German text of the manifesto: Der Weg nach vorne für Europas Sozialdemokraten. The characteristics of the manifesto include a strong belief in the market mechanism, explicit approval of inequality, an appeal to historical change as justification, and a determination to impose its values.
Supporters of the market use the word "innovation" to mean a transition from a society less market-oriented to a society more market-oriented. A non-market political ideal, such as the abolition of private cars, is not an "innovation" for them, although it is clearly new and radical. The Dutch word "marktconform" is useful here: it means "in conformity with market forces". For neo-liberals, a society which is becoming more marktconform, is innovative. In reality in free-market societies the economy is in the hands of the most conservative section of the population - look at the photographs of directors in any business magazine.The trademark of this approach is the New Centre in Germany and the Third Way in the United Kingdom. Other social democrats choose other terms that suit their own national cultures. But though the language and the institutions may differ, the motivation is everywhere the same. Most people have long since abandoned the world view represented by the dogmas of left and right. Social democrats must be able to speak to those people.
The market, by definition, can not "unleash" any creativity or innovation which is not marketable. The inevitable result is a tendency to blandness, playing safe, aiming at the settled middle-aged, middle-class consumer. Typical products of market "creativity and innovation" are Princess Diana Margarine, and the eclipse products of August 1999. In a market society, changes-in-form substitute for changes-in-substance. The privatisation of British Rail brought a good example. Instead of investing in new trains as promised, the private rail companies bought old trains and painted them in new colours.
Why must they? Why should any political organisation deliberately adapt itself to people who have no principles? True, it is impossible to have no principles at all, but the liberal tradition in Europe is certainly hostile to ideals, morality, and utopias. Yet there is nothing wrong with dogmatically favouring Good above Evil: those who have no "dogmas" in this sense, are themselves evil, and should be persecuted. They should certainly not be set up as the arbiter of government policy. If social democracy judges itself by the extent to which it is credible for people without principles, then that is a reason to reject social democracy.
Fairness and social justice, liberty and equality of opportunity, solidarity and responsibility to others - these values are timeless. Social democracy will never sacrifice them. To make these values relevant to today's world requires realistic and forward-looking policies capable of meeting the challenges of the 21st century. Modernisation is about adapting to conditions that have objectively changed, and not reacting to polls.
This is a common argument, and often a world-view, of neo-liberalism. Neo-liberals claim that neo-liberal policy and values are not policy and values, but a "historical development". Arguing from history is one of the great traditions of political argument, used at some time by all political ideologies. Ironically, it is a central feature of Marxism, and was for that reason condemned vigorously by liberals. (Most famously in "The Poverty of Historicism").
Especially since 1989, however, market liberals, neo-liberals and cyberliberals have claimed that they represent the "inevitable march of history" - toward free trade, liberal-democracy, a global market, or a global network. Often they also use a political argument that is is "necessary to adapt" to these developments. That is the argument which the Blair-Schröder manifesto uses here, and repeats throughout the document. Both use the term "modernisation".
There are always three claims present in such arguments: first, that a certain change is taking place; second, that it is unavoidable; and third that a certain response logically follows. To justify his policies, Tony Blair typically appeals to globalisation, the information age, and the knowledge society. He says that they make the Third Way "necessary" as a British national response. The Blair-Schröder manifesto extends this form of argument, to Europe as a whole: it presents neoliberalism as a "necessary adaptation".
Similarly, we need to apply our politics within a new economic framework, modernised for today, where government does all it can to support enterprise but never believes it is a substitute for enterprise. The essential function of markets must be complemented and improved by political action, not hampered by it. We support a market economy, not a market society.
This is an example of the underlying values of the document. In the way it views the market as a semi-sacred social order, the manifesto is clearly neo-liberal. Remember that many liberals do genuinely believe in the market, as a perfect order of society: some speak of " the miracle of the market". For them, interference with the market is a form of sacrilege - a destruction of something perfect. Blair and Schröder see the market as something which must not be "hampered". Inevitably then, there will be a "market society", and not just a market economy. It is in the nature of the market - if it is not restricted - to expand to include all areas of society.
It is not possible to accept the results of the market, and then add something, without interfering with the market. By definition, the results of the market are the results of market forces: adding anything else is by definition interference. Either you accept the outcome of the market or you interfere with the market. If you choose not to interfere, like Blair and Schröder, then you have chosen to accept the results. Ultimately, there are only market societies and anti-market societies.
We share a common destiny within the European Union. We face the same challenges - to promote employment and prosperity, to offer every individual the opportunity to fulfil their unique potential, to combat social exclusion and poverty, to reconcile material progress with environmental sustainability and our responsibility to future generations, to tackle common problems that threaten the cohesion of society such as crime and drugs, and to make Europe a more effective force for good in the world.
Who is "we" and are these the "challenges" they face? At several points, such as here, the manifesto uses the language of "sell-more" marketing books. Talking about "challenges" is one of the most overused cliches of management-speak. The term appears 9 times in the manifesto, but in politics the word is almost meaningless anyway. It is a "challenge" to steal Bill Gates money, or blow up NATO headquarters, but of course that is not what Blair and Schröder mean. The challenges they define, are the ones which justify their policies.
That said, the list gives an idea of how Blair and Schröder look at the world, at their values. And their values and priorities are clearly wrong.
Innovation, not employment or prosperity, should be the fundamental goal of society, In Europe, one of the most fundamental innovations is the destruction of the nation state - an institution which Blair and Schröder take as given.
The moral purpose of human beings is not to "realise their potential", but to innovate. The substitution of any other goal is in effect conservative. It is conservative to say that human beings should spend their time praising God, or "realising their potential". (Originally, "realising potential" was a catch-phrase of humanistic psychology: it was later widely diffused in New Age contexts).
Social exclusion should not be "combated". That would inevitably lead to social inclusion in an unjust society - and it is better to be outside injustice than in it. In practice, "combating social exclusion" is used in EU social policy documents to mean workfare projects.
It is wrong to reconcile material progress with environmental sustainability and our responsibility to future generations. All that has meant is that a huge new sector of "green", "eco", and "sustainable" products came into existence. There is no responsibility to future generations to produce, buy, or sell green eco-fun-cars - or any such product. (And if there is, well then the future generations should be left to suffer).
We need to strengthen our policies by benchmarking our experiences in Britain and Germany, but also with like-minded counterparts in Europe and the rest of the world. We must learn from each other and measure our own performance against best practice and experience in other countries.
Here the neo-liberal idea of the "audit society" is introduced: it is repeated often in the manifesto. Terms like "best practice " and "benchmark" are typical of this approach, which creates artificial competition in areas of public policy where direct competition is not possible. A typical example is, the allocation of urban renewal funds by competition among cities - the losers get nothing. The "audit society" is filled with awards, prizes, public-sector targets and competition. Such a society assumes there is a single non-political standard, by which "performance" can be judged: a new version of the old liberal claim, to offer a neutral form of society. In reality there is no universal standard of achievement or performance, certainly not for the entire policy of a government. And in this specific example, the benchmark is Tony Blair's Britain - "best practice" means Blair practice. Is it "best practice" to have a government like that of Blair? The answer depends on whether you support him: there can be no neutral standard.With this appeal, we invite other European social democratic governments who share our modernising aims to join us in this enterprise.
Later in the document the expansionism of the authors goes further, including not only social-democratic governments, but the whole of Europe as the object of "modernisation".
Although both parties can be proud of our historic achievements, today we must develop realistic and feasible answers to new challenges confronting our societies and economies.
Again the combination of management-school rhetoric and neoliberal historicism. Who decided what the "challenges" are, and why must the parties provide answers to some challenges and not to others? Neoliberal ideologists like to repeat that there is an inevitable historical trend, and only one possible response to it - more market. (In eastern Europe the word "transition" was used: Blair and Schröder call it "modernisation").This requires adherence to our values but also a willingness to change our old approaches and traditional policy instruments. In the past:
- The promotion of social justice was sometimes confused with the imposition of equality of outcome.
In the past, the word justice had many different definitions: but only the west-european liberal tradition ever suggested that "equality of opportunity" could substitute for social justice. So the Blair/Schröder manifesto is historically correct, in the sense that all pre-liberal ideas of justice were indeed different from the liberal idea. However, that does not mean that the liberal version is the moral version: the idea of "equality of opportunity" is in practice used as a defence of inequality. In other words, the definition is being changed: injustice is being redefined as "justice".The result was a neglect of the importance of rewarding effort and responsibility,
Effort and responsibility should not be rewarded: if anything should be rewarded it is idealism. The values promoted here are those of Rotary-Club neo-Victorianism - substituted for moral judgment. Effort and responsibility can never be good in themselves.and the association of social democracy with conformity and mediocrity rather than the celebration of creativity, diversity and excellence.
