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Who Rules Money?

by Tissy Bruns Friday, Oct. 30, 2009 at 2:24 AM

The climate- and financial crises have one thing in common. Both are consequences of a gigantic market failure. Nature and the future of humanity are not at the table when market actors negotiate conditions and aim at their advantages.


The popular saying is right: money rules the world – miserably as the financial crisis shows. It is high time for politics to set limits to the economy again. The 20 most powerful states now meet at the climate- and financial summit in Pittsburgh.

By Tissy Bruns

[This article published in: ZEIT ONLINE 9/22/2009 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

It is high time to take seriously the old popular wisdom. Money rules the world since the capitalist market economy convincingly defeated the socialist planned economy and became a global model. This week the United Nations will meet in New York and the 20 most powerful states in Pittsburgh to discuss the climate- and the financial crises. The popular saying is right: money rules the world miserably.

The climate- and financial crises have one thing in common. Both are consequences of a gigantic market failure. In the case of the climate, the rationality of the markets has obscured the real price of the industrial economy. Nature and the future of humanity are not at the table when market actors aiming at their advantages negotiate their conditions.

The industrial barons that carelessly pollute the Ruhr area were in a state of innocence. They did not know the consequences for the globe. Moral principles like liability, the causation principle and responsibility for the rising generation fell to the shady side of early capitalism manifest in child labor, starvation wages and the hardest work. That the blue sky could drive away the dark clouds over the Ruhr had to be politically fought for over a long time.

Morality has the advantage that limits on competition and rules for the free market can have long-term economic benefits. Capitalism could relate better to democracy and the rule of law. The necessary social process that bridles the market economy is called politics.

Unlike earlier industrialists, financial jugglers have never been in a state of innocence as to the consequences of their action. They poisoned the world economy because they knew their rotten debts with high risks had to be concealed. There were politicians who could not do enough in the last twenty years to free these markets from regulations and make themselves superfluous. Deregulation was the dominant model.

This is psychologically understandable. Thatcher, Blair, Schroeder and Merkel defended “their” own in the international competition of the financial markets. Will Frankfurt fall behind if the city boys of London act more freely? National politics was hardly willing and able to thwart the global economic elites. These had and have a new extortion potential on their side: the threat to seek higher profits and cheaper workers at other locations than their usual locations.

Nature and the future must be at the table. This is only possible with an authority standing above the markets. Only politics can organize climate change so its consequences do not lead to disaster. Its moral command can be turned to benefit the markets. The auto industry has not discovered the innovative uses of the energy question for new products.

That was the wisdom of the crowds, the wisdom of the many. Scholars, new social movements and the democratic public have drawn the right conclusions from the limits of growth. Only through a globally coordinated political regulation can the world of international finance and economy be kept from taking hostage of the states and their citizens again. Politics must set limits to the economy.

Is this hard? Certainly. Perhaps one cannot change the world. But one must at least try! Whoever makes politics his or her calling today must understand him- or herself as a do-gooder. It is high time for the world to rule money.


By Arno Kirsch

[This blog article on the meaning of life published in September 2009 is translated from the German on the Internet.]

Hardly anyone whose pockets are not full of money can really live his dreams. Oh no, not at all. Reality forces a life on us that we do not really want to live. Others determine what is left of our desires. We define ourselves through work that often does not fulfill us or fill our pockets. However unemployment is even worse than work because we are completely dependent on it, not because employment is lacking to us. Then we may do what we would never do. We must accept any work, even if it is undignified.

The real meaning of work is not eking out a miserable existence or getting by somehow. Rather work is the possibility of gaining money. When work is fun, that is marvelous. For many, the moral claim to work, work as an instrument of personal realization and especially the starvation wages, belongs to the realm of fairy-tales and sagas. This never occurred and never will occur in systems of dependence. Money is central, not morality.

We lead our short life by serving the interests of others. When our service is not needed any more, we are thrown away and treated as useless. As minus-assets in state balance sheets, the unemployed must patiently endure everything. Nowadays more and more academics are stricken because the IT-branch leaves the country. SAP, for example, relocated to India where it became too expensive for the corporation.

Do we ever have a chance? Does everyone really have a chance of escaping this yoke through education or something else? The German dream is only a lie. Will unemployment and poverty remain at 10% or perhaps 30%? In the school, the bar is simply set higher. A third are simply spit out. If one refuses, the next one will accept. What happens to our goals and desires that we want to make of our life? What becomes of our dream that we are born to be free?

In the last financial crisis, so much money was destroyed through fraud that all people of this earth will have to work more than a year to produce the goods equivalent to the value of that money. These worthless securities are still recorded on balance sheets as securities. The securities are worthless but not our guarantee. Some time or other this guarantee will be demanded from us. Today the debt burden of the state is so high that the interest burden forces the state to new debts. Action possibilities narrow. The economic crisis that followed the financial crisis drives the rest of the state system to the wall. The economy or the corporations counter the crisis by reducing their production costs to an unparalleled extent. This happens through terminations, rationalizations and changes of location. Wages fall according to the little fundamentals of the market economy. From a free enterprise perspective, this is not reprehensible but the inner logic in this system.

Still the whole reality has a hook because falling wages and unemployment reduce the demand for goods, which corporations must offer ever more cheaply. This starts a spiral whose disastrous development cannot be reversed from within by the economic system itself. Even if this was glossed over for years, we have already witnessed a few turns of this spiral. The economy has stagnated since the 1980s. However corporations are global players and countries like China and India can increase world trade.

The second hook of the real wage shrinkage and the elimination of jobs concerns our state system. Incomes fall, debts explode and the social systems collapse. The policy of partiality full of mistakes brought us here. Today where demand is urgently needed, this system congeals in incapacity for action so every hope must be deemed baseless. Nothing else occurs to these oligarchs than dismantling again the suddenly damaged social system to turn the spiral once more. The game is repeated a few times and then the mass of victims will be so huge that a revolt becomes unavoidable. But until then the state is completely ready with surveillance and police equipment…

We cannot stand by and watch since we are also in the crisis ourselves. Those who are not totally moronic, a sufficient multitude, see very clearly what lies ahead. But we are split. Every group pursues a different strategy. We are split in reformers and groups that only see a solution through a system change or revolution.

We are divided in alighters who practice alternatives and revolutionaries not afraid of criminal offenses. We are split in people who out of broken hearts escape in alcohol and drugs and pe4rsons who withdraw into the private or submerge in pseudo-problems. We are divided and every group is chopped up. We are all dissatisfied with this fatal system. We are discontented and furious.

That is the abyss that we must overcome. I personally have tried to make friends with many ideas and cannot identify one as the true right idea. Born as a reformer, I give this a priority. However the logic of crises and market laws leads me to admit more and more that the mistake lies in the market economy itself. But how should one alight from this system? When I think back in my life, everything that I have learned and experienced, even language itself, is marked by this market economy. Again and again I see how I relate to this ideology even in the depths of private life. How should one overcome this? Socialists make it simple or have an easier time. They call it capitalism and put themselves outside like a philosopher. The system is the cause for everything and must be overcome. Unfortunately one comes again and again to practical necessities.


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