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by Mark Schieritz
Wednesday, Feb. 01, 2012 at 6:35 AM
The core of all western-individualist ideas of justice is the principle of personal responsibility. Everyone is responsible for the consequences of his/her actions. This motivates as well as disciplines. "We punish the virtuous and reward the squanderers."
AGAINST ALL RULES
Whoever makes a mistake should feel the consequences. That is the law of the market economy. How bitter that this law is mocked!
By Mark Schieritz
[This article published in: Zeit Online, 12/31/2011 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.zeit.de/2012/01/Marktwirtschaft-Finanzkrise.]
Whoever explores Internet documents on the economic crisis will make an interesting discovery. The incredible sums pumped into the market or made available in different bailout funds provoke the greatest outrage. Who receives the sums prompts shock and resentment: bankers who have long skimmed off bonuses and now skid into bankruptcy, at lived beyond their means and cannot obtain fresh money any more and homeowners who accepted excessive credit and now cannot pay their debts.
Abnormal behavior is rewarded instead of sanctioned. That is the basic experience4 of western societies. The increasing weariness for bailouts is only revealed when this moral dimension of the crisis is seen and not only the monetary dimension.
We could approach this with a concept from psychology: the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance. It describes the contradiction between the ideas we have of the world and the actual course of things – as in the fable of the hungry fox and the vines that grow over a wall. Again and again the fox leaps high and snatches after the grapes without success. This failure does not fit the self-image of the animal which is accustomed to take what it wants. Persons in industrial society are not very different from the fox.
The core of all western-individualist ideas of justice is the principle of personal responsibility deeply anchored in western thinking. Everyone is responsible for the consequence of his/her acts. The connection of risk and liability is the foundation of capitalism. In this way, the market transforms individual craving for gain into public welfare. “Investments are made more carefully the more responsible agents must answer for these investments. Excesses and lack of restraint occur with deficient liability,” wrote the Freiburg economist Walter Eucken, the seminal thinker of the social market economy in the 1940s. Most economists today would agree.
Everyone is responsible for the consequences of his/her actions. This motivates and disciplines. I exert myself when I know my engagement counts. Thus the principle of personal responsibility is the carrot and stick of a free economic order. The absolute solidarity of everyone with everyone else would destroy the incentive systems of capitalism and capitalism itself.
Because this imperative of the market economy and the idea of justice prevailing in society suit each other so well, the call for more personal responsibility was the leit-motif of the public background music for the liberal economic reforms since the 1980s. The principle of responsibility has been deeply anchored in the collective consciousness and life world of people. If unemployment benefits or job seekers allowances and promotion of vocational training are cut, a wrong decision in choosing a vocation can have existential consequences. For acceptance of such an order, its rules must be in effect for everyone. Everyone can create but everyone can also fail.
Americans have driven this the furthest. In a television debate, the television moderator Wolf Blitzer asked the republican presidential candidate Ron Paul how society should deal with a young man who didn’t think health insurance was necessary and now lives in a coma. The man had to take responsibility for himself, Ron Paul replied. Blitzer asked if this meant society should let him die. “Yes!,” the public roared.
In its radicalism, this position may be shocking in continental European societies with their generous social security systems compared to the United States. Whoever is in distress of his own fault can only count on the restricted help of society. That is also true in Europe.
In this context, the bailout of states or banks is a monstrous breach of the rules. It mocks the principle of personal responsibility that is preached to people and is experienced every day first hand. Why isn’t what is valid for Hartz IV recipients valid for the banker, that he must expect cuts in his earnings for violating the rules?
Politics cannot find any answer to this question because there is ultimately no answer on the moral plane. “We punish the virtuous and reward the squanderers,” the American central banker Richard Fisher recently admitted. In Germany, Guido Westerwelle has emphasized this theme. When the Great Coalition supported Hypo Real Estate three years ago, the former opposition leader uttered a sentence that made the government furious: “The wolves are at the door s for the little ones while the federal eagle comes to the great ones.” Westerwelle described the relations rather exactly – then as today.
