Economy and social affairs

The start of the 21st century

(Published in GralsWelt 41/2006)

An attempt at an opening balance for the third millennium.

“In the approaching era, struggles between cultures are the greatest threat to world peace, and a culture-based international order is the surest protection against a world war. The future of peace and civilization depends on the leaders and intellectuals of the great world cultures understanding and cooperating with one another. In the clash of civilizations, Europe and America will have to march together or they will be defeated separately. In the larger struggle, the global 'real struggle' between civilization and barbarism, it is the great world cultures with their great achievements in the field of religion, art and literature, philosophy, science and technology, morality and compassion that also unite have to march, otherwise they too will be beaten separately. "
Samuel Huntington (8, p. 531).

The start of the 21st century was a false start: An act of terrorism that was believed to be impossible rocked the United States and the entire civilized world on September 11, 2001; it gave rise to two wars in regions far from the United States (Afghanistan and Iraq), and pacification is not yet in sight.

Not only the USA, the entire West has felt threatened by fanatical Islamists since September 11th. Does history repeat itself, and the new century starts - like the two previous ones - with enmity and war? Is there a threat of Islamic infiltration (3, p. 57 f.) And a “clash of civilizations”? (8th).

Two centuries of war

The 19th century began with cruel wars that affected all of Europe - from Spain to Russia, from Italy to Denmark - and, strictly speaking, were already world wars, as there were also fights in the Pacific, the Caribbean and South Africa.

Then a more peaceful zeitgeist followed and there were approaches to humanity: wars - still a “legitimate means after the failure of politics” - should be waged “fairer” and the civilian population, which had suffered terribly during the Napoleonic wars, should be spared.
The Red Cross (1863), Geneva Convention (1864), Hague Land Warfare Regulations (1899) and other international treaties gave hope for the future.

The hateful enemy of the revolutionary era was also overcome. Inhuman enemies became respected opponents. Examples of this are the way the French winners deal with the (freedom fighter or terrorist?) Abd el Kader (see “Freedom Fighters, Muslims, People” in “Short, concise, curious” page 442), and his personal involvement in a pogrom in Damascus against Christians for their salvation.

Or the address of Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia to his soldiers at the beginning of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870:

“Soldiers of the Second Army! You are walking on French soil. The Emperor Napoleon declared war on Germany for no good reason. The French people have not been asked ... There is no reason for hostility. Be mindful of the peaceful citizens of France, show them that in our century two civilized peoples, even at war, do not violate the boundaries of humanity. " (9, p. 118).

When compared with the war propaganda of the 20th (and 21st) centuries, one tends to believe that European culture had a moral (not scientific-technical) climax in the second half of the 19th century.

At that time the first “modern war” was raging in America, which was hardly noticed in Europe. In the American Civil War (1861 - 1865) General William Sherman (1820 - 1891) marched through the southern states with sixty thousand soldiers:

"Every city and station was razed, looted, burned down and every good and the entire harvest within a hundred kilometers was destroyed." (2, p. 218).

Overall, optimism prevailed at the end of the 19th century: science and technology had made unimagined progress, and it seemed a matter of time before hunger, disease and poverty would disappear worldwide ...

Then in the 20th century a pattern seemed to repeat itself. Its first half brought the greatest and most terrible of all wars. Weapons with previously unknown ranges and potential for destruction blurred the distinction between combatants and civilians as early as the First World War. The war propaganda labeled the enemy an inferior enemy and made an honorable peace agreement impossible.

Since the Second World War, all parties have felt entitled to massacre soldiers and civilians without discrimination. Cities - with or without military importance - were bombed, and the "principle of the scorched earth" - already used against Napoleon I - became regular weaponry.

After the devastation of World War II, there followed a longer period without major wars. The United Nations gained influence, and the economic ties between many states, for example in the European Union, defused old conflicts.

Above all, the development of weapons with the atom bomb had reached a level that made the downfall of both sides probable in a conflict between great powers.

