Social-democratic views on the general interest (3)

First insertion on Heterodoxe Gazette Sam de Wolff: 9 september 2015

E.A. Bakkum is a blogger for the Sociaal Consultatiekantoor. He loves to reflect on the labour movement.

During the preceding months two columns about the social-democratic views on the general interest have appeared. They allow the social-democracy to translate the collective well-being into a political target- or policy-function. However, in the course of time this view has changed considerably, The present column describes the views of six leaders from the most recent decades, namely Hans van den Doel, Helmut Schmidt, François Mitterrand, Paul Kalma, Femke Halsema, and Gerhard Schröder. They clearly illustrate the rise of the Third way ideology.

The core problem of the political economy is the transformation of the individual needs of the citizens into a general interest. It is clear that for such a transformation an instrument is required, namely the state. However, the character of the state is controversial. Of old the attention focuses on the nation-state, that organizes the administration of a rather homogeneous nation, with its own language and tradition. In that case the state is mainly the bearer of shared ethics or morals, that give the community her identity. The administration is central. However, at present some prefer to define the state as an administrative body, that is established by networks of entrepreneurs and intellectuals, in order to maintain some order in the markets and in society. In that view the state must mainly provide a judicial system, that mediates in conflicts of interest. Incidentally, no collective morals are imposed on the citizens. The administration is fairly decentral.

Suppose that the desires, needs and interests of the individual citizens are represented by a general welfare function W. Furthermore, suppose that the state is democratic, so that the people themselves form the sovereign power. Then the popular representatives install a government, that gets the instruction to optimally further the wel-being of the people. The government develops a policy, that serves the universal or general interest, and that can be represented by a target function U. Now the policy formulation and execution can be represented by a symbolic process W → U. Five obvious questions arise, which incidentally are interwoven.

In the present column the philosophical ideas with regard to these questions will be studied for various political scientists and writers, and notably how they search for the moral definition of the general interest. Your columnist limits his study to the political thinkers of social-democratic origin, because he is most familiar with these. A previous column has shown, that since the rise of the social-democracy four episodes can be distinguished. Although the classification is rather arbitrary, and other phase models are conceivable, the used analysis turns out to be fairly fruitful.

Photo of medal of Gerhard Schröder
Figure 1: Gerhard Schröder

The leading social-democrats of all ages are supporters of democracy and of personal autonomy. In pluralism the social-democracy is time after time ideologically in the wrong. It is simply untrue, that the state is better in controlling the economy than the private entrepreneurs. Therefore since the fourth episode the traditional social-democracy has disappeared. Anthony Giddens introduces the agenda of the Third way, which is liberal and truly places the personal autonomy at the centre. Your columnist has again selected leading social-democrats, just as in the mentioned two columns. The aim is to test the preceding arguments on their accordance with reality, and to correct it, if necessary. The selected leaders are Hans van den Doel, Helmut Schmidt, François Mitterrand, Paul Kalma, Femke Halsema, and Gerhard Schröder.

Hans van den Doel

In 1975 the Nieuw Links (New Left) icon Hans van den Doel wrote the book Demokratie en welvaartstheorie1. Here it concerns a scientific work, where Van den Doel attempts to integrate economics in the political and administrative sciences. As such the book fits well with the subject of this column. Van den Doel is definitely a representative of the third episode of the social-democracy. According to the welfare theory the state can increase the well-being of its citizens by developing its own suitable (policy-)target function U. The state can realize its goals by employing policy instruments such as the regulation of commercial markets and the redistribution of incomes. Nieuw Links wanted to improve the transformation W→U by maximizing the decentralization of the decision process and activating the citizens themselves (see p.21). However, Van den Doel concludes, that this participatory democracy has failed (p.10).

Therefore he tries to find new methods, that can strengthen the position of the politicians and their electorat. The target function U must allow for a minimum of paternalism (p.26). The interactions of individuals and groups can be modelled, for instance by means of game theory. This includes among others the democratic decision rules. The optimization of the transformation W→U is a matter of administrative organization. Van den Doel distinguishes between two forms of group organization, namely the hierarchic and democratic ones. The loyal reader may remember, that later the economist Paul Frijters has also made this distinction. The hierarchy is mainly employed in the execution of policies, that have been transferred to the administrative bureaucracy. The democracy is formed by the political system. The politicians have the important task to supply collective goods and services in a sufficient quantity.

