Krugman’s blog, 10/18/15

There was one post yesterday, “Danish Doldrums:”

One of the really great moments in the Democratic debate, at least for those of us who think America can learn from other countries, was the exchange over Denmark. Bernie Sanders said he wants America to become like Denmark; Hillary Clinton was a bit skeptical, but agreed that Denmark is a good role model. And it is! Denmark has combined high taxes and strong social benefits (free college, heavily subsidized child care, and more) with strong employment and high productivity. It shows that strong welfare states can work.

But it is worth noting that Denmark has had a fairly bad run since the global financial crisis, with a severe slump and a very weak recovery. In fact, real GDP per capita is about as far below pre-crisis levels as that of Portugal or Spain, although with much less suffering. What’s going on?

Part of the answer may be high levels of household debt. But Sweden has high private debt, too, and (despite its monetary missteps) has done much, much better.

My interpretation is that Denmark is paying a high price for shadowing the euro — it hasn’t joined, but it runs monetary policy as if it had — and also, for the past few years, for imposing a lot of fiscal austerity despite very low borrowing costs.

None of this has much bearing on the welfare state issue: short-run macro policy is a different subject. But just in case you wanted to think of Denmark as a role model across the board, this is a useful reminder.

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