The Danish prime minister says he’d cut taxes more but voters don’t want him to

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Thursday afternoon I went to the annual summit of the Danish Confederation of Industries (Dansk Industri). There is nothing elsewhere in the Western world that compares with this organization: It is the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and several other corporate organizations whose names I can’t think of, all rolled into one. Plus it negotiates the labor agreements that determine how much maternity leave and how big a pension and how much continuing education Danish workers get.

Pretty much every Danish CEO of consequence was there, along with about half the cabinet and a bunch of labor leaders. The prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, gave a speech explaining his plan for making Denmark “the world’s most competent nation”: better education, more R&D, more skilled immigrants, slightly lower taxes. (I was able to understand all this because I had a headset through which a nice translator converted it all into English.)

The tax part was pretty funny. Dansk Industri is pushing for lower top income tax rates to keep talented Danes from leaving and attract talented foreigners. Fogh, as he’s called, is the longtime tax expert of the liberal (read: sorta libertarian) party and is clearly sympathetic to such arguments. But the political realities here aren’t what they are in the U.S.

“You might feel we’re dragging our feet, but in this society opinion polls show that tax cuts are not a priority,” Fogh said. “I think it’s quite good to have tax relief in a country where opinion polls say people don’t want it.” (Everybody laughed at that.)

After his speech, Fogh didn’t leave the building as any self-respecting American politician would, but sat down in the front row for the awarding of the Dansk Industri Produktpris. The winner was LM Glasfiber, for designing and making the world’s longest windmill blade (61 meters!).

When that was all done, I wondered if it was appropriate for a reporter to accost the prime minister. Then a Danish reporter did it, and I figured it was okay. I ended up walking out of the auditorium deep in conversation with Fogh. Nothing he said was all that amazing, plus I’m tired and I want to go to bed, so I think I’ll save the quotes for my eventual article. But still: Pretty cool, no?

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