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Flanders: tomorrow’s active welfare state

by News Room
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When I read the newspapers on June 10 and heard the statements of the “election winners” – some winners by the vote, others effective winners – I spontaneously thought of an “active welfare state”. The Third Way by Anthony Giddens. Frank Vandenbroucke mentioned it in his book of the same name: “The Search for a Reasonable Utopia”.

The third way

In Reforming social democracy sociologist and politician Anthony Giddens (1998) advocates a balance between economic efficiency and social justice, between a liberal market economy and a welfare state in which the state not only provides a safety net but also actively encourages and supports citizens to participate in society. He described it as a “third way”.

For me, this was studying the works of the German sociologist Alexander Rüstow: Between capitalism and communism which in turn was the basis for the Mont Pèlerin Society, whose members included the famous philosophers Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises and Karl Popper. They founded what is now called left-liberalism.

Frank Vandenbroucke was banished to Oxford University after the ritual burning of Agusta’s corruption money. During his tar and feather sabbatical, he wrote a book about the active welfare state, describing it as a “sensible utopia”. This left-liberal third way was the breeding ground for Guy Verhofstadt’s first purple-green government.

We know that now. The purple-green project failed. Twice. Why? Because the ideology of an active welfare state provided fuel, but the fundamental reforms needed to implement it were not forthcoming. The Holy Cows – the hostile civil society described by Verhofstadt in his civil lists – stood their ground and erected the Berlin Wall against the better Flemish prosperity.

Depillarization of politics

You can make a better dish from the same ingredients, but then you have to fundamentally change the preparation method and the composition of the recipe. Belgium has always had a strong tradition of social security and collective welfare.

We should not eliminate the midfield, but redefine it and make it self-sufficient

Today’s challenge is to adapt these systems to the modern requirements of globalization, technological development, environmental challenges and demographic changes. To achieve this, we must not eliminate the midfield, but redefine it and make it self-sufficient. I will give two examples: unemployment benefits paid by trade unions and health benefits from health insurance companies.

The municipality as a payment agency

I support the payment of unemployment and health benefits through municipalities, as was the case with unemployment benefits in the years 1944-1952. Municipalities have the personnel, infrastructure, population data and information technology to handle this smoothly. After all, they control a similar OCMW benefit payment system. By the way, we don’t allow poverty organizations to pay these OCMW benefits! Why then unemployment benefits from trade unions and health benefits from health insurance companies?

The municipality’s payment would improve and influence the monitoring and mapping of the family situation, and would limit unjustified payments or fraud. Within the framework of the principle of subsidiarity, it could be said that the municipality is the state that is ready to pay this fee. In addition, the compensation would be transferred back to the citizens and could be used for local tax reductions or improvements to infrastructure and services to the population. Perhaps this will enable the municipal fund to be renewed and the discussion about the disadvantage of rural areas compared to cities will be moved to the wastebasket.

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