Ben Bartosik

July 3, 2024

Picked up a book from the library the other day called The Joy Experiments: Reimagining Mid-Sized Cities to Heal our Divided Society. Early on, one of the authors has this interesting bit on Danish culture:

"In Denmark, there’s a belief that there should be a healthy balance between private spending and public good. In other words, an acknowledgment that life is played out in the public spaces of cities as well as in private homes, and the things that give us joy should be in both realms... Without questions, their taxes are high, but the people I spoke to felt they got satisfaction from this form of allocation of their Joy budget. They saw joy as part of their habitat."

This feels like a direct contrast to the values that I see here in my area of Canada. Here, the protection of the private realm is prioritized above all else, even at the cost of the public good. We can see this in the way that public resources are underfunded in favour of private alternatives (healthcare, education, leisure services). It is also revealed in the way our private experiences of shared spaces have become cultural battlegrounds.

Perhaps the major difference is the way in which people in Denmark still see themselves as sharing in the benefits of the public realm. Here in Canada, it increasingly feels like the public-private divide is becoming a class war and those with the means to fund public services are taking their ball and going home, so-to-speak. Advocates for public goods need to make sure that they are drawing their lines of division in ways that include the most amount of people possible.