Economy and social affairs

Globalization of immorality

(Published in Gralswelt 33/2004)

“We are not going to create a new world
before we have created new people. "
Henry Miller (1891-1980)

Politicians never tire of assuring that the globalization of the world is an unstoppable, irreversible process that no one can stop or only delay. As if there were some human view, conviction, ideology, rule, measure that couldn't be otherwise. Often enough, apparently unstoppable developments - as we knew afterwards - could very well have turned out very differently. One could simply have decided differently.

The creation of large and largest economic areas is also a chosen utopian concept for the construction of a “better world”. So far, all such approaches - whether religious, philosophical, political, economic, ideological - have either failed or lagged far behind the benefits promised.

Political fairy tales are even invented to justify necessary steps on the favored path to globalization, such as the assertion that wars are no longer possible within an economic union or a single currency area - like the euro countries.

Fortunately, nobody needs to reckon with a war between, for example, France and Germany; but not for the reason that the same currency is used in both countries. Because such a claim is unhistorical: The ugly civil war in Yugoslavia broke out in a people who - apart from the religions - belonged to the same culture for centuries, spoke the same language and had a single currency. The rebellions of Northern Irish, Kurds, Chechens or Palestinians are not slowed down by the fact that they live in the same currency area as their real or imagined oppressors. And the American Civil War broke out even though the northern and southern states had the dollar.

The assertion that in the course of globalization every single citizen will be better off than without it, has yet to be confirmed. Perhaps the sometimes ruinous international competition will lead to cheaper prices. But cheaper products only improve the quality of life if unemployment does not rise dramatically at the same time and global competition does not take place at the expense of the environment. It remains to be seen who the globalization winners will be. For the time being, the free movement of money is helping currency speculators and the mafia in particular, while free world trade is helping large, internationally active corporations and drug trafficking in particular. One should not expect too much altruism, community spirit, social responsibility from these groups.

The nation states, on the other hand, are gradually being deprived of power, and the possibilities of individual governments, for example with regard to job creation, are increasingly narrowed. The transfer of important decisions to supranational institutions that are not democratically legitimized also has little to do with the much-invoked democracy.
But this work is less interested in the political side of globalization than in the ethical one.

The 20th century, the century of the great wars, brought the overcoming of the nation-state idea as a positive result. Domestically, nation states were - at least on paper - constitutional states; In foreign policy, international law was theoretically applicable, in practice the law of the thumb prevailed.

After the Second World War, a paradigm shift *) set in. The nation-state thinking, combined with imperialism, colonialism, nationalism and racism, had run down. At least the European states recognized that from now on international organizations such as the EU, OECD and UN **) must secure world peace with transnational thinking.

In order to create the essential ethical basis for cooperation, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed a group of twenty “eminent persons”. They should prepare a report on the dialogue of cultures on a new paradigm of international relations. This manifesto was presented on November 9, 2001 and was titled “Crossing the Divide” (2). The new political worldview is to replace power and prestige politics with understanding, rapprochement and reconciliation.

At the end of the 20th century one could be confident: the Cold War was over, the Third World War had not taken place, the confrontation between the great powers gave way to cooperation.

But then the 21st century began - almost simultaneously with the submission of the aforementioned UN Manifesto of Hope - on September 11, 2001 with a devastating false start. After a hitherto unimaginable outburst of hatred by people's religious fanaticism, one had to rethink many things that had hitherto been taken for granted. Hopefully this will not result in a permanent setback for the implementation of a humane world domestic policy.

As beautiful and important as the hopefully successful international domestic policy of the UN to maintain peace is, it still needs an addition: business ethics.

The economy often oscillates between extremes: freedom and coercion, boom and crash.

After long centuries in which little thought was given about economic interrelationships, and the main task of economics was to provide the Princely House with the funds it needed for its (often wasteful) goals, in the course of the Enlightenment scientists also developed more serious economic theories.

From the classical economy of the 18th century the idea of free trade arose, the idea of unhindered competition, which was propagated in the 19th century mainly by England and the USA and received massive political support - up to the Opium War ***) .

However, the liberal economy was unable to deliver the promised blessings. Instead of a steady development, it oscillated between boom and crash, full employment and ruin. The wealth gap between rich and poor grew and the dependency of the dispossessed increased. Wars were fueled rather than prevented by the liberal economy.

The Great Depression of 1929 then brought liberalism into disrepute, and the state-controlled economy gained momentum: in various varieties, from Bolshevik state capitalism to the controlled economy of nationalist states to Roosevelt's "New Deal" ****).

After the Second World War, two political, but also two economic systems faced each other: “Freedom or Socialism”.

In many countries of the world socialism was the hope of the poor; the West could only win if it added a social component to the idea of an unlimited liberal economy: in other words, a “social market economy” as it became a model for a prosperous economy in the Federal Republic, under the motto “prosperity for all”. The economy had many freedoms; but the state set its limits (competition law, cartel formation, merger control, etc.) and looked after the common good (unemployment, pension and health insurance, social security, free trade unions, etc.).

