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How I learned to love Fogh

by JakeS Mon Mar 31st, 2008 at 06:07:44 PM EST

One might expect that, being a socialist or social democrat of some description, I would be strongly opposed to Anders Fogh, the liberalist Danish PM. One would be partly right, but mostly wrong.

The Fogh government has, after all, instituted a number of unpopular and uncomfortable, but very much necessary reforms of Danish society. To wit:


1) Sweeping educational reforms have touched upon every part of the educational system since the Fogh government took power.

  • High schools have undergone the most successful reform of a public Danish institution since the restoration of Dannevirke in the mid-19th century.

  • Research and higher education is being streamlined to more efficiently produce new, competitive products and specialised graduates that will ensure the success of Danish industry.

  • Business schools are now universally regarded as the equals of traditional universities.

2) A municipal reform has been enacted which has

  • increased the size of Danish municipalities and thereby improved both their efficiency and their ability to enact reforms in the face of populist pressure from special interests.

  • replaced the cludgy and inefficient counties with new regions, that serve as an active and engaging link between municipal and government policies.

2a) Concerns that the Fogh government has been putting the municipalities in a fiscal straightjacket since it took power in 2001 are, of course, entirely unfounded. It is, after all, simply enforcing the entirely voluntary agreements between the municipalities and the ministry of Finance.

3) The healthcare system has benefited greatly from free and open competition in which patients are given free choice between private and public hospitals. This has resulted in

  • greatly improved efficiency and improved allocation of public funds through the force of the Invisible Hand.

  • a proliferation of private entrepreneurship in the health insurance sector, and Denmark is now rapidly catching up to those countries with a longer history of sophisticated insurance and financial markets.

4) Citizens can now feel much safer, the minister of justice, Lene Espersen, has pushed through a series of expanded police powers that are urgently required to

  • carry the Global War on Terror to a successful conclusion

  • remove hand grenades, firearms, knives and hashish from the nightlife

  • put an end to the vile crime of shoplifting once and for all

5) Finally, Fogh (and his supporters in the Danish People's Party) had the courage to stand up to dictatorship and bullying in 2003, when the United States of America led the world in defiance of the tin-pot dictator Saddam Hussein, thereby freeing the Iraqi people and instituting a free, pluralistic democracy with a fully developed market economy.

All in all, even a socialist like myself has to concede that this is a job well done by Fogh.

- Jake

[Edit:] That didn't take you guys long to spot :-P

redstar gets bragging rights for blowing the jig a mere four hours after I posted it... Happy April Fools, everyone. I'll post a detailed deconstruction of the parody later, with explanations of the Danish inside jokes.

Deconstruction

Educational reform: This section has several layers of irony that play on the meaning of the word "reform." On ET, the word "reform" is frequently and vigorously deconstructed as newspeak that means approximately "dismantling."

The first bullet plays on the fact that the reconstruction of Dannevirke was one of the most expensive screw-ups in Danish history. The fortifications themselves were obsolescent and the weapons they were armed with were even more so.

But worst of all, our politicians believed then that they had an impregnable line of defence that the Prussians could never breach while it was manned with stalwart Danes. The Prussians had a different analysis. They also had breech-loaded rifles.

The second bullet is a hobby horse of mine. I believe that education should be pursued to satisfy curiosity and that knowledge should be pursued for its own sake. I won't turn up my nose at practical applications of scientific theories, but the applications are incidental to the pursuit of knowledge, not its justification. If you want to do something practical, become an engineer.

The third bullet is very carefully worded. Notice that is says that Bizniz schools are regarded as the equals of real universities. It does not, however, state that such high regard is justified.

Municipal reform: The tip-off in the first bullet here is the line "ability to enact reforms in the face of populist pressure from special interests," which is newspeak for "killing off services to hamlets despite grassroot protest." Now, killing off hamlets may be entirely desirable, because making them energy-efficient presents a logistical nightmare. But I think that such a policy warrants open and above-board debate rather than a solution built on de facto disenfranchising the locals by fusing them with much larger municipalities so their votes don't matter enough for the municipal politicians to care.

