The Third Way/Die Neue Mitte

The Third Way/Die Neue Mitte

The Third Way/Die Neue Mitte
Tony Blair and Gerhard Schroeder

This manifesto, issued by the prime ministers of Britain and Germany, seemed to us to warrant critical attention, which we asked Joanne Barkan, one of our editors, to provide. Eds.

Annotated by Joanne Barkan

Social democrats are in government in almost all the countries of the European Union. Social democracy has found new acceptance—but only because, while retaining its traditional values, it has begun in a credible way to renew its ideas and modernize its programs. It has also found new acceptance because it stands not only for social justice but also for economic dynamism and the unleashing of creativity and innovation.

The trademark of this approach is the New Center in Germany and the Third Way in the United Kingdom. Other social democrats choose other terms that suit their own national cultures. But though the language and the institutions may differ, the motivation is everywhere the same. Most people have long since abandoned the worldview represented by the dogmas of left and right. Social democrats must be able to speak to those people.

Fairness and social justice, liberty and equality of opportunity, solidarity and responsibility to others—these values are timeless. Social democracy will never sacrifice them. To make these values relevant to today’s world requires realistic and forward-looking policies capable of meeting the challenges of the twenty-first century. Modernization is about adapting to conditions that have objectively changed, and not reacting to polls.

Similarly, we need to apply our politics within a new economic framework, modernized for today, where government does all it can to support enterprise but never believes it is a substitute for enterprise. The essential function of markets must be complemented and improved by political action, not hampered by it. We support a market economy, not a market society.

We share a common destiny within the European Union. We face the same challenges—to promote employment and prosperity, to offer every individual the opportunity to fulfill their unique potential, to combat social exclusion and poverty, to reconcile material progress with environmental sustainability and our responsibility to future generations, to tackle common problems that threaten the cohesion of society such as crime and drugs, and to make Europe a more effective force for good in the world.

We need to strengthen our policies by benchmarking our experiences in Britain and Germany, and also with like-minded counterparts in Europe and the rest of the world. We must learn from each other and measure our own performance against best practice and experience in other countries. With this appeal, we invite other European social democratic governments who share our modernizing aims to join us in this enterprise.

I. Learning from Experience

Although both parties...