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.
[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.
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
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