Again, remember that the people who wrote this understand "excellence" and "creativity" in terms of the market - essentially in terms of sales. An totally unprincipled 18-year old, who succeeds in aggressively selling double-glazing, is in their eyes an excellent Young Entrepreneur. If social democracy identifies itself with the promotion of such people, then that is another reason to reject social democracy. And there are far worse examples of the "creativity, diversity and excellence" of entrepreneurs, for instance in the recent European food scandals. (One cattle-feed factory not only mixed sewage waste in its products: it connected its own toilets to the production line, to save a little more money).Work was burdened with ever higher costs.
- The means of achieving social justice became identified with ever higher levels of public spending regardless of what they achieved or the impact of the taxes required to fund it on competitiveness, employment and living standards. Decent public services are a vital concern for social democrats, but social conscience cannot be measured by the level of public expenditure. The real test for society is how effectively this expenditure is used and how much it enables people to help themselves.
Again the neo-Victorian morality is evident. Blair and Schröder equate 'social conscience" with the encouragement of a neo-darwinist society, in which every person is permanently active. Remember that Blair and Schröder, and most of their friends, work 80 hours per week. And in all societies, the ethic of the elite is often presented as the moral norm for society (in the US, you apparently no longer count socially, if you work only 40 hours). So if the elite never has time to sit in the park, they may think that no-one else should sit there either.
In reality, a social security system for tens of millions of people can not be run as a self-help club, or a sort of neoliberal therapy session. Individuals can not change the structure of the economy, certainly not to redistribute work or income. Only the state can take this responsibility, and this is not wrong. There is nothing wrong with state payments to the unemployed, for instance, and there is nothing wrong with accepting them. There is morally no reason why the unemployed should not sit in the park.
- The belief that the state should address damaging market failures all too often led to a disproportionate expansion of the government's reach and the bureaucracy that went with it. The balance between the individual and the collective was distorted.
The expansion of the reach of the state is not wrong, even if it extends to 100%. And the problem with the market is not that it fails for 10% or 20%. The market is wrong in itself, it is 100% wrong, and state action to limit it is good in itself. The state should not simply concern itself with political embarrassing failures of the market, it should abolish it entirely.Values that are important to citizens, such as personal achievement and success, entrepreneurial spirit, individual responsibility and community spirit, were too often subordinated to universal social safeguards.
Of course liberals believe entirely the opposite: and on this fundamental issue (the morality of the market), Blair and Schröder are clearly liberals. So they have merely stated their beliefs here: the problem is that they intend to impose these beliefs on Europe.
The contrast between individual and collective is also ideological: supporters of the market try to associate it with personal freedom. In reality, individuals in market societies inevitably live in conformity with market forces. The outcome of the market is itself, by definition, collective. A market society is in its own way strongly collectivist. The classic visual illustration of this is the mass of office workers in suit-and-tie, entering the financial centres each morning. So whatever else neoliberalism does, it will not free the individual in any real sense. However, many neoliberals are not only satisfied with market conformity, but often positively welcome it. Wearing a suit and tie is a political gesture, for pro-market students: they genuinely want to identify with this form of collectivism. However it is then inconsistent, to appeal to individuality as a justification for a market society.
Again, these values are not important to all citizens: aside from "community spirit", they are important to neoliberal citizens. They are the values of a cultural minority in Europe, but that minority holds political power, and has increasing cultural influence. These are largely the values of the entrepreneur.
Personal achievement and success are not always wrong, but it is certainly wrong to make them a goal in life. People should strive for the Good: often that will bring zero personal achievement, and zero success. That does not mean that zero-achievers are bad people. A zero-achievement society is not necessarily an evil society.
Entrepreneurial spirit is a different matter. By definition, an entrepreneur is a person who acts in accordance with market forces instead of striving for Good. The entrepreneurial spirit is fundamentally evil: it was deliberately conceived by liberal philosophers, as the appropriate attitude for a society with no moral values.
Individual responsibility is not wrong in itself - but state responsibility is also not wrong. Again a neo-Victorian sense of individual responsibility is simply absurd, in present European societies. If you see a building on fire, should you refuse to call the fire brigade, and instead try to rescue everyone yourself? Or shout to the trapped people, that they should show more individual initiative? When social action is beyond the reach of the individual, (as in the case of a rescue from a burning office building), it is not wrong to wait for the state to take action.
Besides, many acts of individual responsibility are illegal: a classic example is the squatters movements in European cities. That form of individual solution to housing problems, is not acceptable to Blair, Schröder, or any European government. In practice the "individual responsibility" promoted by Blair and Schröder, means passive acceptance of workfare projects by the unemployed.
- Too often rights were elevated above responsibilities, but the responsibility of the individual to his or her family, neighbourhood and society cannot be offloaded on to the state.
Then why offload them onto the market? Here, the tension between the communitarian and the market-liberal influences in the manifesto are visible. A pure market society would impossible, if individuals had any non-market commitments. Any market society requires that individuals abandon family, local and social interests, to some extent. Those who praise the market as the goal of society cannot logically complain that it erodes pre-market social commitments. If it is not wrong for commercial residential care to replace traditional family care, why is it wrong for the state to displace family obligations in the same way?If the concept of mutual obligation is forgotten, this results in a decline in community spirit, lack of responsibility towards neighbours, rising crime and vandalism, and a legal system that cannot cope.
The "responsibilities" set out by Blair and Schröder are themselves a problem. They contradict the moral individualism implied in the term "individual responsibility". Instead they resemble traditional European nationalist-conservative slogans. Slogans such as "For God, the Family, and the Fatherland!" reappears as "Family, Neighbourhood, Society". Tony Blair constantly appeals to this type of communitarian vision. The truth is, that individuals have no moral responsibility to family, neighbourhood or society anyway. Their moral responsibility is to do good: often there is nothing good about family, neighbourhood and society.
The family is well known for being a repressive, as well as supportive, institution. And neighbourhood activism is often motivated by exclusion (for instance of ethnic minorities) or NIMBY-ism ("more roads please, but not here"). No-one has any responsibility to those who do not act morally: I would certainly not pull a drowning entrepreneur out of the canal, and I think no-one else should either.
However the greatest problem with these new slogans, is their implicit or open nationalism (especially in Blair's Britain). The Millennium Dome exhibition is typical of the national self-promotion, strongly supported by Blair. Both Blair and Schröder constantly use the word "society" to mean "nation". The "responsibility to society" in the manifesto is responsibility to one society only: it is a restatement of the old idea of national loyalty. Even the idea that German individuals have a responsibility to Polish society, would be unacceptable for Schröder. The idea that the EU has a "responsibility" to admit millions of immigrants, is beyond all existing political reality. If any British or German citizen did take "responsibility", in the sense of smuggling refugees into these countries, they would go to jail. Blair and Schröder's sense of responsibility is selective, nation-centred, and formally racist.
In this context of nationalism, the comments here about "mutual obligation" seem especially hypocritical. Indeed the average British or German voter feels no sense of obligation to people in Somalia: at most they might pay for emergency food aid. It is also true that they will probably be very angry if their car is stolen.
Promising to stop crime, brings many more votes, than promising to redistribute income to Africa. However, this underlying national selfishness is not the same thing as a sense of mutual obligation. It is wrong to imply, as Blair and Schröder do, that "us-first" responsibility is morally noble or desirable. The selfish action of a neighbourhood group in a high-income area, who protect their own expensive houses against theft, is not an example of moral behaviour. If that is what is meant by "community spirit", then it is wrong. There is no obligation to participate in such community actions. There is no moral obligation to an unjust society.
- The ability of national governments to fine-tune the economy in order to secure growth and jobs has been exaggerated. The importance of individual and business enterprise to the creation of wealth has been undervalued.
Securing national growth and jobs is not a moral value in itself. If it is at the expense of the poorest regions of the earth, it is clearly unjust. The manifesto suggests, that the market is the best way to secure (or increase) the national share of Gross World Product. This may be true, but then that would be another reason, why the market is morally unacceptable.
This issue - distributive justice among states - is usually ignored by politicians in western countries (or left to the aid agencies and NGO's). The usual assumption is, that all parties should seek to increase national wealth: Tony Blair has described politics as a competition to find the best "manager of the nation". German party politics has an explicit debate about competing as a nation, the issue of "Standort Deutschland". Yet any such nation-centred economic policies are morally wrong. The good manager of an unjust society is a evil person.
