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Session 2: The Myth of Conservatism

1. Assume that ageing individuals grow more resistant towards change. What political implications would that have in an ageing society?

2. Assume that there are no life-cycle differences in political attitudes, but only cohort differences. What consequences would that have in an agein society?

- If the resistance towards change in a ageing society would rise, it would mean that the conservative thinking of the whole society would increase.
- If there would just be cohorts without looking at the life-cycles, people would be driven by the significant situations of their lifes and not by the experiences they acquire growing older.


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- I agree with Vlado on the first point.
- An addition to Vlado`s comment: Old People would not gernerally be more conservative than younger ones, but only if they had had cohort experiences making them more conservative.

- I don't think that it necessarily means that conservative thinking of the whole society would rise. First I think it depends on the definition of resistant towards change. Is this really a conservative attitude?
- I think having only cohort differences would lead to more of a generational/cohort gap. With lifecycle difference at least different cohort groups have been through similar life-cycles.

- Hi guys, thanks for your feedback. There are no doubts on the theory that conservatism is closely connected to cohort experiences of the society members. We also said that conservatism does not have anything to do with the factor of ageing. I would like you to take a look on this study. I was searching for a special stream that focuses on the connection between the ageing and political behaviour (ageing of the human brain and political cohorts). Take a look at the work of C. Brack and X. Zhang, it's a quite interresting study that can give you some additional information about the topic:


If we define conservatism as a growing resistance to change, and we assume that it grows within an ageing society I think it could have the political consequence that political powers with new ideas couldn't get their ideas accepted. It might also prove to be problematic if a society would face a problem that it had never before, and only a new way of thinking could give a solution to that particular problem.

In connection with the second question my opinion is that if there would only be cohort differences within an ageing society, that would lead to very fragmented political attitudes, meaning that the members of different cohorts would be thinking the same way, and the differences between cohorts could be unresolveable.

First to Pete; I think that meaning of "conservative" phrase as "not liking change, traditional" is generally accepted, so we can assume that resistance towards change is no doubt an expression of conservative attitude.
Second; assuming that ageing individuals grow more resistant towards change, we can conclude that percantage of persons with conservative attitude in ageing society will, in natural course of events, increase- I mean- the proportion of this kind of political attitude in whole society will increase. This in turn can lead direct to stopping the economic, scientific, social and cultural development and cause in a long run the regress of the (west= ageing) civilization.

Zoltan, we as a society have to face new problems every day and as huge they are, there is always a solution. We don't need any new way of thinking, we just have to redefine what already has been applied. That's the way it works …

To the first question: I agree on Vlado`s first point and on Boneza`s objection against Pete`s assertion. Pete questioned that resistance to change means not necessarily being conservative. From my point of view we can count resistance to change as a typical conservative attitude.

The second question is about the political implications in an ageing society if we assume that there are no life-cycle differences in political attitudes, but only cohort differences. I would argue, that if we take into consideration that our society is shrinking, voting only by cohort effect would mean, that the voting behaviour is going to be more and more changeable. A year with a high birth rate would draw a stable elector base after himself. A shrinking society would then -consequently - tend to be more unpredictable according to voting behaviour because of smaller groups of people.

First question / Peter's comment
I think it is important to note that conservatism (defined as: resitant towards change) is not necessarily linked to the political attitude. It is often assumed that conservatism is linked to the political right-wing, but this is not the case.There are many different schools of conservatism. I think it would be wrong to expect that the conservatism of the elderly is identical and that they all share similar opinions. Different cohort effects lead to different attitudes, because people made different experiences, and therefore, the values they attach importance to might be different.
For this reason, it is difficult to argue that the conservative thinking in society would increase.

Second question:
If there were only cohort differences but no life-cycle differences, it could indeed lead to a fragmentation, and it could be difficult to bridge the gaps between the fragmented parts. But this would to large extents depend on the grade of cohort differences: The bigger the difference, the bigger the fragmentation.
I disagree with Bozena's assumption that an increase of conservative attitudes would lead to a collapse of the western societies. First of all, I do not think this is going to happen as the kind of conservatism will change due to cohort effects. And second, conservatism does not necessarily lead to a complete deadlock.

I have to say that's a kind of misunderstanding- I said that resistance forward change leads to stopping the development. Development means progress and stopping development= no changes= leads to regress. That's what I meant.

Hey guys, thank you for your contributions, you did a great job! See you tomorrow…

Session 3: Voting Participation

Will older voters always be more likely to vote? What can we say from the evidence that we have?
These questions ask you to work with the empirical evidence that was presented in the readings. Some of the evidence suggests that older people's high voting participation will continue; other pieces suggest something different.

Please add your comments here; please feel free to criticise each other in a polite manner.

The evidence from Goerres' text points to a generally higher voting participation of older people. The logic behind it: You get used to voting by voting. The more often you vote, the more it becomes a habit so that you tend to go to the polls more often when you are older.

Do you agree with that? Or do you have other ideas concerning the questions?

Here I agree with Lena. Young people who have reached the voting age, mostly don't even think about going to the poll although they already should feel partialy responsible for the political situation in their country. According to this theory the younger ones do not share the "voting habit" with the older cohorts. I think that the number of older voters in the future will definetely go back because the younger cohorts (growing older) do not share the same significant experiences with the elders.

Lena, your argument is that through the process of habituation someone gets used to vote. Of course, only older people can go through this process, so your argument has a certain right. But habituation itself could also mean, that you get used not to vote. For example: Why should people , who have spent many decades of their lifes in dictatorships (where they were not able to vote) suddenly show an above average turnout? On the other hand, if they don't, this could be a confirmation for your thesis. From my point of view, the argument that people develop an interest in local issues because they live in the same place for longer is more convincing. This would explain why -according to tendency-older people do vote more often and will vote more often in the future.

Vlado, Oliver and I mostly talked about the habituation factor - older people voting more often because they get used to it. Vlado added the idea that younger people could develop this habit less, and Oliver challenged the habituation argument and brought in a new one - duration of residence.
So, we have a couple of factors so far. What others can you think of? And what do you think of the ones mentioned so far?

My ideas to Oliver's contribution:
Thank you for your comment to my argument. I can see your point - people who have been living in dictatorships do not have the same voting experience as people living in democracies. But I do not necessarily think that people in dictatorships go to the polls less often. They might even have been pressured to do so, so habituation might have worked stronger on them - or, they are so disappointed from that experience that they give up voting once a democratic system is established. One more possibility: They are enthusiastic about voting after democracy is established because they see a point in it for the first time.
Anyway - I think we would need to see some research on that before we can really say what influence growing up in a dictatorship has on the voting behavior. What do you think?

The data that we have from the primary reading doesn't give a wide enough snapshot of a population over time. I believe it only has 30 years or so of data. Therefore, there must be some patterns in the data that cannot be interpreted because of the brevity of the data. Continuing with Lena's point above regarding increased suffrage, I agree with her that voting in a democracy for the first time probably increases a cohorts willingness to vote in the future. It is not a novelty for them anymore.

First of all: I‘m happy to here- thats my first successful login ;-) okay, I wanna answer to Lena’s comment. I agree an yout point that maybe people in dictatorships who were pressured to vote have developed a stronger habituation. That would be a good explanation why old people vote more often because they were composed to this compulsion longer. To be enthusiastic about voting is in my eyes not a specific argument for the above average poll of older people.
I have another question to you. If we assume that older people vote more often and have a stronger party identification. Wouldn't it be more reasonbale for political parties to draw their attention in political campaigns on younger voters where they could gain more votes? I mean, it should be easier to convince younger voters if they haven't delevoped a strong party identification, or?

I agree with the first assumption above that habituation leads to constant voting participation. Another factor that might lead to a higher voter turnout of the elderly is a higher sense of civic duty in these generations.
Regarding Olivers comment, I agree with Lena that Olivers assumption might be true, but that we would need more data about it to make a judgement.

First; I thought that I'm the only one who has problems with logging in this week, but I see that other users too=) anyway, it's good that everything is already ok with our discussion- site.
Second;I'd like to take something other into consideration, namely- representativeness of datas and evidences. Most of datas that are results of american researches in american society. All about we can here talkin is voting participation in American agein society. We cannot generalize that older people will always and everywhere be more ( or less ) likely to vote. I think the most significant factor determinating the height of voting participation and turnout is always current political and social situation in particular country. Once can younger people more often vote and another time elder ones. I know that these datas that's only a generalization and summary, crosscut, prognosis of tendency, but I just can't agree with these arguments. In my opinion we just can't say if older people will always be more likely to vote, because no one knows what situation will be in future. Maybe through last 30 years old people voted more often, but already in next polls it can change. And I want to point, that it's only in USA, and what about another countries? Is the same for example in Chile or Argentina, where were so long dictatorships, what has already said above Oliver? I think there is much more doubts. And finally, the most important argument, which says us that we can't predict the future of voting participation is that even scholars have different opinions, what has said at the beginning Dr Goerres.

