“Pensions are safe”, former German labour secretary Norbert Blüm promised during the 1986 electoral campaign. Thirty-five years later, the future of Germany’s public pension scheme plays an important role in political campaigns once again. This article considers what today’s main political parties are now offering to the German electorate.
Vaccination is among the most successful public health measures available to society. In addition to preventing diseases, it dramatically reduces healthcare costs. In the case of the Covid-19 pandemics these costs can be quite significant. According to Fair Health – an independent non-profit organization that manages the US largest database of privately billed health insurance claims – the average cost of hospital care for COVID-19 patients varies from $51,389 for patients aged between 21 and 40 to $78,569 for patients between 41 and 60. In Europe, these costs are typically covered by the National Health Systems (NHS), but even in the USA the costs borne by the government are substantial.
In early 2011, an unprecedented wave of political uprisings swept the Arab world. It was the so-called Arab Spring. Protesters in several Arab countries took to the street and demanded changes in governments, freedom, bread, and dignity. The main slogan was “the people want to bring the regimes to an end.” The reasons that inflamed the uprisings across the region included excessive levels of corruption, police brutality, lack of political freedoms, low levels of income along with high income inequality, high levels of youth unemployment and, last but not least, dictatorial regimes.
A four-day workweek or Universal Basic Income (UBI) straight away? Demands for shorter labour time, preferably complemented with compensatory wage increases, are a must-have for any electoral campaign. But do we really work more, at the expense of time spent with the family or leisurely activities? Do we really need new regulation to cut our working hours? While some workers do work long hours, generalisations are dangerous, as documented by the statistics on how we spend our time. Germany offers an interesting case study.
Much of the socio-economic damage linked to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted from poor regulation: the coronavirus would certainly have caused much less damage in contexts more respectful of the principle of individual responsibility. Unfortunately, poorly conceived regulation continues to lead to more and more state intervention, in a spiral that produces unsatisfactory results and constrains individual freedoms.
Edmund Burke once said that “No government ought to exist for the purpose of checking the prosperity of its people or to allow such a principle in its policy”. In contrast to this principle, however, in June and July finance ministers and central bankers met in London and Venice to check the prosperity of “their” peoples and of the entire planet by proposing a universal corporate tax rate of at least 15%. According to media reports, the words “at least” were added on the insistence of the EU ministers.
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In spite of the attacks it has suffered in the past years, globalization is doing well. In particular, last November free trade supporters celebrated the birth of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade agreement that includes the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand. India initially took part in the negotiations but later decided to leave. The 15 RCEP member countries account for about 30% of the world population and 30% of global GDP, and are the largest trade bloc in history, larger than the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement and the European Union. The deal will take effect 60 days after ratification by at least six ASEAN and three non-ASEAN signatories. Thus far, it was ratified by Japan, China, Singapore and Thailand. Presumably, RCEP will be operational by the end of this year.
„I hope that our government, more enlightened and more liberal than in the past,
will be in the future the true friend of the best and noblest cause that exists;
and that the name of England will forever be dear to the Greeks.“
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley in a letter to Alexandros Mavrokordatos (February 22, 1825)
‘Towards a zero-risk society’ might be thought as the manifesto of a dishonest politician who tries to win voters’ support by promising to free them from any possible risk. A deceitful manifesto, however: although it could attract plenty of people and gather widespread consensus, the promise would be absurd.