They yell many a time –
“You tell if you seek
To sleep well and remain sublime,
Or to barge into hall and eat well all week.”
The above may illustrate the prevalent social thoughts and explain the realms of capitalism and socialism during early part of the last century, particularly before the World Wars. However, the large-scale sufferings and displacement of population in different parts of the world, especially in Europe, compelled even capitalistic framework to incorporate political initiatives for the well-being of its people in general. This emboldened the focus on creating better social infrastructure and formulation of social security schemes across Europe despite the urgency of restoring and rebuilding physical infrastructures during the post-war period.
Western democracies adopted this approach well before Democracy’s Third Wave started with “Carnation Revolution” in Lisbon in 1974. But going forward, this became the part and parcel of our democratic discourses. The belief did receive critical evaluation after the collapse of Communist Bloc in a matter of just about two decades; but policy makers and leaders could see the difference, and enforced requisite political will to prevent rampant socio-economic discriminations and help general people lead a minimal yet stable life. Eat well and sleep well – perhaps began to define a welfare state while sundering political initiatives from the state-controlled economic doctrine. Today, the USA and large parts of Europe stand by the principles of a welfare state – at least, in principle.
There are challenges though. Many events question the failure of this overarching idealistic foundation or the administrative intention in effectuating it.
More and more people across Europe complain that welfare efforts create additional tax burden on productive population while encouraging non-productivity in dependents. The voice is more audible now with the slowdown of economies, large financial burden from the badly-performing countries within European Union, and the recent humanitarian crisis due to large-scale influx of refugees from Middle East to southern European shores. While one school cries injustice, the other asks to refresh the memory of fiscal crisis of the last century and outflux from Europe during World War II.
Across Atlantic, the alleged brutality in custody to Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man, in Baltimore last month (April) has highlighted the glaring economic-inequality prevalent in the region; and has insinuated the hypothesis of existence of a relation between economic inequality, racism and systemic crime. Alleged event happened in a city under the political and police leadership held by two African-Americans!
The Asian experiment of democracy has been successful so long in India. And tremendous progress has been made in the social sectors apart from great economic prosperity in the last two decades. While optimists applaud plausibility of achieving a welfare state, others are skeptic. While the arguments will continue, the political initiative of welfare for all sections of population can go in parallel to the market economy. The current government should accept the challenge too.