On the basis of the evidence from the core reading I think that it will always be a tendency that older people are most likely to vote. Although we also have to consider cohort differences, my opinion is that life-cycle differences and habituation matter more. But I think the longer residence period mainly effects the participation in local elections. Some of you said that people who lived in a dictatorship for a long time would not participate in elections, only because they are "not used to it". But I think this cannot be proved empirically. Just a short personal experience: Hungary suffered form dictatorship for about 40 years. After we became a democratic country the voting participation was very high, because people expected something. In the coming elections there was a disappointmnet about democracy, because people didn't feel that their votes matter, and this caused lower participation, so it had not much to do with people not being used to voting. So at this point I agree with Lena.

I think we're having a good dicussion: There's a lot of new ideas, some also concerning data problems.

I want to add to Bozena's argument that it is true that we don't really have international data, but we do have more than just data from the U.S. So maybe we can say something about Western European countries and the U.S., but not about countries like Argentina, that's true.

To Oliver's comment: I think you're right. If older people do identify more strongly with one party,
as the evidence suggests, politicians would not have to fight for their votes anymore. They should turn their attention to getting the votes of younger people, who are still more likely to have policy issues influence their voting decision, and also to lay the basis for an attachment to their party in these younger people. An open question for me is: Will older people always have stronger party attachment (life-cycle effect)? Than politicians should always concentrate on younger people. But: What if people who are younger now don't develop a strong party attachment as older people now have? Then politicians would have to fight for votes from all age groups.

Week 4: The Grey Vote

Please read the following article from the Guardian from 17 March 2005
This was just before the General Election 2005

1. What did the chancellor (Finanzminister) want to achieve?
2. Can you think of similar measures in your own country?
3. Can parties make older voters shift their vote? Please answer no 3 with reference to the evidence from the readings.

I have to confess that I do not know very much about British domestic policy. However the impression I have from the article is that chancellor Brown is trying to shift votes from older people. He is offering limited tax presents and free bus passes which already exist in Scotland and Wales. If one may believe his critics he is trying to gain votes for Labour for the election which will take place within a few weeks. I would not see any long-term trend in these short-term measures to take the needs of older people more into account. Anyway I cannot say this certainly on the basis of only this article. However this is a topic I would like to discuss with you. Do you see any long-term trend in Labour policy to focus more on older voters?
In Germany I can remember a similar measures. The pensions were increases this year and remained constant last year, although they actually had to be cut. In principle, pensions follow the development of the wages in the previous year. Originally the government hat warned that there would not be any pension increase to 2009. However because no immediate (or important) election took place in the year 2007, it is hard to judge this measure as an attempt to gain the votes of older people. By the way: the increase was so low that many national insurance associations have critized the measure sharply. Can you think of other similar measures in Germany?

If parties can make older people shift their vote has to be answered under two points of view.
a) If we assume that the cohort effect has a strong impact on our party choice it wouldn't be rational for the British chancellor to make tax presents for older people. Rattinger showed in his article that the cohort effect has a strong influence on our party choice. However Goerres found out that the "Schröder genereation" is not as much likely to vote for the SPD as has been expected. This would disprove the cohort effect.
b) That leads to second point of view. If we assume that Britain is a very de-aligned society, than electors are not bound to a party and are more flexible in their choice. Supplementary to that: The article of Falter and Gehring points out that older people have an above average turnout. This also applies to Great Britain, as mentioned in the article. In this case it is possible that parties can make older voters shift their votes.
Do you agree on that? Or do other factors occur to you that we have to take into account to reply to this question?

1. I have the same problem as Oliver - I don't really know much about British politics towards pensioneers. Anyway, I got a similar impression: By providing free buss tickets, an advantage that is felt in everyday life, (while cutting spending for pensioneers in areas that are felt indirectly), Brown is trying to get older people's votes.
2. I don't remember any similar measures in Germany, but can think of an instance in Russia, when the government tried to do the exact opposite: take away the privilege of free bus rides from pensioneers. There was a lot of protest against this, so this might support indirectly that providing free bus rides is a good way to get older people's sympathy for politicians.
3. In the literature we also saw evidence that older people have a strong party attachment - that would mean that politically motivated "election gifts" like free bus rides wouldn't influence their voting behavior because they vote for the same party no matter what.
Considering Oliver's 2nd idea, however, I am not sure how strong older people's party attachment is in a de-aligned society like Britain. Maybe in such circumstances, short-time electoral gifts might show an effect.

Oliver: Hi Lena, I just want to make an addition to your third point: I guess that we have the same opinion. In a de-aligned society like Britain we can expect that short-time electoral gifts might show an effect on party choice.
Your example towards Russia: Is it possible that Russia has another demographic development? Does anybody know something about that? If Russia is not confronted with a growing older population politicians don't have to fear to lose too many votes when they cut specific priviliges.
Coming back to Germany: Don't you have the impression that German politicians are very much focusing on issuIes like family policy, children and integration? Doesn't this contradict our assumptions about the grey vote?

Dennis:In generall I can´t see that older voters are a homogeneous group who have simillar political preferences. As you can see the german party "Die Grauen Panther" dont have any significant influence. That underlines the assumption that german politics dont focus too much on topics of older voters. Therefore policy issues like familly policy children and enviroment or economy have more space. I agree in that point with oliver. I even think that the new "Agenda 2010" even discriminates older voters if u´ve a look at the 58+ regulation. For further information look at http://www.wdr.de/tv/monitor/beitragsuebersicht.phtml
I think that German politics focus more on younger cohorts because they dont have such a strong party attachement as the older ones like Rattinger pointed out.

Hey guys, it is also my problem. I do not know very much about British domestic policy either. The ammount of information the German media serve us is quite low I think, but nevertheless I have something to say to this article. Gordon Brown promissed something what already exists in Scotland and Wales. He had a good basis for winning the votes of older people because of the broken promises and misstakes (e.g. elderly patients have been wrongly forced to pay for their long-term care, etc.) of his predecessors. I think it was a great bait that Brown served to elderly people.
I can remeber this kind of situation after Czechoslovakia was splitted an Vladimir Meciar got the prime minister seat in Slovakia. His promise strategy was based on rising the pensions and lovering several costs for pensioners. After he won the elections he helped to create a basis for fake investment companies and promoted 40% revenues (after few years these got bankrupt and insolvent). Through this period he got huge sympathies and became the consequent politician who always supported the elderly people (although ruinig the social and financial system). Six years later he came with a new subvention program supporting the older cohorts and created a coalition with the liberals and nationalists.
Older people have definetely a strong political party attachment that can not (according to the reading) be influenced by several promises. Otherwise the grey vote has a strong impact on the electional outcome (especially ina de-aligned country like Britain) and as Lena said, "electional gifts" (directly fullfilling the needs of older cohorts) can partialy push the party attachment back.

First, I wanted to give an example of this in the United States. In the 2004 Presidential election, other than the Iraq War, social security (our pension system) was the primary election issue since it was estimated that by 2050 it would bankrupt our government. Bush wanted to privatize social security so that recipients could invest their potential pensions in their own stocks and bonds and he wanted to make a reform of the social security system his legacy. John Kerry, his opponent, didn't want to privatize social security, but agreed that changes needed to be made. In the run-up to the election, promises to the grey vote were being thrown out left and right. To date, though, there have been zero significant changes to the social security system in the last three years. This is a good example of political leaders promising something to older voters just to get their vote. Older voters hear these promises every election, or see minor improvements (such as in Britain). I think that older voters wisen up to these tricks and do not let them sway their vote too much. This could also be partly from the cohort effect. Therefore, I do not think that it is rational for Mr. Brown to make these appropriations to the grey vote. It doesn't have much of an effect on the election.

I think the chancellor wanted to get the votes of older people at the election. Although there were a lot of charming promises made for the older voters, they all have a lot of restrictions, making it complicated to see through them. It is this way, because politicians assume that old people will not be able to get along with these complicated measures, and they will only see the emphasized good points in them. The thing that makes politicians wanting to win the grey vote is that they have a rather high and stable turnout in elections.
In Hungary parties apply the same scheme regurarly. Although the rents are rather low in Hungary, old voters already enjoy a variety of different kind of allowances and discounts. I am quite sure that no party intending to take these favourable conditions back could count on their votes. But sometimes it is a gain for parties opposing favouring olds that there is a certain fear of the power of old generations in Hungary, which I think stams from the exaggeration of their political weight and importance. On the basis of this fear, some parties can surely gain votes from younger generations.
But on the other hand I don't beleive that the amount of influence these promises can have on older peope is up to their age. Other factors, like schooling and individual experience might have much greater effect on their decisions.

