I thought I'd write about Germany today, although I haven't done any actual research so don't quote me or do any life planning based on this post.
The tax and social insurance rates are really high in Germany.
Income tax is fairly whopping. There are also various special taxes such as church tax and subsidizing the East Germans (which we now can't get rid of because they are a big voting block and keep voting for the free loser money, excuse me, re-integration money), as well as paying off various debts of shame accrued by the mostly dead grandparents of the current working generation.
Not to mention a popular problem faced by other countries: Keeping huge companies alive whose executives may be greedy, souless morons but employ a lot of people.
Then there's VAT tax, which is like 19% or something crazy like that and applies to EVERYthing you buy, including services, so if you want to redo your bathroom you need to budget an extra 20%.
I could go on but suffiice it to say that things are more expensive and salaries tend to be lower.
The social net is stronger, however. For example, parents get a monthly sum to help raise the future taxpayers of the Fatherland. Kindergarten (if you get a spot) is free. And there is very generous unemployment insurance to keep people off the streets... don't quote me but I believe it's up to two years with re-training if you qualify.
Now, here's the interesting thing. If you're unemployed you don't just get to sit home drinking beers and collecting your check. You have to show you're looking for work and you may be expected to retrain in a field that is in demand. Sure, an expert in bureaucracy can drag it out and maximize time off and/or free training, but the bottom line is you gotta shake your tail if you want the cash.
They want you back at work, not at home watching reruns. The system helps those who help themselves and those that don't help themselves can bite me... I mean, the system.
I think that's kind of smart. Of course, I hate bureacracy and jumping through hoops so it all sounds mega-annoying, but it serves the dual purpose of making unemployment undesirable while giving working families a longer lifeline before they lose their homes.
A good social network does more than just hand out cash. It does so responsibly and treats social problems from several angles.
Anyway, it's not perfect and I could write for hours about various problems for working families (like school getting out at noon), but there are fewer people on the streets in Germany than in countries with a weaker social net and the standard of living is still pretty high.
Isn't that the job of a social net?
And Solipsist, I have not gone all Teutonic!