The European Social Model – Toward a New Social Contract

by Jan Mortier

The World Political Forum convened the European Dream – Promises and Reality seminar devoted to the fifty years of the Treaty of Rome in Budapest, Hungary, November 27-28 2007 at the HungarianAcademy of Sciences. Participants included Ferenc Gyurcsány, Prime Minister of the Republic of Hungary; Milan Kučan, former President of Slovenia, Vladimir Petrovsky, former Secretary General to the Conference on Disarmament; Rudolph Schuster, former President of Slovakia; Milos Zeman, former Prime Minister of the Czech Republic; Ion Iliescu, former President of Romania, Mesut Yilmaz, former Prime Minister of Turkey; Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the World Political Forum, Andrei Grachev, Chairman of the World Political Forum, Rolando Picchioni, Executive Director of the World Political Forum and many others. Civitatis International was invited to come to Budapest to observe the conference, two members went. The following paper was considered by some members of the Forum for the European Social Model panel.

The European Social Model – Toward a New Social Contract

By Jan Mortier

In a Globalised World, the unwritten and written social contracts between the European states and the citizenry have become null and void. The very concept of the relationship between the state, it’s powers and responsibilities and that of the citizen and their rights and social justices have changed beyond all recognition since the modern Westphalian state came into being in 1648. The eras of industrialisation through to the post Second World War period and the exponential epoch of globalisation after the Cold War in the late twentieth century have seen the rise of a new world order, characterised by a simultaneous ascendancy of the legal enshrinement of human rights at the global level, and a new interconnection of peoples and community networks that transcend the state in the globalised world along with new global risks and instabilities that the state cannot retreat from.

Traditional state structures are incapable of dealing with the challenges of the globalised world, European states are racing to catch up with the governance gap in globalisation, so many of the functions and powers traditionally associated with a state are now undertaken by the evolving mechanisms of the European Union, the worlds most advanced experiment of constructing a supranational community, and its post-modern spheres of governance. The post industrial, late twentieth century has given rise to new forms of governance in the post-modern European space. Government is out and networked governance is in. The nature of governance has changed so much that, now, local and supranational spaces of governance seem more relevant to public policy than the traditional sphere that was the state.

The question then arises, if the nature of governance in a globalised world, once vested in a state has changed so radically –and is still changing at a pace which states cannot keep up with– where then does this leave the citizen, and their place in the globalised world, and in particular, in the post-modern European social space?

Globalisation, the rise of human rights norms, the empowering of individuals and communities politically and the radical changes in the nature of the state and post- modern governance, have altered the relationship between the citizen and the state, as the state has become a diffused and porous entity within the broader European and global political space. The relationship between the citizen and the European level is still not defined, this means that the old social contract has evaporated and today there is a vacuum where once there was certainty.

The social contract of the old paradigm required that the citizen was beholden to the state through taxation and sacrifice; in return there was a specified provision of security, stability and a duty of care that the citizen could expect of the state. A citizen could expect a redistribution of income within the state’s economy that would ensure a liveable income from a pension during old age, the right to an education at no further cost beyond standard taxation, healthcare, the right to a home and an opportunity to progress within society. Most of all, the state would have a duty of care to the most disadvantaged in society. All of these freedoms and rights were fought for and won by the citizenry from the power of the state.

All of this has now changed; the economy of the state has become merely a small and diffuse part of the global interdependent economy, which no state can any longer hold sway over or close its borders too. The citizen and their communities have been both empowered and disempowered by the state’s reaction to the globalised era. The state’s inability to address a post-modern world has attempted to catch up with globalisation, but in the process, has allowed to be swept away, all that was once collectively called: social justice.

Today in Britain, we have “a social justice gap”. This gap is increasing. The promise of globalisation: “prosperity for all eventually” has not been fulfilled for the majority of the world’s population –and in our case– a large sector of the British population has also been left behind. Britain has seen an increase in social injustice not a decrease. Citizens, who in time of declaration of war, can still be summoned by the state to sacrifice their lives for the state, and must pay taxation to the state, are now told not to expect that the state will be able to afford to care for them in their old age, that healthcare and education should come at further cost in addition to the general taxation arrangement. Housing is now priced beyond the means of the average citizen, who is advised, as a solution, by the mortgage brokers to lie and grossly inflate their earnings to secure a mortgage. The most disadvantaged are no longer housed by councils, who conceal the true scale of the problem that began when the publicly owned social housing stock was sold and the funds not re-invested in new housing as promised at the time.

In our progressive society, why is it that twenty-one year olds are sleeping on the streets of Shaftsbury Avenue during the height of winter? And the vulnerable aged, are cycled through a system that hospitalises, then discharges into the community without concern for what happens to the person afterward? Those aged, who do enter the state care system have to suffer the indignity of nursing homes so understaffed often with a ratio of only two care staff to every eighty patients.

Contrast this to the Eastern social arrangement, where it is customary that the family, often in impoverished conditions, will look after their aged in their own home right to the end of their life. On the other end of the spectrum in the far West, the American social model that has introduced market economics wholesale into the social care system, has produced a society that in 2005 according to the U.S. Census Bureau, has 46.6 million people who cannot afford health insurance, and therefore have no access to healthcare. Of that number, 8.3 million are children. In America healthcare as we know it in Europe, free at the point of delivery and at no further cost beyond standard taxation, is granted only to children up to the age of two years old. In Europe could we ever imagine such social inequality on such a vast scale?

We in the central West currently maintain a society where the family and community abrogates responsibility of care of the elderly, as soon as they are no longer economically productive. We must at least have a social care system that respects the dignity of the individual, rather than strips it. Freedom and liberty are so much more than just the market and constitutions. Freedom is the sum of all the social and historical arrangements, rights, duties, responsibilities and customs that affect the individual and their community throughout the human life cycle and the multidimensional interaction between the many levels of authority from the sovereign citizen to the sovereign state and beyond during that cycle of life experience in the post-modern world.

The old Social Contract is all but dead in name. To redress this imbalance caused by the processes of globalisation, the answer does not lie in rolling back history, by throwing up state barriers to the globalised world, but rather in an acknowledgement that the state in the post-modern era, is incapable of effecting change to redress this imbalance and that states have had to pool their efforts to create a new space in which to govern once again. The answer therefore, at least for us, must lie at the level of the new European Political Space. It is there, at the European level that we must seek to define a New Social Contract by defining a European Social Model that takes account of the paradigm shift in the rights of man vs. the rights of nature based on the theories of Locke, Bentham, Freidman and Paine that has produced a global social arrangement that prizes the frontier/pioneer concept of ownership of nature over a concept of stewardship and responsibility, for the care of nature and duty to succeeding generations.

We should define a pan-European model of progressive social justice and discern a commonality of shared social and human values. The goal would be to define a European minimum standard of a duty of care that a citizen can expect as a human right, as a European and, that should be provided to them from their respective member state. We cannot yet legislate for effective and meaningful rights for all the world, but we do have the capacity now, to legislate for these rights in the European Space. This would be a New Social Contract that would reassert the rights of the individual and communities within the new European Political and Social Space as a means of overcoming the inadequacies of individual states in ensuring true social justice and the citizen’s right to human dignity.

Governance at the European, national and local level should operate to a shared standard: a duty of care to the citizen and community, and this shared standard should be implemented by all the states, monitored and enforced, as is the case with the European System of Human Rights through a process based on the principle of Acquis Communautaire. The project would in effect, show a European minimum standard of the duty of care that a European member state has to its citizens, and should be a benchmark that Britain should live up to. It would be the basis of a New Social Contract, between the citizen, their community, the European political space and our British state.