Ideas of what is left-wing' should never become an ideological straitjacket.
The politics of the New Centre and Third Way is about addressing the concerns of people who live and cope with societies undergoing rapid change - both winners and losers.
This is one of the few points, where the manifesto concedes any negative aspects - that there might be losers.In this newly emerging world people want politicians who approach issues without ideological preconceptions and who, applying their values and principles, search for practical solutions to their problems through honest well-constructed and pragmatic policies.
This is classic historicist ideology. The image presented is, that neoliberal society is a historic development, and that politicians like Blair and Schröder are responding to it - pragmatically and without ideology. The truth is the reverse: there is a neoliberal ideology, and its implementation creates neoliberal societies. The new world "emerges", because Blair and Schröder put it there.Voters who in their daily lives have to display initiative and adaptability in the face of economic and social change expect the same from their governments and their politicians.
Indeed, there are voters, who in their daily lives have to display initiative and adaptability in the market. They are called entrepreneurs, and in Europe they traditionally vote for the liberal parties. If that includes the "modernised" social-democratic parties, then entrepreneurs will probably vote for them also. The question is whether this "entrepreneurial block" should decide the future of Europe.
There are also people who in the face of the free market display principles and ideals, and reject the market entirely. That attitude is despised by neoliberals, and it is certainly rejected in the Blair/Schröder manifesto.
- In a world of ever more rapid globalisation and scientific changes we need to create the conditions in which existing businesses can prosper and adapt, and new businesses can be set up and grow.
The manifesto now becomes more specific, about the historical developments which are supposed to justify the ideology of the Third Way and Neue Mitte.
It is no surprise that globalisation is first on the list, it is the most commonly used argument for neoliberal polices. The second common argument is technological change. (The manifesto says "scientific change", that may be an error).
Implementation of neoliberal ideology certainly changes society. However those changes are not the inevitable result of technology: technology in no way dictates any form of liberalism. There is no single linear development of technology, which produces an inevitable social form at any given point. Ironically this form of political propaganda was once the monopoly of Marxism, and liberal philosophers such as Karl Popper questioned it. Now it has been adopted wholesale by liberals, neoliberals, cyber-liberals and techno-liberals: authors such as Kevin Kelly present extreme forms of this market historicism.
The globalisation argument is also ideological rather than historical. A free market economy at a global scale has existed for several centuries. It is is a result of expansion by European powers with a market economy: by 1900 most had adopted liberal market-democracy, as a national political system. If their wars of conquest had failed, there would probably be no global market: it is not a natural phenomenon. To some extent, it is a result of conscious decisions to create a global market. This is a favourite issue for theorists: did Adam Smith invent capitalism or did capitalism invent Adam Smith? Either way, it is clear that you can not justify a global free market, simply by saying that it exists.
In the Blair/Schröder manifesto, the emphasis is on facilitating business, as the appropriate response to the global market. But if all other countries in the world were taken over by agrarian communists, would Blair and Schröder argue, that it was now necessary for Britain and Germany to be communist also? I doubt it.
- New technologies radically change the nature of work and internationalise the organisation of production. With one hand they de-skill and make some businesses obsolete, with another they create new business and vocational opportunities.
Here the manifesto talks of the effects of technological change - but entirely in the language of the business economist. Which technologies are the new technologies? What new products and services are the result? The manifesto does not explain. In fact it mentions no specific technology, and presents no technology policy - except leaving the decisions to the market. And new technology can not create "business opportunities" in a market economy - only market forces can do that. If it won't sell, it's not a business opportunity, whatever the new technology.The most important task of modernisation is to invest in human capital: to make the individual and businesses fit for the knowledge-based economy of the future.
Here the manifesto introduces the ideas of the knowledge economy and knowledge society - central themes for Tony Blair. In this case the reality does not match the rhetoric, since the problems of the education system in Britain have got worse since Blair came to office. However the ideology is a good example of the social values of neoliberalism - the tendency to see the social world in terms of market analogies.
First, human beings are seen as an element of a market economy - "human capital". Second, the neoliberal view is that humans are obliged to act as market parties , preferably as an entrepreneur. Thirdly, neoliberals want state and society to facilitate this, although obviously this partly contradicts the idea of full individual responsibility. Finally there is once again an appeal to historicism - the knowledge-based economy is claimed to be a historical development, an inevitable future.
In reality a knowledge-based economy is impossible since there is no single absolute "knowledge". Blair and Schröder would probably see an online course on marketing as "knowledge", an example of the new knowledge economy. But it is equally possible to offer an online course on "How to put Businessmen in the Gulag". The content of each course is "knowledge", yet the resultant society would be different. In other words, "knowledge" is often politics: neoliberals intend to fill the neoliberal society with neoliberal knowledge. If and when there is a neutral, and accepted, definition of what constitutes knowledge, it might be possible to talk about a knowledge economy. Until then it is just propaganda.
- Having the same job for life is a thing of the past. Social democrats must accommodate the growing demands for flexibility
Flexibility is one of the key words of neoliberal philosophy. It is another example of specific and restricted meaning: for Blair and Schröder flexibility means flexibility toward the entrepreneur and the market and never the reverse.- and at the same time maintain minimum social standards, help families to cope with change and open up fresh opportunities for those who are unable to keep pace.
However, most neoliberals also recognise that not everyone can be a successful 100-hour a week businessman. In fact some form of dual society, in which non-entrepreneurs have a secondary status, is typical of neoliberal social policy. The classic expression of this is workfare - employment projects in low-productive work. Sometimes traditional low-paid work in industry, but usually in new service employment, often with a "servant" aspect. (Some workfare projects specifically place the unemployed as domestic servants, for high-income households).
- We face an increasing challenge in reconciling environmental responsibility towards future generations with material progress for society at large. We must marry environmental responsibility with a modern market-based approach. In environmental protection, the most modern technologies consume fewer resources, open up new markets and create new jobs.
This seems to have been included, because the authors felt there had to be something "green" in the manifesto. It combines the sustainability argument, with the response to it by the anti-environmentalist lobby. But if there are no problems anyway, thanks to new technology , then why worry about responsibility to future generations? (The last sentence here seems to include a mis-translation of the broad German concept Umweltschutz, with the narrow "environmental protection").
- Public expenditure as a proportion of national income has more or less reached the limits of acceptability.
For neoliberals it has. This percentage, and the budget deficit, have acquired a sort of mythological status for the right - separate from the evidence about real economic effects. In Germany, for the last two generations, inflation had a similar status - it was considered a horrifying disaster for the country.Constraints on 'tax and spend' force radical modernisation of the public sector and reform of public services to achieve better value for money. The public sector must actually serve the citizen: we do not hesitate to promote the concepts of efficiency, competition and high performance.
In reality there is no moral limit on this percentage. There is no moral reason why state expenditure should not reach 80% or 90% of the gross product. Or indeed 100%, if the state supplies all food and consumer goods to the citizens, as in some of the 19th century utopian proposals. This may not be very realistic, but provided it is not nationalist in structure, it is not wrong . It is a choice, related to possible social orders, and entirely legitimate as an ideal.
This issue is a good example, of how neoliberals attempt to create a pseudo-morality out of right-wing ideology - while their own policies are often clearly immoral. In daily political practice it leads to a strategy, where supporters of state expenditure are portrayed as vampires.
This is an explicit statement of neoliberal social philosophy, heavily influenced by social-darwinism. If there is a hole in the pavement outside my house, I would like the city government to repair it. If there is a hole outside the neoliberals house, he would prefer to first see different departments compete aggressively for the contract to repair it.
It is at the core of neoliberal thinking, that society should be so arranged so as to maximise competition for competition's sake, maximise achievement for achievement's sake, maximise effort for effort's sake. In Tony Blair's case the social-darwinist influence also fits in with his public-school background. (The British "public schools" are the elite private schools. They promote a culture of achievement, although it is Victorian in style - a deformed version of the 19th-century German Bildungsideal). This is a negation of morality: efficiency, competition and high performance can never be good in themselves.
- Social security systems need to adapt to changes in life expectancy, family structures and the role of women. Social democrats need to find ways of combating the ever more pressing problems of crime, social disintegration and drug abuse. We need to take the lead in shaping a society with equal rights for women and men.
- Crime is a vital political issue for modern social democrats. We consider safety on the street to be a civil right.
Here the manifesto gives more detail about the social policies of the Third Way / Neue Mitte. As the Blair government has already shown, the emphasis is on "fighting crime". That is indeed an effective way to get votes from the middle class.A policy to make cities worth living in fosters community spirit, creates new jobs and makes residential areas safer.
