Merkel and social Europe, by Lluís Foix

To get out of economic, physical and political insecurity in this period of convalescence we are in, it is necessary, first of all, to regain confidence in the human capacity to overcome fear and overcome the crisis. There is no recollection that two thirds of humanity were confined at the same time by a virus that has paralyzed the mobility of hundreds of millions of people. It has been and is worse than a war because how to stop the destructive capacity of the coronavirus is unknown for now. Global society, with all its spectacular advances, is on the defensive and the measures taken by governments are only precautionary, indicating that they can be revoked the moment the monster appears in a small community. The way out of the crisis can only come from a strengthening of lost equity. This upheaval with global dimensions has altered human and peoples’ relations. The extensive annual survey of the European Council on Foreign Relations reviewed by Xavier Mas de Xaxàs on these pages concludes that most Europeans have in fact emancipated themselves from the United States’ military, economic and financial umbrella. One of the changes produced in the world since 2016 is the one that Donald Trump has brought about by announcing and applying as far as possible the “America first”. The United States has ceased to be indispensable due to voluntary failure to appear in international forums, from the alliance for collective defense to climate change, world trade and all those institutions that were proposed and led by him as the main winner of the war against Hitler and later defender of liberal democracies against totalitarianisms in Russia and China. Europe must look in the rearview mirror every time it sets out to offer formulas that alleviate the orphanhood in which we find ourselves. There are so many bodies lost uselessly along the way that it is better to be very cautious. Today begins the turn of Germany to preside over the European Union in the coming months. Angela Merkel is the unquestioned statesman and the one who has interpreted the gravity of the moment in a Europe that has lost Britain and observes with concern what is happening in Hungary, Poland and other newer countries in the EU. Merkel has committed herself to what all the foreign ministers since Adenauer have carried out, raising the European flag high for two fundamental reasons. The first, because they do not trust their own history, and the second, because they need the complicity of France and Europe to survive in peace. A little over a month ago the chancellor declared that “the nation state has no future. Germany will only do well in the long run if Europe does well. ” The decision taken jointly with Emmanuel Macron to face the economic crisis with multimillion-dollar investments to balance the northern and southern economies is the smartest and most practical way out. Relaunching a European plan to overcome the economic and social crisis is now the only priority. It is in line with the thinking inspired by Adam Smith when she stated that “no society can prosper and be happy if the majority of its members are poor and unhappy.” Capitalism has endured, simplifying a lot, for having created wealth and for distributing it with the greatest possible equity. The secret of the durability of FD Roosevelt’s new deal is to have rebalanced the inequalities produced by capitalism that led to the cataclysm of 1929. Without education available to everyone and without a living wage there is no acceptable democracy. The Rhineland-based social capitalism of the 1960s, the result of pacts between Social Democrats and Christian Democrats, laid the foundations of the welfare state, the great European social contribution to civilization in the last century. Thatcher and Reagan built a world whose main guru turned out to be Milton Friedman and his Chicago colleagues who gathered around them a spectacular number of economists who prostrated themselves at their feet and spread the good news that led us to the 2008 crisis. They are the same, more or less, that now disclose the thought of John Maynard Keynes as an antidote to individual excesses against a middle class that swells the lists of the new poor. The ill-fated Tony Judt said that it doesn’t matter how rich a country is, but how unequal it is. He gave the example of Sweden and Finland, two of the richest in the world, where the difference between those who have the most and those who have the least has very little. The United States spends large sums on health and its life expectancy is lower than that of Bosnia and slightly higher than that of Albania. Europe must seek the lost balance. Chinese capitalism does not favor the lives of the masses, but contributes more and better to its repression. I finish with Judt: “It is better to be free than to live in an efficient state of any political color if efficiency has that price.” All the possible market and all the necessary State, Keynes dixit.