Our two weeks in London were enjoyable but equally jam-packed, so it’s fair to say the group boarded the flight to Copenhagen with an added sense of enthusiasm knowing we were headed to one of Europe’s more quieter cities.
Our first day in Denmark was spent acclimatising to the freezing temperatures and interesting road traffic operations. Following two of us almost being cleaned up by road cyclists tearing down the streets at rapid speed, we realised it would be best if we also jumped on a set of wheels to find our way around. This translated to using the scooter sharing app Lime – a platform which allows users to scan and ride scooters at the incredibly jaw dropping speed of 18 km/h. Whilst the fun of Lime wore off for most, Harry Lowe discovered a previously hidden passion for over sized, motorised scooters by using the app whenever he could.
We began our four-day course with the Center for Political Studies on early Monday morning, with our host, Head of Education, Stefan K. Sløk-Madsen, providing us with a rich but digestible introduction to Danish politics and the role of CEPOS in the political space. Stefan’s talk was followed by discussions concerning the strengths and weaknesses of the Danish economy, as well as their age care sector.
Tuesday was action-packed, and for many a highlight of the trip. We kicked things my engaging in an informal chat with CEPOS CEO Martin Ågerup. It was an incredibly cool opportunity to pick the brains of a highly respected figure within Denmark’s political analysis space, and Martin was incredibly supportive of our ambitions as future libertarian leaders. His main piece of advice was to follow your passion and not fall victim to the influence of others.
A quick lunch break followed before we headed to Berlingske Media, a large Danish news corporation which labels itself as ‘conservative.’ We were fortunate to hear from editor Lisbet Røge Jensen, getting a taste of the work that goes into shaping stories designed to have conservative political appeal. Following our trip to Berlingske, we met with Stefan and Martin for a set dinner at aptly named restaurant ‘Anarki.’ Our stomachs were left more than full by the end of the night, a testament to the Copenhagen dining precinct!
Stefan kicked off Wednesday with fascinating lectures on nudging and good monopolies. Nudging is when governments attempt to influence our decisions supposedly for our own good (think lung cancer images on cigarette packs). Stefan argued that the state should not be involved in nudging as, unlike the private sector, taxpayers cannot opt out. He then explored monopolies, explaining that they are not necessarily ‘bad’ unless they were created by unfair coercion from the state.
Stefan then took us to visit parliament house. Henrik Dahl, a member of parliament for the Liberal Alliance gave us a tour and shared his insider experiences on what his life is like in public office. We were surprise to learn that politicians there from all parties seem to get on rather well. He believes he can have a confidential conversation with at least one politician from each political party. This really helps to get through tricky policy negotiations. Something we’d benefit from trying back home…
That night we joined Stefan for a pub crawl starting at a pub where people across the political spectrum historically came together over a pint. In line with free market policies, both pubs we frequented allowed indoor smoking – some of us are yet to get the smell out of our clothes! We then moved to Musen & Elefanten where right of centre folks congregate. To a room of chimney-smoking Danes, Emma gave a speech on the bushfires in Australia while Jason talked about affordable housing. Afterwards, we mingled with politically involved locals and learnt from their insider perspective of life in Denmark.
Thursday began with Mia Holstein, CEPOS economist, giving a lecture on the difference between underlying left and right worldviews. Henrik Christofferson, Emeritus Professor, concluded with a presentation debunking common misconceptions of the Danish welfare state.
All in all, our time in Copenhagen was eye opening – whilst Denmark’s society seems to be functioning healthily, getting a view of its tax burdensome economy, inefficient healthcare system and leftist governmental system provided us with a welcome reminder as to why Australia is the lucky country.
Up next: Vienna and the world of Austrian economics!