But "safety on the streets" is not a civic right - in fact it is not a right at all. Traditionally, social elites want the state to protect themselves and their property by repressive measures. And this repression is the historic core of criminal law in Europe, primarily directed at a criminal underclass. To a certain extent, drug-related crime has brought the 19th-century urban criminal underclass back to Europe. However, it is now an isolated minority, in a society where the majority is no longer poor. That does not mean that a return to 19th-century criminal law is a "right" of the middle classes, even if they form the majority.
The anti-crime rhetoric of the manifesto assumes, that there is an underlying right of a social elite to retain their privileged position. But the fundamental ethical issues have not changed in centuries. It is the privilege which is wrong not action against it. It is not wrong to steal from Bill Gates, since any theft from the world's richest man will bring a more equal distribution of wealth. It is the law that is wrong, to forbid the theft: redistribution of wealth is good in itself. A repressive criminal law can not be equated with justice, or civic rights - there are many more moral issues to be considered.
This vague formula is the only urban policy in the manifesto. In Britain means, for instance, the promotional projects of the Millennium year. These urban projects combine marketing culture, with nationalist and communitarian propaganda, as at the Millennium Dome. But apart from their own construction, there is no evidence they create new jobs - or have any other social effects. In Germany it is even harder, to link this vague manifesto text to specific urban policies of the Schröder government.
- Poverty remains a central concern, especially among families with children. We need specific measures for those who are most threatened by marginalisation and social exclusion.
That implies a policy of "inclusion", and "social cohesion". And the Blair government has made it clear what that means: workfare. It is better to be excluded and marginalised, than to be "included" in society as a hereditary servant class.
This also requires a modern approach to government:
- The state should not row, but steer: not so much control, as challenge. Solutions to problems must be joined up.
I try to take the manifesto seriously, but this is nothing more than management-consultants babble. The metaphor is not even logical: if you don't want the state to control, then why say it should steer the boat?
- Within the public sector bureaucracy at all levels must be reduced, performance targets and objectives formulated, the quality of public services rigorously monitored, and bad performance rooted out.
Again the neoliberal cult of competitive performance: even if the public service is not privatised it will be restructured as a quasi-market. For neoliberals it is not sufficient to work: there must be competition. If there are no rival entrepreneurs (as there are in the free market), then neoliberals create artificial competition (and artificial stress) with performance targets and other instruments of the audit society. At the same time neoliberals believe, that some form of evolution will result from these quasi-markets.
Tony Blair likes to use exclusionary threats in this context. Despite his emphasis on social inclusion, he often says that there is "no place" or "no room" for low achievers. Here the manifesto says they must be "rooted out". Where will they go - to workfare projects? The implicit message is that society is the property of the high achievers.
- Modern social democrats solve problems where they can best be solved. Some problems can now only be tackled at European level: others, such as the recent financial crises, require increased international co-operation. But, as a general principle, power should be devolved to the lowest possible level.
This seems to have been written in haste. It is a very short and vague attempt, at a policy for the future structure of the EU. But perhaps that issue is simply too embarrassing to discuss further, especially for Tony Blair.
For the new politics to succeed, it must promote a go-ahead mentality and a new entrepreneurial spirit at all levels of society.
Now the manifesto returns to neoliberal social philosophy. In the German election campaign the entrepreneur Jost Stollman, brought in to give the SPD an entrepreneurial image, proposed raising the percentage of entrepreneurs in Germany. Not however to 100%, which is what the Blair-Schröder manifesto implies.That requires:
The entrepreneurial spirit is evil. The entrepreneur is an evil person: he deliberately sets out to live by market forces, instead of moral principles. It is evil to found a society on such an attitude. If there is an entrepreneurial spirit at all levels of a society, then it will almost certainly be an unjust and evil society. Nevertheless, that is the kind of society that neoliberals genuinely want. This section of the manifesto emphasises how far neoliberalism is removed from any moral sense. A pan-European constitutional ban on entrepreneurial spirit would be a good answer, to those neoliberal proposals.
It would also emphasise to Hombach and Mandelson, Blair and Schröder, that they can more appropriately live in the United States - home of the "go-ahead mentality".
- a competent and well-trained workforce eager and ready to take on new responsibilities
Again the language of the manifesto has a very specific meaning. Blair and Schröder do not mean people who can blow up NATO headquarters with plastic explosives, although that is also a form of "competence". They mean "competent" in the skills required in the market, eager to respond to market forces. This is a more realistic proposal than suggesting that everyone should be an entrepreneur, but it is equally wrong
No good person would ever respond to market forces. No good person would ever be "eager" to accept responsibility for such actions. A person with this attitude - and there are many ambitious career-people in Europe - is a threat to the Good.
- a social security system that opens up new opportunities and encourages initiative, creativity and readiness to take on new challenges
The manifesto repeats, yet again, the business-school mantras. It means only market opportunities, only market initiative, only marketable creativity, and only the challenge of the "market". And all of these things are wrong.
It is not the function of the social security system, to turn the population into neoliberals. If the system did have these effects, then it would be reason to abandon it. Better to have a social security system which encourages idealism and principles, instead of the values of the entrepreneur.
- a positive climate for entrepreneurial independence and initiative. Small businesses must become easier to set up and better able to survive.
Entrepreneurial independence and initiative built thousands of apartments in Turkey, at reasonable prices. When an earthquake came, most collapsed. Entrepreneurs may be independent, they may show initiative, but they don't have a conscience. The answer is to create a positive climate for state control of the entrepreneur - for instance, by suppressing neoliberal manifestos.- we want a society which celebrates successful entrepreneurs just as it does artists and footballers - and which values creativity in all spheres of life.
This emphasises again the incompatibility of neoliberalism and a moral idealism. I doubt that the state should even permit medical treatment of entrepreneurs who kill others. Prolonging their life tends to prolong the evil they cause. It is an evil society which sets out to "celebrate" people who get rich by putting dioxin in food, or building unsafe housing in earthquake zones. It is a distortion, to describe such actions as "creative".
Our countries have different traditions in dealings between state, industry, trade unions and social groups, but we share a conviction that traditional conflicts at the workplace must be overcome. This, above all, means rekindling a spirit of community and solidarity,
Notice that the manifesto has now switched back from competitive social-darwinism ("rooting out") to communitarianism. A return to the past is a central feature of communitarianism.strengthening partnership and dialogue between all groups in society and developing a new consensus for change and reform. We want all groups in society to share our joint commitment to the new directions set out in this Declaration.
It is wrong to return to the past: nothing from the past should be "rekindled", and certainly not a Victorian or mediaeval spirit of community. But it is hard to take this seriously anyway, if everyone is also supposed to be competing with each other, in the entrepreneurial spirit.
No good person would ever share a commitment to a Declaration so centred on amorality. But the Third Way/neue Mitte ideologists do in fact want to impose their values on others, including their neo-liberal definition of change and reform. It is necessary to persecute them, to prevent them from reaching their goal.
Immediately upon taking office, the new Social Democratic government in Germany gathered the top representatives of the political sector, the business community and the unions around the table to forge an Alliance for Jobs, Training and Competitiveness.
- We want to see real partnership at work, with employees having the opportunity of sharing the rewards of success with employers.
This is more traditional language from a European social-democratic party. In fact this section on unions has a different tone from the rest of the document. It gives the impression that it was inserted into the text, at a later stage (perhaps after the unions had seen the original text).
- We support modern trade unions protecting individuals against arbitrary behaviour, and working in co-operation with employers to manage change and create long-term prosperity.
- In Europe - under the umbrella of a European employment pact - we will strive to pursue an ongoing dialogue with the social partners that supports, not hinders, necessary economic change.
Again, very moderate social-pact language, compared to the neoliberal fervour above. But this is the end of the concessions to social-democratic corporatism. Immediately below, the neoliberalism is back in full force.
The task facing Europe is to meet the challenge of the global economy while maintaining social cohesion in the face of real and perceived uncertainty. Rising employment and expanding job opportunities are the best guarantee of a cohesive society.
This section restates some more traditional policies of right-wing economics. It is the section for economists: , and the most specific in the manifesto. "Supply-side economics" was a favourite term of the New Right in the 1970's and 1980's: it was associated with Ronald Reagan's presidency. However the opening sentences are typical of the neoliberalism of the 1990's.