Each political leader k presents his target function U(k) to the electorat, which chooses from this offer the one that best approaches their welfare function W. It is obvious that the target functions U(k) also contain the costs, since there is a scarcity of means for the realization of the policy. In the optimum the difference between the benefits and the costs is maximal (p.44, 95). Note, that it does not suffice to offer the maximum amount of collective goods. The economist P. Hennipman has already concluded, that the collective well-being is determined by the distribution of those goods (p.48, 74). In the political process the socially optimal situation can be reached, when the popular representatives mutually negociate and exchange interests. This is called logrolling, vote trading or package deals (p.57, 87). Here obstacles surface, such as limited information, or unequal relations of power.

Besides in the democracy the phenomenon occurs, that not all people will participate. For, the participation requires an effort, which is experienced as a cost (p.62, 100). Some citizens prefer a positive apathy, that is to say, they trust that the others will make the right decision. The loyal reader of the Gazette may remember, that the PvdA-politician T.A.M. Wöltgens has also pointed to this aspect. However, others indulge in a negative apathy, namely when they believe that their vote will not influence the result. The PvdA under Nieuw Links chose in favour of politization and polarization, exactly in order to mobilize the negatively apathic citizens. This is based on the sociological analysis of Karl Marx, who expects a growing revolutionary conscience of the exploited groups. Nevertheless, in reality merely a small minority turns out to be prepared to truly carry the burden of participation.

Thus there is a political elite of parties k, each with her own target function U(k). The top of these parties disposes over much power, and therefore forms an oligarchy (p.77). Now the organization of the democracy determines how the citizens will make collective decisions. Some forms of organization lead to an unstable system. This occurs for instance in a multi-party system, when the parties can not be clearly ordered according to a left-right spectrum. For, then all kinds of coalitions are possible. A strongly polarized society will also become unstable (p.79). A two-party system has the advantage, that it is always stable. However, a disadvantage of this system is, that the two parties can both position themselves in the electoral centre, in order to maximize their electorat.

Logrolling occurs partly within these two parties. In this exchange minorities with an intense preference can often be successful, namely when the majority is rather indifferent. This type of compromise increases welfare. Thus logrolling softens the dictature of the majority, which in principle is the foundation of democracy (p.86). At the time Nieuw Links truly attempted to organize the Dutch politics in two blocks2. A problem of democracy is that a policy for the long term is difficult to realize (p.117). For, the time horizon of the citizens is rather short, and they will seldomly choose a politician k, whose target function U(k) yields benefits merely in the distant future. Incidentally, during the period between two elections the politician does have the opportunity to decide according to his own views. Furthermore, the voters are not particularly knowledgeable, and that leads to wrong decisions.

Helmut Schmidt

The SPD leader Helmut Schmidt belongs, together with the Englishman Tony Blair, to the most succesful social-democratic politicians, certainly when merely the large European states are considered. This paragraph analyzes the book Auf der Suche nach einer öffentlichen Moral by Schmidt, which fits well with the theme of the column3. Although Schmidt was formed politically during the second episode of the social-democracy, he is a typical representative of the fourth episode, thanks to his pragmatic character. So he was ahead of his time. Since he exactly came to power during the third episode, he was notably controversial within the German social-democracy herself. The German people as a whole have always held Schmidt in high esteem.

Photo of Helmut Schmidt
Figure 2: Helmut Schmidt
  (source: Econ Verlag GmbH)

In his book Schmidt notably reflects on ways, that allow citizens to develop a personal autonomy. For, they must select one of the target functions U(k), that are offered by the various political leaders k. This question is particularly relevant for Germany, because half a century before the population had helped the mentally deranged politician Adolf Hitler to come to power. Schmidt has experienced fascism and the war by himself. Therefore he stresses in his book more the civil responsibilities and morals than the social rights. The personal autonomy and will-power can only prosper, when one disposes of a personal conscience. The realization of the general interest (as represented by the target function U) is only possible, as long as the citizens act with a sense of duty (p.192).

Nevertheless, Schmidt does not want to translate the civil morals into an ideology. Rather, universal virtues are important, such as belief, hope, love, reason, justice, courage, and the capacity to judge (see p.201). It is interesting, that Schmidt presents the virtues as a collective property (p.215). They are not prescribed by the state, but are internalized by each generation through the formation by the parents, through education, jurisdiction and health care, work in the enterprises, and obviously also through the politicians. Therefore the morals emerge at the decentral level, so that they are pluralistic. Incidentally, the morals change with place and time (p.178). Pluralism can only exist in combination with a tolerant attitude. Thanks to the universal virtues the people can indeed bring in that tolerance.