1) Brown tried to get the votes of senior citizens by offering them free bus passes, hoping that this short-term measure would cover the fact that he was planning to cut back other spendings for pensioners.
2) I can't remember any similar measure in Germany. The media is rather giving the impression that pensions are cut back all the time (or that they are not being adjusted to inflation) and that senior citizens have to suffer many financial incisions. Like Oliver, I rather think that the parties' social agendas are more concerned with other topics. Or at least, the media is covering these topics more extensively.
3) As we have seen in the readings, there is a high level of party alignment among the elderly voters. Therefore, it is rather unlikely that these voters shift their votes easily, especially as they are probably aware of the intentions of measures like the providing of free bus passes. As Pete pointed out, do many of the senior voters also know that many of these promises are of a short duration, which does not really pay off for the senior citizens.

What did the chancellor want to achieve? Of course he just wanted to win the polls- somehow. From political scientic point of view we can say that he chose a good way. Labour Party has won and he has lost nothing, because he knew that are only "jam tomorrow", short- term electional gifts, therefore promisses without coverage. It's normal that in time of campaign politicians try in this or other mean gain the votes of specific groups of citizens. I think the easiest way is exactly address to pensioners, lowincome families or disabled people. Brown has done it, and it's nothing new for socialdemocratic parties also in other countries. Paradoxically in Poland make it all the time, not only parties from the left side, but all! Also this one , which calls itself "liberal". It's just so easy. Fortunatelly more people more often don't believe already politicans and their illusive promisses. Anyway- I've just said that Gordon chose good way, because he lost nothing. But how much did he make by it? I've just checked out in Internet, how looked poll results in last 10 years. In 2005 LP gained 36,2% and CP 33,2% and it was much less than in 2001 or 1997 ( for example difference in '97 was 13%!), so we can assume that, if LP really made by this promisses , it was very little. He didn't convice not only CP voters but also not all old voters of LP.

Week 5: Senior mobilisation

This week's discussion is about the mobilisation efforts of a British protest group "Isitfair" that mobilises against the Council Tax.

The Council Tax is a unique system of local finance in Britain (England, Wales and Scotland). It is the only tax that a local council can raise, but makes up only about 25 % of local budgets. Local authorities are not entirely free to set the tax, but sometimes face a cap given by national government. Council Tax has to be paid by the residents of a property unit (which can be a whole house or just one flat in a house) to the local government authority. The amount of the Council Tax depends on the value of the property that was assessed in 1991 as to belonging to one out of eight or nine bands. If the occupants of the unit receive Council Tax benefit or are full-time students, they are totally or partially exempt from the tax. A person who is aged 65 or older and living on her/his own gets a discount of 25 %. The tax does not affect the poorest because they are exempt as recipients of welfare benefits. The tax burden per person is fixed regardless of income for those who do not receive Council Tax benefit. Thus, for those who have to pay, Council Tax is a de-facto regressive tax that places a heavier burden on those with a small fixed income, such as recipients of the state pension, and those who co-habit with a small number of people, such as couples or widowers.
This tax is unusual because its value base is the property and not income or residency. The value of the property is based on a valuation in 1991 and will be adjusted to the rises in value due to the property boom in the 1990s and early 2000s after the next General Election in 2009/2010 (in England and Scotland). In Wales, the revaluation took place in 2003 and led to a wide scale upgrade of properties moving up one band, which increases the tax burden for residents. The Council Tax has been raised a few times in the last few years.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_tax This is the link to the wikipedia entry for more information on the Council Tax


Isitfair is a protest movement against this tax. Please have a look at their website. You also use a search engine to find something about their abilities.

1. What do they want?
2. Are they a pensioners' movement?
3. What kind of activities do they mobilise citizens into?
4. Is raising the Council Tax a "policy threat" in A.L. Campbell's terms?
5. Would you join their efforts if you lived in England? If yes, how? If no, why not?

1. The Isitfair movement wants to achieve the reform of the Council Tax. They say that it is unfair because it is not related to the income you have, and they suggest abolishing it and rather increasing income tax and VAT.
2. I think they are not a specific pensioners movement, although it is true that they can find a lot of supporters among low-income pensioners. On their homepage one can also see that they count on the support of pensioner, because among the few highlighted facts about council tax we can find some concerning pensioners.
3. They have plenty of suggestions on their homepage on how to help the movement, all of which I think form part of active political participation. Among the wide range of actions we can find writing letters to local, central, and government level, taking part in discussions, and even donationg to the movement. The most important message of the activities list for me is that they have to let their disappointment be heared as much as possible. The other thing that came to my mind was that if they only based on poor people, they wouldn't tell on the webpage to donate.
4. I think raising Council Tax is a policy threat, because it has a negative effect on a large group of the societies living.
5. I would join their efforts, becuase so far as I can see the Council Tax is really something unfair. I also agree that local governments should be given the opportunity to have their own incomes, because it gives them more freedom. But there are some better ways to get it. They could for example tax local entrepreneours, or introduce a tax system that takes income into consideration. If I joined the campaign, i think first of all I would start writing letters to the responsibles of every level, and maybe also attend to meetings or depending on my financial situation even donating.

Who wrote the first comment? Anyway, I agree with him/her in the first two points and the fourth point, so I will add nothing there.
3. Additional to the measures listed in the comment above, the website mentions the possibility of refusing to pay the tax. They don't openly tell people to do it, but suggest (in a very emotional way) that it is a legitimate option. I think that this is a very expression of opposition and might ensue legal persecution. So the campaign seems to be rather radical.
Another block of suggested acitivites has to do with the media and is very elaborate, so that I got the impression that the campaign is organized in a professional way (despite their a little unprofessional-looking website).
5. I would think about it. I probably wouldn't be concerned personally because as a student, I would probably be exempt from it. Moreover, I am not sure if the tax really is as unfair as the campaign says it is - of course, it is not based on income and thus regressive, but the amount you have to pay depends on the kind of place you live in. And since wealthier people have nicer and bigger homes (and thus should pay more), the tax seems to be not as regressive and unfair as postulated by the campaign. So I would have to find out more about it before joining.

I would like to make some additions to the first and second point.
What do they want? They want a reform of the Council Tax which they describe as unfair. Their main argument is that the tax bears no relationship to your income and that is has doubled since 1995. The question is now who is concerned by their demands? I would say that primarly residents and owners of houses are concerned but to some degree house owners are more concerned. In cases where dwellings are occupied by more than one household or in such a dwelling where the owner is liable the owner has to pay. It is more probable that old people are house owner than younger ones. Of course this does not suffice that this campaign is a pensioners movement but we can assume that more old people are concerned with this tax.
I cannot agree on their demand and wouldn't join their campaign. Property can be a fair basis for the Council Tax. Property implies that you already have fortune. Taxation of work is not a concept for the future and it is not fair because income is just no longer only gained by work. I cannot judge if the government has really manipulated the tax as is mentioned on the homepage. However I approve of taxes which still further do not load the factor work.

First of all; in my opinion there exists no tax system which would be fair, and no one has invited system in which all would be happy. I know it's a triviality, but we should sometimes just consider, what would we do, if we had to govern the country or any part of state. Every state as an organisation need money and has to gain them in any way. To the question about joining this movement- of course, if I would be liable to this tax, I would be also protest to it, if not- I wouldn't. Because WHO wants to pay taxes?
It's very possible that goverment has manipulated this tax, but it's also clear that this movement ( I'm realy not sure if it is pensioners movement, probably more older people is liable to this tax, than younger ones, but the big part of these first can make adult ones, but -65. Many of low-income pensioner can be also exempt of this tax, so we should see statistics) has manipuleted facts about this tax system. First I wanted to agree with Zoltan & Lena, but then I saw that Olivier also is right. And because of this, said I , that no one system is fair. Always somebody will be lesioned.
In my private opinion the most unfair taxes are these which concern work factor, what mentioned above Olivier, because they de-mobilize, but on the other hand, I don't have any other idea, which taxes would be better and "more fair"?

I have nothing to add on points 1 or 2. On 3, I only have to say that I agree with Lena when she says that the movement seems more radical since they suggest citizens could not pay the tax. Also, the unprofessional look of the site gives it a more underground and radical feeling. I think the Council Tax is a policy threat since it negatively affects a large group of people. Although, the threat may not be as evident now because the tax is already in place. Any raises in the tax are marginal and it will be harder for isitfar.co.uk to gather support.
Lastly, I would not join their efforts if I lived in England. In the US we have something similar to the Council Tax, called property tax and the proceeds go to local governments. Our property taxes are not fixed, but rise every couple of years depending on the appraisal of the house. This seems more radical than the Council Tax in England, thus I would not be too angry with the tax. Also, I do not think the tax is regressive in the strictest context since the tax changes based on how expensive your house is. Is this correct?

