Miscellaneous gleanings on the flight back from Washington: Financial Times writer Paul Kennedy describes the shape of "our new post-excess neocapitalist political economy." According to Kennedy, we will experience "a higher-than-welcome degree of government interference in 'the market,' somewhat larger taxes …it will be a system where the animal spirits of the market will be closely watched (and tamed) by a variety of national and international zookeepers." The official mouthpiece of the City of London at least has some consolation at hand for its frightened readers: that "capitalism, in modified form, will not disappear. Like democracy, it has serious flaws – but, just as one finds faults with democracy, the critics of capitalism will discover that all other systems are worse." Another editorial on the subject calls for a global policy to rescue global capitalism, asserting that globalization requires more coherent international regulation.
Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post is discovering the "German model" of "better capitalism": here industry still dominates the financial sector, and "long-term performance" trumps the pursuit of short-term profit. Employee representation on boards of directors ensures balanced company policy that evenly divides profits, provides generous social security, and yet (or perhaps because of this) German corporations are markedly competitive on the world market. Scandinavia serves as a second model of reference, with a well-developed service sector where well-trained workers earn good money. Even if the picture of Germany's "stakeholder capitalism" looks excessively rosy, it is noteworthy that the standard by which we measure economic systems' future sustainability has been turned inside out.
If we add to this the green wave that is currently sweeping the United States (improvements to renewable energies and the promotion of environmentally friendly technologies on a large scale), it paints a clear picture of paradigm change. We are in the middle of a transformation crisis for capitalism. This issue of Böll.Thema sheds light on how we can set the course for the future.
There is a centrist idea of a Green New Deal that is being discussed worldwide as a response to the dual economic and environmental crises. As different as these two concepts may be, they share a common core: both first require a great leap toward a sustainable economy. Steps include improvements to public transportation, environmental retrofitting to buildings, and broad advancements in renewable energies and environmentally friendly technologies. Second, there is a need for more equality of opportunity and social inclusion, achieved foremost through huge investments in education and vocational training. Finally, we must embed global capitalism into a global regulatory framework and prevent a return to protectionism and nationalism.
The monstrous sums that governments are now mobilizing to give the economy a boost must be used to lay the foundation for a sustainable economic and social model. If we let this historic opportunity pass us by, successive generations will inherit not just horrendous national debts but also an enormous pile of unsolved problems. This appeal is not just directed to governments and parliaments. We need a great social awakening if we wish to use this crisis to reform capitalism and improve the world.
By Ralf Fücks, Co-President of the Heinrich Böll Foundation