terça-feira, 24 de maio de 2011

Portugal Needs a Liberal Left - Part II

The Centre-Right normally rules with the brains (exception: Berlusconi - if you consider him Centre-Right, of course, something that I would not). The Centre-Left normally rules with the heart (exception: Blair - if you consider him Centre-Left, of course, something that I would not).

The result is that European governments on the Right do the right things for the bad reasons and European governments on the Left have the good reasons while defending them with the most unspeakably stupid policies (1). So, for example, you have Zapatero, a decent politician that changed the face of Spain and affronted PP, a party depending from Opus Dei and still holding on in some way (or at least in some factions) to Franquism. What did he do to PP's good heritage from PP? Well, the recent defeat in the local elections is a proof that Spanish people do prefer, when the going gets rough, competent bastards to incompetent good guys.

So that is the challenge. Do the right things for the right reasons. It cannot be impossible to have a progressive society, opportunities for all and economic growth. In fact, it makes sense that all those factors go hand in hand. Growth creates opportunities that can be effectively used by people if social prejudices do not create artificial barriers to social mobility and individual freedom.

So Portugal needs a political force that is clear on a number of subjects:
  1. We need a change in mentalities regarding finances: we have to save part of what we earn, we cannot spend more than what we earn; we cannot see as normal having deficits of more than 3%, and certainly not on consecutive years (or, as is the case, decades!).
  2. We need a change in mentalities regarding the economy: we have to allow entrepreneurs to appear, we have to avoid defining what the economy should look like and let society decide it on its own; we have to ask ourselves why countries having simpler fiscal laws or having more agile judicial systems keep better growth rates than us.
That is what I call the "Liberal" side of the answer. The other what I call the "Left" side:
  1. We need to have a more intelligent view of society: we have to put aside our pre-conceived ideas about social rights, we have to protect less those who are already powerful, we have to have the same laws for everybody.
  2. We need to defend a good public Education system: public schools are the only way of creating a "republican" society, a society based on equal opportunities; public schools must be ideologically neutral (no financing of religious institutions) and equally accessible for all (the education voucher is actually just a way of financing private schools and rich families that would in any case put their children in such schools because they know that exclusive environments are a way of maintaining the ancestral dynasties that rule the country); but public schools also have to be demanding, hard, and discipline must prevail - otherwise the middle class will no longer believe in it.
  3. We need to defend a good public Health system: WHO data proves that the Portuguese health care system is, counter-intuitively, one of the few things the country can be proud of; it also shows that public systems are cheaper and more cost-effective than private ones; but it needs to face the ageing problem and be sustainable.
  4. We need to defend Social Security: and this can only be done with radical reforms, including eventual limits on accumulation of pensions and fixing ceilings, while the retirement age has to go as up as 68, eventually more if needed - we have to be prepared for it, if we do want to keep a public pension system, having at the same time a good notion of intergenerational justice in which young people are not transformed into fiscal slaves of richer, more numerous (thus more powerful in a democratic society) and older generations.

(1) Do not mix up Europe and the United States. The American Right is only right when it shuts up, and since Republicans are very verbal, they are never right. The Democrats (that, despite the myths that we have among us, are frequently more to the Right than many European Liberals) pursue fairer social policies while having a more "conservative" budgetary policy - as the Clinton governments vs. Reagan and both Bushes example easily proves.

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