Although the morals live on mainly in society herself, yet the elite has an important function. For, the elite can give an example to the people by means of her behaviour. According to Schmidt it is a mortal sin, when politicans unilaterally further their own interest in their target function U(k) (p.64). The leading professional groups should formulate and maintain their own professional codes of conduct. Moreover, the elite must dispose of sufficient capacities to lead in a sound manner (p.67). Leaders must have the courage to resist, when their followers want to realize impossible desires (by means of their welfare function W, p.57). For, it is true that the policy must have a moral appeal, but it must also be effective. In all these respects Schmidt is clearly congenial to the christian democracy4.

His social-democratic orientation rests mainly on his preference for organized deliberations between the entrepreneurs and the trade unions. The operation of markets does not have her own morals. Egoism furthers the social decay. Schmidt demands that the entrepreneurs accept good terms of employment and see this as a general interest. And the owners must not desire an unlimited profit, but must help to finance the collective sector (p.182). The entrepreneurs must even show some feelings of patriotism (p.167)5. Solidarity is a natural part of the general interest. But otherwise Schmidt demands more freedom of enterprise (p.149). It is also striking, that he is confident and optimistic about the opportunities of technological progress (p.28 and further). He warns against irrational fears with regard to the future of man.

François Mitterrand

The standpoint of François Mitterrand can not be absent in a contemplation about the social-democratic views. Between 1971 and 1995 he was the most important politician of the French Parti Socialiste (in short PSF), which he himself helped to found. The present paragraph is based on his book Ici et maintenant, which he published in 1980, a year before the presidential elections, which he indeed has won6. In order to understand his arguments it is necessary to know, that at the time the Leninist party is still powerful in France. Mitterrand can only become president, when he succeeds in binding the Leninist voters. Besides, France under the rule of general De Gaulle has become accustomed to a large and powerful state apparatus. All this explains, why Mitterrand pleads in favour of large-scale nationalizations of the industries, and of more central planning, in a period when the other western industry states already prefer an increased use of markets.

In the same strain Mitterrand calls the program of the PSF a class struggle. In this way he bases the party ideals on the second episode of the social-democracy, which amounts to an ideological rearguard action. He calls the PSF socialistic, and avoids the term social-democracy, because in France she has too much a revisionist connotation. As said, at that moment the social-democracy in the northwest of Europe is since long in the third episode, where the market is merely managed at the macro-economic level. It is the task of the PSF to awaken the conscience of the workers, that they are being exploited (p.35). The target function U represents the popular will, which must be forced through against the ruling class (p.38). Therefore the policy of the PSF will be characterized by decentralization and by the self-management of the workers, obviously within the boundaries of the plan.

According to Mitterrand the PSF is not marxist. She does not consider the class struggle to be revolutionary, because it advances by means of elections. She even has no desire to change the state system, although it supplies the president with an excessive power. On p.124 Mitterrand rejects the social-democracy, because she want to regulate and institutionalize the markets. That is not sufficiently rigorous, and merely leads to a political impasse. The workers must themselves come to power. The enterprises must become democratic (p.169). Therefore the PSF in government will always remain in dialogue with the trade unions (p.135). Apparently here he proposes a concertation, just like the Social Economic Council in the Nederlands (p.168). The nationalizations are notably needed in order to make the high finance powerless (p.171). The core of the policy is the change of the productive relations (p.187). Capital must be state property (p.213).

Photo of François Mitterrand
Figure 3: François Mitterrand
   (source: Jean Gaumy)

Mitterrand wants to combat unemployment by reducing the working hours (p.200). The domestic market gets the highest priority, and the export will be limited. Regional investment banks will be established. The agriculture will be regulated, so that the farmers obtain a sufficient income. The agricultural land could be controlled collectively (p.143). Mitterrand distrusts the civil society, because she always represents a particular interest (p.180). Only politics represents the general interest. The education serves to increase the social mobility (p.153). She must impart a critical attitude, and create room for the personal emancipation. The television can be an important instrument for the stimulation of the individual formation. According to Mitterrand the well-being will rise thanks to informatics (p.210). Here he even predicts the coming of the mobile telephones!

According to Mitterrand innovation is essential for the economy. However, he believes that here the state must take the lead. In addition, science is not neutral, so that it must be supervised by politics (p.217). This sounds a bit authoritative. Nevertheless, Mitterrand acknowledges that a universal conscience exists, and for instance promotes the human rights (p.228). He defends the political liberty. By now it is clear, that he wants to limit the economic freedom of the small industries. For that reason, he is convinced that the European Economic Community (in short EEC) must necessarily become a socialist body (p.256). She must for instance supervise the exports.

