New book: “Beyond the European Social Model”

As European leaders gather in Brussels for their summit on the European economy, Open Europe releases a new book of essays by leading thinkers from across the EU. Beyond the European Social Model argues that the high-tax and highly regulated “social model” is not working, and that the time has come for the EU and its member states to take a different approach. The authors look at both success stories and failures from around Europe and paint a picture of how reforms might work. WorkForAll's text authored by Martin DeVieghere on the Scandinavian model provides for the first chapter. Download the book here

The book: The authors look at both success stories and failures from around Europe and paint a picture of how reforms might work. Neil O’Brien, Director of Open Europe said: “Instead of tinkering around the edges with the failed Lisbon programme, EU member states need to go for the plunge and undertake the kind of radical shift to a low-tax low-regulation economy which has transformed Ireland from a backwater into one of the richest countries in the world.” “If the EU is to help rather than hinder its member states, discussion in Brussels should focus on cutting trade barriers, hacking back EU over-regulation, and redeploying the €120 billion EU budget away from the CAP towards more useful programmes.”

Executive Summary

Section 1: Is the Social Model working? If not, which policies are working in Europe?

Martin De Vlieghere contrasts the success of the low tax Irish economy with Scandinavia. While Sweden fell from being the 4th richest country in the world in 1975, to 14th today, Ireland has transformed itself from the 22nd to the 4th richest economy. Sweden and Finland have created no private sector jobs since 1981, while employment in Ireland has grown by 56%. De Vlieghere notes that as well as a low tax burden overall, Ireland’s tax mix falls more on consumption, and less heavily on profits and labour.

Chapter 1

Lorraine Mullally looks at whether the so-called social model is really “social” at all. It’s often said that while the EU may be a less dynamic economy than US, it is a better society. But long term unemployment in the eurozone is six times the rate in the US. And over the last decade the incomes of the poorest 10% of the population have grown eight times faster in Ireland than in Sweden (and six times faster in Britain). As a result, so-called Anglo-Saxon economies like Ireland and the UK now have a smaller proportion of their population below the poverty line than Sweden for the first time. So isn’t the social model really a failure in social terms too?

Chapter 2

Dr. Constantin Gurdgiev warns that the European Social Model may yet sink the Irish miracle. “Over the last 5 years, the country has been sliding into the abyss of rising government spending, indirect taxation increases and more regulation and state involvement in the economy.” He argues that Ireland’s emulation of the EU’s “social partnership” model in particular is a mistake and that liberal policies are the best way to ensure high productivity and better opportunities for women. He uses data from migration flows to show that people are “voting with their feet” – and moving out of the eurozone to more flexible economies.

Chapter 3

Johnny Munkhammar says that despite the hype about the “Scandinavian model”, other EU members should not try to emulate a model which means “low growth, unemployment and dependency on the state”. He argues that hidden unemployment in Sweden means a real unemployment rate of nearly 20%. But the future can still be bright because even “limited reform might have substantial results.”

Chapter 4

Chresten Anderson rejects the whole idea of a common European Social Model. He writes that, “The imposition of a single welfare state model is unjustified from an economic perspective and undesirable politically”. He argues that in so far as Scandinavian countries have had success in recent years it is because they have moved away from their original social models and adopted a series of free-market reforms. He concludes that if Europe wants to reduce unemployment it should stop talking about how to “create” jobs and start focussing on how to “grow the pie”.

Section 2: Lessons for reformers: the state of play and the way forwards

Chapter 5: Reform in a consensual society:

Eline van den Broek looks at reform in the Netherlands and the so called “polder model”. She argues that the model is not a suitable blueprint for reform across the EU. Although the government has managed to enact some reforms, the long process of negotiation inherent in the polder model has led to a lack of clarity and drained public support for the reform programme. Moreover, the official bodies involved in corporatist structures have become unrepresentative of an increasingly diverse and individualistic society. She suggests the Netherlands may be heading for a dramatic change of political culture, with the consensus approach coming under pressure.

Chapter 6: Technology:

Meelis Kitsing notes that success in the information economy has made the Nordic model “as hot as stones in a sauna” among EU policymakers. But studies which try to show a link between Nordic welfare systems and the information economy suggest that this is less of a “model” and more of a coincidence. He argues that success stories like Nokia can be explained by getting a few big things like telecoms regulation right, and also by the “gales of creative destruction” unleashed on Scandinavia in the early 1990s by the collapse of the Soviet Union. He argues that if poorer member states want to break into the new economy they should learn from low-tax Estonia instead. He notes the story of the revolutionary telecoms company Skype: technology developed entirely in Estonia - by entrepreneurs who had left Denmark and Sweden.

Chapter 7: Welfare reform:

Barry Watts looks at whether and how Europe can learn from welfare reform in the US. Due to poorly designed welfare and tax systems, the marginal rate of tax faced by people leaving welfare for work can be over 100%. Earned Income Tax Credits are widely seen as a success in the US (across the party-political divide). In theory they could provide a better way to help people in Europe escape from the “unemployment trap”. But so far Europe has made little progress on welfare reform, and may even be going about it the wrong way.

Chapter 8: Regulation:

Malgosia Kaluzynska writes that the EU as a whole is committed to a “better regulation” programme, but that this programme needs to change and broaden if it is to be a success. The common approach which is now being taken up across the EU (known in the jargon as the “standard cost model”) focuses too much just on the administrative costs of regulation and fails to really deliver better regulation. She argues that Europe needs to look at the wider costs of regulation, and that EU members need to think about cutting the regulatory burden on individuals as well as businesses. Member states need to reduce the burden on small businesses and remember that harmonisation is not the only way forwards.

Chapter 9

Paul Stephenson argues that EU regulation needs to be rolled back. Despite positive rhetoric about “better regulation”, so far the Commission is just tinkering around the edges. With most regulation on business now coming from the EU, and over 10,000 new pieces of EU legislation added to the EU statute book since 1997, it is vital that member states start to axe rather than tinker with EU regulations.

Chapter 10 Notes for Editors

Beyond the Social Model.pdf1.08 MB