Monday, January 11th, 2010

Linked Together: Europe, Social Democracy, Tony Judt

"Europe is often held up as a cautionary tale, a demonstration that if you try to make the economy less brutal, to take better care of your fellow citizens when they're down on their luck, you end up killing economic progress. But what European experience actually demonstrates is the opposite: social justice and progress can go hand in hand," writes Paul Krugman in today's Times. It is indeed contrary to the narrative you usually hear concerning Europe, and it reminded me of these recent remarks by Tony Judt: "It would be pleasing-but misleading-to report that social democracy, or something like it, represents the future that we would paint for ourselves in an ideal world. It does not even represent the ideal past. But, among the options available to us in the present, it is better than anything else to hand." (And if you haven't already, do read Judt's essay on living with ALS. Make sure you have time to devote your full attention to it, as it is something you should read completely free from distraction.)

7 Comments / Post A Comment

I've lived in Spain for over 20 years and god knows there's a lot that drives me crazy about the European mindset. But socialized medicine? At my most discontented/homesick, it's the one logical thing that keeps me here. If I get sick I won't end up in the street.

Abe Sauer (#148)

In service of his argument, Paul conveniently says this axiom re: Europe is about "killing economic progress." But that's only the case within the Glenn Beck set. Anyone with even a moderate understanding knows that what such social democracy kills is "wild, unsustainable economic progress" that leads to massive divisions of have and have-nots.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

"Imperfect improvements upon unsatisfactory circumstances are the best that we can hope for, and probably all we should seek." Yes.

deepomega (#1,720)

"But if your vision is of millions of prime-working-age adults sitting idle, living on the dole, think again. In 2008, 80 percent of adults aged 25 to 54 in the E.U. 15 were employed (and 83 percent in France). That's about the same as in the United States. Europeans are less likely than we are to work when young or old, but is that entirely a bad thing?"

Yes. It is. Next question!

lexalexander (#2,960)

As more than one blogger has pointed out, Judt's essay ought to be required reading for anyone who thinks confining prisoners in "stress positions" isn't torture.

Scum (#1,847)

There is no european experience. Some european countries have social democratic politics and crappy economies( portugal, spain, italy), some have social democratic politics and ok economies( sweden, norway, denmark).

Paul krugman is prone to overstating the impact of policy owing to being a) an economist, b) arrogant, and c) a creepy bastard who by his own admission is deeply inspired by the novels of Isaac Asimov. I'd prefer a randroid over a dude who believes that society should be in the power of an intellectual caste

Id' wager the american experience with social democracy would be closer to the latin than nordic but that is just a guess.

SemperBufo (#1,849)

Tony Judt is an excellent public conscience. I wish more people would read him.

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