The rescuers counter the ever more desperate cry for justice with efficiency arguments. If one bank falls, all banks will fall and then even the small savers will lose their money. If one state totters, all states will totter and the public order will collapse. Then the poor and the poorest will suffer most of all. In short, the bailout is simply cheaper than bankruptcy.
Assistance is also not possible without risk. When the European central bank pumped a half trillion euro in the banks as happened in early December 2011, that could prove to be a disaster. If the monetary guardians do not collect vast sums of money in time, inflation will occur. A part of the money will be lent by the banks to the crisis states. If they go bust, new balance holes threaten even with the central banks.
But if the operation succeeds, it will not cost the taxpayer one cent and great disaster will be averted. It creates money out of nothing. If it fulfills its goal, it destroys it again. The currency guardians prevent the economy from drying up because everyone hoards their money in crisis times. Central banks were once founded to prevent the economy from drying up.
Nevertheless central bankers on both sides of the Atlantic have become objects of popular anger and outrage. The Occupy Frankfurt movement set up tents in a part before the headquarters of the European Central Bank. The Tea Party wants to abolish the American Federal Reserve. Hatred for cheap money unites Sarah Palin and Sahra Wagenknecht.
Reducing this rage to only deficient understanding for macro-economic connections would be too simplistic because the violation of norms of justice is also involved whose4 observance is vigorously demanded in other contexts.
If the diagnosis is correct that bailing out devours the moral foundation of the market economy and perhaps even society, then the West falls into the awkward situation of having to decide between prosperity and justice. In other words, we risk the core meltdown or resign that injustice happens in small matters in a crisis endangering the whole society.
The decision is difficult. In the Great Depression of the 1930s, the states set morality above everything. They refused assistance and ruined the economy. Today they set the economy above everything and destroy morality. At the end there may only be the way of choosing the fox in the fable. The fox realizes it cannot climb the wall. “The grapes are much too sour for me,” the fox says. To solve the contradiction, the fox lies to itself.
THE FEUDAL SYSTEM, A SECOND EXPLOITATION
[This blog entry published on Jan 8, 2012 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://feynsinn.org/?p=11978.]
In a guest commentary by Fred Grimm in SpOn, there is a seemingly insignificant detail that refutes the existence of a democracy in Germany. There he writes:
“Over half of the German top management comes from the tiny 0.5 percent segment of the richest German families.”
The so-called “elites” like to congratulate one another and keep to themselves. This is not new or surprising. Regarding legitimacy, it is time for radical changes of the social order or a simple renaming – which may be the feasible way. Let us stop speaking of a “democracy”!
SEPARATION OF POWERS AND LIMITED POWER
“Rule of the people” is a flexible term. As a result, the modern idea of democracy relies on Montesquieu’s draft of the separation of powers. The desire for limited power was raised with the middle class at a time when the state opposed its subjects as an overpowering structure. Through mutual controls, governmental authorities should be put in their places or cut down to size! The bourgeoisie of the 18th century saw its power effectively limited by the state.
This functioned reasonably well for a while. In the following centuries, no importance was attached to a radical actualization of the democracy model. The rising powers of private corporations and the media were less and less effectively controlled. Very openly the defenders of unlimited property demand less and less state and more and more influence for themselves and their equals. If the separation of governmental powers was the way out of dictatorship and the authoritarian state, the shameless power concentration of the wealthy is its opposite.
This “elite” completely renounces on a view of the person. Only a manic power concentration has discretionary power in form and money. The rest, the people, has to function and is a necessary resource as long as it is useful. The useless, long openly slandered as “low achievers,” have no status any more to whom they can appeal to eke out their miserable existence in dignity.
The status quo continues. Power remains with those who increasingly present themselves as “genetically” superior. This theme – in Spiegel articles – makes your hair stand on end. This is idiotic propaganda. The double lie “effortless prosperity” is declared sacrosanct. The inheritance of the propertied is inviolable.
