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by Jorg Huffschmid
Sunday, Oct. 14, 2007 at 11:46 AM
Most of our serious social, ecological and economic problems can only be solved bottom-up with the insight and will of concerned citizens. The challenge consists in a radical democratization of the economy. Otherwise we put the cart before the horse and bridle the horse by the tail.
SOCIAL ECONOMIES AND POLITICAL CONFLICTS
By Jorg Huffschmid
[This article published 8/27/2007 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web. Jorg Huffschmid is a professor and leader in alternative economics. Memorandum 2007, a memorandum for alternative economics based on reducing working hours and investing in the infrastructure rather than tax cuts, is the work of Professor Huffschmid and his colleagues.]
Most of our serious social, ecological and economic problems can only be solved bottom up, that is with the insight and will of concerned citizens. Our great social and ecological problems did not originate from deficient insight of the concerned. They are the results of mechanisms and power relations that appear to individuals as objective practical necessities – globalization and finance markets – that can hardly be changed. Persons, businesses and institutions profit from abuses and try to maintain the basic structures behind these abuses. This is obviously not a “far-sighted economy” but is the reality of the capitalist market economy. In this economy, the riches of a minority grow along with poverty and distress worldwide and in individual countries. Most people cannot choose where and how they want to work. They must accept the work they can get. Many remain unemployed despite their readiness to work. Most work in a foreign determined rhythm with methods and on products which they can not really affect. Financial investors are often in control. Their goal is to multiply the money that accumulates at the top of society. With the threat of migration, they put pressure on governments and parliaments to lower profit taxes, privatize public goods and cut social benefits. These investors cause regular economic crises that affect people who have no responsibility for these upheavals.
The reference to the ultimately self-destructive character of this kind of economy is correct but hardly helps as long as the framing conditions continue: the dominance and competition of private enterprises on largely deregulated markets. The search for “decentralized, civil and direct democratic institutions” is engaging. However the general economic and political situation may be lost from view. In the long run, “far-sighted economies” require changing this general situation and the power relations behind this situation. The challenge consists in a radical democratization of the economy: in enterprises, businesses, regions, states and international institutions. Appealing to the understanding of those profiting from undemocratic structures will not bring about this democratization. Democratization must be carried out against them. Initiatives for local and regional networks, exchange rings etc. could be possible by showing that these social economies run differently than in hectic competition. Resistance and a broad mobilization against the policy of neoliberalism – against social cuts, privatization of public goods, delegation of old age security to the finance markets and so forth – are essential and ultimately crucial. This resistance gains strength when accompanied by positive concepts of a different economic policy for “social economies.” In my view, its cornerstones are:
- an aggregate economic growth that brings about full employment through public investment and employment programs and reduced working hours for all who can and want to work with jobs corresponding to their abilities whose income enables them to lead an independent life.
- a structural policy of ecological conversion or transformation in energy- and transportation policy, agriculture and private households.
- a social policy that views the insurance of people against the risks of poverty, sickness and unemployment as a task of social solidarity.
- the energetic defense, building and democratic reform of the public sector and its financing by a tax policy that includes individuals – according to their output – by a clearly progressive income tax as well as assets- and inheritance taxes – and prevents tax evasion.
- an international economic policy with orientation in international cooperation, balance and development promotion.
- the control of the finance markets and their binding to the economic framework for sustainable development.
The implementation of these ideas requires reason, understanding and willingness for conflict.
TRANSLATOR’S NOTE ON SOLIDARITY, JUSTICE AND ECONOMIC ETHICS
Here are links to "For a Future of Solidarity and Justice"
and "The Laborers in the Vineyard and the Reversal of all Order"
The European social model is an alternative to the mini-American welfare state. The irrationality of finance capitalism appears in that the stock price rises while the value of labor falls. The economy produces more every year with less people. Labor is shamelessly robbed of its rights and dignity.
Investment, labor market, distribution and tax policy must be reconfigured to prevent exploding inequality and precarious work in a corporate feudalism based on endless wars and blackmailing of resource countries.
The future is anticipated and protected in the present, not extrapolated from the present (cf. Jurgen Moltmann). Nature isn’t a free good, external or sink, an institute for the super-rich, but the basis of future human life and planetary health, an entrusted riches meant for generations to come. Nature like children has rights in and for herself and cannot be instrumentalized for profit maximization.. The German philosopher Jurgen Habermas warned of instrumental rationality that can colonize all life so all dialogue and relations are reduced to economic calculations. As self-righteousness is the grand delusion (cf. Eberhard Jungel), selfishness can imprison us so that private and public, means and ends, the part and the whole and the real and imaginary become confused and the future is demeaned as dreaming or speculating. The challenge is to change consciousness, to see the present as an unfolding gift in the context of long-term necessities, to recognize that we and the earth are fragments, anticipations of the “not yet” (cf. Ernst Bloch), new life in the estranged social world reality..
Without long-term necessities relativizing short-term constraints and anthropocentrism, we fall prey to the myths and illusions of trickle-down market fundamentalists. Without focusing on systemic and structural contradictions, we can fall to scapegoating, mistaking the goat for the gardener, the pyromaniac for the firefighter and the manipulator for the benefactor. We clean the outside of the cup and leave the inside filthy. Business profits are mistaken for community health. Blaming the weak, the unemployed and homeless are the bitter fruits of this anti-social rightwing offensive. The market is stylized as sacrosanct and problems reduced to interferences with the market.
The market is not total and absolute or a self-healing panacea. The market is a tool helpful after fundamental political questions are answered: What kind of society do we want? Are health care, education, housing, water and air rights or privileges?
Maybe the market radicals will discover some humility when countries are no longer dependent on American dollars! Maybe we can move from the domination model to the earth model and discover the wonder of simplicity, sharing resources, listening to all opinions and opening hearts. Maybe the economy could be a part of life and not a steamroller cheapening and commodifying human life and the cosmos for the super-rich and their idol profit!
Rhinoceros can talk but they're silent for fear of being dragged to work. Work becomes a corpse but work fetishism and work fanaticism continue (cf. Manifesto against Labor on www.krisis.org)
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