It will now be clear to the reader, that Mitterrand advocates a radical left-wing course, which does not bear witness to much realism. Positive is the degree of autonomy, that he wants to give to the industrial workers. However, it may be doubted that this would indeed make them happy. Because, the state also becomes more powerful, so that he becomes an instrument of exploitation by himself. During the eighties the PSF indeed rapidly moderates her policies and standpoints. Thus it is conceivable, that al these audacious statements in Ici et maintenant merely serve to maximize his own following, just like the Schumpeterian pluralism. That is the transformation W → U in optima forma, albeit with misleading propaganda. It must also be concluded, that Mitterrand barely tries to bend the expectations of his followers into a more realistic direction.

Paul Kalma

For several decades Paul Kalma has ideologically played a leading role in the Dutch PvdA, even to such an extent, that he can be called a party ideologist. In 1988 he wrote the courageous book Het socialisme op sterk water, which is an ideological turning point, and therefore deserves attention here7. Namely, in this book Kalma provides the ideological underpinning for the fourth episode of the social-democracy, ten years before the publication of The third way by Anthony Giddens. The message is the same, namely that socialism is outdated as an ideology. It is true that this was already apparent due to the pragmatic course of social-democratic leaders such as Helmut Schmidt and Wim Kok, but certainly in the Netherlands the rank-and-file were barely able to assimilate this idea. In the present paragraph the analysis focuses again on the design of the political process W → U.

According to Kalma the west lives in a social capitalism, where many ideals of socialism have been realized. However, a number of elements of socialism (the universal nationalization of the industries, workers' self-management, etcetera) are principally unsound, and therefore the social-democracy must abolish them. The PvdA has failed to do this, and in this way has become politically isolated (p.13). Notably, Kalma thinks that politization and polarization are very hurtful for the democracy and for the PvdA (p.26)8. Here he flatly contradicts the just described ideas of Van den Doel. Polarization may be an option in a system with electoral districts, such as the France of Mitterrand. But in the Netherlands the division in two is only achievable through an unrealistic extremism. And Kalma prefers a moderate and solid course. The PvdA must again become a natural partner in government (p.18).

According to Kalma the modern social-democracy has two pillars, namely the legal order of labour and the democracy. Here one recognizes the view of Schmidt, who also attaches value to the order. And just like Schmidt, Kalma rejects the lack of engagement and the libertarism of Nieuw Links (p.21). Politics does not dictate the social morals. The social system is essentially pluralistic (p.37). Incidentally, it is hardly possible to compromise about ethical subjects. Thus Kalma sees no sense in the slogan "Changer la vie" of Mitterrand (p.21). Politics must restrict itself to the design of smart target functions U(k) for the general interest (p.29, 34). And precisely the social questions are fit for political compromises, because the socio-economic interests are mainly material in nature (p.60, 140). Solidarity is an enlightened self-interest (p.47).

Thus the emancipation and the personal autonomy develop partly within labour itself (p.62). There is a compromise between labour and capital, but also between the various groups of wage earners themselves. Kalma even states that capitalism is a necessary condition for the political democracy (p.81). In this respect he is close to liberal economists, such as Paul Frijters and Daron Acemoglu. The state facilitates the deliberations between the various interest groups (p.82). The collective sector is a part of this arrangement. The ordering by the state is restricted to the socio-political domain (p.91).

The second pillar of the social-democracy is democracy. Kalma criticizes the participation ideology of the PvdA and of Nieuw Links. That ideology wants to rigorously restrict the autonomy of the official bureaucracy, and to excessively subject her to the people's representatives. Thus the parliament wants to participate in the execution. In the paragraph about the ideas of Van den Doel it became apparent, that in this manner Nieuw Links tries to make the functions W and U coincide. According to Kalma this is inefficient and even impossible. The attempt of Nieuw Links has hardly produced any results, because the willingness to participate has been overestimated (p.112, 119). Therefore, according to Kalma, the parliament must restrict itself to controlling the execution of policies. Thus the official bureaucracy regains some policy freedom. That furthers the efficiency.

This paragraph is concluded with a short analysis of the present-day view of Kalma. It is true that although he has always promoted the independency of the state enterprises, and more effectiveness and efficiency, he has always rejected the privatization of the state enterprises. Nevertheless the state has often preferred this option. Apparently Kalma can not accept this. He believes that in the contemporary economic system the legal order of labour is fundamentally affected. Because recently he has published the book Makke schapen, where he promotes a return to politization and to polarization (p.137, 159, 235)9! Your columnist dislikes polarization still as much as in 1988. The transformation W → U can only be optimal, as long as all are willing to make compromises.