The crazy idea of the destruction of the middle class is the justification for abandoning an effective inheritance tax. The return of common property is possible by a tax on inheritances from private assets. They are always the “achievers” of the “middle class” who are supposedly to be protected. Lying twice is obviously better.
But it gets even thicker. Securing the property of owners through the allocation of the highest paid and most influential posts in management cannot be patched up by any tax, even by the state which cannot get hold of inherited estates. The post-modern feudal lords have to accept a state constitution that promises something different than the given conditions. This must be patched up through propaganda, corruption, distraction and the demonization of all conceivable alternatives by the most aggressive rabble-rousers with the socialism whip. The term “capitalism” is successfully transfigured to the monstrosity of Stalinist mass murderers.
The dualism of the Cold War, capitalism vs. socialism, is a silly idea that even in those times was only fit for propaganda. Today this club is brandished with incredible brutality to have an effect. If all means are right, this is also right.
I always strive to develop ideas that do justice to the concrete situation and therefore do not speak of “socialism.” If there are no other alternatives to the march t6o the dictgatorship of the capitalist clan, it is high time for socialism. It could be the last chance for democracy.
The cat is out of the bag. In management, there is no democracy, nothing that has anything in common with the original model… Is oligarchy a degeneration of the democratic state?
GLOBAL CHANGE – A POSSIBLE WORLD IS DIFFERENT!
Occupy calls to worldwide demonstrations
[This call to demonstrations published 1/2/2012 is translated from the German on the Internet.]
On January 15, 2012, we will take to the streets worldwide because we call for a fundamental change of the political, economic and social system.
The grave problems and injustice in the economy, environment and social coexistence are global symptoms of a social system that does not function any more and of the continual dismantling of democracy, of a non-cooperative monetary system and unjust property relations. In addition, there are many other problems.
The system is not in crisis; the crisis is the system!
Only together will we be able to develop a just and solidarian coexistence. Therefore we call for a genuine democracy, decentralized and base democratic structures in which everyone has a voice and is heard.
The competitive principle drummed into us from childhood ensures ruthless rivalry and hinders us from working together on dignified living conditions for everyone.
We are many and very different persons from all social strata and age groups. We do not feel represented any more by elected politicians and see massive democratic deficiencies in today’s system of parties and representatives. Political decision-making processes become increasingly non-transparent and increasingly prone to influencing by lobby organizations which evade democratic control and legitimation more and more. In addition, this system leads to a competition-oriented division of our society. We want everyone to have a voice and be heard. We want direct participation of everyone; we want genuine democracy!
Only a minority always profits from wars. Countless persons pay with their body and life. Whole regions are destroyed and made uninhabitable and resources plundered. All this happens day after day in this world, even in the name of “our democracy” and supported by “our government.” German weapons firms supply conflicting parties and earn in the suffering of others. We say end all wars and stop all war preparations!
A BENUINE CHANGE
For us, the economic and financial system must be completely reorganized. This reorganization implies the dissolution of private banks operating internationally, the socialization of big global concerns and the just distribution of existing assets. There is enough for everyone! No one needs to suffer hunger and live in bitter poverty. All this is the result of unjust distribution.
We should rethink the idea of money. We need just and functioning financial-, economic- and monetary systems that in a non-cyclical way lead to new crises, heavy debts and concentrations of assets. We say: end the profit- and growth mania and stop the degradation of people to “human capital”! Put an end to the uncontrolled exploitation of animals and the environment! Cooperation instead of competitive thinking! A possible world is different! How? To decide, everyone must meet and discuss alternative solutions.
FREEDOM AND HUMAN RIGHTS
We call for the absolute observance of human rights worldwide.
Everything is in vain without freedom. We demand an end to state supervision of private areas of life: stop building ever-new monitoring tools. We demand the unconditional right of assembly and an unrestricted freedom of speech and freedom of the press worldwide!
Occupy! Together one is not alone!
Vote Rocky Anderson and the Justice Party!
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