Ideologues on both political extremes, like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, on the left, and Fox News host Tucker Carlson on the right, have recently singled out foreign countries as examples of what America should s ‘strive to be.
Yet Sanders and Carlson are each misled by a superficial understanding of what these countries really are.
As a proud and self-proclaimed socialist, Sanders believes Denmark is a socialist paradise. But in reality, it is much more open market oriented than most people realize.
As a die-hard conservative, Carlson let his delight at Hungarian President Viktor Orban’s harsh speech against “the liberals” blind him to this “leader’s cruel authoritarianism.”
Let’s take a closer look at Denmark: Yes, the country has big government policies that Sanders would like to see implemented by Uncle Sam, like a decadent paid vacation program along with other mandatory family benefits.
That said, not only is Denmark freer economically than it is a socialist, but the country has also spent the past 30 years shying away from the socialism that Sanders wants the United States to move towards.
After experiencing the utter economic disaster brought on by a Sanders-style model of democratic socialism in the 1970s, Denmark significantly reformed and downsized its welfare state, making it easier for employers to hire and fire workers. .
His government also introduced some competition into its public schools, a move staunch unionist Sanders would never support.
In addition, Denmark has reduced taxes, including on capital – which the American socialists would like to increase here. Denmark is also more open to international trade than the United States is now, and more than Sanders would like us to be.
Many voters may not be aware of the extent of Sanders’ ignorance of Danish reality, although the Tories have been vocal enough to put him back on the right track.
This included Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who told Harvard University students in 2015 that “Denmark is far from being a planned socialist economy. Denmark is a market economy.”
It should be noted that in the Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom, Denmark is ranked 11 while that of the United States is 20.
Now, five years later, and the conservatives – or at least a very vocal subgroup of them often referred to as “nationalist conservatives” (although the more precise label would be “Christian nationalists”) – are also being educated by a foreign leader, namely: Orban.
They claim that critics who call him authoritarian are wrong.
But let’s look at his record: Orban erected barbed wire fences to keep immigrants out. This might not bother nationalist conservatives, but he also co-opted the Hungarian press to serve his regime by putting the press in the hands of loyalists.
He has also filled the courts and cracked down on academia in the name of the fight against “awakened” liberalism.
He has created an economy of patronage where licenses and grants are given to companies that are friends of his administration. He even passed a law that gives the state considerable control over churches and other religious institutions.
Much of Orban’s appeal to the Carlsons around the world stems from his shameless bashing of immigrants, especially those from majority Muslim countries, and his hostility to LGBTQ rights and other “awakening” causes.
My colleague Shikha Dalmia, guest member of the Mercatus Center program on pluralism and civil exchange, recently organized a conference entitled “The real truth about Hungary”. He perfectly captured how misguided American conservatives are in their admiration for Orban.
She told me, “In the name of defending a Christian ethno-state, Orban has restricted religious freedom, freedom of the press, and free enterprise. He also dismantled Hungary’s already weak democratic checks and balances and rigged the electoral system to extend its grip on Power. “
But the irony is that such tolerance of these policies of “owning the libraries” could backfire on these conservatives in a dramatic way.
Once the limits on state power are gone, if the progressive left truly comes to power, it will have a much easier time implementing the very agenda these conservatives fear most.
Also, since imitation is the sincerest form of compliment, I wonder what we should do with these conservatives who have become the biggest cheerleaders of many progressive spending programs.
The bottom line is that Sanders and Carlson idolize bad role models to achieve what they say they want. The senator’s mistake shows that he is simply ignorant. Carlson’s mistake suggests he’s more dangerous.
– Véronique de Rugy is a principal investigator at the Mercatus Center To George Mason University, columnist for Raison review and Washington Examiner, and blogs on the economy for National exam. Click here to contact her and follow her on Twitter: @veroderugy. Click here to read the previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.