I have nothing to add on point 1, on 2, I only want to add that I don't think it's a pensioners' movement, as I can't see a specific discrimination of pensioners by the Council Tax. On the contrary, they get a discount of 25% if they are over 65 and live on their own.
3) As Zoltán already pointed out, they do recommend mostly measures of direct political participation, such as letter writing, getting in touch with the media, spreading the word among friends and so on, and they also suggest indirectly not to pay the Council Tax. Here I agree with Lena and Pete, as I also had the impression that it is a rather "radical" movement, although I am having some trouble understanding why they suggest these radical measures. As I understood the Council Tax, I do not think it is as unfair as Isitfair presents it. Of course, it is problematic that it is regressive for those who have to pay the tax, and it therefore has a stronger effect on people with a lower income, but by exempting people with low income (students, recipients of welfare benefits) from the Council Tax and giving people over 65 a discount, at least the attempt is made not to put a too big financial burden on people with low income.
4) As the Council Tax affects the stakes of a large group of people, I think one can refer to it as a policy threat.
5) I am not sure whether I would join the movement, if I lived in Britain. I am not that convinced about the unfairness of the Council Tax, because property and also residency are in most cases related to income and the socioeconomic status of people in general. As far as I know, real estate and rents are quite expensive in Britain and therefore, it seems rather unlikely that people with low income live in highly assessed places, and vice versa. I would need more informations before I'd join and I'd have to be affected by the Council Tax.

I definetely agree with Peter: the movement webpage is very unprofessional. When trying to mobilise poor people the option of creating a webpage for them is not the best way to enter the community. The radical slogan at the top (marked with red CAPITALS) hits everybody who enters this page. Otherwise the huge amount of active political suggestions (like mailing etc.) maybe weakens the readers undergroung feeling.
There is nothing to add from me to points 1 or 2 either.
3. They serve the citizens sentences like: ""If YOU feel strongly about this grossly unfair sy-stem of taxation you should join the IsItfair™ Campaign - it will cost you nothing, it may sa-ve you a lot!" I don't think that any of the taxation systems in the world seems to be fair. As written on wikipedia the council tax is used to provide several services for the citizens and the local counciles are obliged by law to provide these services. Everybody who uses these servi-ces should pay for it (e. g. everybody of us produces trash). Although the tax seems to be un-fair and affecting the people with lower income, the council does not want to put financial burden on the poor people. You can take an example from Germany: e.g. if I am a catholic not going to church, despite of it I have to pay the church tax (after I finished my studies) and nobody is asking me how often I go to church.
4. The rising of the council tax can be seen as a political threat if the money is not used for the right purpose.
5. If I would join the campaigne it would not be because I have to pay the tax, but because it is not dependent on the income. If I lived in England it would also depend on the fact how high my income would be.

Senior interest groups

In Germany, there is no big old age interest organisation like Age Concern England or the AARP. Still, Germany has many older people and a welfare state in need of a reform.
Imagine working at a research institute. Your boss gets a huge grant to investigate this matter. She asks you to come up with some ideas why Germany does not have such an old age interest group. These ideas will then be investigated by a team of researchers paid for by the grant.

Task: Try to come up with a plausible idea why Germany does not have a powerful old age interest group. Please comment on the ideas of others as to their plausibility and internal consistency.

Oliver: I can just make some assumptions why we don't have one big old age interest organisation like the AARP in Germany.
First: I could image that pensioners in Germany are not a homogenous group. I would argue that the distinction between East and West German pensioners could be an explanation. Pensionern from West Germany have done more private financial precautions, for example with company pension or life assurances. Their requirements therefore differ a lot from East German pensioners.
Second: With reference to Arendt Lijphart Germany is a consensual democracy. Of course different interest groups compete for influence in the political process. However it could be possible that the interests of all different social groups are more considered than in a pluralistic system, where special interest groups fight for special interests. Maybe the political culture in Germany (with reference to the political system) is more willing to make compromises and doesn't insist on their interest too radical.
Third: In addition to my second assumption I want to mention the VdK (Verband der Kriegsbeschädigten, Kriegshinterbliebenen und Sozialrentner Deutschlands e. V), the biggest social alliance in Germany with more than 1,4 million members. Even if they say that they are representing chronic sick and disabled people as well as pensioners this organisation is obviously- from point of view - primarly focusing on elderly people. This organisation is not too big and not officially only concentrating on elderly people. I just wanted to reveal that old age interest organisation are not absolutely unknown in Germany.

Maybe one last possible explanation for the absence of one old age interest group. Poverty is much more common under young people and families (especially single mothers). The necessity for one old age interest group is maybe simply not (yet) there.

Just as Oliver, I can only make assumptions. My first idea was that there maybe is no old age interest group in Germany because there are other groups that are concerned with the needs of "weaker" parts of society. I understood the old age group as a group that was dealing with problems of pensioners with lower income, which have a weaker position in society. But if these people feel themselves already well represented by other groups, there might not be the need for a central old age group.
Another possibility could be that there is not so much a difference between old and young, but rather between rich and poor in Germany. I think there is no serious poverty among the eldery right now, so they don't see a reason to get active and participate.
It might be a bit farfetched, but I could also imagine that todays pensioners in Germany are not used to political participation. They grew up with a different civic culture, but I am not sure whether or not this might be a reason for the non-existance of an old age group.
Finally I could imagine that many elderly simply see no reason in such a group. At least the elderly I know would never refer to themselves as members of "the old", because they mostly argue that they have very little in common with old people.
Comments on Oliver: I agree with Oliver that old people in Germany are not a homogenous group, especially because of the different histories of pensioners from East and West Germany. Plus, I think that pensioners from the former German Democratic Republic have currently higher pensions than those from the West. I am not sure about that, but as there was full employment in the GDR, those people supposedly have higher pensions.
I also agree with the assumption, that the economic situation of younger people is worse than that of the elderly, which is maybe another reason why there is no urge for such a group.

First- I can’t agree that Germany doesn’t have one powerful old-age interest group. I think here is a lot of such big organizations, for example that VdK or even though Federation of Expellees, which has approximately 2 million members, and is surely a political force of some influence in Germany.
I guess that in Germany there is just no old-age interest group regarding pensions-problem, and assume that people here just don’t need any big changes in pensions system, because they are content. I understand of course that state is in need of a reform of this ( and other social welfare systems) , because they cost much to much and it future it can lead to bankruptcy or at least to the reduction of PKB measure or increase of taxes. But for much people ( old-age people, single mothers, immigrants or unemployers ) this welfare system is rather profitable ( it’s only assumption- I don’t know very good how look german social problems ). Anyway I assume that here is just no one big pensions problem , like for example council tax in Great Britain, which could concentrate most elderly people in a group like IsItFair, and that’s the reason, but we can’t forget that, there are many other old-age interest groups regarding other problems.
Comment on Johanna; I guess that it's not important, that people in GDR worked more in "these times", when they earned much less than people in West Germany for the same work. If they earned less, now they receive also lower pensions than West ones.

First of all, I don't assume that there are old-age interest groups in Germany, because I don't have enough information on that, so I will start out from what is given. The first thing that comes to my mind, when I hear about non-existance of old-age interst groups, is that there is no need for them. I assume that in democratic circumstances old aged could also set up their organization if it was needed. So as a next step I would think about possible reasons. I would start a research on the income situation of old aged, probably with distiction of the former East- and West-Germany. I would also try to find out something about the political mobility of the group of old aged. I would try to find out which political issues are the most interesting for old age people, and I could then see how much of these issues mean a policy threat for them. I would expect a result of not too many policy threats, otherwise an old age interst group would exist. Or the other possibility could be that there are other interest groups that deal with the policy threats of old-aged. I also agree with the others that the difference might be rather between poor and not-poor, rather than old and not-old in Germany, but there can be other issues than income, that could also be interesting for only old aged, like extra benefits form the state in travelling, etc.

Oliver's depiction of the difference between Eastern and Western German old people is an interesting comment. Perhaps the older people from these generations are more likely to support monies that go to the unification of Germany and the enhancement of East Germany instead of to pensioners because they want to leave a legacy. Next, the German welfare system may need some changes because it is so costly, but it is one of the best in the world. From my experience with the US and readings on Britain, our pension plans do not come anywhere near to the coverage of German plans. Therefore, elder German people may not feel that they need to be united on a common ground. Furthermore, while there has been discussions around changing the German welfare and pension system, has there been any large changes thus far? Do old-aged people feel threatened yet? I think once old-aged German people feel threatened enough, they will form a group.

