First, in terms of national well-being, the United States performs slightly better than Denmark. The United Nation's Human Development Index, a composite measure of human well-being based on educational attainment, life expectancy, and income, ranked the United States in fifth place and Denmark in eighth place in 2013. On a scale from 0 (worst) to 1 (best), the United States scored 0.91, while Denmark scored 0.9.
Second, in some important ways, Denmark is not the socialist paradise Sanders imagines. The World Bank’s “Doing Business” report measures the ease of doing business around the world on a scale from 0 (worst) to 100 (best). In 2015, Denmark scored 84.2, while the United States scored 81.98. As such, Denmark had the fourth most-welcoming business environment in the world and the United States the seventh. Put differently, Denmark is embracing the private sector with greater gusto than the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Similarly, the Fraser Institute’s 2015 “Economic Freedom of the World” report found that the overall level of economic freedom in the United States and Denmark is almost identical. The United States came in the fourteenth place, while Denmark was seventeenth. On a scale from 0 (worst) to 10 (best), the United States received 7.73, while Denmark received 7.63. If Denmark is socialist, then surely the United States is socialist, too.
Crucially for Sanders, long an unabashed protectionist, and Clinton, who has recently backpedaled her support for trade liberalization, Danish trade with the rest of the world is much freer than America's. Again turning to Canada's Fraser Institute, Denmark had the world's fourteenth most liberal trade regime in 2013. The United States came in a miserable forty-first place out of 115 countries surveyed.
Of course, there are other important differences between the United States and Denmark. And none more relevant than the “size of government,” a proxy measure for taxation and redistribution. Of the 123 countries surveyed by the Fraser Institute, Denmark came in one hundred and nineteenth, while the United States came in fifty-fifth.
If this is what Sanders means by wanting America to resemble Denmark, he needs to be careful about the unintended consequences of a large increase in taxation and welfare spending.