Unfortunately, there was no lack of smaller, often extremely cruel wars, which mostly took place so far away from the metropolitan areas of Europe and North America that they were not perceived in their full drama.

At the end of the story?

If one understands by history less the listing of mostly catastrophic events, but tries to find a kind of evolution in it, one can postulate that social evolution also strives towards a climax or even an end point.

Georg Wilhelm Hegel and Karl Marx expected in the 19th century that the development of human society would end when the ideal form of society was realized that best met people's needs and longings: For the philosopher Hegel (1770 - 1831) was this was the liberal state, for the communist Marx (1818 - 1883) it was communist society.

Francis Fukuyama (4) then advocated the thesis towards the end of the 20th century that this “end of history” had almost been reached, since liberal democracy was now recognized worldwide as the only correct form of government. This "final human form of government", although still fraught with inadequacies, would prevail worldwide; it would overcome its weaknesses, move closer and closer to the ideal, and make more primitive forms of rule such as monarchy, theocracy (priestly rule) or military dictatorship disappear as relics from a bygone era.

The story would not end there: People will continue to live, act, strive, invent, improve society, the state and the environment. But the ideal type of government seems to have been found, and its successes would be so convincing that no one, no people, no state could stop its triumphant advance that would lead to the best possible living conditions for all people.

With this opinion, Fukuyama is fully in line with the trend of public opinion in the West. This expects from democracies, supported by further scientific and technical progress, the solutions for (almost) all problems.

The Americans in particular cannot understand that other peoples have not long since opted for democracy based on the American model, which should give them a standard of living like the one in the USA. This is evident from the words of Thomas Donelly, for example:

“We consider our values to be universal. And Americans have had great success in history exporting their values. " (14, p. 5).

In the first decade of the 21st century

Before liberal democracy can take the hoped-for triumphant advance in the 21st century, there are still a few difficulties to be overcome that we must consider:

* The limited earth:
The finiteness of our planet has been a catchphrase for decades that politicians apparently no longer want to hear. As irrefutable as the fact may be that our living space and its resources are limited, this knowledge is often irrelevant for economic and political decisions. Facts can only seemingly be discussed away, and the global problems can only be solved if this fact is taken into account in practice.

* Economic growth:
In the Grail World it was pointed out several times that continuous material growth is not possible in a limited space. But almost all governments - in rich and poor countries alike - do not want to know anything about this natural law and hope that the production figures will continue to rise. However, environmental pollution, overexploitation and available resources will set limits to material growth that cannot be pushed as far as desired by technical progress. The path from today's growth economy to an "ecological balancing economy", which hardly anyone is looking for at the moment, must be taken soon.

* Energy transition:
In the 21st century, oil and gas reserves are likely to run out or run out. The energy supply, as the basis for prosperity, must be reorganized with other energy sources (renewable energies, e.g. solar energy). In principle, the necessary technologies are available. However, this inevitable changeover will require time and capital, affect all branches of the economy and influence politics.

* Population increase:
The world population continues to grow for the time being, and the increasing population density is exacerbating many difficulties that are already seemingly insoluble. The limits of the carrying capacity of our planet are the subject of controversy, and optimists set the tone among the public who claim that our earth can also support 15, 20 or more billion people. In the Grail World we have under the heading “A New Science” (cf. “How many people can the earth take”Under“ Ecology ”) we speak of pherology and its unpopular approaches to scientifically sounding out the carrying capacity of ecosystems.

* Conservation of habitats:
There is a lot of talk about ecology, and there is widespread agreement that environmental protection is essential to ensure the permanent habitability of our planet. However, the consensus is immediately called into question when it comes to the implementation of practical measures: preservation of biodiversity through sufficiently large natural regions, preservation of forests, climate protection, environmentally friendly waste disposal, careful use of resources (e.g. no overfishing), etc. The nation states speak of the necessary measures, but when joint action is required, one can at best agree on the lowest common denominator. As long as the population continues to grow and unlimited economic growth is considered indispensable, ecological necessities are hardly politically enforceable.

