terça-feira, 24 de maio de 2011

Portugal needs a Liberal Left - Part III (final)

If somehow it is not yet clear, I will summarize it: Portugal needs a political force that breaks all the political prejudices that we may have. Someone that defends: a non-interventionist State on the economy; a pervasive but realistic Welfare State; the deepening of recent societal and legal progressive changes, such as abortion (2006) and same-sex marriage (2010).

The road is beyond rocky.

Every political force will tell you, for example, that the State should support small and medium companies. They probably have in mind lots of subsidies and State-funded internships that will only serve to fund unscrupulous businessmen at the expenses of tax-payers and the interns themselves. They can hardly think that all the licenses, declarations, forms, tax-returns, etc., all those annoying and often imbecile procedures hurt a lot more the small companies than the big ones. And they can hardly think, or if they do think, they do not act on it, that complex fiscal systems only defend the richer, the best informed, those who can pay for someone to play with the law or win the subsidies. No political force realizes that the more power the State (and the local authorities) has on the economy, the bigger problems such as corruption will be. Centralization is not only economically hurtful. It is morally wrong and ethically deviant.

All political forces will also tell you how much they love Welfare State. But the Left is unable to accept the reforms in Social Security that will guarantee its sustainability; in Education, pedagogic theories of dubious origins have resulted in undoubtedly disastrous results. The Right knows its electorate, and does not seem all too keen on rising retirement ages, but they accept that the rich - and only the rich - get off of the system and have their pensions at least partially in private schemes. And, of course, the Right wants dearly education vouchers that will be used to finance religious schools (even more than they already are) and to allow, via this State subsidy, the upper sections of society to keep their children in private schools, away from the general scoundrel and the calamitous public education system governed by the Left.

Like we have recently seen with the judges and with the teachers, all political forces, once in opposition, will block any kind of reform affecting powerful professional groups. It is easy to cut any normal civil servant wage. Try doing that to a judge: from the far-ends of Communism to the far-ends of Conservatism, all voices will rise against you. And that explains why, much more than labour laws (something that all Liberals tend to emphasize) one of Portugal's biggest problems is actually the (at best) inoperative judicial system.

In our near future, we may get to a situation in which the Welfare State starts being dismantled because we need to cut costs. But the problem in Portugal is certainly not a big Welfare State. Checking OECD data, you may easily find out that Portuguese Welfare State is as big as any other European Welfare State, certainly smaller than not few of them. And that non-biased analysis of the Welfare State is what distinguishes a Left Liberal from many other Liberals.
What we must question is where all the rest of the money goes in Portugal. Why do we have so many doctors (and we do)? Why do we have so many judges (and we do, despite our calamitous judicial system)? Why do we have so many unproductive public investments? Why so many subsidies? Why so many taxes imposed for "social justice", with no positive effects whatsoever after all the tax benefits that only benefit the rich? And it is this critical view of the State's power of intervention in the economy that distinguishes a Left Liberal from the Socialist Left.

The road is rocky - but I still believe that a Liberal Left, a Liberalism that knows that (sane) social policies are crucial for people to be free, a Leftism that understands that economic growth is crucial for social justice, is the only key for our future. We need to continue of road from religious serfdom to rational freedom. We need a State that keeps its hands off the economy. We need a State that guarantees that everybody has some chances in life. All of these three goals are only possible through the combination of a Leftist inclination and a Liberal reasoning.

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