October 25, 2020
In March, as the pandemic began to take root in Europe, the Danish Prime Minister beseeched her fellow Danes to rally around each other. Danes responded with enthusiasm: Private companies helped ease pressure on healthcare services by procuring medical equipment for the state-sponsored healthcare system; the Lego factory began manufacturing visors for healthcare workers; Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen’s world-famous amusement park, was transformed into a temporary kindergarten, with social distancing guidelines in place; and the double Michelin-starred Alchemist restaurant pivoted from serving exclusive 50-course tasting menus to cooking pasta for 12 homeless shelters around Copenhagen.
The Danes have a word for this sort of response. Samfundssind. It essentially means “putting the concern of society over one’s own personal interests.”
According to this article at the BBC website, the level of social trust in Denmark is among the highest in the world, having dramatically increased over the 30-year period between 1979 and 2009. In 1979, 47% of Danes expressed that “most people can be trusted.” By 2009, that share had increased to 79%.
The anti-corruption NGO Transparency International publishes an annual ranking of the world’s least-corrupt countries. This year, Denmark topped the table, tied with New Zealand. With a responsible government, politicians in Denmark enjoy a relatively high level of trust. The secret? Two Danish political scientists conclude that when politicians “behave in an incorrupt manner, they send the signal that… most people can be trusted.”