The irritation of Kalma is so great, that in his last book he reproaches the PvdA that she would have become a party of administrators (see p.9 there, and 209). In Het socialisme op sterk water he proposes this as the central goal! And whereas previously Kalma advocated effectiveness and efficiency in the public sector, on p.101 of Makke schapen he complains about a "merchant spirit", and about an undesirable "primacy of financial and organizational calculation" (see also p.190). Whereas previously he demands a "business-like attitude", now politics would have assumed an undesirable "technocratic character" (p.107 MS). On p.180 Kalma even promotes a return go the cultural socialism (see also p.231). Perhaps this is all understandable, considering the subjective perspective of Kalma, or he may consciously choose to exaggerate. But for dissentients his change of mind is naturally extremely confusing, and not very credible.

Femke Halsema

At first sight Femke Halsema does not fit well in this column about social-democratic policy. However, since the nineties of the last century the ecological movement, consisting of the green parties, and the social-democracy have become more similar. When the opportunity arises, they like to form a coalition. Therefore your columnist thinks it is worthwhile to analyse the philosophical ideas of Halsema. The present paragraph is based on her books Linkse lente (written together with M. Zonneveld) and Geluk!10. The view of Halsema is fairly simple: the society has become too materialistic. This has the consequence that the people work too hard. They would be happier, if the labour intensity would diminish. There are scientific clues for this, among others in the publications of Richard Layard (see p.66 in Geluk!).

Halsema believes that working hard is dictated by the capitalist culture. People use consumption as a way to express their identity, and this habit is reinforced by advertising. Therefore the wage level is important for people. They keep trying to raise their labour productivity. The ambition to be effective creates an atmosphere of competition, also in the public sector, which traditionally rather ignored performance. Gradually mechanisms of market operations have also been introduced in the public sector, so that a culture of merits has emerged. Henceforth the execution of the activities is supervised bymanagers, who continuously strive for better results. Following the industrial Fordism there is a continuous search for advantages of scale. However, professional groups such as teachers, nurses and police officers feel rushed by the new pressure for efficiency.

Moreover, Halsema states that the quality of the offered services suffers from the high production. The workers in services no longer have time to chat with their customers. Therefore she wants to stop this development, namely be rigorously downsizing the layer of managers. Mutual trust is a social capital (p.106 in Geluk!). The professional groups can supervise their own performances. They are the true bearers of justice and solidarity. When nonetheless the need arises to make the executive organizations accountable, then that is the task of the people's representatives. Furthermore the social justice requires, that the distribution of incomes become more egalitarian. Perhaps such measures will slow down the growth of the gross domestic product (in short GDP), but this is a bad indicator for human happiness. The quality of living is more important.

When people moderate their consumption, then this benefits their personal emancipation and autonomy. For, these are immaterial benefits. Halsema expects an increasing self-organization and awakening, and refers to the seventies of the last century (p.86). Incidentally, she does add new elements to the then kind equality. Notably, Halsema states that the state must do more to activate its citizens. On p.146 of Linkse lente she promotes the abolishment of the protection against discharge, and an unemployment benefit with a duration of at most a year. The long-time unemployed obtain a participation contract with a minimal income. Then the labour productivity is less relevant (p.123 in Geluk!). The workers must obtain various opportunities for paid and unpaid leave.

In short, the traditional entrepreneurship must be bridled. That is accompanied by a cultural change, that for instance removes the advertising from the public television channels (p.146 in Geluk!). Henceforth, the society must become less materialistic. On p.75 of Linkse lente Halsema denies the existence of a popular will, that is to say of a clearly identifiable welfare function W. Therefore she is convinced that politicians must formulate their own target function U. On p.155 in Linkse lente she pleads in favour of "politicians who distinguish themselves by an independent attitude. Who do not desparately try to please their followers". Your columnist is not completely reassured. Too often, a political caste has dictated its ideals of austerity on society, searching for the "new man"11. Again and again the citizens turn out to voluntarily prefer the materialistic way of life.

Gerhard Schröder

About ten years after the start of the fourth episode Gerhard Schröder, who is a pre-eminent representative of the social liberalism, becomes the leader of the German social-democracy. During the years 1998-2005 he keeps the SPD in government, in a coalition with Bündnis'90/Die Grünen, and himself occupies the position of chancellor of the federation. In this manner he proves that the reformed social-democracy is electorally successful. Incidentally, in 1997 in England, New Labour also wins the elections, with a similar program. Shortly before the elections of 1998 Schröder explains his views in the book Und weil wir unser Land verbessern ... (a citation of Bertold Brecht)12. There he gives a clear insight into the hallmarks of the modern social-democracy.

