Update: I’d recommend that people read Lars Christensen’s post instead; it is far more interesting.
In 2007 I did a paper where I showed that Denmark is the most civic-minded, egalitarian, free market -oriented, and happiest place on Earth, and I argued these four “firsts” were not a coincidence.
Denmark’s reputation for civic virtue has almost become a cliche. Here’s Tyler Cowen:
The technologies and prices of fifty years from now may require much higher moral standards of us — “every man a Denmark” — than the world of today.
A few years back a paper by Algan and Cahuc argued that Denmark’s “flexicurity” labor market (ease of hiring and firing combined with very generous social insurance) only worked because the Danes were so darn honest. When asked; “is it acceptable to take government benefits to which you are not entitled?” Danes were more likely to say “no” than any other nationality.
Denmark is a sort of social democratic paradise. So if you were looking for an American counterpart, you’d probably pick some place like Massachusetts, right? Nope, the actual answer is quite surprising.
So where is America’s Denmark?
By almost any measure, Utah is the most civic-minded place in America. The rates of charitable donations and volunteerism are higher than anywhere else. So perhaps Utah is the answer.
Even better, Utah has the most equal distribution of income of any state, just as Denmark has the most equal distribution of income of any country. (BTW, there are many states with a higher percentage of white non-Hispanics.)
I know what you must be thinking; “Nice try, but Utah is run by right-wing Republicans, and hence is nothing like welfare state Denmark, with its generous unemployment benefits. If Utah really was like Denmark, they’d take advantage of those virtuous civic values by offering the highest income replacement ratio for the unemployed of any state in America.”
PS. Unfortunately, Utah is only the 4th happiest state. But how can anyone be expected to compete with Hawaii?
PPS. I knew Miles and Lars had something in common.
PPPS. In an earlier post I argued that New Hampshire was the Denmark of America. I changed my mind. But on cultural attitudes I suppose it is a better prospect.
PPPPS. What’s my point? Honest people => Generous unemployment benefits.