european-social-modelIs Europe broke? This is the question European leaders are struggling to come to terms with at the moment, as country after country goes onto life-support. Can we afford a “European social model” of generous welfare systems and social protection whilst our governments get further and further into debt? Some of our readers believe passionately that the values of the so-called “European social model” are really at the heart of what it is to be “European”. On our Facebook page, MandyandPj argues:

Most definitely this EU has moved way way beyond that which would be supported politically…in any western member EU nation… No wonder old aged pensions, health care, social services etc are being scrubbed in Europe… [they are] not compatible with US capitalism. Overhaul the treaties? why bother….just admit the total surrender to the enemy!

Others argue that we can care for the elderly, young, unemployed and the sick more effectively if we stop relying so much on government protection. Joe, who contributes to the blog No Pasaran!, added the following comment to Debating Europe:

We need governments and borders to get their boots off of the necks of people who make things, move things, and take the risk of starting enterprises and the risk of hiring people. That’s what it all boils down to… It’s about getting out of the way of those productive people who do the real work of fixing what governments pretend they do: creating the growth that gets people out of poverty and [creating] the wealth that permits societies to care for the young and old.

We spoke to Julian Le Grand, Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics, and asked him what he thought of this debate. Can Europe’s social model survive an “age of austerity”?

Clearly, it’s under threat in areas such as Greece, because governments are pursuing such harsh austerity programmes. I do believe, however, that in the long-run the ‘European social model’ (really several models) is not under threat. We have been here before – during the 1970s and 1980s. Every time people say the European social model is doomed, but it never happens. There are all sorts of threats of public cuts, but it doesn’t happen.

There are good reasons for it not happening. One is that the needs are still there, leading to a greater demand for social care and pensions. We’ve still got problems of disability; the needs are still there, and they don’t go away. But, also, I think that at the end of the day, politicians will come to their senses on this. Actually, cutting back in education and healthcare is bad for the economy in the long-run. And, actually, cutting public spending in a time of recession is an anti-Keynesian move and bad for the economy in general.

Is it sustainable, though? With demographic changes on the horizon and a “greying population”, can we go on increasing government spending in healthcare, or are we going to have to be more flexible and take a more market-based approach?

I think we will see changes, and we are seeing changes in the form of delivery. We are seeing the move in some countries towards more private provision, more not-for-profits. More generally, greater plurality of provision of services is a good thing. A greater awareness of the role that competition can play should be encouraged.

What about Joe’s point about governments needing to “get their boots off of the necks” of productive people? Are we risking over-regulation and a regime of too much “red-tape” in Europe?

I think this is a good populist line. I actually think there’s very little evidence to support it, though. Certainly, if you look at Germany, this is not an ‘under-regulated’ country and yet it’s doing better than many of us. The UK, on the other hand, is not well regulated, yet it’s not doing as well. I don’t think there is any link between the two.

What do YOU think about the “European social model”? Can we afford to keep it in a time of financial and economic crisis? Do we need to reform and move towards a more market-based system, or is that “surrendering to the enemy”? Let us know your comments and ideas in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

Vote 2014

Voting is closed in our Debating Europe Vote 2014! The results are now in, so come and see what our readers thought!

13 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    MandyandPj Leneghan

    Generous welfare system, Where? Move to a more market based system, where would you find one of those? Right across this planet, ‘markets’ are monopulized and fed trillions in welfare benefits, especially within the EU and the USA! In the 21st century, it is perceived and expected that government are paid workers who are paid to manage our social systems…which includes police services, health, fire. education etc IF ‘they’ want the market to rule, then so be it, abolish all current governments and state control mechanisms and we, the people, will show you the true meaning of a ‘market based system’, we could even elect managers and unelect them as soon as they step out of line, to carry out the simple task of managing the paperwork for us. We could even call our system democracy, something that has NEVER been trialed yet. Market based (rule by organized crime) or People based? Wonder have the people been de-educated enough yet so as not to see what is really going on?

  2. avatar
    Dascalu Amadeo

    Are all EU countries having the same problems? Definitely, no. I live in an European marginal country and I can see what are the real obstacles which get in the way of development. I remember an ad about the “many perpectives”; yet your (western countries as Germany, France, Benelux, Austria etc) perspective is conditioned by the way you were educated. In countries like Romania (and other Balkan countries) the corruption is so well cemented at almost every level of our society. There are legion examples. A country like ours needs double help from countries like Germany not only financial, but also people who should monitor the way things are done here. And now imagine all European countries copying the German model. Where should wu use this model? Everywhere.

  3. avatar
    Patrick Leneghan

    I would say can we afford NOT to have a European Social Model? The solutions are not as difficult as we are led to believe, manipulated to believe in fact.

    It is all about where and what communities/nations are focussed on, what the agenda is and what the vision is.

    The current ideology is focussed on economic growth, whatever that may mean, based on an out of date, centuries old attitude, master/servant-winner/loser paradigms, that worked for the few and not withstanding the private individual debts that act or have acted, as a ‘temporary’ smokescreen, this ideology still only benefits the few.

    Unless some out of this world dramatic event occurs, this system has run its course, any ‘economic growth’ in one country, can only come at the expense of another. Any increase in the standards of living for one group is and will be to the expense of another group, within nations.

    The logical way forward, is to put in place, what most people (wrongly) think is in place today, that being that governments/managers or whatever one wants to call organisers, focusses on people first and last, that caters to every single individual, that creates inalienable rights for every individual, importantly including the right to life without fear of loss of basic life’s necessities.

    Whether that ideal can be reached in its entirety is not the question, it is the focus on that ideal that should be the goal.

