Greenland is Radically Different from the United States

Greenland is Radically Different from the United States August 19, 2019

Trump wants to buy Greenland, but integrating the 58,000 residents of that country would be difficult if not impossible because it is a radically different society from ours. Greenland goes way beyond the democratic socialism of most European nations and is essentially the world’s largest commune in many important ways.

Credit: NASA

How socialist? Well, private land ownership does not exist in Greenland: All the land is controlled by one of five local kommunes, a word that looks a lot like “commune” but is usually translated into English as the more innocuous “municipality.” Greenlanders neither own nor pay rent for the land they live on. In 2017, a sheep farmer in southern Greenland told me how he had recently built a new pasture: After deciding that he wanted to expand, he told the local kommune, which posted a sign advertising the change publicly. When no one protested, he went ahead and did it.

And forget opposing Medicare for All: In Greenland, the entire health-care industry is nationalized. Both medical care and prescription drugs are free. When I toured a Greenlandic hospital, I was struck by how much it felt like an American public school or library, with well-lit hallways decorated with local art, warm and serious professional staff, and an ambient sense of shared ownership. The country’s health-care system does not perform terribly, given the circumstances: While Greenland’s infant mortality rate of 8.9 deaths per 1,000 births is higher than the U.S. average of 5.8, it is lower than the rate for black Americans (11.4) and for Native Alaskans and American Indians (9.4).

The ethic of common ownership extends to just about every enterprise in Greenland. The country’s largest fishing company is state-owned. Its largest retailer is state-owned. Its only seal tannery is state-owned. Air Greenland, its flagship carrier, is jointly owned by Greenland, Denmark, and the SAS Group, a semiprivate conglomerate that is itself partially owned by the Danish and Swedish governments.

The people of Greenland are going to revolt against the idea of becoming American if those programs and policies are not maintained, which means Trump would be adding a truly socialist state to the country. The implications of that would be enormous. And fascinating to watch.

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