I also agree with you guys, I think there is no "obligatory" (as the examples from GB and USA show) old age interest group in Germany. I was searching for a concrete elderly group in google, but there are mostly sites concerning the health care, sports etc. But finaly I found two, "Freunde alter Menschen" and "Die Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der Senioren-Organisationen". Both are not of the same kind like the examples from the US and GB (with a such concrete political orientation). And why? There are no old age groups in Germany dealing with the pension problems because until now there was no need for a organization like this. The German pension system works good (until now) although the tendency is faling. As Bozena said, in the future some problems in this sector could lead to bankruptcy or an drastical increase of taxes. If such an issue will stand in the focus I would try to analyse the political mobility and the opinion looking at this issue among the older cohorts. We don't have to forget that the in Germany older people build a strong group spending lot of money. If there would be some political achievements threatening the pension policy, there would definetely be a bunch of people who would lead a campaigne against these acts. Everything is about earning and spending, if you get more then you need to spend, you are satisfied…

Week 7: The Politics of Financing the Effects of Demographic Change

In March 2007, the German Bundestag raised the official retirement age from 65 to 67.
You can find some details here

1. What are the arguments for and against raising the retirement age?
2. What is your opinion on this matter?

One of the main arguments for rising the retirement age is the fear that Germanys pay-as-you-go pension system is going to collapse if the situation goes on like this. If only those who are working are financing the pensioners there has to be a certain proportions that the system is working. The more pensioners and the less working (social contribution paying) people we have the more dramatic the financial situation of Germanys pension system is going to be.
Another question is if really everybody is able to work until 67. Some jobs are so physically demanded so that only younger people can do this work.
As far as I can judge it the government has taken several steps to extent the working life. In several Bundesländer the children are going to school with 5 years now, students can reach their high school diploma after 12 years, the retirement age will rise to 67 in the next years and a bachelor degree can be attained after 3 years of university. More important is that the pension claim for future generations has been declined significantly. If we take into considerations that we can solve some of our financial problems by economic growth and higher productivity I sometimes have the impression that the dramatic discussion about our pension system is exaggerated. The focus of the taxation of employment and not consum is in my eyes one major problems. High taxation of employment can endanger job security and is too much focusing just on working people as the only background for financing the pension system. However, everybody is consuming! A change in our taxation system could therefore be a chance to handle with the challenge of an ageing society and make discussions about rising the retirement age dispensible.

Arguments for:
Arguments against:

From this article we can see much more arguments for rising retirement age than against.
I think that from the economical point of view it's such a good solution, but we have to take account of life reality,not all people are able to work so long and it can be less produktive. I think that german politicians should rather make changes in taxation system and in method of financing pensions system, than rise retirement age.

Another reason for raising retirement age is lowering non-wage labor costs and thus making it
cheaper for employers to create new jobs. This could help the economy as a whole.
Another reason against it is the idea of justice that we discussed it in class.

My feeling on this subject is that it is probably necessary to change something in this system in order to keep it affordable, but I am not convinced that it is really the raising of the official retirement age that will solve the problem. Another options, that has partly been taken, would be to find other, additional sources to finance the pensions.

I don't have anything to add on question 1. I think that changes in the mode of financing the pensions are necessary. As life expectancy is rising, the raising of the retirement age could be one measure to solve the financing problem, but obviously not the only one. Of course, there have to be exceptions for people in physically demanding jobs, and I am also not convinced about the feasibility of this measure, as there are not enough jobs for the current working population. But this could maybe be solved by introducing more part-time jobs, especially for older workers.
In addition, I also think that the lowering of labor costs would be a very positive effect of the raised retirement age, as the problem of pension financing could be attenuated thereby.

I think that it is only fair that if you live longer you should work longer. It seems to make the most logical sense. The color graphs we saw in class showed the actual retirement age and the life expectancy going in opposite directions. A counter argument to this in the article is that many physically demanding jobs do not allow an employee to work until even 65. That's great, but who says that someone needs to have the same job until 65 (or 67). If a job is too taxing by 50, there are plenty of other jobs that can be taken up. This should not be an excuse for not working. I come from a Beveredgean background, and thus have a different point of view. What do the rest of you think? Is that too harsh?

My opinion is that the retirement age should be raised, maybe even to 70. I know I don't have the point of view of being a retiree, but doesn't one get bored of not working. There seems only so much one can do in a week. It seems like a job of 10-20 hours a week would be healthy for a retiree. I think the main problem is not the age at which people retire, but the workers and economy supporting the system. High unemployment and low productivity are more likely to cripple the system than keeping the retirement age the same. Also, I find it interesting that there is so much debate over when the age increase should start because the difference is only six years but starts in 22-28 years.

The argument for raising retirement age is basically the lack of money in the pension funds. I think if it wasn't for this reason, the retirement age would never really rise, even if average life expectancy raises. I think this way, because I think politicians would never risk an unpopular move, unless it is really necessary.
The argument against raising retirement age in the article is that there are some phisically demanding jobs, in case of which it would be impossible to make people work until they are 67. The cons say that the government should make some exceptions from the rule, it should take into account not only fiscal dimensions but human ones as well.

My opinion is that it is unavoidable to raise retirement age, because it wouldn't be good either, if the pension funds would collapse. The pension systems have to be reset to the new conditions of our age, which first of all means that retirement age should be adjusted to the growth in life expectancy. I think that the health conditions of the old-aged have also improved generally, but I also accept the idea of exceptions in some types of jobs.
Maybe Pete is right too in that people could find another less demanding job when they reach the age of 50, but I don't feel it would be too easy for them. Because in a labour market without some state control these people could hardly find a job, since there are younger, better educated, etc. people on the market to choose from. But if for instance a company would be forced to find less demanding jobs for ageing employees either in the company or at some other companies, that could be a solution I could accept.
The idea of supporting pension funds from other fields of state income made me thinking too. I think there are too many other things taxes are spent on, so a state can't really afford financing pensions from other incomes. But involving private funds and giving people incentives to save for their old-age is a solution I find good. But only in case there are enough state garantees, that these companies will pay when the time comes.

The main argument for rising retirement age is the prevention against a possible financial crisis in Germany. The question that politicians are since decades dealing with is not if the the retirement age will rise, but what is the best point for starting this process. An argument that speaks against this solution is that there are less people (although they get older) who are able and want to work until this age.
My opinion is that although the retirement age will be raised, people will still work less as 2 decades ago. Until you get your studies done you are almost 25. Then you have to find a job and get some practice. At that time you are about 27. 20 years ago the productive age started much sooner then nowadays and people worked much harder and under worse conditions. There could be a solution by reducing the working hours per week maybe to 60% percent or so. People feel healthy until somebody needs them and as long they are unemployed they loose a part of themselves.

Week 8: Pension Reforms

In class, we discussed the recommendations of the British Turner Commission. Please search the internet for other Pensions commissions (e.g. in your home country) of the government, a think tank, a political party or any other political organisation and look at their recommendations. Can you find a few recommendations that resemble the ones we saw in class for the British case? Please list a www-link of the source that you found.

In Germany, the "Rürup-Kommission" (named after the scientist heading the commission, the economist Bert Rürup who is also a member of the socialdemocratic party (SPD)) in 2003 proposed pension reform measures to the federal government. (http://www.bmas.de/coremedia/generator/9926/ruerup__bericht.html, I looked at the short version in German and downloaded "Rürup-Bericht".)

There are some similarities to the proposals of the Turner Commission, although most ideas are not as concrete as in the British case. I will concentrate on proposals concerning the ageing of the German population.

The commission wants to balance the demographic trend by a longer average working time. The regular age of retiring should be evelated to 67 (from 65). People should still be able to retire early if they accept a lower pension level in turn (up to 10,8% less). People who have a longer working history than usual (45 years, including time spent with child rearing or taking care of older people) should be able to retire even earlier.
Older workers should also be able to present themselves as good personell, for example by supporting that older workers still get training.

Another big step to counter the demographic trend is the "sustainability factor" (Nachhaltigkeitsfaktor). It is introduced in order to balance the increasing number of people benefiting from the system (pensioners) as compared to workers paying into it. (As a sidenote: I found it interesting that the commission stressed the benefits of workers who have migrated to Germany and are now contributing to the system.) The "sustainability factor" keeps the pensions low when a lot of pensioners are receiving them.

I think these are measures often taken in welfare states confronted with the ageing of their population.

