difference between the price of the product and the cost of producing it. And the cost of a product is not something that can be dialed up or down like a thermostat. The cost the producer pays to manufacture something is fixed by the market. Every cost of every product, always, everywhere. As Sowell explains, forcing the producer to lower their price means they will either have to stop producing (to avoid a loss), or reduce quality (by using cheaper components, cheaper labor, or other shortcuts) to lower their production costs.
So the Health Minister refuses to put price controls on a product Denmark needs more of. Shocker!
It is correct, as the article explains, that the Minister has the authority from emergency Corona legislation passed this spring to impose price controls on medical equipment, medicine, and other pandemic-related supplies.
But he refuses to, that miserly right-wing capitalist Social Democrat! And then the subhead tells us that he actually wants the market to force prices down.
And he actually says all this in plain language:
– Målet er, at vi skal have markedet i gang i Danmark, ligesom det har været i gang i resten af Europa, så vi kan få drevet prisen ned til et fornuftigt leje, og leverandørerne får skruet op for deres leverancer til de forretninger, der nu sælger mundbind, siger han.
That’s a Danish Social Democrat saying that we need the Danish market to kick in and drive the price down and induce producers to get more masks to market. That’s a Danish Social Democrat showing a better grasp of basic economics (or Basic Economics) than most Americans of any political persuasion.
The day a high-level American Democrat talks like that is the day that he or she is drummed out the party, doxxed on social media, and denounced by all the cool kids at the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, and all the other establishment outfits. The market is the enemy! Prices are set by all those millionaires and billionaires who just want to screw people out of every last penny (or øre) that they’ve managed to scrape together at their wretched, soul-destroying jobs.
There’s plenty more to pick at in DR’s indignant article, but this is an exercise in comparative politics, so let’s turn to AOC’s tweet:
“Billionaires need the working class.”
True. I don’t like talk of class, myself, but certainly you’d have a tough time getting to be a billionaire without the hard work of many, many employees, regardless of their “class.”
“The working class does not need billionaires.”
Technically that’s true. Working class people—people with jobs—don’t need billionaires. All they need is someone with enough money to pay them for their work. The nice thing about billionaires compared to millionaires, however, is how many more people they will have had to employ to earn those billions. And unless they’re hoarding their cash in giant vaults so they can splash around in it like Onkel Joachim, their own profits are still at work in the economy in the form of their investments in other companies (helping them employ people), in loans made to businesses and individuals, and so on.
Working people need jobs, and billionaires create more of them than anyone else. Everybody wins.
This is fundamental Econ 101 stuff—at least it was before American higher education became Progressive Boot Camp. But the current darling of the American left, who likes to brag about her economics degree (as in the tweet below), clearly doesn’t get it.
And she doesn’t just talk the talk: unfortunately, she also walks the walk—like when she blocked Amazon from setting up a massive presence in my old neighborhood in Queens. Amazon was going to bring at least 25,000 jobs to Long Island City, but she wouldn’t stand for it because they wanted tax breaks in exchange for their massive investment in the city. Big win for AOC, big loss for L.I.C. (AOC needs working class voters, but working class voters don’t need jobs?)
My point isn’t that AOC is a moron: she’s an old-school fire and brimstone socialist (with a degree in Economics, you guys!), so of course she’s a moron.
My point is that a Social Democrat in Denmark understands economics well enough to realize that the market will lower the price of masks and get more of them to market more effectively than any government fiat, while the sweetheart of the American left is an economic illiterate spewing vintage Leninist class-warfare rhetoric.
This despite the popular American notion that Denmark is a socialist country, and the popular Danish notion that America isn’t.
A growing number of Americans are genuine socialists, even as Denmark’s own Social Democrats acknowledge the power of the market. The AOC and Bernie Sanders wing of the American left is now closer to Enhedslisten than they are to S or even SF; meanwhile, the current Social Democrat government of Denmark is, economically, closer to the American right than the American left.
We really are living in the upside-down.