Photo of Gerhard Schröder
Figure 4: Gerhard Schröder
   (Source: SPD)

Although Schröder accepts the political construction of society, he believes that the operation of markets is the best manner to guarantee the general well-being. The industries are sensitive to the desirable allocations and opportunities for investing. An important pillar for the social-democracy is the tripartite deliberations between the trade unions, the industries, and the state. He praises his congenial Karl Schiller, who thirty years before as the minister of finance was successful with the concertation. Schröder would like to found a Stichting van de Arbeid, such as in the Netherlands. That would institutionalize the corporative structure in the economy (see p.30). The conclusion of collective labour contracts (in German called a Tariff) is a good instrument for maintaining the labour peace, and for raising the productivity. Schröder promotes a participation society, where labour is justly rewarded.

Participation implies that people are activated by the state, if need be. For, individuals must be addressed with respect to their responsibilities. The social security must be a trampoline (p.58)! Flexible forms of labour can offer advantages to all concerned. In general Schröder prefers a supply side policy, where the aim is an efficient production. Profit is desirable, at least as long as it leads to investments. In this model the partial coverage of pensions by means of capital fits well. This also accomplishes, that property is more equally distributed within the society. Thus a "patient" capital is accumulated. The state guards over the morals, and realizes tasks that can not be done by the private sector (p.39). Morals are in essence a procedural consensus about the way to promulgate legislation, and to exercise power. Schröder calls this constitutional patriottism.

Thus the democracy is a system, that must be learned and maintained (p.195). The paternalistic state is not acceptable (p.197). This even holds for the executing apparatus, which is best made independent, because then the efficiency increases (p.217). Within this system regional groups with their own culture emerge, but with an open character. The starting point is equal opportunities. Everybody has the right to be optimally educated. But the education must correspond to the economic needs, in order to maintain a generous wage level. For, the supply side policy requires, that the wages follow the productivity (p.206). Young people must learn a dynamic and enterprising attitude (p.119). Furthermore, the individual responsibility requires, that the society is intolerant with regard to crime.

Interesting is also the view of Schröder on politics. Due to his preference for the procedure he is less interested in the party program. The democracy would survive, when the voters would choose a person (and his ideas) instead of a party (p.143). He likes the media culture, because media are a useful mouthpiece for the politicians. The democracy evidently requires, that the policy of the state is supported widely within the population (p.154). Then the target function U will resemble the welfare function W. A hallmark is the pragmatic approach, free of dogma's, for instance in environmental policies. Again and again Schröder prefers the road of gradualness (p.162). The industries and investors also have a right to security.

A year after the appearance of his book Schröder writes, together with Tony Blair, a manifesto with the title Der Weg nach vorne für Europas Sozialdemokraten. Schröder translates the third way for his German voters as die neue Mitte. The hallmarks are justice, equal opportunities, and solidarity. The general interest requires efficiency and profitability. The globalization and the innovation demand of all a maximal flexibility. The entrepreneurial spirit returns in the social-democracy, while leaving room for concertation. The production factors capital (investments) and labour are taxed less than before. The demand side policy must be merely supplementary. The quality of the public services is subjected to a rigorous supervision. Here the manifesto allows for national nuances. This reformed type of social democracy has definitely been successful: remember the Purple cabinets (in the Netherlands) and the New Democrats (in America).


In this column several new insights have been gained about the transformation W → U. Van den Doel describes how the democratic system functions. The say of the citizens is partly determined by the institutional construction of the system. Apparently Van den Doel prefers the two-party system with logrolling. According to Schmidt it is essential for the society, that the population always transfers solid morals to the next generation. He recommends to act according to the Golden Rule. Next attention has been paid to the program of Mitterrand, a contemporary of Schmidt. The French program stems partly still from the previous episode, with a call for class struggle and even a policy of nationalizations. It is difficult to image that Mitterrand himself believed in his program. Therefore this example illustrates, that political leaders sometimes hold out illusions in order to win elections.

Kalma states in 1988, that the target function U of socialism is unsound. He recommends to henceforth develop pragmatic and matter-of-fact policies, so that the party can truly participate in government. The welfare W of the citizens is guaranteed by an order of labour and by democracy. Halsema differs somewhat from the preceding politicians, because she has a rather paternalistic attitude. The citizens can be manipulated easily, which has the consequence that their welfare function W is unsound. Therefore Halsema does not really base her target function U on the W of the voters. She aims at a revolution.

Schröder is an adherent of the social liberalism, just like Schmidt and Kalma. Without any embarrassment this current vies for state power. Besides, it aims at some order, in order to guarantee the interests of the factor labour. But it does not hesitate to point out the boundaries of the achievable, if needed. Within these mainly economic boundaries the citizens obtain much freedom, and thus the entrepreneurs as well. Schröder calls this view a constitutional patriottism: everybody acknowledges the fundamental rights, and is willing to compromise. Apart from that everybody is free to determine his own morals.