The starting point is the belief, that Europe must compete as a unit in a global economy. This contradicts the idea that nations must compete as a unit (also suggested in the manifesto). If Europe is to compete as a pan-European unit, that implies that the national economies are coordinated - politically unacceptable in Britain. But there is no need for any such competition anyway. Again, in reality there is no "challenge of the global economy" - unless it is artificially created, by structuring the global economy as a competition among nations (or economic blocks)
If instead there was economic co-ordination, by a global Economic Ministry, then there would be no such "challenge" - and therefore no excuse for social cohesion policies. Of course, the idea of a global economic bureaucracy would horrify neoliberals (and nationalists): the point is that Blair and Schröder themselves create the "challenges", which they use to justify their social policy. Neoliberal globalists themselves create the neoliberal global market, which they use to justify global neoliberalism.
In reality there is no globalisation of the kind described by its supporters (or many left-wing opponents). Economies are still largely national economies, and it it still extremely difficult, to transfer large production to low-income countries on a large scale. If it was so easy, most of the worlds industry would be located in countries like Ethiopia and Burkina Faso. The primary use of globalisation in western European countries is as a justification for economic and social policies . That is the way it is used in the manifesto: I am sure the authors know, that the effects of globalisation are exaggerated.
Here the manifesto uses it to justify a "cohesive society". Again this contradicts with the rejection of collectivism, elsewhere in the document. However, the term "social cohesion", used at first in EU policy documents, has come to mean, in practice, workfare schemes. And more in general, the creation of the new form of dual society implied in the manifesto: economic inclusion of an underclass, but with complete political marginalisation of it members.
The past two decades of neo-liberal laissez-faire are over. In its place, however, there must not be a renaissance of 1970s-style reliance on deficit spending and heavy-handed state intervention. Such an approach now points in the wrong direction.
Our national economies and global economic relationships have undergone profound change. New conditions and new realities call for a re-evaluation of old ideas and the development of new concepts.
The authors seem anxious to avoid the term neo-liberal for their own policies. Partly because it has become a negative term, but also because Tony Blair's electoral strategy presented New Labour as the "third way" between the old Labour Party, and Thatcherism. So again the manifesto claims the Blair and Schröder have invented something new, in response to unavoidable external "realities".
In much of Europe unemployment is far too high - and a high proportion of it is structural. To address this challenge, Europe's social democrats must together formulate and implement a new supply-side agenda for the left
It is only Europe's neoliberals, who think supply-side policies are an answer to unemployment. However, I think it is pointless to argue about political labels. If neoliberals use the word "social-democrat" to describe themselves, and that is generally accepted, then the meaning has changed. That is not unusual in the evolution of languages.
Our aim is to modernise the welfare state, not dismantle it: to embark on new ways of expressing solidarity and responsibility to others without basing the motivation for economic activity on pure undiluted self-interest.
The main elements of this approach are as follows:
A robust and competitive market framework
Product market competition and open trade is essential to stimulate productivity and growth.
A vague commitment to the existence of a welfare state is at once followed, once again, by a declaration of absolute absolute support for the market. And a market means that at least some people are acting on a market mentality, which excludes social solidarity of the kind implied here. However, if "solidarity and responsibility" simply means workfare, then it can no doubt co-exist with a market economy.For that reason a framework that allows market forces to work properly is essential to economic success and a pre-condition of a more successful employment policy.
But is it morally right? And what standard of "success" ignores moral values, in favour of allowing market forces to work?
It would be wrong to create any framework for market forces - because they are explicitly intended, to substitute for moral ideals. A true innovation would be a framework, that allows ideals to escape the market forces which restrict them, in market societies.
- The EU should continue to act as a resolute force for liberalisation of world trade.
No: the EU should have ideals. Free trade is not an ideal, it is an evil. The EU should not be a vehicle for global neoliberalism.
- The EU should build on the achievements of the single market to strengthen an economic framework conducive to productivity growth.
No: the economic framework should be conducive to innovation, not productivity growth. And especially to radical innovation in social forms (which is often accompanied by economic crisis). The economy should be secondarily conducive to justice.
A tax policy to promote sustainable growth
In the past social democrats became identified with high taxes, especially on business. Modern social democrats recognise that in the right circumstances, tax reform and tax cuts can play a critical part in meeting their wider social objectives.
For instance, corporate tax cuts raise profitability and strengthen the incentives to invest.
Then corporate taxes should be increased. Once again the huge gap in values between neoliberals and idealists is visible. Blair and Schröder's proposals, for a market society and a market world, are incompatible with ideals or morality. No good person would ever suggest that profitability should be raised. This difference in values is so great, that it seems impossible for neoliberals to live in the same society as their opponents (and victims). Some form of territorial separation is necessary.Higher investment expands economic activity and increases productive potential. It helps create a virtuous circle of growth increasing the resources available for public spending on social purposes.
- The taxation of companies should be simplified and corporation tax rates cut, as they have been by New Labour in the UK and are planned by the federal government in Germany.
The reference here is to a famous (or notorious) theory from the Reagan years in the USA. The claim was, that every income tax cut would increase economic growth so much, that more taxes would be paid on the increased incomes. The miracle did not work in practice: the theory has been largely forgotten. Blair and Schröder present a slightly different version: cut taxes on business, business invests more, the economy grows, taxes rise.
- To ensure work pays and to improve the fairness of the tax system, the tax burden borne by working families and workers should be alleviated, as begun in Germany (through the Tax Relief Act) - and the introduction of lower starting rates of income tax and the working families tax credit in Britain.
Note that this tax measure of the Blair government, as the name implies, only applies to families: it is intended to reinforce the family as the basic unit of society, a typical communitarian policy. Such policy uses the tax system to implement a conservative social policy, and it is wrong in itself.
- The willingness and ability of enterprises - especially small and medium-sized enterprises - to invest should be enhanced, as intended by the Social Democratic government in Germany through the reform of the taxes on businesses and as shown by New Labour's reform of capital gains and business taxes in Britain.
A reminder, that the Blair and Schröder governments are not just theoretically committed to the market as a norm: they implement real pro-market policies.
- Overall, the taxation of hard work and enterprise should be reduced. The burden of taxation should be rebalanced, for example towards environmental 'bads'. Germany, the UK and other European countries governed by social democrats will lead the way in this regard.
Hard work is not a substitute for idealism. A cult of hard work as a pseudo-ethic for society (as in the United States), is wrong. And the truth is, hard work is unnecessary in a modern economy. Even if all the inhabitants stay in bed for 3 working days a week, Britain and Germany will still be rich countries. A fictional statistical redistribution of work, wealth and income over the whole world, would show that very little work was necessary, to maintain a comfortable global standard of living. However work, in such a fictional egalitarian world, would not pay for a Mercedes, or a villa in Tuscany, or weekends in New York.
And although it sounds wonderful to "tax pollution", smoke can pay no taxes: people or organisations will have to pay the tax in the end. Since the Third Way and Neue Mitte will also reduce tax burdens on business, green taxes will take the form of consumer taxation.
- At EU level, tax policy should support tough action to combat unfair competition and fight tax evasion. This requires enhanced co-operation, not uniformity. We will not support measures leading to a higher tax burden and jeopardising competitiveness and jobs in the EU.
Demand and supply-side policies go together - they are not alternatives
In the past social democrats often gave the impression that the objectives of growth and high unemployment would be achieved by successful demand management alone. Modern social democrats recognise that supply side policies have a central and complementary role to play.
In today's world most policy decisions have an impact on both supply- and demand-side conditions.
- Successful Welfare to Work programmes raise incomes for those previously out of work as well as improve the supply of labour available to employers.
For the first time the manifesto names the reality behind the rhetoric of "social cohesion" and "inclusion": workfare. The term workfare is originally American: "Welfare to Work" is the (not very original) official British name for these programmes. The German translation of the manifesto avoids giving a specific name.
- Modern economic policy aims to increase the after-tax income of workers and at the same time decrease the costs of labour to the employer. The reduction of non-wage labour costs through structural reform of social security systems and a more employment friendly tax and contribution structure that looks to the future is therefore of particular importance.
A truly just tax reform would do almost the opposite. This Blair-Schröder policy will tend to create new low-paid jobs. In contrast, doubling non-wage labour costs could end millions of "junk jobs". A tenfold increase in the cost of labour to entrepreneurs, would make it impossible for them to employ anyone but the most productive. In the end they would be forced to cease production, and the state can take over their activities. The necessity of work can then be assessed on moral grounds: that would not include work at McDonalds.
The aim of social democratic policy is to overcome the apparent contradiction between demand- and supply-side policies in favour of a fruitful combination of micro-economic flexibility and macro-economic stability.
To achieve higher growth and more jobs in today's world, economies must be adaptable: flexible markets are a modern social democratic aim.
Flexible markets are a neoliberal aim, and flexible markets are wrong. In the market, flexible means unprincipled. That may now be the aim of social democrats, but if so that is reason to reject social-democracy.
