Quelle solidarité générationnelle ? Etat-providence vs entraide familiale
The widening gap between the well-being of old and young people; the worrying increase in public transfers towards elderly people; the change in family relations and behaviours (such as the lengthened coresidence with young adult children): these current difficulties motivate a reassessment of the concept of "solidarity" between generations. Within a given group (being a family, a club, a social class, a nation...), solidarity relies on a collective "quasi-contract, which links its members with obligations of reciprocal exchange making everybody better off over the long run. From an economic point of view, its main role would be to remedy to various shortcomings of the market: first, it provides an enlarged insurance, covering everybody prior to birth, and also against unpredictable events (reduction of uncertainty); and second, it allows rules of "indirect" (ascending or descending) reciprocity between three succeeding generations or more. Solidarity suffers, however, from several drawbacks: moral hazard, arbitrary and costly control, horizontal inequity, instability of the "contract" in the course of time... This discussion enlights the current debate concerning the role of the welfare state. According to some (liberal) economists, this role has become harmful: public policy now creates uncertainty; and in the conflict between generations the state takes sides with the old ones. For others however, including Gary Becker, state intervention is part of a profitable and equitable "social compact", the public support of the elderly allowing poor or middle class families to achieve efficient levels of human capital investments in their children.
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