LETTER:Competitiveness the European way

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The Independent Online
From Mr Richard de Zoysa

Sir: There is much in Hamish McRae's analysis ("Wall Street looks the other way", 9 November) that one can agree with. US competitiveness is rising, new service industries being formed without any obvious rivals and new opportunities and jobs created. So far so good. But within a month which saw Farrakhan's march on Washington addressing many who feel locked outside this prosperity, can such confidence in the future be so easily assured?

The EU is struggling to develop an adequate post-Maastricht identity, marooned in a stop-go agenda based on moves towards monetary union. However, monetary union, when it eventually occurs, will be massively deflationary, thereby reducing the state's role across Europe for those countries able to conform to the "convergence" criteria. Witness the current turmoil in France over the future direction of policy. Across the Atlantic, a reduction in the role and power of the federal government is ardently sought by the Republican right, with projected cuts in Medicaid and welfare provision, and seemingly oblivious to any negative social consequences that may follow.

The EU, for all its stumblings, is still committed to the Social Chapter, providing an essential civilised minimum standard. In the long run, this investment in "social capital" may prove of more lasting value in terms of societal cohesiveness. This may reduce those social costs borne by the community at large, either in the form of higher taxes to pay for policing or, if private security becomes the norm, in more expensively priced goods as consumers. European social capital could provide a better foundation for future economic investment and prosperity than the growing insecurity of a majority of the American population.

Yours faithfully,

Richard de Zoysa

Division of Politics

South Bank University

London, SE1

9 November