In the United States there is constantly discussion regarding social security reform, but the last formal commission was called by President Bush in 2001. Here is the link to the report http://www.commtostrengthensocsec.gov/reports/Final_report.pdf (careful, it is very large). Here is the link to a good summary http://www.heritage.org/Research/SocialSecurity/BG1512.cfm

The current social security system is universal and non-means tested, and benefits are seen as very low compared to other countries with advanced economies. The focus of the commission was on introducing a second level of social security. This second level would revolve around personal retirement accounts. The accounts would be managed by the social security administration and investments would be very conservative. The effect of the reform is meant to increase national savings and improve worker productivity.

The system seems to be more like Britain's National Pension Savings Scheme than an introduction of a means-based system, although the report says that low-income workers will receive a greater increase proportionally under any three of the reform scenarios. Furthermore, there doesn't appear to be any mention about the increase of pension age or strategies to increase the actual average retirement age past 65.

I found a report about a CDU-Commission from our former federal president Roman Herzog, http://www.bdi-initiativ-vitalegesellschaft.de/Bericht_Herzog-Kommission.PDF. This commission report tries to make some reform proposals on the basis of the establisehd PAYG-system in Germany. Therefore, is does not want to totally install a new pension system, but wants to add the existing one by private insurances. The capital needed for this insurances should come from a big tax reform, where all tax rates are being cut.

The Herzog commission wants to concede full pensions to all those who have worked and paid social contributions for 45 years. All who want to retire earlier have to accept cuts in their pensions. Their is an interesting proposol according to civil servants and freelancers. They should not be included in the existing PAYG pension sheme, because this system change would be too expensive. This is again an argument for Pierson "path dependence approach".

The commission is discussing the question if other earnings beside salary should be included into the system, for example earnings on rent and interests. The Herzog- commission argues that this would help to finance the existing pension system only intermediate-term. In the long run these new earnings would cause new requirements and wouldn't help the system at all.

The new pension system stands in Poland since 1999. It's a kind of World Bank's Three Pillar Model. Most people are rather glad with this reform, although this sytem for sure isn't perfect.
I didn't find any new Ideas on websites of Polish biggest political parties ( even the most famous " National Party of Pensioners KPEiR" ) about this matter, so I assume that, they are also glad with this new system or have no idea what and how should be changed ?
On the official web site of The Ministry of the Labour and Social Policy:
we can see how looks in details new pension system;
( link to the Social Insurances " Ubezpieczenia spoleczne" and further to Pension System "Ubezpieczenia emerytalne" )
At present in this ministry is designed an amendment to the act of 1999, which introduces a new kind of pension form, so called "gangway-pension" ( it's a kind of "bridge" for people who can't work any longer, because their work is so much physically demanded, but are to young to retire. In time between leaving off with their work and official retirement they will can get this "bridge-pension" ).
The special case in pension system in Poland is pension system of miners. They have special right, to retire after 25 years of working, regardless of their age.

There is a new pension system in Slovakia since 01.01.2005. The 2 options for entering the new pension system consists of two pillars (plus the third private pillar). The Slovak governement was very proud about this system that represented a huge stepp in the direction “EU”. It was an idea of the largest coalition party in Slovakia after 2000, the SDKÚ (Slovak Social Democrats). After the liberal party SMER (in 2005) came, they first finished the whole reform with few modifications that showed the worse case of this system.
There are two arguments explaining the effectivity of the new system:
1.) Unfair pension (almost all people got the same pension)
2.) Demographic problem (the reserves got tight)
The clue of this reform was to give the people the opportunity to decide about their pensions. For this reason the state economy should get more safe and stable in the future.
This is an web page of the Ministry of Slovak Social Policy:
There are also independent web pages looking at the system more critically (the press already showed negative impulses about this act) although I didn`t find any concrete example of an organisation like that.

I tried to search the web for some kind of interest group of pensioners, without much success. I found some regional or local ones, without homepages, unfortunatelly. But I have not given up looking for one yet, if I find anything I will put their ideas up here.
What I did find, was some material about the pension reform in 1997. In Hungary we have a mixed type of pension system working with state and private pension funds as well. The new entrees to the labour years must choose a private pension insurance company, those who had already been working when the reform was introduced could choose to stay in the state pension system. The eployers pay only into the state funds, the employees pay a small proportion in the state funds, a larger proportion in the private insurance fund.

Week 9: Health Care Reforms

One health care reform strategy is cost-sharing, i.e. patients are asked to pay a small lump sum or a sum proportional to the costs they incur whenever they consume a medical service or drug. What are arguments for or against this measure? What is your opinion?

The page broke down while I wrote so now I will only put down my ideas in bullet points very shortly.
- Pro: Patients might not seek unnecessary treatment.
- Con: Poor people might not seek necessary treatment. With systems with quartely lump sums: crowded waiting rooms near the end of the quarter (as discussed in class).

A major pro of this argument is that it prevents the misuse of the system and irresponsibility of the individual. Individuals may think twice about getting prescription drugs that are not free if they do not truly need them. Many drugs and services didn't exist 10-20 years ago, but life expectancies aren't seeing an increase in proportion to the amount of money spent. I would imagine that Germany loses a lot of money in this wasteful fashion. Also, is the increase in medical services and medical costs necessary? I haven't seen a study on the problems of self-diagnosis. Someone thinks they need medical attention even thought they do not because they heard that someone else did, or they received medical attention in the past for something similar. If it is free, their thinking may be why not just get it checked?

An obvious con to the system is that it may keep poor people from receiving the medical attention they really do need. However, there could be a level for people in poverty to receive free medical care.

Any comments on these arguments? I notice that only one person has posted yet.

In Hungary the system of paying lump sums when going to the GP's has recently been introduced. They said it is necessary because there are a lot of people who use the basic medical services too often, and they mainly thought of elderly people. I hope they had the appropriate statistics which these claims were based upon, but I often also had the feeling old people go sometimes without any reason to see the doctor when I also showed up by the GP. But I can hardly believe that active population uses more medical services than is necessary. They simply don't have the time to do so. I can't ju-
dge how positive effects it can have on the health budgets of a country but I am sure it is not the usually low sum of money that matters but the saveings that occur after people only take medical services when necessary.
On the other hand it can be bad for the poor because they probably would not even go to the doctor's when it was necessary. I think these types of systems should have some kind of social element too, like free health check for people under a certain income level some 2-3 times per year. After writing these lines, I see that my opinion is much the same as Pete's.
As I am leaving Germany tomorrow, I won't show up on the class, so I would like to wish a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you, too, Zoltán!

I have problems to add something here, because the main arguments have already been mentioned. From my point of view Pete opinion is a little bit too radical. Of course, there can be a misuse of the system or irresponsible behaviour of the individual. But how many people like to go to the doctor just for fun? I agree on Zoltán who can also hardly believe that active population uses more medical services than necessary. Anyway: a level for people in poverty to receive free medical care is absolutely necessary in my eyes!

I think the main arguments have already been mentioned, but I would like to add the following thoughts: The main intention behind the introduction of the lump sum probably was to keep people from misusing the health care system, but the question is, whether it is high enough for that purpose. I personally know a few people who are seeing all kinds of doctors on a regular basis because they are convinced they suffer from some uncommon, but serious sickness, and they receive all kinds of special (and expensive) treatments although they are not sick at all - classic hypochondriacs. Anyway, what I wanted to point out is that the whole idea behind the lump sum might not work out the way it was intended, because most people that are misusing the system are probably not kept away from it by a small sum, but maybe people with low income are.
I also think that health care should be provided for everyone, regardless of income.

I would also like to give an example from my home country as Zoltán did. In Slovakia the lump sums have been introduced already 3 years ago. Decades before this happend people often missused many of the medical treatments and drugs and additionally it was no problem to get a day sick. This kind of wasting introduced by the communists exhausted the whole medical system and it was close to collapse. After introducing this fees (about 1 Euro per treatment and prescription) the number of unnecessary treatmens reached 3,5%. Comparing it with the 18% from 1996 I can say it was a great deal. I can only agree with this decission after I saw these results.
What actually speaks against this fees (with the focus on Slovakia) is that you have to pay everywhere you go and whatever you get. If you have chronic diabetes you have to pay like 25 Euros lump sums per moth for your treatments and mostly for the prescriptions. If you imagine that your pension is about 200 Euros you can imagine that it can be really hard to manage your life in such a system. But the government already set some special conditions for chronical patiens.

