- The Danes are officially the happiest nation on Earth. In the UN’s ‘World Happiness Report’ they come first with a score of 7.5 out of 10, compared to Britain which comes 23rd with a score of 6.7.
- And it’s not just down to cosiness and candles. The Danes are richer than us too – with wealth per head of around £39,000 compared to £34,000 here.
- Danes are happier than Brits with their health service – with a satisfaction level of 89% versus 82% in the UK.
- Perhaps that’s because they spend more of their money on health – 10.8% of gross domestic product (GDP) against 9.1% in the UK.
- More is spent on state education too – around 9% of GDP compared to about 6% in Britain.
- Generally, more is spent on social protection and wellbeing in Denmark – 29% of GDP versus 22% in the UK.
- Fewer Danes are out of work – 4.2% against 4.8% in the UK. And unemployed Danes get generous benefits.
- Denmark’s wealth is spread more equally than the UK’s. Denmark scores 0.24 against the UK’s 0.37 in the ‘Gini co-efficient’ where 0 means everyone has the same and 1 means one person has everything.
- How do they do it? Simple. They have the highest taxes in the world. Income tax rates start at 30% and go up to 52%, compared to 20%-45% in the UK. VAT is 25% compared with 20% in Britain.
- And they’re proud of it. Look at the website of the Danish tax authority, SKAT. It doesn’t start off by talking about tax, but the services that taxes pay for. It says: “The Danish welfare state is, among other things, based on the concept of citizens having equal access to the different services paid for by taxes.” It then explains how everyone gets help when out of work or ill, all children get education etc. And then it unapologetically adds: “The tax rate in Denmark is one of the highest in the world, as Denmark has a very large public sector.”
Just imagine that last sentence with ‘the UK’ substituted for ‘Denmark’. It wouldn’t happen, would it? Ever since Margaret Thatcher, people in Britain have been told that tax and public spending are dirty words. Remember how David Cameron spun it in the 2015 election “… the tax, the waste, the spending, the debt, all the things that got us into a mess…”. We’re all against waste, but without taxes and spending we wouldn’t have roads, schools, hospitals or an army. And the ‘mess’ wasn’t caused by taxes and spending so much as rescuing failed private sector banks.
There is a reason why the happiest country in the world is also the highest taxed. It’s because they use tax to invest in excellent public services. They believe in the concept of a society that everyone contributes to and benefits from. They realise that taxation, rather than being an evil, is the subscription fee you pay for a civilised society.
So, Philip Hammond, as you maintain low taxes, help the rich and cut local services, don’t think you’ve fooled everyone. There is another way to run a country.