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Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results
Old 06-02-2005, 09:32 AM   #1
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Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results

European lifestyle is great; we all agree on that. When I was there they did two things really really good. They taxed everything; and the regulated everything. Here's a scorecard on past few years. Anyway, interesting article, to me. Pros? Cons?

From the NY Times:
Fear and Rejection
By DAVID BROOKS

Forgive me for making a blunt and obvious point, but events in Western Europe are slowly discrediting large swaths of American liberalism.

Most of the policy ideas advocated by American liberals have already been enacted in Europe: generous welfare measures, ample labor protections, highly progressive tax rates, single-payer health care systems, zoning restrictions to limit big retailers, and cradle-to-grave middle-class subsidies supporting everything from child care to pension security. And yet far from thriving, continental Europe has endured a lost decade of relative decline.

Western Europeans seem to be suffering a crisis of confidence. Election results, whether in North Rhine-Westphalia or across France and the Netherlands, reveal electorates who have lost faith in their leaders, who are anxious about declining quality of life, who feel extraordinarily vulnerable to foreign competition - from the Chinese, the Americans, the Turks, even the Polish plumbers.

Anybody who has lived in Europe knows how delicious European life can be. But it is not the absolute standard of living that determines a people's morale, but the momentum. It is happier to live in a poor country that is moving forward - where expectations are high - than it is to live in an affluent country that is looking back.

Right now, Europeans seem to look to the future with more fear than hope. As Anatole Kaletsky noted in The Times of London, in continental Europe "unemployment has been stuck between 8 and 11 percent since 1991 and growth has reached 3 percent only once in those 14 years."

The Western European standard of living is about a third lower than the American standard of living, and it's sliding. European output per capita is less than that of 46 of the 50 American states and about on par with Arkansas. There is little prospect of robust growth returning any time soon.

Once it was plausible to argue that the European quality of life made up for the economic underperformance, but those arguments look more and more strained, in part because demographic trends make even the current conditions unsustainable. Europe's population is aging and shrinking. By 2040, the European median age will be around 50. Nearly a third of the population will be over 65. Public spending on retirees will have to grow by a third, sending Europe into a vicious spiral of higher taxes and less growth.

This is the context for the French "no" vote on the E.U. constitution. This is the psychology of stagnation that shaped voter perceptions. It wasn't mostly the constitution itself voters were rejecting. Polls reveal they were articulating a broader malaise. The highest "no" votes came from the most vulnerable, from workers and the industrial north. The "no" campaign united the fearful right, led by Jean-Marie Le Pen, with the fearful left, led by the Communists.

Influenced by anxiety about the future, every faction across the political spectrum found something to feel menaced by. For the Socialist left, it was the threat of economic liberalization. For parts of the right, it was the threat of Turkey. For populists, it was the condescension of the Brussels elite. For others, it was the prospect of a centralized European superstate. Many of these fears were mutually exclusive. The only commonality was fear itself, the desire to hang on to what they have in the face of change and tumult all around.

The core fact is that the European model is foundering under the fact that billions of people are willing to work harder than the Europeans are. Europeans clearly love their way of life, but don't know how to sustain it.

Over the last few decades, American liberals have lauded the German model or the Swedish model or the European model. But these models are not flexible enough for the modern world. They encourage people to cling fiercely to entitlements their nation cannot afford. And far from breeding a confident, progressive outlook, they breed a reactionary fear of the future that comes in left- and right-wing varieties - a defensiveness, a tendency to lash out ferociously at anybody who proposes fundamental reform or at any group, like immigrants, that alters the fabric of life.

This is the chief problem with the welfare state, which has nothing to do with the success or efficiency of any individual program. The liberal project of the postwar era has bred a stultifying conservatism, a fear of dynamic flexibility, a greater concern for guarding what exists than for creating what doesn't.

That's a truth that applies just as much on this side of the pond.
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results
Old 06-02-2005, 01:57 PM   #2
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results

This is really a fascinating turn of events.*

I worked in Germany in the late 80s; I remember many Germans in the 3 years I was there taking a turn at the spa--medically prescribed, paid for, multi-week visits for arthritis, back pain, all sorts of stuff.* And of course the 6 week vacations were on top of that.*

I imagine that feeling of entitlement will be hard for them to give up.*
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results
Old 06-02-2005, 02:16 PM   #3
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results

I guess it simply shows that a government, any government, does a lousier job of doing something for you than you can do on your own, and that if you spoon feed people, they start sitting there waiting for the next spoon.
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results
Old 06-02-2005, 03:20 PM   #4
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results

IMO, this article is a crock of crap. As for fearing American industrial competition, Europeans got over that quite a few years ago. As far as fearing China, who doesn't? No major European contry has a trade deficit as bad as ours.

