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Expansion of the Welfare State (September 24, 1973)

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But still, precisely against the background of the social policy actions of last week, one must ask whether the limits might indeed have been reached. This question does not have to do with the understanding of a social welfare state based on the rule of law, however, but with its financing, or better: the ability to finance social security. It is apparent that in the debate on wage policy, the reduction of real income through taxes and social insurance contributions is being mentioned. Of course, it is annoying for the individual employee when his nominal income enters a tax-rate category in which the share that is “taxed away” is constantly growing without the individual taxpayer being able to expect a correspondingly increasing service in return from the state. But why is it considered just as annoying that the social insurance contributions are increasing? Doesn’t it count anymore that people have a personal claim through their pension insurance? Do people not realize that outstanding health insurance protection (including coverage for preventive measures) is expensive, especially when it is greatly exploited for good and sometimes not so good reasons? It looks as if many employees have finally started showing an interest in something besides their net balance, such as social insurance deductions and return services.

This turn away from years of thinking in “net terms” could and should be a reason to examine social protection in all areas from the angle of strict rationality and feasibility. It is no longer a matter of taking something away from the citizens; it is about giving them as much as possible that is meaningful in return for their taxes and contributions. This applies mostly to health insurance and rehabilitation. Looking at it this way, it is a good thing that the limits of what can be financed are becoming visible – and acknowledged.

Source: Hans-Ulrich Spree, “Sozialpolitik ohne Stillstand“ [“Social Policy without Standstill”], Süddeutsche Zeitung, September 24, 1973.

Translation: Allison Brown

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