Social State of Mind, by Luís Filipe

Do you believe in destiny? I do not. I believe that everyone carves his own destiny and achieves success through pure will power and sweat. However, let us be honest, there is something like destiny that plays a role in our lives. Let us call it luck. For example, if I had the luck to be born in a rich family then I would be, almost with 100% certainty, a very well educated person with all the tools to achieve success. Conversely, if I had been born in a poor family I would be a person with low levels of education, subject to an adverse environment and would have very few opportunities to succeed, not counting the many “opportunities” to ruin my life that would appear frequently in front of me.

But what is the real difference between these concepts of destiny and luck and why am I talking about that? Because in my construction, destiny is unavoidable while luck can be overcome, however being only so if the right conditions meet. The basic recipe to transform fate into luck is to create conditions from an abstract, philosophical and unfortunately almost lost concept called justice. And the sum of those conditions being called Social State.

It is only fair that, at birth, all individuals have the same opportunities to develop themselves in order to compete in all aspects of life, but essentially in the ones that will allow them to move between social classes. In that concern arises the importance of Social State. Social State, in its ideal form, is nothing more than a State of opportunities and a State of justice. In practice, it is a State that tries to provide basic conditions of equity with the objective of ensuring that everyone has the chance to fight for a dream. In other words, it is the cause that leads me to not believe in destiny. Instead, I believe only in a luck factor that most of the times, and given the opportunities provided by a solid Social State, can be overcome with will power.

Recently, this subject of Social State has been under the spotlights due to the unavoidable need of reducing the Portuguese State expenditures. Since a great part of the money spent by the State goes to public services like health, education, social protection and public transportation, expenditure reducing policies may put the concept of equal opportunities at risk.  The government must be careful not to disturb the ideal of these services when dealing with them. We need to understand that this is not mathematics. Education and health are not provided to all the population just because they foster economic growth and present higher benefits than costs. They are offered to all of us mainly because it is an ethic duty. If we want to put it in a mathematical form, then we need to account dignity, solidarity, honor and a lot of other values in the equation. But since values are much greater than everything else in the world, the math is done.

That is why our Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho found himself in very bad position when he said that all public companies should be financial sustainable, in other words, to generate profits. He forgot that people like me are willing to pay a lot of money in order to live in a State of justice. To privatize public transportation, increase the costs of health for less fortunate people and discriminating education between classes may be materialized in a big stab on the ideal of equal opportunities.

Luís Filipe holds a Master Degree in Economics by NOVA SBE, with major in Applied Policy Analysis (January 2012). His masters thesis had Professor Pedro Pita Barros as coordinator. His areas of interest include Macroeconomics and Health Economics

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