They have real problems, Muslim immigratation and political activism being one big one. But I don't think we are immune to similar things. Our immigrants who are "happy" to do yard work today won't feel that way tomorrow, and they will political clout to enforce some of their feelings.

There is a good movie about immigration called DIRTY PRETTY THINGS. Near the end, a white Englishman says to 3 immigrants- why haven't I seen you before? One answers- "We are invisible to you. We are the people who clean your hotels, drive your cabs, suck your ....s." These were not happy campers.

Since Americans like Europeans also consume health care, consume pensions, etc., we as a society also have to pay for them. In fact, with regard to health care, we pay a lot more and get a lot less. Even with many people uncovered and mostly not consuming, we spend per capita much more than the next most spendy country. And our outcomes are worse, by almost any measure. Note that the per capoita expenditure is not per convered person, but per all people.

Since most people are ignorant of all but few things, unless they have no opinions on anything but those few areas where they are educated, it follows that most opinions are ignorant.

Where do these opinions come from, since not from knowledge? Prejudice, and the effects of spin- eg Rush and similar idiots.

All in all, not much hope when the level of knowledge and rationality has fallen as low as it has today. We may someday prove that even a very powerful society can go down just by becoming too stupid to cope.

H
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results
Old 06-02-2005, 03:42 PM   #5
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results

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Originally Posted by HaHa
IMO, this article is a crock of crap.
One of the inherent flaws of democracy is that sooner or later people realize that they can vote themselves money.
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results
Old 06-02-2005, 03:57 PM   #6
 
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results

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The core fact is that the European model is foundering under the fact that billions of people are willing to work harder than the Europeans are. Europeans clearly love their way of life, but don't know how to sustain it.
Yeah, I agree with Mikey on this one. Billions of people are willing to work harder than the Europeans or the Americans for that matter.

We should all aspire to be the Chinese. - Communist no less. Where you work your ass off 50 cents an hour. They will probably eat both our lunch.

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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results
Old 06-02-2005, 05:54 PM   #7
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results

I enjoy reading David Brooks -- he's a thoughtful conservative. Although he does go overboard here. You can substitute USA for Europe in many of his claims, and they make even more sense.

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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results
Old 06-03-2005, 04:46 AM   #8
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results

Quote:
One of the inherent flaws of democracy is that sooner or later people realize that they can vote themselves money.
Thought you might find this article intersting:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...051701238.html

Quote:
"The only thing the United States is able to do a little after 2040 is pay interest on massive and growing federal debt,"
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results
Old 06-03-2005, 08:57 AM   #9
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results

Just to illustrate that this is not ultra right-wing rants, here's Tom Friedman

The New York Times
June 3, 2005
A Race to the Top
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

Bangalore, India

It was extremely revealing traveling from Europe to India as French voters (and now Dutch ones) were rejecting the E.U. constitution - in one giant snub to President Jacques Chirac, European integration, immigration, Turkish membership in the E.U. and all the forces of globalization eating away at Europe's welfare states. It is interesting because French voters are trying to preserve a 35-hour work week in a world where Indian engineers are ready to work a 35-hour day. Good luck.

Voters in "old Europe" - France, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy - seem to be saying to their leaders: stop the world, we want to get off; while voters in India have been telling their leaders: stop the world and build us a stepstool, we want to get on. I feel sorry for Western European blue collar workers. A world of benefits they have known for 50 years is coming apart, and their governments don't seem to have a strategy for coping.

One reason French voters turned down the E.U. constitution was rampant fears of "Polish plumbers." Rumors that low-cost immigrant plumbers from Poland were taking over the French plumbing trade became a rallying symbol for anti-E.U. constitution forces. A few weeks ago Franz Müntefering, chairman of Germany's Social Democratic Party, compared private equity firms - which buy up failing businesses, downsize them and then sell them - to a "swarm of locusts."

The fact that a top German politician has resorted to attacking capitalism to win votes tells you just how explosive the next decade in Western Europe could be, as some of these aging, inflexible economies - which have grown used to six-week vacations and unemployment insurance that is almost as good as having a job - become more intimately integrated with Eastern Europe, India and China in a flattening world.

