January is a depressing month. The month that shows you that all your New Year's resolutions are intentions rather than actual plans. It is also the month of exams for Block 2. Although I planned to start working on papers and exams early, I found myself finishing them at 6 AM. Both EPPM-courses in Block 2 were graded by the combination of an exam and a paper. My background in political science has taught me a lot about writing papers, so these were more satisfying for me. My exams went alright, but they only test the general knowledge I got out of the book, while I prefer to research a specific topic in-depth. That was possible in the papers. We were lucky that the word limits turned out to be more suggestions than actual limits, since political scientists tend to use a lot of words to explain their arguments.
The second block builds on the first. After we learned the basics in block one, both on Public Economcics as on Statistics, the courses in Block 2 (Public Risk Management and Policy Competition in an International World) use these basics to discuss current issues on social security. How do pension or health care systems work? Does migration lead to a race to the bottom in social security spending? The debates we discussed are very relevant today and the topics of our papers were actually in the news last month.
At first we wrote a paper on possibilities to include the self-employed in the social security system, especially via the Dutch Broodfonds-iniative. The highest official of the ministry of Economic Affairs raised the same issue in that week. The other paper proposed plans to include EU-migrants into social security systems and this time the WRR – the Dutch Scientific Council for Government Policy – proposed the same plans only 10 hours after we handed in our paper.
In the past two decades we have seen that we cannot longer just let the economy rule our society, we have to make political decisions on where we want our economy and our social security to go. At EPPM we cover the same issues that are covered in the news or amongst politicians right now. One point of critique though; seeing these debates are fought right now, it was slightly disappointing that both courses used textbooks that were already more than 10 years old. But a wide variety of recent articles did partly make up for that. I passed both courses, so we're done with that now. Next week I'll tell something about my new course: Energy and Environmental Policies. February has started at last.