  1. See Demokratie en welvaartstheorie (1975, Samsom Uitgeverij) by J. van den Doel. Incidentally, Van den Doel is already in 1968 removed from Nieuw Links due to his wilful ideas. He was a member of parliament for the PvdA from 1967 until 1973. Subsequently he has concentrated on economics, as a professor. The book was bought second-hand by your columnist, and contains a stamp of the archive of the well-known marxist sociologist Ger Harmsen. (back)
  2. See Keerpunt 1972, a publication by the PvdA, PPR and D'66. Some citations: "There will be a rigorous equality of say for all citizens in all branches of political and social decision-making" (p.5). And: "The electorat votes at the same time for the parliament and for the mediator during the formation of the cabinet" (p.9). This latter point must guarantee that indeed the coalition, desired by the voters, is formed. Nieuw Links believed that a free formation of the coalition saddles the electorat with an unpredictable end result. And: "The position of parliament is strenghtened by significantly increasing her budget for scientific and administrative staff" (p.9). This aims to reduce the power of the official bureaucracy. The participants in Keerpunt 1972 had even formed a shadow cabinet. It wanted to destroy the political centre. The unpleasant seamy side is naturally, that this leads to radicalization, and in such a manner that it border on deceit towards the voters. (back)
  3. See Auf der Suche nach einer öffentlichen Moral (1998, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt GmbH) by Helmut Schmidt. The strength of Schmidt and Blair is undoubtedly that they prefer a pragmatic policy, and are not carried away by ideological sentiments. Since 1969 Schmidt was a federal minister for the SPD under Willy Brandt. He was the federal chancellor from 1974 until 1982. During that period he had to lead the federation and his party in a socially rebellious situation, where acts of resistance and demonstations transformed into an organized domestic and foreign terrorism. The important youth section Jusos of the SPD was under the ideological influence of orthodox neomarxists, and showed little sense of reality. The incorruptible and unshakeable personality of Schmidt helped Germany and the SPD to endure the excesses without too much psychological damage. Extreme left groups have reproached Schmidt, that during the Nazist rule he was an officer for many years. However, the experiences during the war helped to shape his steadfast character, which henceforth became a beacon, also during the chaotic seventies. Your columnist read his book already twelve years ago. (back)
  4. Although Schmidt has a remarkably incorruptible character, he can naturally err. For instance, on p.21 he complains that the television coarsens the morals by broadcasting various violent series, notably originating from the United States of America (p.90). Especially the commercial television would exhibit insufficient morals. Your columnist is not convinced, that the confrontation with violence will be mind-numbing. And Schmidt is highly critical about the ideas of the generation of 1968 and of the New Left. That is justified, but he promotes rather fervently the authority, and consequently also disciplin and self-control (p.89). However, elsewhere he advocates the personal conscience (p.118, 186, 207). Worth mentioning is furthermore, that due to the two Worldwars Schmidt has obtained doubts about the solidity of Gods will (p.72). For him, the value of religion consists of the universal values, such as the Golden Rule (p.196, 251). According to this Rule everybody must be objective, and must in decision-making express sympathy for others. (back)
  5. In this respect it is significant, that Schmidt has always promoted the exploitation of the German mining, although it caused huge losses. His main argument was the need to have a differentiated energy supply. Besides he attached value to the maintenance of employment. (back)
  6. See Ici et maintenant (1980, Librairie Arthème Fayard) by François Mitterrand, with Guy Claisse. Mitterrand uses in his arguments an oratorical style, that treats his political opponents in a arrogant and condescending manner. That hinders the accessibility of his French. Thus it took your columnist eight years to read this book! Those who are interested in the political life of Mitterrand, can consult Het Frankrijk van Mitterrand (1995, Uitgeverij Davidsfonds) by P. Vandermeersch. (back)
  7. See Het socialisme op sterk water (1988, Van Loghum Slaterus) by Paul Kalma. Although Kalma proves his courage by voicing a then unpopular opinion, he naturally did have some backing by the party leadership. Otherwise, he would not have become the director of the WBS. The truthfulness of Kalma's message is evident. However, your columnist read the book eight years ago for the first time, after for years having studied social-democratic literature from the previous episodes. It came as a shock, that Kalms rejects and abolishes all these traditional ideas. (back)
