You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Roger Cohen’ tag.

Freedom? Or Security?  Do We Have to Choose?

By Shlomo Maital    

Freedom Security  

  A Pew Global Attitudes survey asked this question, a few years ago:

   Which is more important?

     Freedom to pursue life’s goals without state interference, or

    State guarantees that nobody is in need.

  The results:  58 % of Americans chose freedom; only 35 % chose security. 

  In Britain it was the opposite.  Some 55% chose state guarantees, and 38 % chose freedom.  In Germany, France and Spain, 62 % chose state guarantees.

  Here, in a nutshell, we have the reason why America has a great deal of entrepreneurial energy, and enormous social and economic inequality.  And why Europe has a terrible dearth of entrepreneurial energy, and strong infrastructure and social safety nets. 

    In his New York Times column, Roger Cohen even goes so far as to blame America’s obesity on the choice of ‘freedom’.  Taxing sugar-laden drinks would never fly in America.  Raising gas taxes is a non-starter, even though the U.S. highways are crumbling. 

    Benjamin Franklin, that creative entrepreneurial American who invented public libraries and many other things,  spoke up for freedom, in 1776.  At the time, he was right.  America’s democracy had just been born.  As a new-born baby, it needed strengthening.

   But today?  My question is —   Are “freedom” and “social safety net”  really, necessarily, perforce  “Either-Or” choices?   Must we choose?    Are there examples of nations that have both?

    Take Denmark, a very well off, prosperous European nation, wisely not part of the Euro block,   which has very high taxation,  superb social safety net and security, and a great deal of innovation and entrepreneurship.  If entrepreneurs truly seek to create value, rather than become billionaires, they will not be deterred by high rates of taxation that generate revenues to support the safety net.  If the wealthy earn 8 per cent on their wealth after-tax, park their money in tax havens,  while the middle class barely earns 1 or 2 per cent,  is it not reasonable to allow the middle class access to the same privileges, the same 8%?

    No, “freedom” and “social safety net” are not either/or. They are only if we believe they are.  Freedom and social safety net CAN BE both/and.   That is how it should be.  Now, the question, is, how do Europeans gain more entrepreneurial freedom without ruining their safety net, and how do Americans get a proper safety net without ruining their entrepreneurial energy.  It’s NOT that difficult!

Advertisements

All That’s Wrong With Democracy:

Roger Cohen Gets It Right!

By Shlomo Maital

democracy brandeis

Roger Cohen, the New York Times columnist, is a fierce critic of my country Israel – sometimes deservedly, sometimes excessively. But lately he’s been a fierce critic of U.S. President Obama, and this time, it’s richly deserved.   In today’s New York Times, he tears a strip off Obama for his weak wishy-washy speech in Europe on how to stand up to Russia.   The problem is, Cohen says, that Western democracies are “failing to deliver”, while despots like Putin actually have been performing rather well.

   The proof? Soaring unemployment in Europe (3 m. unemployed in France, for instance), rising fascist right-wing parties (Marine LePen and the Front Nationale did well in France’s municipal elections last Sunday), European integration is stalled and Europe is internally divided and at odds, the EU is overly bureaucratic and undemocratic; income disparities in Europe and the U.S. are huge and growing; there is “spreading middle-class dystopia”; money has skewed fairness on both sides of the Atlantic, corrupting democracy. Scorched earth Republicans devote their politics to obstruction. “A CEO can earn $80 m. for a few weeks of work while incomes for most Americans are stagnant.” Many young people have lost the sense of possibility and hope.

   Concludes Cohen: “Unless Western societies find a way to shake their moroseness, level the playing field and rediscover [equality], they are going to have a hard time winning the contest of ideas (against the despots)”.

   “Now is not a time for bluster,” intoned Obama. And that is precisely what he provided in his speech – empty words. Saudi Arabia has given up on the U.S.   Israel may soon have to do the same. And Vladimir Putin is laughing up his sleeve.

   A full century ago, Louis Brandeis, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, said that you can’t have both democracy and great concentrated wealth. Israel just passed a law to try to mitigate that concentration. Before the U.S. and Europe can confront Russia, they need to look in the mirror and confront their own problems.

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital
August 2019
M T W T F S S
« Jul    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Pages

Archives

Advertisements