Danes - Economy

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Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Denmark today relies upon a diversified economy based primarily on service industries, trade, and manufacturing. Less than 10 percent of the population engages in agriculture, fishing, and forestry. Danish agriculture is known for its cooperatives, particularly in the production of butter, cheese, eggs, bacon, and ham. Danish beer and snaps (aquavit) have acquired an international market. The fishing industry supplies markets in Europe beyond Denmark. In American stores one is most likely to encounter Danish marinated herring. From industrial enterprises products of modern design are shipped throughout the world, particularly Danish furniture, ceramics, and plastics. The Danes pioneered in producing furniture that was functional as well as handsome. They have designed chairs in response to studies of spinal biomechanics and have created tables to serve multiple purposes, such as those that convert to desks or collapse for storage against a wall in small apartments. For purposes of international trade, the Danes also have designed furniture to be shipped in disassembled, compact forms that make handling easy and save some shipping costs. The Danish merchant marine, growing out of their own interisland maritime needs, includes large shipping companies, such as the Maersk Lines, that constitute an important source of revenue for the nation. In collaboration with Sweden and Norway, Denmark also operates the Scandinavian Airline System (SAS) for international travel. Taxes are heavy in order to provide citizens with a wide range of welfare benefits that include excellent child care and school opportunities, extensive health benefits, and exceptional housing and care for the aged. Workers live very well by international Standards. Although housing is in short supply, most Danes can afford small houses or apartments, dress well, and drive their own automobiles.


Land Tenure and Division of Labor. In historic Denmark, peasants lived in a form of village settlement, known as the open field system, in which communalism was central. The village territory was divided into two or three large fields, in each of which every landholder possessed scattered plots. The unit of work was not the individual plot, however, but the large field. Because fields were worked as units, it was essential that villagers agree on the nature and timing of many of their activities. Meeting in a dwelling or at a central place in the village, they followed old customs for village decision making that were common throughout Denmark. Schedules were agreed upon and implemented. Although cattle were Individually owned, they were brought together daily to form single village herds, which grazed on the village common or on stubble left after fields were harvested. It was the custom for villagers to help individuals who fell sick. As a community, they supervised the use of communal facilities such as the meadow, commons, square, pond, hay field, and church. They cooperated in much of what they did, and a communal spirit was the product. By the nineteenth century, major agricultural reforms had changed the old peasant community. The chief reform was to abolish the common system by parceling out the village land. They also consolidated scattered holdings so that each villager ended up owning fields located more or less in one place. Individual management replaced communalism. Gradually, some landowners moved their farmsteads away from the village, resulting in a scattered settlement pattern of villages with interspersed farmsteads. Less fertile soils in western Jutland were settled by farmers who established isolated farmsteads rather than villages. During the nineteenth century, many other changes took place in association with these basic changes in land tenure and the division of labor. Yet, a sense of communalism persisted. Villages continued to manage their affairs by convening meetings of landowners. "Folk high schools," introduced by N. F. S. Grundtvig (1783-1872) and now found throughout Scandinavia, raised the level of education and prepared ordinary people fot participation in democratic government. Toward the end of the nineteenth century and during the first decades of the twentieth, communalism reasserted itself as Danish farmers distinguished themselves by their ability to submit individual wishes to group decisions and to form voluntary common-interest associations. The successful creation of farming cooperatives across the nation became one of the foundations of the modernization of Danish agriculture. Meanwhile, the government of the nation shifted to that of a democratic, constitutional monarchy.

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