  8. Now and then this polarization even leads to demonisation or to an extreme ridicule. Kalma states on p.12: "The PvdA has been seduced into an attitude, that later has hurt her a lot. That holds for instance for the triumphant behaviour with regard to the confessional parties". On p.19: [There is a need for] "a PvdA, that succeeds in fleeing her own culture of opposition, and in particular in shaking of her image of rattling on and of complaining". On p.25: "Still in 1981 she started her election campaign with a principal preference for a coalition with ... the tiny left-wing parties". On p.39: "[Over-politization can] be a threat to the stability of society, and to democracy itself". On p.118: "Meanwhile we know that this strategy of polarization returned as a boomerang against the PvdA. The confessional parties have, thanks to the formation of the CDA, recovered electorally, and the PvdA has been manoeuvred into the role of a permanent opposition party". Kalma is certainly not alone in his opinion. The christian democrat J.P. van Rijswijk writes already on p.7 in Repeterende breuken (1992, Prometheus): "During the seventies the social-democrats and the christian democrats were diametrically opposed to each other. Not as political opponents, but as ennemies. The PvdA tried by means of polarization to eliminate the christian democracy as a political factor (...). A process that began with the anti-KVP resolution of the congress of the PvdA in The Hague in 1969". On p.19 he continues: "[There] it was formally proclaimed that the KVP was excluded from cooperation with the PvdA. That resolution caused panic within the KVP". And on p.44: "The PvdA was quite open in the matter; she clearly showed her contempt for the three christian-democratic parties (...). Aantjes rejected the polarization by the PvdA and appealed to her to strive for tolerable political relations (...). The reaction of the PvdA, honestly seconded by the VARA, was one of insult and ridicule". Etcetera. (back)
  9. See Makke schapen (2012, Uitgeverij Bert Bakker) by P. Kalma. In this respect Kalma differs somewhat from Giddens, who is less principally opposed to privatizations. Your columnist thinks that here Kalma is wrong. For, once a state enterprise has become independent, then the state is simply a shareholder. It is obvious that the state will dispose of the shares, as soon as better opportunities for investment present themselves. A reference can be made to the column about the planned economy, where Brus and Laski also search for a market socialism or even an entrepreneurial socialism. Their conclusion is that this type of mixed forms do not have any added value with regard to the common market operation. In more general terms, a criticism of the two books of Kalma is, that he repeatedly and with positiveness proclaims standpoints, that are supported insufficiently by the facts and by arguments. The books are more opinionated than scientific. For instance, he advocates in Het socialisme op sterk water a universal reduction of the working hours (p.102). At the time this was indeed considered, but finally politics has rejected this option. But still on p.119 in Makke schapen Kalma complains about this choice! So that book does not have the pioneering character of Het socialisme op sterk water, and resembles the existing radical left-wing literature. In Makke schapen references can be found to rather extreme sources such as Marcel van Dam, Naomi Klein, Joris Luyendijk, the duo Wilkinson/Pickett, and Michael Lewis. And on p.159 Kalma advocates the block formation with the small left-wing parties Groen Links and the SP, possibly supplemented with D66. There is a striking tone of cultural pessimism, as well as a blind spot for the causes (globalization, technological progress), which have led to the present situation. (back)
  10. See Linkse lente (2006, Uitgeverij Bert Bakker) by F. Halsema and M. Zonneveld, and Geluk! (2008, Uitgeverij Bert Bakker) by F. Halsema. Your columnist read the first mentioned book nine years ago, immediately after its publication. Incidentally, this is not an expression of close affinity. The ideas of Ruud Lubbers, André Rouvoet, Jan Marijnissen, and Pim Fortuyn, to name a few, are at least as interesting. (back)
  11. Here Groen Links has a rich tradition. She is formed as a merger from the revolutionary-socialistic parties CPN and PSP, and the radical-religious parties EVP and PPR. The PSP, EVP and PPR prospered in the late sixties and in the seventies, when the social-democracy was still in her third episode. Under the influence of the New Left movement, imported from North-America, these parties tried to politicize the society. Halsema is clearly attracted by the aristo-democracy of her party member Dick Pels, although she is less arrogant. She definitely prefers strong paternalism. (back)
  12. See Und weil wir unser Land verbessern ... (1998, Hoffmann und Campe Verlag) by G. Schröder. Your columnist read the book twelve years ago for the first time, when Schröder was still in power. The book is also innovative because of its design, because it is a bundle of letters, which Schröder addresses to various well-known and unknown Germans. Schröder was previously the minister-president of Niedersachsen for some years, as well as the head of a red-green coalition there. Thanks to the federal structure of Germany the federation always disposes of a reservoir of prime ministers, that are tested candidates for being chancellor. (back)