Then the communist bloc collapsed and the free economy had apparently triumphed. Economists and politicians alike propagated it as the only correct system, as a role model for the world. Who wants to know that both systems - capitalism and socialism - are based on the same thought patterns: materialism. (See. "Intelligence ticks left")

The task now was to free the market economy from all the fetters that social legislation had put on it during the Cold War, to introduce global competition, and to give entrepreneurship a completely free hand. Then poverty would disappear and everyone would live better, better and better.

After the unprepossessing downfall of Bolshevism, the western economy felt itself to be the undisputed winner in the competition of ideologies. No other economy could compete with the "free market economy". It was time to implement this form of economy worldwide: under the heading of “globalization”.

However, this globalization is the result of a compulsion: The so-called "free economy" is strictly speaking extremely unfree, because it is under unbearable pressure: The compulsion to grow! And that to material growth.

Continuous economic growth is considered indispensable, regardless of the fact that such growth is permanently impossible on a limited planet with finite resources! (Cf. "The dilemma with interest rates", under “Economy and Social Affairs”).

In the rich countries the demand is saturated and further growth to the desired extent can no longer be expected; so you have to "go out into the world". What began with colonialism - securing raw material sources and sales markets overseas - is to continue globalization. The whole world becomes the playing field for large corporations, which can thus maintain the senseless and permanently unsustainable, continuous growth of the economy for decades until resource consumption, population growth, environmental pollution and environmental destruction lead to catastrophe: After us, the flood!

But apparently only pessimists (like me) think of environmental protection and resource conservation, who stand in the way of progress with their "backward-looking dungarees philosophy". An economist committed to progress, on the other hand, has to pay homage to the growth mania and know that there are 1.2 billion people in China, for example, who need at least 500 million automobiles (in Germany there are 40 million ). What a market to develop! And immediately before the others come! He'd better not ask whether the environment can still bear such additional burdens.

Large international corporations have long been producing where it is cheapest to produce; choose their company headquarters where the lowest taxes are incurred and, with the help of top experts, know how to outsmart government regulations; mostly legal but not always ethically indisputable. Because the "tough" competition, which is ruinous for the weak, allegedly forces brutal measures that sometimes seem like a relapse into colonialism or even like a modern form of slavery. Believing Christians should recognize in this the expression of a Luciferic principle.

This globalization of immorality also includes the rigorous use of the earth's resources. It is not uncommon for economically weak countries with valuable resources to be forced into the role of mercilessly exploited raw material suppliers. The fact that the so-called “elites” of the underdeveloped countries are no less to blame for this plundering of the poor than the financially strong buyers in the industrialized countries is no excuse for their unethical behavior.

Therefore, internationally enforceable standards of business ethics are urgently needed before absolute competition drives the workers largely into poverty (especially the less qualified) and so many companies have to give up that only financially strong cartels remain, which divide the market among themselves. and with their standard products destroy the cultural diversity that has grown over the millennia.

A totally globalized economy will also be prone to crises. As can be observed in nature, the more diverse they are, the more stable the biotopes, while monocultures become unstable. Likewise, many smaller economic areas can generally cope with recessions or natural disasters better than a totally networked hypereconomy.

Christian ethics - of which people in the West like to speak without applying them - will hardly be able to be implemented worldwide. But beyond the different cultures and different religions, it must be possible to find a way to reach agreement on minimum standards.

All high religions have an image of man that forbids overreaching and oppression of fellow human beings, and protects cultural assets. Whoever takes the human rights declaration of the UN seriously should accept some cornerstones for business ethics: Prohibition of commercial child labor, limitation of daily or weekly working hours, wages that (according to local conditions) allow an adequate living, health and pension insurance, rules for occupational health and safety. Should it not be possible to enforce humane minimum requirements in a world that has greater technical, economic and political possibilities than ever before, the question of the good will of the decision-makers will have to be asked.

At present, standards (if any exist at all) in different regions of the world are far apart, and not infrequently old egoisms obstruct the way to an ethical world economic order. But this path must be found if our earth is not to face a time of labor struggles, refugee crises, hunger revolts, uprisings, civil wars and terrorist attacks, as consequences of intolerable social imbalances.*****)

*) Paradigm = (scientific) worldview
**) EU = European Union, OECD = Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, UN = United Nations
***) Opium War = cf. "China II China and the West", under "History".
****) New Deal = the program of the 32nd President of the USA to stimulate the crisis-ridden US economy through various government measures.
*****) In a somewhat simplified way, one can say that the 80 % of the people who live in poorer countries have around 20 % of the products available; while the 20 % of the people living in rich countries dispose of 80 % of the wealth generated. A person in the industrialized countries has on average 16 times the income of a person in the developing countries. Despite development aid, this imbalance has steadily increased over the past decades.

(1) Brinkmann, Carl: “Economic and Social History”, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 1953.
(2) “Bridges to the Future”, Manifesto for the United Nations, Fischer, Frankfurt 2001.
(3) Chossudovski, Michael: "Global brutal", Zweiausendeins, Frankfurt, 2002.
(4) Fischer, Wolfram: "Expansion - Integration - Globalization", Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 1998.