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First Page

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Last Page

394

Abstract

The purpose of this article is to introduce a new approach to social protection benefit provision through an analysis and comparison of two of the advanced benefit systems in the world. Both the Dutch and American examples teach us that meaningful social benefit protection is possible, consistent, and necessary within market-based societies.

Our recommendation is that advanced-market societies start a discussion on social protection benefits based on the dual principles of federalism/subsidiarity and fiduciary duty. Federalism provides that the national/federal government should provide the principles and minimal framework for benefit provision, while regional authorities, employers, and insurance companies should be given freedom, and the duty, to implement the underlying schemes to meet the challenges of the local situation. However, to constrain the sometime self-interested and conflicted motives of employers and insurance companies in the benefits system, we also suggest that countries adopt, at the national level, fiduciary duties of loyalty and care to protect against abuse, discrimination, and arbitrary action in the provision of such benefits. In addition, these principles should also be applied to employer-sponsored schemes in both countries, to the extent that such duties do not already exist.

We hope, and believe, that through the construction of such a social benefit system, countries can guarantee a minimal level of benefit protection that will help their citizens negotiate difficult times during retirement, disability, sickness and injury, and unemployment. In turn, the "benefit" of such a system will be the recognition of the dignity and self-worth of all individuals, which is a non-ideological goal that we can all embrace.

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