Macro-economic policy still has a vital purpose: to set the conditions for stable growth and avoid boom and bust. But social democrats must recognise that getting the macro-economics right is not sufficient to stimulate higher growth and more jobs. Changes in interest rates or tax policy will not lead to increased investment and employment unless the supply side of the economy is adaptable enough to respond. To make the European economy more dynamic, we also need to make it more flexible.
The manifesto has suddenly switched back from the national to the European level. It is doubtful if there is such a thing as a "European economy" anyway, but if there is it should not be flexible. Neoliberal "flexibility" can only make it more dynamic in the sense of being more neoliberal.
- Companies must have room for manoeuvre to take advantage of improved economic conditions and seize new opportunities: they must not be gagged by rules and regulations.
Rules and regulations prevent entrepreneurs from putting dioxin in food, or building unsafe buildings in earthquake zones. It is precisely the task of the state to close off this "room for manoeuvre". The "opportunities" in the market are by definition only market opportunities: companies should seize them. Instead they should act ethically: but of course they do not. It is therefore good to restrain entrepreneurial companies: they are evil organisations, run by evil people. The fact that they seize market opportunities is proof of that.
- Product, capital and labour markets must all be flexible:
All market systems are wrong in themselves. their "flexibility", in the sense of being unprincipled and immoral, is wrong in itself. Markets should not be flexible, they should be abolished. They should be replaced by ethical social and economic forms, rigid and inflexibly moral.we must not combine rigidity in one part of the economic system with openness and dynamism in the rest.
Adaptability and flexibility are at an increasing premium in the knowledge-based service economy of the future
Our economies are in transition - from industrial production to the knowledge-based service economy of the future. Social democrats must seize the opportunity of this radical economic change.
The manifesto returns yet again to the historicist justification of liberalism. The economy is claimed to be in transition to an inevitable future, the Third Way / Neue Mitte is the response. Again this is is the reverse of the truth. It is neoliberal government policies, which create the neoliberal economy. And once again: a training school for Gulag guards can also be described as part of a "knowledge-based service economy" - but that is not what Blair and Schröder mean. Their concept of "openness and dynamism" is the business-school version.It offers Europe a chance to catch up with the United States.
If Europe exists simply to be a clone of the United States, then it would be better that it was destroyed by a meteorite.It offers millions of our people the chance to find new jobs, learn new skills, pursue new careers, set up and expand new businesses - in summary, to realise their hopes of a better future.
And if Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder take their vision of the future from the United States, why don't they emigrate?
If they want to be businessmen, yes. Note that Blair and Schröder identify "a better future" entirely with market success. There is no mention of ideals, or utopias, or values such as justice or equality. Their better future is a purely market-oriented future. Blair and Schröder make the ambition, greed and opportunism of the businessman into their ideal for the future world.
But social democrats have to recognise that the basic requirements for economic success have changed. Services cannot be kept in stock: customers use them as and when they are needed - at many different times of day, outside what people think of as normal working hours. The rapid advance of the information age, especially the huge potential of electronic commerce, promises to change radically the way we shop, the way we learn, the way we communicate and the way we relax.
This is marketing rhetoric - but it seems intended as an intro for a classic market-liberal complaint below...Rigidity and over-regulation hamper our success in the knowledge-based service economy of the future. They will hold back the potential of innovation to generate new growth and more jobs. We need to become more flexible, not less.
The complaint about regulation, again. So I will repeat this as well: it is good to regulate the market, preferably to regulate it out of existence. Growth and jobs cannot be used as a legitimation for evil: a good and just world might be a world of poverty. That is not wrong: instead it is wrong to use "growth and jobs" as a pseudo-morality, substituting for ideals in state policy.
An active government, in a newly conceived role, has a key role to play in economic development
Modern social democrats are not laissez-faire neo-liberals. Flexible markets must be combined with a newly defined role for an active state. The top priority must be investment in human and social capital.
No: the top priorities for the state must be innovation, the political defeat of conservatism, the destruction of the market, and the destruction of traditional values.
Again the huge difference in values between neoliberalism and its opponents is clearly visible here: the neoliberal sees everything as a market or an element of a market. Humans become "human capital", society becomes "social capital".
If high employment is to be achieved and sustained, employees must react to shifting demands.
Employees must never react to the demands of the market: it is morally wrong. Employees, like all humans, should strive to do good.Our economies suffer from a considerable discrepancy between the number of job vacancies that need to be filled (for example in the field of information and communication technology) and the number of suitably qualified applicants.
That means education must not be a 'one-off' opportunity: lifetime access to education and training and lifelong utilisation of their opportunities represent the most important security available in the modern world.
Lifetime learning means lifetime exams. It is not a positive future that is presented here: it is a high-stress future, artificially created by the constant acceleration of market demands. It does not get much attention in theories of the market, but markets create self-intensifying structures. Examples are the extraordinary inflation of employers demands (up to compulsory plastic surgery), and the rise in working hours.Therefore, governments have a responsibility to put in place a framework that enables individuals to enhance their qualifications and to fulfil their potential.
In other words, markets generate self-intensifying competition - and diploma inflation is already a problem. Lifetime education will make that far worse, creating a lifetime diploma race.
Human beings are not learn-robots, and certainly not for the benefit of entrepreneurs. The "human potential" that Blair and Schröder mean here, is no more than their value in the job market. Why should individuals fulfil that? "Fulfilling potential" was originally a goal of humanistic psychology in the 1950's and 1960's, although it has more general origins in western philosophy. However, it is not a substitute for morality - certainly not in the narrow sense, when it means making a career by aggressive competition with others. It is characteristic of neoliberal policies, to attempt to impose these high-achiever lifestyles and values, on the entire population, .This must now be a top social democratic priority.
- Standards at all levels of schooling and for all abilities of pupils must be raised.
The Blair government proposes to test children at 3 years old, to see if they can feed fish (it requires motoric skills in the hand and fingers). This is among its proposals for the widespread testing of pre-school children. This is a cult of achievement gone mad. Chasing standards for standards sake is not the end purpose of human beings, certainly not of 3-year-old children.Where there are problems of literacy and numeracy these must be addressed, otherwise we condemn unskilled individuals to lives of low pay, insecurity and unemployment.
Again, the Blair government's obsession with standards is clearly founded on a belief, in the inherent value of competitive achievement. If all the 3-year-olds can feed the fish, then no doubt the standard will be applied to 2-year-olds. Blair does not just believe in standards, he believes in constantly rising standards - for their own sake. It is clearly a form of social-darwinism: often the competition is also in the form of a quasi-market structure. (In Germany, the ideas of the "audit society" are new to politics, although the cult of achievement is familiar).
- We want all young people to have the opportunity to gain entry into the world of work by means of qualified vocational training.
True, 45 years work at McDonalds is not unemployment. True, it is a form of job security. True, it is the "world of work". But is it the "world of work" that Euan Blair, Nicky Blair, and Kathyrn Blair will enter? Would their parents, Tony and Cherie, see 45 years serving hamburgers as an "opportunity"? Is it the "world of work" that Klara Schröder-Köpf will enter? Would Gerhard Schröder see it as an "opportunity" for his step-daughter?Together with local employers, trade unions and others, we must ensure that sufficient education and training opportunities are available to meet the requirements of the local labour market. In Germany, the political sector is supporting this endeavour with an immediate action programme for jobs and training that will enable 100,000 young people to find a new job or training place or to obtain qualifications. In Britain the Welfare to Work programme has already enabled 95,000 young people to find work.
Yes: work at McDonalds. Or sweeping the streets. Why were the 95 000 young people not allowed into the elite universities of Oxford and Cambridge, like the children of the upper middle class? How many of the 100,000 young people in Germany got a training place at the European Commission - a privilege reserved for the children of the elite.
Work is not equality: equality is more important than jobs. Any proposal for full employment without equality means that some people will be forced into junk jobs. Better to have 99% unemployment than 1% inequality.
In its proposals on unemployment, the manifesto seems to switch between two poles. First, the neoliberal idea, that everyone should be an high-achievement entrepreneur of their own talents, and second the neo-Victorian idea, of punishing the poor with unpleasant work. The truth is that an underclass can only be maintained by excluding them from higher education: and that is the real effect of raising standards in primary and secondary education. The Blair government, like its predecessors, itself creates the workfare caste that it seeks to punish.
- We need to reform post-school education and raise its quality, at the same time modernising education and training programmes so as to promote adaptability and employability in later life.
