Friday, November 15, 2013

The objective of social democracy should be sustainable progress

At a time of political and economic uncertainty, especially in Europe, it is useful to vindicate the political tradition that has provided more welfare to more people for a longer period of time: social democracy. Social democratic government experiences in northern and central European countries are the most successful ever, in terms of shared prosperity. According to the words of the late historian Tony Judt, social democracy is not only a list of government policies, but also a collection of values that are the best to navigate an uncertain globalised society. It is something of a paradox that social democratic organisations face electoral difficulties in many countries at a time when the alternatives (deregulated capitalism, communism) have failed so clearly the test of government. The social democratic model of shared prosperity means high taxation with a generous universal welfare state, a clean government, environmentally sustainable growth, excellent public education, and willingness to introduce reforms when there are crises, while maintaining the essential aspects of the model. These characteristics are compatible with open markets and large privately owned firms. The countries that have remained faithful to this model are today among the most stable and prosperous in the world. They are not a paradise, nor are they free of problems, but any proposals on how to exit a crisis should start from this benchmark.

The aim of egalitarianism should not be limited only to a static measure of equality in income. It should incorporate concern over the inheritance of inequalities, lack of social mobility and the overly high correlation between the income of parents and the income of children. It should also focus on inequality in access to power, and in the access to discrete contractual positions (weak or strong, principal or agent) that are determined by an individual’s wealth.
(The full article has been published in European Politics and Policy and can be read here).

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