Future of Europe

The multidimensional crisis that the EU is facing is different from previous ones: according to Claire Courteille-Mulder and Olivier De Schutter this crisis is existential in nature, since it touches upon the very notion of integration. Hence, a redefinition of Europe is now more than ever necessary, and this crucial debate will take place against the backdrop of the 2008 crisis, the social consequences of which are still being felt. In the short-term, concrete actions could be envisaged to foster a higher coherence of national social, economic and fiscal objectives, ensuring that one set of obligations does not undermine the other. In the longer term, discussions on how to bring the EU under the jurisdiction of international and regional human rights bodies might have to be resumed, not least to enable member states to comply with the obligations arising from their ratification of international or regional treaties.

Judy Dempsey reflects on the European Commission’s new White Paper on the future of Europe and argues that it lacks strategy and ambition. The crucial mistake is trying to please all constituencies throughout the EU’s soon-to-be 27 member states. The White Paper discusses 5 possible scenarios: carrying on as before; focusing only on the EU single market; allowing willing member states to integrate more; doing less but more efficiently; and doing much more together. The risk is that member states would take it as a shopping list to choose their more desired option. This reveals that the Commission has indeed lost all authority, and that it lacks a strategy for the future.

Juha Sipilä, prime minister of Finland, writes that what Europe needs right now is pragmatism. Citizens do not consider a federal state to be a goal worth striving for, but turning inward would be a wrong decision. Trust is the basis of everything and thus every member state must assume its share of responsibility and adhere to the common rules. Otherwise, we cannot expect others to show solidarity. European cooperation was built over time on three main principles – peace, prosperity and common values. Europe, ravaged by the world war, needed stability. The EU must recognise its roots. This means safeguarding the continent’s stability, prosperity and common values.

The Social Question

The Economist debates the tax on robots proposed by Bill Gates, and concludes that it offers two benefits: raising money and slowing down automation. Economists typically dislike taxes on such investments, since buying and using new equipment raises productivity and growth. But if the pace of automation is too rapid for society to handle then slowing automation could do more good than harm. However, there are reasons to be sceptical of this approach. Not all new robots displace human labour; some make existing workers more productive. Automation can also reduce consumer costs. A robot tax which reduced the use of machines in health care and therefore kept medical costs growing rapidly might hurt as many workers as it helped. A final concern is that for now, at least, productivity growth remains disappointing, suggesting that automation is occurring too slowly rather than too rapidly.

Rutger Bregman proposes an ‘easy way’ to eradicate poverty, claiming that the idea that rich people deserve their superior social condition ought to be abandoned. A paper from Princeton professor Eldar Shafir studies sugar cane farmers in India who collect about 60% of their annual income all at once, right after the harvest, thus being relatively poor for one part of the year and rich for the other. Surprisingly, their IQ test when poor was on average 14 points lower than their IQ test when rich. This is explained by the fact that people behave differently when they perceive a thing to be scarce, as they focus in on immediate deficiency rather than long term perspective. This is why so many antipoverty programs fail. The simple solution is universal basic income, which has been shown to work when tried for 4 years in Dauphin in 1974. The study shows that people not only become richer, but also smarter and healthier. The school performance of children improved substantially. The hospitalisation rate decreased by as much as 8.5%. Domestic violence went also down, as went mental health complaints. And people didn’t quit their jobs. A basic income would work like venture capital for the people, and it would be convenient as poverty has huge hidden costs.

This Ideas Monitor is by Carlo Burelli and Alexander Damiano Ricci

Photo Credits CC ANBerlin 

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Also published on Medium.

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