* National debt:
Democrats and authoritarian rulers seem to agree on one point: Both fail to present a balanced state budget and instead pile up debt upon debt. Leading this irresponsible deficit policy is the US government, which currently needs $ 1 million in credit every minute to finance government-sponsored waste and swallows around 70 % of the world's savings. Many consumers are imitating the government, for example in the USA, where the typical consumer with an annual salary is in the chalk.
Will this debt ever be repaid? Or will currency crises that previously swept away democracies and sparked wars remain inevitable? (6).

* North-South gradient:
The gap between poor and rich countries has widened in the 20th century; development aid was also often unsuccessful. Currently, the OECD countries and the tiger states, which represent 20 % of the population, claim 80 % of the earth's goods. (12, p. 13). How long will the vast majority of the disadvantaged tolerate this?

* Globalization:
The world as one big market may be in the interests of corporations. They are happy about the unhindered movement of capital, unlimited market access, free choice of location that allows production where the lowest costs are incurred. Capital, technical and scientific knowledge, and highly qualified work are extremely mobile and can be transferred anywhere. With the economization of the world, global corporations become independent of state measures. B. Monetary, tax or customs policies, as well as union efforts that come to nothing. There is a risk that “turbo-capitalism” will dominate, with inhuman striving for profit “at any price” instead of a social market economy with the aim that everyone should be better off. The moral concepts of religion will hardly be able to curb such excesses, since they have lost a lot of respect, at least in the West. There is hope that a “world ethic” will prevail, inspired by the Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan, in which all nations undertake to act responsibly for the benefit of all on the basis of a common ethical code.
Everyone experiences the effects of globalization. As a consumer, he may enjoy the Internet, long-distance travel and products from all over the world at low prices (as long as cartels do not dominate the market); As an entrepreneur or employee, he feels international competitive pressure and may have to fear for the continued existence of his company or his job, which could migrate to low-wage countries.

* Drugs:
Alcoholism and drugs endanger social development in many regions. In some countries, such as Afghanistan, drug production is one of the most important branches of the economy, which for the time being can only be effectively countered by the buyers. In the consumer countries, those responsible act helplessly. Her attempts to reduce drug use through education, bans, and rehabilitation were just as ineffective as Gorbachev's campaign against alcohol abuse in Russia, which instead contributed to his overthrow. The beneficiary of these human-destructive conditions is an organized crime that makes billions in profits from drug trafficking.

* Corruption:
Corruption is also on the rise in Western societies. In eastern and southern countries it is a common social custom, some of which has been established for centuries. The damage caused by bribery of state institutions slows down general economic development and can reach dangerous levels. So far there has hardly been a democracy without corruption; it is to be hoped that it does not reach proportions that endanger democracy.

* Counterforces to Westernization:
We see in the globalization of the economy at the same time the spread of western values, which should bring development and progress to all countries, e. B. through democracy and civil liberties. But not all nations want to adopt the western way of life. In many countries, the existence of global structures (e.g. the Internet) and modern technology are not synonymous with conformity with Western cultural values. Many peoples fall back on ancient traditions, traditional religions and premodern cultures; even tribal religions believed to have disappeared, such as Woodoo (cf. "A new major religion"Under" History of religion ") belong to it.
Anti-Western emotions are to be expected if the view of some politicians should prevail that globalization should be introduced by force:

“For globalization to work, the United States must not hesitate to act as the invincible world superpower that it is. The invisible hand of the market does not work without the visible fist. McDonalds cannot prosper without McDonnal-Douglas, the manufacturer of the F-15 fighter planes. The visible fist secures the victory of technology products from Silicon Valley all over the world. That fist is the United States Land Forces, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. " (Thomas Friedman, former assistant to Secretary of State Madelaine Albright) (16).