Again, why are Euan Blair, Nicky Blair, Kathyrn Blair and Klara Schröder-Köpf not expected to be "adaptable" to the demands of McDonalds?Government has a particular role in providing incentives for individuals to save in order to meet the costs of lifelong learning - and in widening access through the promotion of distance learning.
There is no moral reason why anyone should be employable in the free market anyway. The moral course of action is not to adjust to the market: but destroy it. But in practice, educational selection, and job inequality, and low social mobility put the burden of adaptability largely on the underclass anyway. The elite do not have to "adapt" in the same sense: they can choose from careers that they find interesting. What the manifesto means, is acceptance of permanent social inequality.
- We should ensure that training plays a significant role in our active labour market policies for the unemployed and workless households.
There seems to be some disillusion already about training schemes, among the social-liberal parties in Europe. The unemployed have become big business, for firms that supply training courses at inflated prices. Most, however, remain unemployed. Unfortunately the response of Blair and Schröder will probably be, to place more unemployed people directly in workfare.
A modern and efficient public infrastructure including a strong scientific base is also an essential feature of a job-generating economy. It is important to ensure that the composition of public expenditure is being directed at activities most beneficial to growth and fostering necessary structural change.
Modern social democrats should be champions of small and medium-sized enterprise
The development of prosperous small and medium-sized businesses has to be a top priority for modern social democrats.
For the neoliberal "structural change" means more markets and more entrepreneurs, and the claim that this is "necessary" is once again repeated.Here lies the biggest potential for new growth and jobs in the knowledge-based society of the future.
Small and medium-sized businesses should not be prosperous, they should be abolished, and replaced by a non-market alternative. The traditional utopian alternatives (workers co-operatives, craft idealism) are no longer sufficient: this is an issue where true structural innovation is needed.
Good reason to take action against small businesses. Undermining the job growth potential of the knowledge society is a good way to prevent it coming into existence.
People in many different walks of life are looking for the opportunity to become entrepreneurs - long-standing as well as newly self-employed people, lawyers, computer experts, medical doctors, craftsmen, business consultants, people active in culture and sport.
Greedy, self-centred, unprincipled people, yes. Indeed they want to become entrepreneurs. Fortunately the state can stop them - and it should.These individuals must have scope to develop economic initiative and create new business ideas. They must be encouraged to take risks. The burdens on them must be lightened. Their markets and their ambitions must not be hindered by borders.
There is enough dioxin in our food already. Better to have ideals, than new business ideas. Better to punish entrepreneurs for the harm they have done, than encourage them.
I suggest the establishment of a special European Tribunal for Crimes of Enterprise. That would be an appropriate response, to Blair and Schröder's attempt to create privileges for evil. This tribunal should not be hindered by borders either: it should have the power to arrest any entrepreneur, anywhere in Europe.
- Europe's capital markets should be opened up so that growing firms and entrepreneurs can have ready access to finance. We intend to work together to ensure that growing high-tech firms enjoy the same access to the capital markets as their US rivals.
If they want a system like that of the United States, why don't all these growing entrepreneurs just move there?
The implicit assumption here, is that only the entrepreneur can produce high-tech. In reality, the reverse is true: the more advanced the technology, the more dependent the sector is on government funding. In the United States as much as elsewhere. So here again, the manifesto is ideological: the economy described does not exist in reality, but the example serves to justify "more market".
- We should make it easy for individuals to set up businesses and for new companies to grow by lightening administrative burdens, exempting small businesses from onerous regulations and widening access to finance. We should make it easier for small businesses in particular to take on new staff: that means lowering the burden of regulation and non-wage labour costs.
- The links between business and the science base should be strengthened to ensure more entrepreneurial 'spin-offs' from research and the promotion of 'clusters' of new high-tech industries.
Although these are standard pro-market proposals, they are another reminder of the intensely pro-business mentality of both Blair and Schröder. No other group is given such attention and support, in the manifesto's proposals. The impression the manifesto promotes is that the entrepreneur is semi-sacred - a person who must be given every possible privilege. Compare this with the number of proposals in the manifesto to promote idealism: zero.
Sound public finance should be a badge of pride for social democrats
In the past, social democrats have all too often been associated with the view that the best way to promote employment and growth is to increase government borrowing in order to finance higher government spending. We do not rule out government deficits - during a cyclical downturn it makes sense to let the automatic stabilisers work. And borrowing to finance higher government investment, in strict accordance with the Golden Rule, can play a key role in strengthening the supply side of the economy.
However, deficit spending cannot be used to overcome structural weaknesses in the economy that are a barrier to faster growth and higher employment. Social democrats also must not tolerate excessive levels of public sector debt. Increased indebtedness represents an unfair burden on future generations.
A classic example of the underlying differences in world-view and values. "Government debt" is not money which is owed by the inhabitants to the government: it is money which the government owes. In principle it can never be a debt burden on future inhabitants, only on future governments. Yet for many liberals and neo-liberals, the metaphor of "personal debt" is so strong, that it overrides their economic sense. They emotionally identify the government with a father who is "spending the family income", or similar Victorian metaphors.It could have unwelcome redistributive effects. Above all, money spent on servicing high public sector debt is not available to be spent on other priorities, including increased investment in education, training or the transport infrastructure.
But in any case the solution is simple: don't finance state expenditure by borrowing on capital market, finance it by raising taxes. That way there will be no public sector debt at all.
From the standpoint of a supply-side policy of the left, it is essential that high levels of government borrowing decrease and not increase.
Again: raising taxes will bring in sufficient money to avoid public-sector borrowing. Raise them even more - and education, training or the transport infrastructure in eastern Europe can also be financed. Raise yet more taxes - and the same can be done in Africa.
The state must become an active agent for employment, not merely the passive recipient of the casualties of economic failure.
Active for employment, but not for equality: McDonalds for some, prestige professions for others. This section is the most explicit about the new inequality favoured by Tony Blair - a dual society, where a large "servant underclass" is employed in a service sector directed primarily at high-income households.
People who have never had experience of work or who have been out of work for long periods lose the skills necessary to compete in the labour market.
Torturers who have been out of work for long periods lose the skills necessary to torture. That is not wrong. Some "skills" are better forgotten: competition in a free market is not something positive. If being unemployed stops people from being neoliberal in this sense, then that is an advantage of unemployment.Prolonged unemployment also damages individual life chances in other ways and makes it more difficult for individuals to participate fully in society.
Is working at McDonalds "full participation in society"? The nature of workfare programmes is that they create a socially inferior underclass - employed in jobs that the middle class refuses to do. This section of the manifesto is the most cynical. The authors know that their meritocratic policies in education will ruin the "life chances" of children from low-income households anyway.
A welfare system that puts limits on an individual's ability to find a job must be reformed.
Modern social democrats want to transform the safety net of entitlements into a springboard to personal responsibility.
Again this means responsibility is in one direction only - toward the market and market society. In practice. it means simply passive acceptance of workfare schemes.
For our societies, the imperatives of social justice are more than the distribution of cash transfers. Our objective is the widening of equality of opportunity, regardless of race, age or disability, to fight social exclusion and ensure equality between men and women.
In a monetarised economy, cash transfers are the only way to end unjust distribution of wealth or income. Equality of opportunity does not end inequalities of this kind. The reverse, in fact: in societies which adopt the principle of equality of opportunity, inequality usually increases. Equality of opportunity favours those with the best social starting position, and in any society that is usually the children of the existing elite.
People rightly demand high-quality public services and solidarity for all who need help - but also fairness towards those who pay for it.
It is true, that the middle class in countries like Germany and Britain, refuses to contribute any longer to unemployment benefits. This refusal is also expressed in their electoral preferences. The simple answer to this refusal is to replace the welfare system by redistribution of income, without considering employment status.All social policy instruments must improve life chances, encourage self-help and promote personal responsibility.
In such a system the state would simply take a way all earnings above a certain level, and redistribute them among all adults who did not earn this amount. No social security system will then be necessary. True fairness is taking money away from high-income groups.
No: all social policy instruments must promote moral action, in so far as possible. Neo-Victorianism is not a substitute for morality. And again, it is a nonsense in reality: imagine Blair and Schröder outside a burning building, shouting to the people inside that they must put out the fire themselves.
It is not morally wrong to rely on the state. Self-help and self-reliance are right-wing beliefs, and should not be social norms.
With this aim in mind, the health care system and the system for ensuring financial security in old age are being thoroughly modernised in Germany by adapting both to the changes in life expectancy and changing lifelong patterns of employment, without sacrificing the principle of solidarity. The same thinking applies to the introduction of stakeholder pensions and the reform of disability benefits in Britain.