To appreciate just how explosive, come to Bangalore, India, the outsourcing capital of the world. The dirty little secret is that India is taking work from Europe or America not simply because of low wages. It is also because Indians are ready to work harder and can do anything from answering your phone to designing your next airplane or car. They are not racing us to the bottom. They are racing us to the top.

Indeed, there is a huge famine breaking out all over India today, an incredible hunger. But it is not for food. It is a hunger for opportunity that has been pent up like volcanic lava under four decades of socialism, and it's now just bursting out with India's young generation.

"India is the oldest civilization, the largest democracy and the youngest population - almost 70 percent is below age 35 and almost 50 percent is 25 and under," said Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express. Next to India, Western Europe looks like an assisted-living facility with Turkish nurses.

Sure, a huge portion of India still lives in wretched slums or villages, but more and more of the young cohort are grasping for something better. A grass-roots movement is now spreading, demanding that English be taught in state schools - where 85 percent of children go - beginning in first grade, not fourth grade. "What's new is where this movement is coming from," said the Indian commentator Krishna Prasad. "It's coming from the farmers and the Dalits, the lowest groups in society." Even the poor have been to the cities enough to know that English is now the key to a tech-sector job, and they want their kids to have those opportunities.

The Indian state of West Bengal has the oldest elected Communist government left in the world today. Some global technology firms recently were looking at outsourcing there, but told the Communists they could not do so because of the possibility of worker strikes that might disrupt the business processes of the companies they work for. No problem. The Communist government declared information technology work an "essential service," making it illegal for those workers to strike. Have a nice day.

"This is not about wages at all - the whole wage differential thing is going to reduce very quickly," said Rajesh Rao, who heads the innovative Indian game company, Dhruva. It is about people who have been starving "finally seeing the ability to realize their dreams." Both Infosys and Wipro, India's leading technology firms, received more than one million applications last year for a little more than 10,000 job openings.

Yes, this is a bad time for France and friends to lose their appetite for hard work - just when India, China and Poland are rediscovering theirs.


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BTW: I met some of those young Indian computer gurus in South Texas on New Year's Eve. They had brought many families in and had taken over nearly the entire motel. I was on the motel's computer, reading this site's posts incidentally, when one of them took over the other computer. I engaged in conversation. The kid worked for IBM, was one hell of a programmer, and intended to return to India, once he had made his fortune. Not once did he mention retirement, vacation, pension, or medical care. He saw the USA as a giant opportunity and he intended to exploit it. He didn't talk politics (I tried to engage him). He just loved his work. This was a 20s something guy, and as I recall, he was using the computer to look at, and send a huge file of photos. The real Indian youngsters came in (sub-teens) later. They also knew how to operate the computer. Yeah, Europe is great, but they are a dinosaur, and we are just behind them.
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results
Old 06-03-2005, 10:40 AM   #10
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results

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Originally Posted by Eagle43
A grass-roots movement is now spreading, demanding that English be taught in state schools - where 85 percent of children go - beginning in first grade, not fourth grade. "What's new is where this movement is coming from," said the Indian commentator Krishna Prasad. "It's coming from the farmers and the Dalits, the lowest groups in society." Even the poor have been to the cities enough to know that English is now the key to a tech-sector job, and they want their kids to have those opportunities.
Paradoxically it sometimes seems the direct opposite trend is taking hold in the US with regard to the English language.
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results
Old 06-03-2005, 10:58 AM   #11
 
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results

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The Indian state of West Bengal has the oldest elected Communist government left in the world today. Some global technology firms recently were looking at outsourcing there, but told the Communists they could not do so because of the possibility of worker strikes that might disrupt the business processes of the companies they work for. No problem. The Communist government declared information technology work an "essential service," making it illegal for those workers to strike. Have a nice day.
So Eagle, are you selling Communism or just simple Dictatorships?
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results
Old 06-03-2005, 11:28 AM   #12
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results

C-T, I'm selling capitalism; you remember that, even in Minnesota!
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results
Old 06-03-2005, 12:46 PM   #13
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results

Dang it...first it was the chinese, then the mexicans, now the polish and the communists (again).

Its coming at us from all sides, we're doomed!
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results
Old 06-03-2005, 02:01 PM   #14
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results

Quote:
Originally Posted by Austin_Explorer
Paradoxically it sometimes seems the direct opposite trend is taking hold in the US with regard to the English language.
Hey, you want a language that doesn't modernize & mutate?

Try Latin. I hear it's def & phat... quite kewl.
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results
Old 06-03-2005, 03:10 PM   #15
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results

All right, that's it! Everybody let's just settle this and start speaking Esperanto from now on!

