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Market Instead of Regulation (December 16, 1988)

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Mostly because politics has long since forgotten what a coherent social strategy is. Something is considered social if public funds relieve citizens of as many of life’s risks as possible and pay them as many benefits as possible. That is a naïve and misleading idea, but it is vigorously fueled by the most diverse groups, who, in odd alliances, want to “pull out” even more for their clientele – and they do this with a preference for demanding a federal subsidy, which, in the end, has to be raised by the beneficiaries themselves. And so for decades, social policy has oscillated (depending on the budget situation at the time) between expansions that are sometimes grotesque and consolidation attempts that are usually futile. The smallest improvement in the economy serves to trigger new desires of the “social politicians,” even if that brings with it totally incalculable burdens on the system, on the people paying their contributions, and on the taxpayers.

Only gradually are citizens starting to realize that paying for all these benefits is costing them more than their money: namely, their freedom of decision, choices, and structural options. This forces them into a situation of “double standards,” in which they complain of high deductions from their pay, but still try to expand their own assets. It is the same with unemployment and environmental damages. So a society plunders itself, and with it the generation to come. But instead of making people responsible for a reasonable way of dealing with the systems that serve their security and offering them some corresponding freedom, Norbert Blüm takes them by the hand. In doing so, he is totally missing his actual task: to reestablish a practicable balance in the relationship between responsibility for oneself and for the community, between market and state.

To be sure, we will be able to live for a while with the regulations that are now crystallizing, albeit anachronistically, and with totally unnecessary losses. Maybe only repairs are “politically” possible at the moment, and not true solutions to the problems. The future will certainly not be won in this way, as it is leaning far more toward a stronger will to independence and creativity – especially in the social sector. If young people develop a greater awareness of the problem, if they realize the extent of their burden and of the decisions being made for them, and if at the same time it becomes obvious that their need for security can be better served with greater responsibility, then they will push for changes. The social minister said in 1988 that “you always have to pay, no matter how you arrange it.” In the face of European freedom of movement and competing systems, his statement might prove to be the greatest deception of all.

Then, at the latest, it will no longer be possible to avoid a reform. The chancellor at least has already hinted that consideration of the issue will have to continue even after the law is passed. He knows: he who reforms without taking into account the people and the times, also ruins.

Source: Gert Dahlmanns, “Blüm setzt nicht auf Solidarität” [“Blüm Does Not Trust Solidarity”], Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, December 16, 1988.

Translation: Allison Brown

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