* Limitation of Freedom:
Even in western democracies, self-evident fundamental rights, such as the right to freedom of expression, are now being undermined. Strong public pressure threatens anyone who does "Political correctnes" deviates, and even in states whose democratic rule of law no one wants to question, laws have emerged that threaten the expression of opinion with punishment. (3, p. 29 f.).
Even the indoctrinability of the masses, already denounced by Korad Lorenz (10, pp. 84 f.), Has by no means been overcome with the overthrow of authoritarian regimes. Just as business does not want critical consumers, political propaganda cannot want independent voters. In the media, only the “politically correct” line is often represented (cf. “His Imperial Majesty the Man-Eater” in “Short, concise, curious” page 274). Few dare to use the freedom of information - which is only theoretically available in many countries - and to spread all the facts (not to say the whole truth). But democracy lives from and with freedom, and freedom requires courage. When courage to truth is punished, when the ability to expose lies is hindered, democracy begins to fail.

* The end of the nation states?
If you believe the published opinion, then in the course of globalization the time of nation states is over, the future belongs to large associations such as the EU, NAFTA or ASEAN. However, the development in the 20th century was in the opposite direction:
Number of states in the world: 1900 (colonial age): 46; 1950: 80; 1999: 193 (1).
The larger state units showed a tendency to break up, as is clear from the example of the collapse of the Soviet Union or Yugoslavia. The numerous wars in Africa are partly due to the lack of will to adapt the national borders arbitrarily drawn by Europeans during the colonial period to the needs of the African population.

* Shift in global political weight:
In the course of the 21st century, two new powers are likely to have a say: China and India. Both have a population of over 1 billion, have nuclear weapons and are eager to join the economic development of the West. For the time being, neither of the two nations is an economic heavyweight; In terms of arithmetic, China, for example, had roughly the gross national product of Belgium around 1990. But such number games do not express the actual weight of these states, whose economic power in our century could approach that of the USA, or even surpass it. Such drastic shifts in economic, political and military weights have led to armed conflicts in the past.
As uncomfortable as the “whites” (Europeans and North Americans) may be, their dominant role in world politics will come to an end in the course of the 21st century; because less than 10 % of the earth's population (currently well below 20 %, at the beginning of the 20th century 25 %) will not be able to control the rest of humanity.

The world in the 21st century
If it is not possible to get the described problem under control, then - despite all the assurances of the politicians - the developments will get out of hand and result in confrontations between states, ethnic groups and religions, which hopefully will not degenerate into terror and war. The economic situation of people who feel disadvantaged is also often the cause of outbreaks of violence. E.g. thrives "In the swamp of hopeless despair, social misery, Islamic fundamentalism." (13, p. 152).
We must also not - like some politicians - assume that the fundamental rights enshrined in the UN Charter are already a matter of course in human thought. As before, there are very contradicting beliefs. On the one hand, the demands that are based on the philosophy of the Enlightenment (less on Christianity, even if “basic Christian values” are often spoken of). On the other hand, ingrained religious dogmas:
* Secular nation-state or divine order.
* Individual human rights or religious duty.
* In Europe, Islamic immigrants have to choose between integration or the formation of their own ethnic-religious communities. (7, p. 144).
In order to defuse these tensions, it is essential to deal with the concept of freedom. Some peoples may not understand freedom as a democratic order, but rather the freedom to live their values - religious, traditional, political, ethical; maybe also those values for which one finds little understanding in the West, or which would be unconstitutional in our country. Here the problem arises that “the freedom of one can lead to the suppression of the freedom of the other”.
The cultures of the world have been shaped by religions for centuries. Religious beliefs go deeper than anything, and the influence of religious teachings cannot be ignored with impunity. This is shown by experiences of the 20th century, from which we must learn:

“According to one count, there were 32 ethnic conflicts during the Cold War, including fault line wars between Arabs and Israelis, Indians and Pakistanis, Muslims and Christians in Sudan, Buddhists and Tamils in Sri Lanka, Shiites and Maronites in Lebanon. Around half of all civil wars of the 1940s and 1950s, but around three quarters of all civil wars in the following decades, were 'identity wars', that is, wars that were fought over cultural identity. " (8, p. 415).