The second bullet is a belly-laugh joke for anyone remotely familiar with the Municipal Reform. The Regions that it created are malformed monstrosities with borders (and in one case even head city) defined more by political horse trading (in many cases even horse trading within a single party). They dispense public services (health care), but they don't raise taxes. They raise revenue by billing the municipalities for health services - with the entirely predictable result that (expensive) chronic patients simply don't get referenced for treatment if the municipality can avoid it. That's just the two biggest problems I can see, and I'm not even familiar with more than the rough outline of the reform.

Municipal fiscal crisis: The accusations are, of course, entirely true. Danish municipalities raise revenue in two ways: By direct taxation and by transfers from the central government. There are various good reasons for this construction, reasons that I will not go further into here, but it gives the central government a very strong point of leverage against the municipalities: The money from the state go towards services that the municipalities are legally obliged to provide. In the past, there has been a tacit understanding that the central government did not apply this leverage to influence purely municipal issues (such as municipal tax levels). Since the Fogh regime took power; not so much.

Health care: Denmark is moving rapidly towards a two-tired system in which the rich and the employed go to the front of the queue while the poor and the unemployed go to the back of the line. Trained MDs always being in short supply, the private hospitals have imposed a further drain on this limited resource. Further, funding has been funnelled away from the public hospitals towards the private, tilling the ground for a genuine class-divided system in the future as public hospitals are increasingly run down for lack of maintenance.

The tip-off in the first bullet is the reference to the Invisible Hand. The "improved allocation" taking place with public funds is, as always in liberalist ideology, an allocation away from services for the poor and towards those who are too rich anyway.

The second bullet is a play on the "sophistication of financial instruments" that is an integral part of the Anglo Disease.

MiniLuv: The first bullet speaks for itself: The Global War on Liberty is a sham project for Stasi-wanna-bes, not anything that has anything to do with making the public safer.

The second bullet is a reference to the disingeniousness of the arguments that the Stasi-wanna-bes in the Fogh regime when they push for expanded police powers. They always use the most extreme examples of Really Dangerous People to push for sweeping expansions of the police state, which are then deployed against crimes (and "crimes") that are trivial compared to their justification. (E.g. a hand grenade or two was found half a year back - that gave us strip-down zones which are now used to search for hashish and generally harass honest citizens who happen to look like Anarchists or terrorists Muslims.)

Bullet three is another dig at our dear Minister of Justice, Lene Espersen. One of her better bushisms is culled from her drive to permit private shopowners to put up surveillance cameras that filmed the public sidewalk in front of their store. Faced with a newsie (or political opponent, I can't recall which) who questioned the wisdom of monitoring the citizens of a free and democratic country in this manner, she told him that it was necessary to prevent terrorism, robbery, vandalism (newspeak for graffiti) and shoplifting. Yes. She put the crime of chucking a bomb into someone's store on the same footing as the crime of shoplifting. I'll just leave that on display as an indication of Conservative priorities.

Vietraq: I think this point speaks for itself :-P

Display:
Hang on. You didn't even mention getting those filthy hippy drug-dealing scum out of Christiania !

Are you going soft or what?

And what is the latest from that last haven from the blight of concrete and glass....?

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Mar 31st, 2008 at 06:53:52 PM EST
Not to mention being Don Quixote to the Danish wind industry!

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 05:16:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
that was brilliant, man.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 05:43:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I especially liked the part about business schools being the equal of universities.  i wish we had that here in Deutschland, where all these ancient institutions get all the dough.  The part about eliminating shoplifting, you didn't say if Fogh used the Muslim Sharia method, you know, cutting off the hands, to have achieved his success.

Now if you'd just cover up that little mermaid's (pert little) breasts, your nation would be on the road to recovery.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 08:42:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Crazy Horse:
you didn't say if Fogh used the Muslim Sharia method, you know, cutting off the hands, to have achieved his success.

The Danes are always up to date in these things.

They've invented the Sharia'h ATM.

If you put in the wrong code three times, a blade drops down and has your hand off...

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 12:26:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've got to remember that.