Pension reform is an embarrassing issue for the Schröder government. But on this issue, the social reality is almost the reverse of the image. There are more and more old people, and the quickest way to restore the balance with the working-age population, is to raise the pension age. But the labour market is going in the opposite direction: it concentrates on the youngest, most productive, workers. By now, "older workers" means 30 or 35 years old. If neoliberals have no problem with writing off workers at 35, then they must stop complaining about people getting pensions at 60. The neoliberal economy tends to create an ultra productive core workforce, and force others into a dependent financial position. But if a core workforce of 20% of adults is generating most of GNP anyway, why worry if half the population is of pension age?
Periods of unemployment in an economy without jobs for life must become an opportunity to attain qualifications and foster personal development. Part-time work and low-paid work are better than no work because they ease the transition from unemployment to jobs.
Then, again, why don't the children of Blair and Schröder work at McDonalds - to "ease their transition" into their later successful careers, and "foster their personal development".
Both Blair and Schröder find it absolutely normal that the children of the upper-middle-class should not have to work in menial jobs: the pressure to accept low-pay work is directed at the groups which already have low incomes, especially at the underclass. And for them it offers no transition: low-paid work leads to more low-paid work. That will remain true as long as the great barrier to mobility, the educational system, is still in place.
New policies to offer unemployed people jobs and training are a social democratic priority - but we also expect everyone to take up the opportunity offered.
No doubt they expect that. And no doubt Euan Blair, Nicky Blair, and Kathyrn Blair and Klara Schröder-Köpf will take up their places at university. If junk jobs are "opportunities" then why are these "opportunities" not offered to the social elite and their children?
By definition, a non-discriminatory employment policy would place people from all social classes, in all levels of work. In reality, of course, there are no aristocratic street-sweepers: the distribution of jobs is unequal (as is the distribution of income and social status). The Blair-Schröder proposal fails to correct this, and amplifies the inequality - by offering the worst jobs to the people who already have the lowest income. (And they are the worst jobs. If they are not the worst jobs, why are they not for politicians' children?)
But providing people with the skills and abilities to enter the workforce is not enough. The tax and benefits systems need to make sure it is in people's interests to work. A streamlined and modernised tax and benefits system is a significant component of the left's active supply-side labour market policy. We must:
- Make work pay for individuals and families. The biggest part of the income must remain in the pockets of those who worked for it.
Not if they earn well above average. Then their income should be taken by the state and redistributed.
- Encourage employers to offer 'entry' jobs to the labour market by lowering the burden of tax and social security contributions on low-paid jobs.
Again, a moral policy is the opposite. Raising tax and social security contributions is the fastest way to destroy junk jobs. Better no jobs than junk jobs.We must explore the scope to lower the burden of non-wage labour costs by environmental taxes.
Again the fallacy that smoke can be taxed. Environmental taxes are consumer taxes: the cost is passed on by the producer. There is also no evidence that they work: despite environmental taxes on cars, EU consumers continue to buy more and bigger cars.
- Introduce targeted programmes for the long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged groups to give them the opportunity to reintegrate into the labour market
Integration in low-pay employment, combined with a sharply selective education system and political exclusion, creates a "servant underclass" in the service sector. The manifesto once again repeats its preference for this dualism.on the principle of rights and responsibilities going together.
The poor have no responsibilities or obligations to the rich, none at all.
- Assess all benefit recipients, including people of working age in the receipt of disability benefits, for their potential to earn, and reform state employment services to assist those capable of work to find appropriate work.
Again, this is by definition discriminatory. Blair and Schröder do not propose to test other categories - and certainly not their own families. The core of workfare proposals is, that they do not apply to the elite or the middle classes. (If the government tried to force them on the middle class, the government would soon disappear). Junk jobs are only forced on those who are too politically weak and marginalised to resist them, and this is exactly what Blair and Schröder are proposing here.
- Support enterprise and setting up an own business as a viable route out of unemployment. Such decisions contain considerable risks for those who dare to make such a step. We must support those people by managing these risks.
Again the manifesto switches suddenly from neo-Victorian "punish-the-lazy" rhetoric, to 1990's neoliberalism. The proposal is inconsistent with the one before it. One minute the unemployed are seen as only fit for junk jobs, next they are expected to become successful businessmen.
The left's supply-side agenda will hasten structural change. But it will also make that change easier to live with and manage.
Adapting to change is never easy and the speed of change appears faster than ever before, not least under the impact of new technologies. Change inevitably destroys some jobs, but it creates others.
However, there can be lags between job losses in one sector and the creation of new jobs elsewhere. Whatever the longer-term benefits for economies and living standards, particular industries and communities can experience the costs before the gains. Hence we must focus our efforts on easing localised problems of transition. The dislocating effects of change will be greater the longer they are resisted, but it is no good pretending that they can be wished away.
The historicist justification of neoliberal polices is repeated, this time with more emphasis on new technology. The definition of change is again limited to changes within the market, and here the emphasis is on the job losses. But this is not the point here anyway: the point follows below...
Adjustment will be the easier, the more labour and product markets are working properly.
The circular reasoning is complete: the authors justify the market, by claiming it is necessary to have the market, in order to cope with the changes caused by the market.Barriers to employment in relatively low productivity sectors need to be lowered if employees displaced by the productivity gains that are an inherent feature of structural change are to find jobs elsewhere. The labour market needs a low-wage sector in order to make low-skill jobs available.
To Tony Blair's children? Or to the children of parents in low-skill jobs?The tax and benefits system can replenish low incomes from employment and at the same time save on support payments for the unemployed.
This is an unambiguous statement, that a form of social inequality is an end in itself. Blair and Schröder are saying not only that there is a low-pay sector, but that there should be a low-pay sector. By definition, this is a declaration in favour of income inequality. It is a clear rejection of the ideal of equality of income at some future date (although few politicians ever said exactly when that would be). It is an unambiguous acceptance of social inequality, essentially the inequality of employment status which is typical for modern societies.
Again this will facilitate the creation of junk jobs: an goal explicitly stated above anyway.
The challenge is the definition and implementation of a new social democratic politics in Europe. We do not advocate a single European model, still less the transformation of the European Union into a superstate. We are pro-Europe and pro-reform in Europe. People will support further steps towards integration where there is real value-added and they can be clearly justified - such as action to combat crime and destruction of the environment as well as the promotion of common goals in social and employment policy.
But at the same time Europe urgently needs reform -- more efficient and transparent institutions, reform of outdated policies and decisive action against waste and fraud.
This section seems to be dominated by the British scepticism towards the EU. There are very few issues on which the British electorate has any positive expectations of the EU: crime perhaps, but not much more. In general it is seen as waste and bureaucracy, something which takes away "our money" and gives nothing back. So a "reform-Europe" campaign of this type, is almost the only European policy that Tony Blair can even talk about. It is one of the few areas of policy where all British governments are prisoners of electoral attitudes. (In Britain, it is probably easier for a child-rapist to become Prime Minister, than a supporter of a single European state).
We are presenting our ideas as an outline, not a finalised programme. The politics of the New Centre and the Third Way is already a reality in many city councils, in reformed national policies, in European co-operation and in new international initiatives.
To this end the German and British governments have decided to embed their existing arrangements for exchanging views on policy development in a broader approach. We propose to do this in three ways:
- First, there will be a series of ministerial meetings, supported by frequent contacts among their close staff.
- We will seek discussion with political leaders in other European countries who wish to take forward with us modernising ideas for social democracy in their respective national contexts. We will start on this now.
- We will establish a network of experts, farsighted thinkers, political fora and discussion meetings. We will thereby deepen and continually further develop the concept of the New Centre and the Third Way. This is the priority for us.
This is a clear indication of the strong ideological content. There will be no "neoliberalism in one country" - the neoliberal revolution will be exported. A historical comparison: note that Margaret Thatcher never attempted anything like a programme for a Thatcherite Europe.
The aim of this declaration is to give impetus to modernisation. We invite all social democrats in Europe not to let this historic opportunity for renewal pass by. The diversity of our ideas is our greatest asset for the future. Our societies expect us to knit together our diverse experiences in a new coherent programme.
A neoliberal charter for Europe would have the problem, that it would have to be enforced at European level. This implies some form of Euro-government: politically unacceptable in most countries. So the future is, probably, more bilateral manifestos and declarations, like the Blair-Schröder document.
Let us together build social democracy's success for the new century. Let the politics of the Third Way and the Neue Mitte be Europe's new hope.
The simple answer to the evil of the Third Way and the Neue Mitte is to criminalise the ideology: to imprison those who promote the ideas set out in the Blair/Schröder manifesto.