Je via sano!
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results
Old 06-03-2005, 03:20 PM   #16
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results

Que?
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results
Old 06-03-2005, 05:19 PM   #17
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results

Quote:
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Hey, you want a language that doesn't modernize & mutate?

Try Latin.* I hear it's def & phat... quite kewl.
I studied it for two years. Too much conjugation for me!
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results
Old 06-04-2005, 07:21 AM   #18
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results

I am reading the book, the Paradox of Choice. When I am done, I might post a book report. One theory of the author is that the more we are allowed to be the masters of our fates, the more we expect ourselves to be. We should be able to find work that is exciting, socially valuable, and pays well. Everything we buy is supposed to be the best. Along with this rise in expectations is that American culture is even more individualistic than it used to be; we are not so bound by needs of family, friends, and community. The author states that our individualism means that not only do we expect perfection in all things, but we expect to produce this perfection ourselves. When we fail, the culture of individualism biases us toward causal explanations that focus on personal rather than external factors. Our culture encourages the individual to blame himself for failure. This doesn't breed less failure, instead it leads to people giving up, to unhappiness and depression.

So, instead of blaming liberal policies for our troubles, maybe a number of our troubles are a result of our insistence that anyone should be able to make it on their own. After all, there are endless opportunies and choices that can lead to success. But these endless choices may in fact be debilitating.

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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results
Old 06-04-2005, 08:10 AM   #19
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results

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They have real problems, Muslim immigratation and political activism being one big one. But I don't think we are immune to similar things. Our immigrants who are "happy" to do yard work today won't feel that way tomorrow, and they will political clout to enforce some of their feelings.

H

The US will not have the problem of having immigrants that are happy to do yard work today but not tomorrow. If you do not work in the US, you don't get to eat - that is a huge motivator. Most of the guys doing the yard work are also illegal and don't want to get into problems.

Muslim immigration is a huge problem. For many years the left wing government promoted the complete preservation of the immigrant culture. A huge part of this is a misplaced part of history in which the holocaust is used as an excuse. Diversity is nice but integration in society is essential. The effect is huge enclaves with Muslim immigrants without a future leading a lifestyle as they were at home - the difference that many of them are receiving goverment handouts. The third generation is still a huge problem with a large support for Al-Quaeda and high unemployment.

There is a major difference in legal immigration between the US and Europe: Europe gets mainly illiterate and low-skilled people with no future. Whereas the US attracts far more high-skilled people. The huge attraction of the social welfare state attracts the losers. There is virtually no difference between the income level of minimum wage worker and a welfare recipient.

One example of the massive flaws in the social welfare system in the Netherlands are the disability laws. You only need to work one single day in your life and then you can claim disability forever (70% of last earned income). This was a perfect way for e.g. young mulsim women to follow the expected lifestyle and still ensure a high level of income. However, also one of my former roommates used this generously. While I was visiting her one time, she was 'sick' again for a couple of months - she needed some time to read books and play more with her kid. Her part-time job of three days a week was too much to do this in her own time. Non-western immigrants use social welfare three times as often as native citizens.

The government has tried to regulate people's financial lives way too much. With the high taxing and lack of good pre-tax saving plans, it is much more difficult to save for your own early out. The alternative is abuse the social laws or work until retirement age which in many of the old EC countries comes with a very good pension.

The 'No' vote in the Netherlands and France was a vote against the direction of the governments - not against Europe itself. It is absolutely crazy that many low income semi-Russian countries have joined the EU. There is not enough common ground culturally and economically. Turkey should never become a part of it. The goverment has to start listening to its people instead of doing what they think is best for them.

Vicky

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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results
Old 06-04-2005, 02:39 PM   #20
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Re: Europe, a giant Welfare State and it's results

You must be wearing very rosy glasses. To adress the first of your assertions-that current US workers will not someday lose interest in low skilled work. Have you checked out African Americans as a group who have managed to survive fairly well without doing much yard work, agricultural work, or any other kind of legal work?

And as for the good education and work skills of our recent immigrants, mostly true of South Indians and Chinese and Viet-Namese, mostly untrue for those from Spanish speaking countries. They have through political influence inherited the Affirmative Action preferences that supposedly were to atone for white guilt over US slavery, and still can't do a lot.* Mexicans have been here in the US a long time. How many Mexican engineers are among them?

They will advance, but more by political clout than simple economic achievement.

Just wait and see.

H
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