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Snake-Oil Salesmen Tout European Welfare State in Latin America

By: Carlos Sabino - @Sabino2324 - Jun 16, 2014, 7:14 am
Woman walking down a street in Prague, Czech Republic
Woman walking down a street in Prague, Czech Republic. (Juan Rubiano)

EspañolEuropean ambassadors, in a more or less undisguised manner, roam across Latin America to impose an agenda, point of view, and way of life that they present as uniquely moral, legitimate, and effective. Unrestricted environmental protectionism, combating poverty through direct transfers to the poor, and government intervention in the economy and civil society are all part of the message that is invariably accompanied by a call for higher taxes.

They will insist that without an expansion of the state, economic progress and social peace is simply impossible. Apparently, they live in a perfect world and have generously offered to give us the recipe for this marvelous panacea. If only this were true.

First of all, Europe and the United States have not yet managed to overcome the effects of an economic crisis that erupted more than 5 years go. This has caused these regions to go into deep recessions and experience massive unemployment.

Beyond the circumstantial triggers, unsustainable debt and entitlements brought about what has become the Great Recession: “free” education, universal health care, unemployment benefits, pensions and retirement benefits for a relatively young population, housing, and a host of others.

The worst part is that, by following interventionist economic policies, these countries have attempted to counter the effects of the crisis by injecting more fiat money into the economy, increasing government spending, and by extension, increasing the already massive public debt.

The results have been clear: negligible economic growth, unyielding unemployment, and Europe losing its place among global economic powers. Meanwhile, Asian countries continue to grow their economies and increase their overall standard of living.

Given this dismal picture, it should come as no surprise that European voters recently dealt a very strong blow to the dominant political parties during the latest European Parliament elections. Political parties across the ideological spectrum that question the existence of the European Union drowned out Socialists, Social Democrats, and Christian Democrats, driving back their numbers to historic lows.

The reaction was understandable, since these parties are the ones shaping Europe today. However, solutions to their problems will not be found within the proposals of this new radicalism. Europe will not overcome its crisis by expelling foreigners or punishing bankers, but rather by reviewing fundamental policies and that have up until to now been dogmatically presented as the only possible and acceptable solutions.

The so-called welfare state, which guarantees the safety of citizens “from cradle to grave,” is extremely expensive and burdens economic growth. Given the demographic changes experienced in these countries, the current system is impractical and unsustainable. It is not possible to continue providing extended services for everyone without collecting more revenue, and it is not possible to collect more funds without seriously affecting economic development.

However, no one in the European Unions seems to have either the courage or the insight to deal with these welfare-state complications in a realistic way. There can be no true solutions if politicians continue to avoid reality and act as if there is no problem at all.

Unfortunately, economic and social planning are not the only things to have been exported though these limited and defective policies. Europeans have also tried to impose their own biased model of justice, which attempts to justify the crimes of the guerrilla armies of the past, but will not forgive those who fought against them. This approach presents nonexistent problems as crucial, and in some cases, stirs up protests among minority groups that will take on destabilizing and authoritarian methods of fighting; it accepts the authoritarian regimes of Venezuela and Cuba as democratic, but turns it back to those who truly fight for liberty on our continent.

Is that the model Europeans want us to adopt? Would they have us turn to the same sort of state intervention in the economy that led to significant setbacks in the second half of the last century? A justice system that pardons the violence of some, but not of others? It’s time we reconsider the worldview prescribed by those who have carried out decades of flawed policies and now find themselves at a dead end.

Translated by Rachel Rodriguez.

Carlos Sabino Carlos Sabino

Sociologist, writer, and university professor, Sabino is director of the masters and doctoral programs in history at the University of Francisco Marroquín, Guatemala. Follow him @Sabino2324