This is an interesting article, as an example of 'thinking inside the Matrix'. It talks about how various nations use different 'models' in responding to the neoliberal project. Some models are 'effective' - i.e., they enable a 'competitive economy' - while some are not. Some models are 'equitable' - i.e., they provide reasonable social protections - while some are not. In the absence of dynamism in Continental or Mediterranean countries, it is ever-larger layers of the middle class that will fall under the growing pressure of globalization. France and the United States are two different models, but both create the same social anxiety. Here Le Monde tells us that 'social anxiety' is 'created' not by neoliberalism, but rather by the response model! The response of the victim is being blamed for the harm caused by the perpetrator. It's a bit like saying a woman 'causes rape' by the way she dresses. The neoliberal project, aka globalization, is about disinvestment in Western economies: disinvestment not only in social programs, but in basic infrastructures and in domestic economic development. The various 'free-trade' treaties implement this project by making it easy for investors and corporations to move their operations wherever in the world they can be the most exploitive. Such a project can only lead to anxiety, in the West and globally, no matter how any nation might choose to respond. Le Monde talks about everything but the elephant in the kitchen. C'est la vie a la Matrix. rkm -------------------------------------------------------- http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/102805H.shtml The French Model Is a Factor in Social Anxiety, as Is the American By Eric Le Boucher Le Monde Saturday 22 October 2005 Before European leaders meet on Thursday 27 October at Hampton Court to discuss the European social situation, a Tony Blair initiative, it must be agreed that there is no ideal model. In the face of the shocks of globalization, very few developed countries have succeeded in remodeling their system of social protection, in marrying competitiveness and solidarity in a completely convincing manner. If growth is impressive and solid in the United States, that success is not successful in preventing the development of "social anxiety." That stems from the fact that this system, as encapsulated by Professor Michel Aglietta, "transfers all insecurity to those the least able to bear it," the least qualified, those at the bottom of the scale. Middle Class In the last few weeks we've seen another piece of former American social protection collapse. General Motors, which is suffering from significant financial losses and a reduction in its market share over the last twenty years, announced a cost-saving plan that will change the company's social contract. First, the giant will reduce its health insurance payments for its 106,000 employees and one million pensioners by a billion dollars. Second, the bankruptcy of Delphi, which manufactured its components, will force it to take over payment of this former subsidiary's supplementary pensions. GM will not have the means, except by also limiting supplementary pension payments for its own employees. The GM crisis announces the end of the social regime of the big company that pays well and offers benefits. Ford will surely follow down this path, a path down which the automobile groups were preceded by the airlines, oil companies, steel and chemical industries. The good worker from these traditional sectors, a central figure of the famous American middle class, finds himself deprived of social coverage. He will have to pay personally for a health insurance policy. The weakest and the least prudent will join the 45 million Americans who now have no health insurance whatsoever. For pensions, there is a minimum, paid out by a federal body. But the latter, financed by companies' contributions, is itself in serious deficit. The American social system is therefore much less "sustainable" than is economic growth. Unstable Environment Europe has nothing to be proud of. Certainly it protects its citizens much better overall, but that occurs, in the majority of member countries, at the expense of growth and employment. André Sapir, from Brussels' Bruegel Research Institute, has just published a study that distinguishes four European models, of which only two are "effective": the Anglo-Saxon model (weak unions, a wide salary range, social protection limited to a minimum) and the Nordic model (high level of social spending, strong unions, narrow salary range, freedom to fire but strong compensation for unemployed persons). Only one of those two - the Nordic - is both effective and equitable. The two other models are ineffective. One is equitable - the Continental model (heavy social spending, very limited lay-offs and generous unemployment benefits; this category comprises France and Germany). The other - the Mediterranean model - is ineffective and inequitable (heavy spending, limited lay-offs, but weak compensation). Wanting to preserve the social systems constructed in the 1950s for a stable economic environment (big companies like GM), ineffective countries deprive themselves of the indispensable flexibility required in the shifting environment that globalization has created. Sapir provides a startling statistic: 45% of our industrial imports come from low salary countries, versus only 8% in 1970. "And that's only the beginning," the author adds. The creation of the single market and the Euro were intended as responses to globalization, but they have not sufficed to "generate a greater dynamism." Because those efforts have slowed down (no single market in finance or services), because the European budget is too limited and remains allocated to "relics" like agriculture. But also because their social inflexibility has made Continental countries suffer the disadvantages of globalization without realizing any of its benefits. Conservatism André Sapir goes further by predicting that these countries which are blocked in the absence of social or monetary adjustment (the Euro prohibits devaluations) are going to try to create a comparative advantage by launching themselves into fiscal "dumping." Austria has done it; Germany is thinking about it. These countries will lose their revenues; the cycle is deadly. National social conservatism is becoming a factor in European social disintegration the French left should reflect upon. These are the lessons André Sapir draws: 1. Equity has a price. There's no solidarity without social transfers. Tony Blair has, moreover, understood that. Since 1997, poverty has decreased by a quarter on the other side of the Channel to return to a level comparable to that of Continental Europe. On the other hand, inequalities there remain substantial. 2. Effectiveness is not dependent on the level of taxes, therefore on the amount of money spent. It comes from the quality of concrete policies. 3. Ineffective systems cannot endure (they are also not "sustainable"). Countries have the choice between two effective models, neither of which signifies "the end of the social contract" as political demagogues claim. The reverse is true: immobility will not allow us to defend the benefits already gained and will end up imperiling the single market and the Euro. In the absence of dynamism in Continental or Mediterranean countries, it is ever-larger layers of the middle class that will fall under the growing pressure of globalization. France and the United States are two different models, but both create the same social anxiety. -- -------------------------------------------------------- http://cyberjournal.org "Apocalypse Now and the Brave New World" http://www.cyberjournal.org/cj/rkm/Apocalypse_and_NWO.html Posting archives: http://cyberjournal.org/cj/show_archives/?date=01Jan2006&batch=25&lists=newslog Subscribe to low-traffic list: •••@••.••• ___________________________________________ In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.