I'm also goinng to answer these questions, decribing polish experience with system of "health fees".
And I can only envy Vlado and all Slovakian, that for them it was a great deal. In Poland reform of the health care system was introduced already 8 years ago ( 1999 ) and it turned out to be a complete disaster. This reform introduced so called PKO which after few years went totally bankrupt. In result in 2004 there was introduced a new reform which led in NFZ ( National Health Found ). This reform, of course, also didn't solve the problem and probably nobody in Poland is glad with this new system. This reform assumes that all people have to be insured in state- or private insurance companies. But even if you are insured, and go to the "state doctor" you have to pay almost for everything. So we ask, why should we be insured and pay monthly so much many for this insurance , if it doesn't cover almost nothing.
The biggest problem have now chronical patients and elder people, who don't have money to cover often very high costs of their treatment and they just can't do anything.
It seems, that in this case NFZ should have much money, if everything is payable. But it's also not true, contrary, this found is presently also on the edge of bankruptcy, and in result there are almost every year strikes in medicare.

Week 10 - None

++Week 11 - Generational change

The babyboomers are a large cohort born after World War II in many advanced industrial democracies (Britain, USA, Germany and some others). Please search the internet for political implications of this large group of people ageing. Each student should find at least one source and briefly describe the argument that is stated in the source and insert the www-link.

For example:
US baby-boomers will open up opprtunities when they retire because they will leave the labour market…
Source: http://democrats.us/beta/forum/view_topic.php?forum_id=17&id=819

A report from the Harvard School of Public Health puts forward that retired baby boomers in the U.S. could serve their communities by volunteer work (instead of being a burden). Among the advantages mentioned are intergenerational contact and respect, tackling of local problems by the volunteers, and a sense of satisfaction the volunteers could get from this activity.

The reports evaluates severaly ways in which the baby boomers should be encouraged to do volunteer work. A national campaign through the advertisment and entertainment industry and the media along with organizational restructuring of volunteer organisations is seen as useful, because baby boomers in general have been less involved in volunteer work than preceding generations so far.

In my opinion, the proposal sounds like a good idea, but a little cloudy, too. It is an aim you can really say nothing against, but I guess that in the eyes of people who warn of a collapse of the welfare state because of the baby boomers retiring, volunteer work will not solve the problem, but only be a drop in the ocean.

Source: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/chc/reinventingaging/Report.pdf

In United States live about 301,4 million people. In year 2007 50 million ( 1/6 ) of them received over $585 million in Social Security benefits. 31 million of these benifciaries were retired workers. (Nowadays 9/10 individuals age +65 receive social security benefits, that represent 41% of the income of the elderly! ). Currently there are 3.3 workers for each Social Security beneficiary. It means, that by 2032, when all baby-boomers ( generation born in this case between 1946 and 64 ) will over age 65 and will retire, and there will be almost twice as many older people as today ( from 38 to 72 million), there will be only 2.1 workers for each social security beneficiary.
So there will be not only twice more individuals with right to receive money from social programs, but there will be also less workers, which will have to bear these costs.


According to Elke Verheugen (administrator of FORTY UP, Best Age marketing) the baby boom generation has already released a revolution and is going revolutionize marketing strategies in German companies in the future. She critizises that the enormous potential of this generations has not been recognized for a long time; people have feared the excess of age; they were talking about an earth quake as a result of the ageing society but treating it as an administrative act.
Her argument is, that the greatest purchasing power is coming from the baby boom generation. They will not be an old generation like other old generations before; their values have changed. Former pensioner generation had values like modesty, duty or austerity. The baby boom generation will be more self-oriented which offers new opportunites to companies and their marketing strategies.
Source: http://www.fortyup-consulting.de/pdfs/wenn_Baby_Boomer_2004.pdf .

I found an article at the online guardian describing possible results of baby boomers coming of retirement age in the British politics. First the article claims it could cost the Labour party the losing of at least 10 seats, because of immigration issues, politics regarding the NHS, and generally because of the conservative thinking of the "grey voters". As an effect of the baby boomers' ageing pension politics become more important.
Source: http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,6903,1604731,00.html

I found a part of an interresting study about the baby boomers and retirement on the page of the University of Sydney. The students basically describe the rethinking of the retirement system (shift towards selfprovision system), the fears and anxieties that rise with focusing on this cohort.
This reasearch shows that B.boomers believe that individuals should be encouraged to be self-sufficient. It means that the government should help them to save for their pension (they should be "compelled" to save money).

Source: http://www.tai.org.au/documents/downloads/DP89.pdf

The article I found investigates the impacts on the American society when baby boomers soon start to retire, especially on the health system and the labor market.
Currently, baby boomers make up 26% of the U.S. population, and this cohort has a higher life expectancy than any of the previous generations. This might pose serious problems for the health system, if a large amount of these citizens needed medical support. The author claims that many of the boomers suffer from obesity and that this could lead to "an epidemic of diabetes" in the future. But on the other hand, health has improved substantially, which means that boomers will probably not only life longer, but also stay healthier for a longer time, or, as the author puts it: "maybe 60 is the new 50."
Because of the improved physical and mental health, boomers could make tremendous contributions to society,e.g. by staying in the workforce.
According to the article, this would give a boost to economic growth and would also help reducing the labor shortage of up to 10 milion workers that will occur by 2010.
Additionally, many boomers won't be able to retire, because they did not save enough to afford retirement at the age of 65. Therefore, they won't have a choice, and employers will finally welcome them back.

Source: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/01/10/health/webmd/main1195879.shtml

Week 12: Age Discrimination

Please read the article that I sent around. Consider the sentence:
""Ich halte nichts davon, wenn 85-Jährige noch künstliche Hüftgelenke auf Kosten der Solidargemeinschaft bekommen".

What do you think was the idea for this formulation?
Would you consider the idea that you see behind this statement to be age discirimination? Why yes or why not?

I guess the idea behind this was that, in a strictly economic thinking, it could be considered a "waste" to state-finance a treatment for someone who will, because of his age, not be able to give anything back to the state/ society - he will die soon anyway.

This is definitely age discrimination because the ground on which medical treatment is distributed or refused is age, not how badly a person needs the treatment (from a doctor's perspective). Behind this is a logic that I find cynical: A person entitlement to services that ensure quality of life is assessed on the basis of his "value" for society, which is measured solely in economic terms. If you continue in this thinking, you could also refuse supporting handicapped people.
I guess a lot of people in Germany felt that way, so the proposal was quickly rejected.

Oliver: First of all, a small correction to the email from Achim. Mißfelder is still (and not was) the chairman of the young German Democratic Union.
I can very well remember the discussion about the "Hüftgelenke" in 2003. I was disgusted when I heard it for the first time. However, Mißfelder blamed all former governments that they were just focusing on the eldery people and forgetting about the young. It was unusual to hear these theses from a member of the CDU, who have strong support among the older voters, as we have already learned. But back to his proposal, maybe from a more general point of view.
If we define arbitrarily what old people need and what is luxury (and therefore has to be paid privately) we could possibly open a floodgate to reduce the standard of living just by cash position. It is neccessary to insure yourself agains some risks on your own. The question remains what happens to those who are not able to pay? And not to have a "Hüftgelenk" is such an enormous constraint in the quality of life, that the solidarity community has the duty to act here. To save costs cannot justify this claim.
The question if this is age discrimination is in my eyes not that clear. Of course, as Lena said, medical treatment is distributed or refused by age. However, maybe the bigger discrimination is between those who can pay and those who cannot. We cann discuss about that.

Mißfelder's idea was probably that the health system should only invest in people that are "worth" it. This notion excludes sick and old people from health benefits, and especially people that are both old and sick. In Mißfelders logic, people that are 85 and older are simply useless because they cannot contribute anything to the society anymore and merely produce costs. This point of view is especially cynical because those people are not responsible for their aging. It would have been different, if he had demanded to stop paying lung cancer treatments for heavy smokers (although I wouldn't support that either), because smokers actively choose to do so. But aging is just something everybody does, and also Mißfelder might need a "Hüftgelenk" once.
I think this is clearly age discrimination, because Mißfelder is using the age of the patients as crucial factor to decide about if they are entitled to artificial hip joints or not.


The way Mißfelder put it was a bit harsh. The problem he pointed out is actually worth consideration, it is only formulated with the surplus needed for politicians. It is a good way to start a public discussion though. I don't think he ment to be discriminating against age. He only tried to point out that there are irrational elements in the system that have to be reformed. I think there always has to be a "bad man" who starts problematic discussions in the society even if his/her popularity steeply falls afterwards.

The strict economic thinking in this case has nothing to do with solidarity and it is totaly politically incorrect and disgusting. I think that it has nothing to do with “wasting” and “who is worth it” and who not to get the appropriate medical care. What actually Mr. Mißfelder did not realise (before he said that) is that people who are 85 mostly can- and do not undergo such a surgery because the anesthesia could cause a brain demage or a heart attack.
I see it as a clear case of age discrimination and also if he did not think so. Old people are not useless although they need much more medical care. They are part of this system and as Johana said, nobody is responsible for her/his aging and therefore the most of us feel irritated by that. Maybe Mr. Mißfelder should look back on the contribution of old people into the system like 50 years ago.

