A Menagerie of Outspoken Opinions on Science, World Politics, and Geek Culture

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Steal From the Rich, Get Lots of Poor

German cities are erupting in protest over cuts to that nation's absurdly generous welfare system. It's amazing, but not because tens of thousands of people are willing to demonstrate to keep the state teat within suckling distance - that's entirely predictable. Rather, it's amazing because a nation that worked so hard to excise the cancer of communism from its body politic a decade ago can't yet grasp the first simple truth of free market economics: The more you steal from the rich (in taxes) the more poor you create (in unemployment).

And, of course, the easier you make it for a man to sit home and do nothing the more likely it is that's exactly what he'll decide to do.

Germany has huge unemployment - it's approaching 10% in the prosperous areas. Problem regions - like East Berlin - are getting close to 20% unemployment! Can you imagine 20% unemployment in the US? Even 10% is difficult to comprehend (for those of you outside the US, our unemployment hovers around 5% - maybe as high as 8% during a serious recession - and it's largely considered shameful for a healthy person to accept handouts). How did Germany's employment situation get so bad? Well, this excerpt from the article I linked above is quite telling:

Harald Reutter, spokesman for public sector union Verdi said union members were now gunning for a clause making it hard for the unemployed to turn down jobs deemed to be lower than those they previously held.

"We have to stick to our course on the really difficult issues," said Reutter.

So if you can't find a job as cushy as your old one, just don't work! Sit at home and live on money the government steals from folks who are working ... many of them at jobs that suck worse than the one you won't take because it's "lower than [the one] you previously held". Why struggle up the ladder when you can reach just as high by standing on the back of the next guy! The German welfare system has made it so easy to be a layabout that double-digit unemployment has become the norm and people believe they're entitled to a free ride.

"Give'em an inch and they'll take a mile" is a saying that our neighbors across the Atlantic are obviously unfamiliar with.

So now Schroder is trying to enact reforms, and the socialists, anti-globalization nutjobs, and plain old welfare bums are shitting bricks. Of course they want their fat welfare checks when they don't work - just like they want their 32 hour work weeks, months of paid vacation, and free third-rate health care when they do work. Meanwhile the real generators of wealth - entrepreneurs and the innovations and industries they create - are increasingly hobbled by these ridiculously huge benefits they're forced to provide (and taxes to support the welfare system too!). Schroder is doing the right thing by trying to stem the flow of money hemorrhaging out of the German economy, but the socialist mosquitoes are used to drinking their fill and swatting even a portion of them is going to take years.