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The Social Welfare State in Crisis (July 27, 1981)

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That kind of comment comes from people who are overlooking the fact that for years the state neglected to reform a system that financed adventurous distribution injustices at outrageous expense.

[ . . . ]

The political elite in the Federal Republic believes that its own position – and the democratic system in general – can best be secured if the state that it runs keeps on handing out checks. It is important to protect “the social peace,” cite the defenders of the Federal Republic’s distribution democracy. With that, they imply that cuts in social benefits – even those benefits that can hardly be justified – would lead the people to lose trust in the state, which would be serious and ultimately could even lead to the end of the democratic order.

Again and again, Chancellor Helmut Schmidt conjures up the notion that western industrial countries cannot be governed and suggests that people are only well-disposed towards democracy if the state satisfies their excessive demands: the polity as “a kind of joint-stock company in which one has a stake and whose assessment is based on the dividends that are paid out,” according to Peter Grubbe in his “Report on the German Sense of Public Spirit.”

If the dividends stop coming, if the company takes a loss, then the Ruhr basin area supposedly starts burning, the civil servants revolt, and the democracy cannot be saved. Timidity or the democrats’ intensified sense of reality?

It remains indisputable that the stability of a political system largely depends on the material supplies and the social protection it can offer. This is true for democracies and dictatorships of every political shade.

It is up for dispute, however, whether the political order of the Federal Republic can only endure in the future if the best-paid parents of an only child still get 50 marks child allowance per month, if civil servants can still get a state-financed benefit due to an absurd regulation on absenteeism, and if mothers on maternity leave can spend time with their newborns due to state maintenance.

[ . . . ]

Source: “Die Helden sind ohne Ideen” [“The Heroes Have No Ideas”], Der Spiegel, July 27, 1981, pp. 30-42.

Translation: Allison Brown

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