(Actually, our ATMs don't bite. They don't even take away your card. But they do block it, and since Danish banks are only open during the time of the day where people are usually at work, getting it unlocked can be something of a bitch.)

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 12:54:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are snark tags missing in here, right?

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Mon Mar 31st, 2008 at 09:52:37 PM EST
Don't we always celebrate when another country embraces the Washington Consensus?

Comment © 2008 by Euro-Tribune™ -- A Wholly Owned Subsidiary of the Exxon Corporation.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Mar 31st, 2008 at 11:42:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It does make Fogh sound a bit like "Toney Blair for Dummies," doesn't it?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 07:39:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Tony even.

Bah.  Where's my coffee, m-f'er? </O'Reilly>

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 07:40:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed. Fogh very clearly has a Tory Bliar For Dummies handbook given pride of place on his reading list.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 07:58:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but Fogh is a Liberal, not Labour.

Tony Blair and other "third way Socialists" such as Schröder have been a big disappointment over the past 15 years. The stuff in the diary is what you would expect from a right-wing Liberal.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — Franšois in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 07:59:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Exactly.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 12:32:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are snark tags missing in here, right?

I don't know what could possibly give you that impression ;-)

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 08:00:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
These things fly right over my head unfortunately, fact to which others can attest. But my confusion came from your convincing wording of surprised support, and also, I must confess, to my own fondness, if with considerably different emphasis, for a couple of things on the list, if rephrased a bit, particularly as regards education (take out "business" and insert "vocational/trade") and law and order (of course taking out the coalition of the swilling mention).

So I thought either there was a double snark tag or, I don't know, tough to say.

Good stuff though.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 11:04:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Denmark leads the way once again. I hope, and confidently expect, we'll be getting a new barrage of hype about the "Danish model" in the French media.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 02:30:47 AM EST
You think you jest, but I'm already getting a barrage from libertarian types about the Danish health reforms.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 08:05:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I only half think I jest. Honest.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 08:42:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd rather Denmark lead the way than Sweden. They have better jazz clubs in Copenhagen and, of course, better beer and bitters than anywhere else in the world.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 12:31:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
While we're re-gaining our beer culture after decades of Carlsberg, it's still fairly slow going. I'd recommend, Bayern, the Czech Republic or Belgium if you're looking for really good beer. We don't murder it like the Swedish do, but that hardly gives brownie points in my book.

And besides, it takes both beer, sausage and saurkraut to make a Biergarten. Denmark can do the beer passably, but Swedish sausage is much superior to the crap that passes for it in Denmark.

And on matters political, Denmark wins the Most Pig-Headed Atlanticists North of London Award hands down.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 12:52:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
carlsberg er ikke den worst vi har, nej?

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 01:09:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Plus i'll take dansker polser med remoulade over the swedish stuff anyday, dyed cherry red please.

You know I've been to Copenhagen maybe a dozen times, most every other major town in DK at least once. Never seen the mermaid, but been to the Carlsberg/Tuborg brewery on tour three times. Each time trying to drink one of each of the labels - that's hard you know, that's a lot of labels. Start with the Greenlander beers, that gets you paced right.

You're right about hof though, but if you use it to chase bitters you'll be ok.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 01:12:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you do, just counter that it's actually called the Swedish model. They were the better part of a decade earlier than us according to some scholars (and given the prevalence of originally Swedish words in the language used to describe the Danish welfare state, it sounds plausible). And you really would prefer analogies to Sweden over analogies to Denmark on almost any political topic.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 12:58:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You almost got me until 3...given the badly needed real reform in the spanish high education system an the fact that municipalities are a different world in each country...

But ei.. at 3 I already missed the snarky face...

though I must say that remove grenades from nightlife is a worthy goal.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 05:46:39 AM EST
Knowing JakeS, I got suspicious at the beginning; but this assemblage of neolib phrases in point 1 was a dead giveaway: being streamlined to more efficiently produce new, competitive products and specialised graduates

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 05:49:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But if we want innovation and competitiveness to create growth, what alternative do we have?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 08:46:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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