Are Europe’s Politics More Humane Than America’s?

Europe’s political decisions are often more motivated by concerns for everyday citizen welfare that America’s—but it that the right way to run a country? EU Ambassador John Bruton endorses a balance.
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TRANSCRIPT

Question: Will the U.S. will recover faster or slower than Europe in terms of unemployment?

John Bruton: Well, I think an increase in unemployment will always be faster in the United States than it will be in Europe because people have less job security here. But equally, a pickup in employment will be faster in the United States than it will be in Europe because firms are more willing to recruit people because they know, if necessary, dispense with their services if they need to. One of the effects of the very much heavier job protection systems in Europe is that it slows down a decline, but it makes the recovery also much, more slower.

Question: Which model is more sustainable?

John Bruton: I think a balance needs to be struck here. I think if you have employers who feel that they can just dispense with people very easily with no consequence and they don’t have to think very much. They recruit somebody and then they get rid of them. That’s not human. That’s no intelligent really. It’s not taking into account the fact that anybody you employ, he is a human asset, but it’s also that he is a human being and to get the best performance from him or her in his or her job, he has to feel that he has a measure of security because we all need – we need freedom, but we also need security. In each one of us, that need is there. So, a legal system that recognizes both I think is better than one which says, it’s all freedom, you’re free to go and I’m free to sack you, that wouldn’t work, but equally a system that said that, once you get a job with our company, you will never lose it. Well, people are not going to work hard if that’s the case, there’s not going to be adaptability if that’s the case. So, some sort of midpoint in this where there are some penalties involved for employers getting rid of employees and its not just a matter of clicking their finger, I think is preferable to no controls. But too [many] controls can lead to stagnation.

Question: Do European politicians take “being human” more seriously than American politicians?

John Bruton: In general, but there are wide varieties in Europe between countries like Britain and Ireland, which are closer to the United States. They don’t have the same rigidities built into their labor market to prevent people from losing their jobs. And other countries like France where it is very difficult, or if you are in protected employment in other countries as well, it is very difficult for you to lose your job. There’s a sort or a spectrum within Europe as far as this is concerned.

Recorded on October 1, 2009