    All activity should be concentrated on that vision and only that vision, not some delusion of empire or emperors, winners and losers.

    The trickle down rubbish that we were brainwashed with was and is a confidence trick and does not work. The fact that access to basic old aged pensions being queried under this system, show that up all too clearly. If this current economic model is so good, why can’t it or individuals, afford basic services?

    There can be no mistake, it all boils down to ideology or economic system. Of course if we were to apply the US economic system, it is quite obvious that the expected European Social model is unaffordable BUT that US economic model is not the only game in town.

    A famous politician (or infamous depending what side that you were on)(Santamaria), when the USSR was in place, said something along these lines ‘That there were two evils in this world that we have to worry about, the USSR’s version of communism and equally, the USA’s version of capitalism’. Since the USSR’s idea of communism left the field, we are faced with that other ‘power’, the US, whose, economic model, I believe is being pushed down our throats.

    IF the government(s) do not work for the people, then I would go further than Joe (above), I would vote to end all governments altogether and let people organize themselves into communities (however that isn’t going to happen :)

    It is ALL about ideology or economic rules, using either or any set of rules, like train tracks, the destination is predictable and I do not like where I see this train is going at the moment. Today’s Zeitgeist movement shows a vision that can be reached, if it is allowed to.


  4. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Social Europe it is for me too…The person who believes that private companies will look after people better, is a fool…When have we seen a business man/woman, a company or a corporation to look after their clients even after a crisis or when things go wrong or not as expected?
    Especially on the health services and education issues, I am totally against privatizations..!!

    Yes private companies respond faster to the needs of their clients, but only because of money and if they pay well..And with constant “upgrades” or “special offers” or “buy one get one free” and other nonsense like that, that have no other purpose than to make people spend more money to get what they have originally signed up for, it is a drain to the lower paid people…Are we talking about social services to those who can only afford the best? what about the rest?

    Social Europe or go to hell…!! there is no need to privatize everything..we only need to upgrade the system up to date, so there are no free loaders and people who abuse the system…simples…scrutinize everything, and if after so many years you still ain’t got a job, then you are on your own or do community service..there are ways around those few who abuse the system, if you only want to solve the problem..!!There is no need to use them as an argument to scrap the Social system of Europe..

    Or the slow pace that services are given…simply upgrade and prioritize..If we privatize everything, then in small countries we will have soon enough, after so many merges and buy offs, one corporation or even worse a small group of people owning all public services and having the monopoly again…So what is the point..?? why give so much power to few people, for things that the tax payer deserves for free…?? what is the point of paying taxes then? Perhaps we should abolish them or minimize them, since we are going to pay for everything anyway..why pay twice? Think about it…

  5. avatar
    Herminio Cerqueira

    Political must be before economics… A Eurozone before a U.E. without a join foreign, defense and tax and social politics can be only in the mind of crazy neo-liberal people !!!!

  6. avatar
    Can Kontaş

    europe needs a change u dont need to afraid of a good change ..turkey s %100 european

  7. avatar
    Albert Saxén

    the problem here is that the money has bn stacked and now it can’t flow thru the free.. rather, freely through the markets w ppl following it

  8. avatar
    Paul Lim

    We must not allow neo-liberalism to destroy the European social models. Over the years, there have been attempts to dismantle it always using cost or misuse/abuse, demographics as reasons But do we want to become like a third world country without a social safety net? There are countries which see the need of taking care of the “social” and do see the European social models as an inspiration. Reforms are required and confident it will survive.

  9. avatar
    Patrick Leneghan

    Yes, re-capitalize people and not throw trillions at an out of control financial system. If they, the current financial system live by that system, let them die by that system, separate and distance politics from this 1%, let them stand or fall on their own.

    Patrick Leneghan

  10. avatar
    Patrick Leneghan

    PS. For example, the ‘Markets’, we are brainwashed into believing that a bull or strong ‘Market’ is in our best interests but these so called ‘Markets’ that are basically virtual ones ie electronic. Many experts are now exposing that these ‘Markets’ are being manipulated, electronically like some global electronic gambling machine.

    We are expected to jump with joy when these markets are up and then we wonder why we have to pay higher prices for essential services, take fuel for example, it isn’t just that we have to pay higher prices for fuel for our cars, but also higher food and commodity prices due to the higher costs in transportation. We have to pay higher costs for our gas and electricity and this is just on ONE ‘market’ alone, multiply that by 100s.

    Unless you are a MAJOR shareholder (the 1%) in these electronic markets, it is in our best interests if these ‘Markets’ stay low.

    And what causes these ‘markets’ to rise, take fuel for example, manufactured wars or other events cause them to rise, nothing to do with the cost of production but a ‘virtual world’ of electronic gambling by the 1% milking the system.

    Another area that is ‘milked’ by these electronic pirates is the foreign currency exchange, one tiny move in an exchange rate can and does produce billions in net profits for these electronic bandits.

    THIS is the economic-financial system that we are ordered to support and this is the economic-financial system that we MUST reject as not only is it bringing us all down, it will and is leading to major violent and global conflict (WW III)

    Our politicians appear to be the servants of this economic-financial cartel, if the EU community does not get a grip, then that is the main reason why citizens should agitate to get their nations out of the EU so as to be in a better position, make it easier, to deal with our national politicians…politically of course, as it would be near impossible, to deal with an emerging European central government that are also servants to this economic-financial 1% and of course, this 1% will do all that they can to keep a compliant European Union and central government in place.

    It is up to the EU politicians and bureaucracy, certainly we, the peasants have no say in the matter…yet! It is up to the EU bureaucracy to decide who they want to work for, the 1% or the 99%.

    Patrick Leneghan

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