Sind EU und Euro unsozial? So einfach ist es nicht

Michael Sandbu geht in der FT einer interessanten Frage nach: Ist die EU unsozial? Führt sie also zu mehr statt weniger Ungleichheit? Der Beitrag war schon länger geplant, passt aber, wie ich finde, sehr gut zu seiner Einschätzung zu Italien, die ich heute Morgen hier besprochen habe:

  • “Is the European project anti-social? There are suspicions on the left that it is. (…) It is a fact that Europeans have been drifting apart economically. That does not always show up in the metrics of inequality between individuals or the distribution of market rewards between capital and labour, which tell different stories in different places and time periods. But there is a consistent pattern in how fortune has favoured some places over others.” bto: Das klingt zurückhaltend.
  • Dann zeigt er, was Leser von bto schon wissen: Die Konvergenz in der Eurozone hat abgenommen und damit auch in der EU: “(…) looking at all European (subnational) regions, poorer ones were catching up with richer ones until the 1980s. Since then, richer places have pulled away from the rest, and the overall dispersion of regional incomes has broadened. Second, with few exceptions, the poorest places within each country have fallen behind the richest ones. bto: Es gibt also eine stärkere Spreizung des Wohlstandes, was wir ja auch in Deutschland beobachten können, vor allem, wenn wir auf die Zahlen vor Transferzahlungen blicken.

Quelle: FT

  • “The question is whether European integration is to blame for this. To answer, we must distinguish between economic and political integration; to a unique degree, European countries have been engaged in both. (…) Start with the first: the effects of economic integration. We should distinguish three separate phases: integration before the 1980s, the 1980-90s and the 21st century. In the pre-1980s phase, economic integration — largely trade integration but some financial integration — took place alongside falling inequality. This is not surprising. Trade theory predicts that liberalisation between rich countries should lead to intra-industry trade, which need not have negative inequality effects, as opposed to liberalisation between very different countries which does alter the market rewards to different types of labour and capital.”  bto: Das war ja dann auch die Phase, in der wir allgemeine Europa-Euphorie hatten und dann mehr beschlossen haben. Wir haben es dann übertrieben.
  • In the second phase, social cohesion worsened almost everywhere. But this was not specific to Europe, and economists have concluded that globalisation had little to do with it. Instead the rise in inequality was due to two main factors. One was technical change leading to deindustrialisation and greater market rewards for skill and knowledge. The other encompassed domestic policy changes undoing many of the postwar welfare settlement’s tax, redistributive and regulatory elements. While these happened concurrently with continuing European economic integration, neither can be attributed to it.”  bto: Das stimmt, wobei ich den Umbau der Sozialsysteme nicht kritisieren würde.
  • “The single market has created the freest cross-border trade anywhere in the world. But the biggest effect has not been classical specialisation in different finished goods, but a diffusion of supply chains across borders. While this has had winners or losers, who they are is complex and not always systematically related to who was already doing well or badly. But it may have favoured already well-connected and productive regions over more peripheral ones, and also within individual countries.”  bto: Andererseits haben Länder wie die Tschechien davon stark profitiert.
  • The adoption of the euro has a lot to answer for; the mismanaged response to the eurozone debt crisis did a lot of damage to both growth and social cohesion. The euro itself, however, did not constitute an economic force for increased inequality. Instead it was the political integration involved in the eurozone, and in particular the power imbalance it produced between debtor and creditor economies, that made it possible to impose policy choices on the debtors that harmed social cohesion. If there is a valid claim here, then, it is of the political not the economic variety.”  bto: Klartext, die “Sparpolitik” ist schuld. Dabei wissen wir, dass es so einfach nicht ist.
  • “The principal causes of fraying social cohesion over the past four decades or so are these, listed in their most plausible order of significance: (1) technology-driven changes to production structures; (2) national tax, welfare, labour market and regulatory policy decisions; (3) the China shock; (4) economic policy choices after the global financial crisis; and (5) economic integration driven by EU policy (the deepening of the single market).”  bto: wobei es immer leichter ist, der EU die Schuld zu geben, wie in Italien.
  • “Note that the best policy responses to the top three causes remain largely in the domain of national competence. That is obviously true for the second. The reforms to the welfare state in the 1980s, as well as the decision by some countries to retain dual labour market systems that created a large segment of outsiders, and finally the flexicurity-style reforms pushed in recent decades, have all been carried out (or not) by national governments.”  bto: Diese Reformen waren eine Reaktion auf den externen Druck waren wie sind China oder aber auch der Tatsache geschuldet, dass sie in einem demografischen Umfeld, wie wir es heute haben, schlichtweg nicht mehr finanzierbar ist!
  • “The exception is the imposition of reforms, largely with anti-social effects, on the euro countries subject to “rescue” loan programmes. But even this was temporary, as demonstrated by the progressive post-bailout policies adopted by Portugal (such as a higher minimum wage).”  bto: Eben, es ist nämlich ein Märchen, dass überall gespart wurde. In Wirklichkeit hat die EZB das Problem unterdrückt.
  • “For technological transformation and the China shock, the relevant policies to minimise social damage are in education, skill and training; in redistributive taxation and welfare policy; in industrial policy; and in regional policy. These are largely still a national competency. To the extent there is an EU involvement, it enhances rather than constrains national room for manoeuvre.”  bto: Die Kritik muss doch sein, dass die Länder Europas inklusive Deutschland gerade hier versagt haben!
  • Er bleibt aber bei der Kritik an der Krisenpolitik der EU: “The macroeconomic policy pushed by the commission with the support of many member states, relying on particular interpretations and reformulations of the fiscal rules, created a grotesque demand deficiency in much of Europe, with predictably anti-social effects. On top of that, the insistence on deficit reduction has been biased towards spending cuts rather than tax rises, again diminishing the redistributive and stabilising capacity of government budgets. The policies were particularly severe in the most crisis-hit countries.”
  • “One could say that the EU’s single market, and the frictionless trade it guarantees, has created the pan-European supply chains that may be intensifying income gaps between core and peripheral regions. But we should note that the same phenomenon, eg North America. And it is not clear what the alternative is: cutting oneself off from cross-border supply chains means not sharing in the productivity increase that their large scale allows. That would make social protection relatively costlier.”

Fazit: Any social harm caused by supply chain reconfiguration demands similar policies at national level as technology-driven restructuring, such as automation. These remain available to Europe’s nation states. It would help, too, to formulate tax and regulatory policy with the same cross-border reach as the economic activity itself, in order to stop the erosion of tax bases or regulatory races to the bottom. For this, European political integration is not so much a hindrance as an absolutely necessary tool.”  bto: Europa hat somit eine potenziell gute Rolle. Komisch nur, dass sich Brüssel um viele andere Dinge kümmert. (Anmeldung erforderlich): “Is the European project anti-social? Part 1”, 10. Mai 2018 (Anmeldung erforderlich): “Is the European project anti-social? Part 2”, 11. Mai 2018