August 29, 2011
The current crisis almost brought us to a dead end – certainly more evident in the US and Europe than perhaps in the other continents. But nevertheless the situation is frightening.
Europe seems to be crumbling; the sovereign debt crisis threatened the whole European project. In Spain, in Britain and elsewhere the youth no longer accept promises for a better future; they are asking jobs for their decent life now. Older people are facing enormous difficulties to live with their pensions. And more and more unemployed have no chance to get back into jobs. Even in Germany where unemployment is fortunately declining, nearly one million people are jobless for years and years and are supported by a social welfare system which is in danger. In other countries, far right movements are growing quickly like in France or in Eastern Europe and individuals such as the Anders Behring Breivik, the perpetrator of the horrible murders in Norway, are challenging and threatening European democracies.
In Europe’s southern neighbourhood, in the Arab world, dictatorship is fortunately now being dismissed but we do not know what is coming next. In Asia we are also seeing the growth of movements such as with Anna Hazare‘s campaign against corruption in India. Chinese human rights violations are continuing. An estimated 500,000 people are currently enduring punitive detention without charge or trial. House arrest and imprisonment of human rights defenders are on the rise, and censorship of the internet and other media has grown. However, Chinese human rights activists are becoming ever more outspoken.
The US is more occupied with internal political fights which are becoming ever more unmanageable. This summer the small but influential Tea Party movement challenged the whole system of international finance and global governance! In the next year President Obama has to focus on his re-election, so will have less time to dedicate to tackling global issues and problems. And we are facing similar problems in Latin America and especially in Chile. Hence the global crisis is evident.
We have to recognize that the current model of globalization driven by neo-liberal rules undermined the foundations of our world order with severe consequences for regional and national economies. The erosion of our welfare systems, the problems of youth (un)employment, the challenges of aging societies and definitely the long term impact of climate change need answers. But we don’t need simple answers in doing little measures or small reforms. We really need to face the problems in a progressive way. We have to develop sustainable alternatives to the liberal model.
Firstly on the global level: We must build a new international architecture able to guarantee a fair globalization, while reducing inequalities and ensuring a sustainable development. We must recognize that such an outcome cannot be achieved through the sole action of single states. We must recognize that the challenge of a global world lies in the ability to govern processes at a supranational level. We must recognize that politics and democratic institutions must orientate and regulate the economy, because this is the only way in which capitalist development can be reconciled with the principles of democracy and social justice.
Secondly on trade: “Fair trade” has become something of a buzz phrase, a logo and a brand. This threatens to rob it of its meaning. Trade must be to the benefit of all, and not only the rich countries of the world. This is the fundamental question of global governance and if we do not address the injustices in our trade system, we show dishonesty in our concern for the poor. This will require reform in the global trade architecture to offset the vulnerabilities of the developing world.
Thirdly on the three basics progressive values: Jobs, Solidarity and Education: A job has always been perceived as an occupation that someone should hold in order to sustain oneself and one’s family financially. The cruel reality is that work is the question of economic survival. The promises made by politicians to create employment are hard to believe by the people. Even progressives have seen unemployment not as a group or society matter but as an individual problem. This fosters disappointment in politics, breeds emotions of resignation, resentment and withdrawal.
We have to do the utmost to assure the right to a good job for everybody. I am aware that this is visionary but we also need vision in order to fulfil our commitments, one of which is “a good job”. This means in the traditional social democratic sense of a decent standard in income, an assured social security and the ability to be trained for new challenges. Here comes also in the notion of Solidarity. And it should not be neglected that investing in human capital is something which benefits the individual through higher wages and capabilities and the society through a higher level of productivity and welfare provisions. People have to be more and more empowered through programs of education and professional training in order to be prepared for the new challenges in their work.
But the great contradiction of economic life nowadays is still that financial markets are inherently globalised, while regulation is still predominantly national and regional. This has allowed actors in financial markets to take extreme risks and the consequences of this anomaly have been truly catastrophic as we all know.
If regulation is to work, it must be genuinely international. Any effort to improve international financial regulation must be based upon the will to build an ethical and comprehensive institutional framework. We must develop an alternative based on the values of social justice and the pursuit of global public goods.Author : Ernst Stetter