The Role Of Social Policy In Democratic Societies

Germany is undertaking its most wrenching reappraisal ever of its social welfare policies. Dr. Kurt Biedenkopf, minister-president of Saxony, looks at the causes.

DRESDEN: The issue of social policy is very much alive today in the post communist democracies. Because living standards and inequality were low under socialism, an individual had in a way little to lose. On top of this, the state delivered an extensive system of benefits. As the regime changed, the supply of desirable goods increased conspicuously and growing income disparities made individuals realize that their social position was insecure. The cost of social services also came to constitute a heavy burden on state budgets, and the impact of high income transfers on the economy had to be considered. As the new democracies re-think their approach and look to the more advanced European models, it is important to ask what lessons they can draw from countries such as Germany, which have many more years of experience.

Germany is a very rich country and its social system looks enviable from the perspective of those who must anxiously struggle for the necessities of daily life. But there are also some disquieting lessons as well.

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