In an earlier blog posting, they had accused Ed Balls of lying, and for once the government didn’t send out its spin doctors:
Ed Balls has just called me up about my post from this morning, hopping mad. He instructed me to “take that post down now”. I thought he was joking: has there been some change to the constitution where ministers now have power over the media? But he was deadly serious. […]
Charlemagne is quoting Johan Norberg for wondering whether the Swedish model is restricted to Sweden: “If countries don’t already have a tradition of an efficient, non-corrupt bureaucracy with an impressive work ethic a larger government only means more abuse of power and more waste of money. I often try to convince Americans, no, more government in the US would not get you a big version of Sweden, it would get you a big version of the US Postal Service.“
It’s an interesting point, and I think it’s at least partly true.
I do think Sweden in this context can be replaced by a much larger area, at the very least Scandinavia and parts of Germany, but living in Scotland, I can see that many things are just not working because of different attitudes.
For instance, buses are regularly late, but people just shrug their shoulders and use their car the next time. In Denmark, people would be very upset and it would eventually become a priority for the government to sort out.
More and more people are complaining about the fact that the public sector are still enjoying generous final-salary pensions while the private sector has mostly moved to much more modest defined-contribution schemes.
The solution recommended by most commentators is to reduce public-sector pensions.
This, however, is not likely to be enough for a comfortable retirement for most people. Pensioners in the UK are already much worse off than those in other developed countries.
The way I see it, defined-contribution schemes (which basically means you give people some money to invest in shares, without any guarantee how the investment will turn out) are far too risky for normal people.
Final-salary pensions, while great for the workers, are far too risky for companies, and they put established companies at a disadvantage compared with newer companies and companies in other countries without similar pension systems.
So a third way is needed. I would suggest something along the following lines:
Set up some big pension organisations/companies (let’s call them POCs) to take contributions from workers and companies, invest this money and pay out generous pensions to retired workers.
Make it obligatory for all companies, for self-employed people and the public sector to pay in a specific percentage of salaries to one of the POCs.
Make sure sure the POCs insure each other and give them some sort of state backing to ensure people can be confident their pension will not suddenly disappear.
In this way, public and private sector workers would have equivalent pensions, and old companies wouldn’t struggle to compete with newer ones.
Also, when people change jobs, their pensions could still remain with the same POC, instead of having small pensions in many different places.
The reason I’m suggesting setting up multiple POCs rather than a single one is to avoid having an organisation that is too big to fail and too big for the state to save.
When Phyllis, Anna and I went on a short holiday to Paris last summer, I had cheese fondue served with boiled potatoes, charcuterie and lettuce for lunch at a restaurant.
Recently Asda started selling an Austrian cheese fondue that can be microwaved in its container, so it’s really convenient.
I decided to recreate the Parisian experience, so tonight I served the Austrian fondue with a packet of Italian prosciutto crudo and salami, boiled new potatoes, iceberg lettuce leaves and crusty bread.
It might sound a bit strange, but it actually tasted lovely – even Anna loved it.