First of all, I think that Missfelder, as an politician should much more carefully select words which he uses in public speeches, in this case he showed just an irresponsibility and his own stupidity. He generalized that all old-aged people spend public (?) money on foreign cruises and something like hip-joints that are nothing more as only their whims.
One thing is that, most (?) old people in Germany are in a quite good material situation, but the fact is, that they just deserved on it, working hard in past, and current pensions are their own money, which they earned in some way.
The other thing is that social secure programs can't bear all costs in society and we just have to, because of simple economic reasons, select some services and exclude other ones.
I'm not medical, and I don't want to justify Missfelder's notion, I just presume that maybe the idea of this ( exaggerated) formulation was to show that hip-joints are not necessary to survive ( at all, not only for elderly) and public money should be rather spend on treatment other, more dangerous illnesses.

Week 13: Children's Right to Vote

Look at the website of a German group definding the political rights of children. http://en.kraetzae.de/

Can you find similar groups in your home country or other countries by internet search?
Please insert a link to one website and briefly describe the activities of the group.

In the U.S., there is an organization founded in 1996 called ASFAR (Americans for a society free from age restrictions). Their major goal is the abolishment of the voting age, which they support by many arguments we discussed in class (e.g. democratic deficit, better representation of young people's interests…). The background reasoning is that young people should have the same rights as adults in all areas. Accordingly, ASFAR also fight for free access "any form of speech (music, movies, etc…) legal for adults", free choice of school (i.d. the parents not having the right to force their kids into anything), abolishing the minimum driving age, abolishing minimum drinking ages, abolishing curfew laws and many other proposals. (www.asfar.org)

In Germany there is an organization founded in 1995 called "Kinder haben Rechte" (http://kinderrechte.web-presents.de/seite.php?pid=start). They are not explicitly claiming for new political rights, although they refer to the UN-children-rights-convention and support the idea (in a blog, I`m not quite sure if it is official) to anchor the rights of children in the constitution. The main work of this organization is to educate people in jobs, where they have to deal with children, like Kindergarten teacher or social education workers.

I could not find any organization claiming for political rights of children, but I found an article in a Slovak political forum concerning the "right to vote for everyone". It focuses on the fact that all people of the community are equal in all areas and have/should have the same political and other rights as the adults have. There are many unanswered questions on this topic like:
Would this system of voting fullfill the expectations of the whole community?
Do all people carry the same amount of political responsibility?
Would the vote outcomes reflect and fullfill the opinions of all age groups?
On the other side this kind of vote is based on the oldes principle of all societies, the "family". The parents take the responsibility for their children in all other life areas and would reflect this racional choice also in their political decisions. The privilege for parents to decide in political issues for their children should be given until the kids have reached the voting age (and the level of political responsibility). Therefore there would be no need for lowering the voting age (like in Austria).


I found an organization in Hungary that keeps this issue on its agenda. The name of the Organization is "Movement of Hungarian Childfriends". They can be found under http://gyermekbarat.hu/ (also available in english, but the proclamation can only be read in Hungarian I believe). I found their proclamation on the issue of enfranchising children, which basically gives voice to the pro arguments we discussed during the class. They aim to reach the reduction of eligibilty age to 16, they mention some German Länder and Austria as positive example. Their reasoning seems to be rather popularist than scientifically well based, they often use different slogans. They organize different events, forums, child camps in order to disseminate their ideas, but to be honest, I never heard of them before. I found it interesting that they also refer to international agreements, such as the UN Convention on Children's Rights, as a basis of their clamis. The proclamation dates back to 1999.

I found an US-american organization called NYRA (National Youth Rights Association)
they call themself The Last Civil Rights Movement and support lowering voting age, lowering drinking age ( both to " a more acceptable age " ) repealing government curfews, protecting student rights and fighting age discrimination.
This national youth-led organization founded in 1998 generally defends the civil and human rights of young people in USA through eductaing people about youth rights, working with public officials and empowering the young people to work on their own behalf.

I found a document about the political participation of children on the homepage of the Austrian "Katholische Jungschar", a christian youth organization. The text is rather addressed at the groupleaders of the Jungschar, but in some sections it also addresses children and explains their political rights and political participation as such. The tenor of the article is that children should have more political rights, and it is particularly encouraging the group leaders to listen to the childrens' political interests and to create a situation were the children learn to discuss political things of all kind.

Week 14: Intergenerational Justice

We live in an ageing society. We need intergenerational justice in an ageing society. Thus, parties need to address this issue.
Do you think that political parties can win elections with a though-through, elaborate policy framework that ensures intergenerational justice?
Write your opinion in 1-2 paragraphs.

First of all, I'd like to make two digressions, firstly, as show the experience, political program of the certain party is not the most important, or in other words, not this crucial thing, that decides who will be winner. Of course, program plays very often one of the key roles, but there is many other factors, that affect the election results, for example; present economical and political situation, structure and partiality of the electorate, international conditions, or even that, who was governing at the last cadency. So it’s the one argument, that we are not able to predict if party can win elections just addressing this issue in its program. And if we want to answer this question, first should we exclude all the other factors and assume that they do not exist or have no meaning.
Secondly, securing intergenerational justice have a lot of dimensions. And we should pinpoint what of these dimensions would party address; pension system, using energy resources, labour market, electoral system , etc.

So let’s assume that certain party (missing all the other conditions) address one of these dimensions. Whichever issue would it be, it would be probably very complicated and extremly difficult to introduce it in the reality. Of course, in ageing societies problem of intergenerational justice is getting bigger and bigger, and should be in any way solved. But how to find solution, which would be profitable for all generations? It seems to be almost impossible. There is a lot of ideas how to achieve intergenerational justice, but they all have as many advantages, as disadvantages. Additionally, all these proposed solutions would demand drastic and very often expensive changes, and could couse many complications, so in my opinion, it would be too difficult to convince people to these ideas and win the election.

I agree with Bozena that a party's policy framework isn't the only factor determining electoral outcome, and probably not even the biggest. I also think that it would be very difficult to define a proposal that will suffice to ensure generetional justice. But assuming there is one, I also see the problem that it will probably be very complicated, since you would have to find a way to balance many conflicting interests, as Bozena wrote.

I see an additional problem: Because this policy framework would be so complicated, it will not be easy to convince voters of it. Maybe the voters are more susceptible to simple massages that fit on campaign posters, and don't have the time to try to understand a complicated policy framework. So the success of a party with such a framework would probably depend on their ability to rephrase it into simple, catchy, and short phrases.

I also think that a party's election outcome does not solely depend on their policy framework, but also on past performances and whether or not a party is meeting the populations demands. Regarding generational justice, I think that it is possible to make it a success, but only if it is not too abstract. If a party made it a too big topic, I doubt that the voters would be interested in it much. The difficulty here is to find the right way to communicate the matter to the voters.
Additionally, the issue is probably only succesful if there aren't any other serious problems that society has to face, e.g. high unemployment. If a party would address the topic of generational justice too much in such a situation, the voters concerned by unemployment would probably lose any interest in this party.

But from a normative point of view, I could imagine it too be potentially successful, as people are generally interested in the well-being of other people, especially future generations and they believe that it is important to care for other generations, as can be seen in the current climate protection issue. Therefore, if a party manages to find the right words and topics to communicate the issue to its voters, it could be a success.

I definetly agree with Lena, the voter can be more impressed by visual impulses like posters, flyers, tv-shows etc. To get the majority of votes in adressing such an issue in a political campaigne could be really dangerous. Otherwise forecasting the outcome by bringing this issue without any plausible background could be fatal also for the strongest political party of the government. Probably a political campaigne would be to short for implementing such an issue and for making it clear for all voters. Parties mostly build on simple issues that are critical and relevant in the voting period. It is probably unable to pack such an complex issue into a poster or flyer.

On the other hand in a long term run maybe it would be possible to prepare the voters by explaining the background of intergenerational justice and advertising it in a right way.

I don't think a party could win the elections with such an elaborated intergenerational-justice programme. The first aspect that makes me doubt this idea is that everyday people do not really know about this topic and not necessarily see the relation between their difficulties and the problems inherent in intergenerational injustice.
At the same time, because of the short-term nature of human thinking I don't think it is possible that the different generations would have enough understanding with each other to support such a program.
The only way a party could implement a program like this, would be only implicitly changing the sytem in a step-by-step manner, using blame avoidance.

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