The Political Economy of Welfare States

Johnson Center
2:00--4:00pm, Room C
March 20, 2018

Lecture With: Dr. Chris Luigjes

The Welfare State: Unemployment Schemes

This lecture and workshop considers the possibility of a European Unemployment Benefit Scheme (EUBS) as a keyhole-issue into federal solidarity in the EU and the US. It begins by discussing the rationale for a EUBS, which is best done through reference to (and comparison with) the US unemployment insurance system and how both polities weathered the crisis. It then moves on to the most important hurdles to a EUBS: heterogeneity among EU Member States and the principle of subsidiarity (in this case interpreted as the Member States' rights to regulate their own welfare state). And considers Esping-Andersen to illustrate that the EU Member States are sometimes 'worlds apart' and how this differs from the US (without ignoring the important and major differences between the US states). Questions for discussion include: Is a EUBS desirable? Is it feasible? Should the EU look to the US, and if so, what should it learn? What were the strengths and weaknesses of how the US UI system responded to the crisis? How should federal entities balance macro-economic stabilization, federal solidarity and state rights?

Workshop With: Professors Chris Luigjes (University of Amsterdam), Mariely Lopez-Santana, and Matthew Scherer.

Recommended Readings:


  1. Vandenbroucke. This paper is the inspiration for my presentation. In it, Vandenbroucke explains the current conundrum of the EMU (being a monetary union without a shock absorber), how diverse EU member states are, how this compares to the US, the need for a shock absorber, a EUBS as a potential shock absorber, what issues there are with a EUBS, a reflection on other monetary unions and a policy recommendation.
  2. Lenaerts, Paquier, and Simonetta. This paper compares the US UI with the possibility of a EUBS.
  3. Alesina, Tabellini, and Trebbi. This paper gives some overview of the diversity of EU member states, specifically in the context of a political Union, and it compares it to the diversity of US states.
  4. Beblavy and Lenaerts. This paper outlines the general idea, the motivation, the design and the issues with a EUBS in some more detail. It also contains the table of contents of the whole report (more than 100 pages I believe, which goes into the extreme nitty gritty of all of this, I have left these pages out of the PDF but it is free to download on the CEPS website).

About this Project:

The Political Economy of Development Series is sponsored by George Mason University's Program in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics ( and The Political Economy Project . The series aims to place students in conversation with scholars at the cutting edge of research on questions of profound contemporary significance.