The coexistence of Muslims and members of other religions seems problematic:

“Islam is an absolutist religion even more than Christianity. He merges religion and politics and draws a clear line between the people of Dar al-islam and those of Dar al-harb. As a result, Confucians, Buddhists, Hindu, Western Christians, and Orthodox Christians have less difficulty adjusting to and living with one another than they have difficulty adjusting to and living with Muslims. " (8, p. 431).

Both Christianity and Islam are denominations with universal claims. Historically, Islam is the only culture that seriously jeopardized the survival of the West on two occasions: Between the 7th and 9th centuries, the Moors penetrated the Mediterranean and conquered the Iberian Peninsula and Sicily. It was only with difficulty that they could be stopped in France in 732. From the 12th century onwards, the Turks destroyed Byzantium, threatened Central Europe, and besieged Vienna twice (1529 and 1683). The confrontations between the Christian West and the Islamic East were about power and values from the start; about the conflict between two worldviews, the differences of which we must be aware of. So we cannot avoid clarifying whether Islam can be brought into conformity with Western constitutions, that is - in the politically incorrect plain language - whether the integration of strict Muslims into Western forms of government is possible.
Christian churches suffered a difficult development process that lasted for centuries until they gradually had to renounce their universal claim, stop the fight against modernity, tolerate other religions and accept the separation of church and state. Non-European religions such as Islam are only at the beginning of a corresponding development, for which they will hopefully need less time than Christians.

Hope for the future

The list of tasks that humanity has to master in the 21st century is long. But the options available are also greater than ever before:
* Science and technology have expanded the scope for action in a way that was by no means to be expected at the beginning of the 20th century, despite all the technical optimism.
* Health care and quality of life (food, clothing, shelter, security, pension, etc.) have reached levels in industrialized countries that have never been seen before for the masses. The gap with developing countries should narrow in the 21st century.
* A free market economy does not necessarily have to lead to the exploitation of workers, but can increase the prosperity of all. This is one of Adam Smith's legacies. (cf. “Brief, terse, curious” page 196 “A book changes the world”). The father of the market economy was not an advocate of unlimited freedom that would allow the pursuit of profit of individuals or groups to be placed above humanity. Jean Ziegler denounces such excesses of our time:

“The murderous order of the world must be overturned. “A horde of wild stock market traders, speculators and financial bandits has built a world of inequality and horror. We have to put an end to them. " (13, p. 134).

* The environmental problem has been recognized and the first, often hesitant, measures have been initiated. Soon no government will be able to apologize for failures in this area; z. B. with the argument that it has not yet been sufficiently scientifically proven that ..
* Wars are outlawed worldwide and the pressure on those responsible is growing to find peaceful solutions in any case. The influence of the United Nations on world politics is likely to increase. A peace policy that emanates from there must increasingly prevail and put group egoisms of all adversaries in their place.
* The hard facts will force politicians to learn from the painful experiences of past centuries to give the well-being of the people priority over party-tactical games and power poker. In the EU we have succeeded - albeit sometimes only at the last moment - in avoiding the greatest nonsense, at least finding the lowest common denominator, and thus making progress in small steps. That also gives hope for world politics.
* An awareness of interdependence is growing in the globalized world. Nation-state and private-sector egoism will become less and less enforceable and will have to give way to mutual consideration, which is not least anchored in the ethics of all world religions: the “golden rule” could find worldwide recognition as a common component of the religion and philosophy of all peoples.
* The world religions must finally begin to discover what they have in common. No religion stands alone, none is in the sole possession of the truth, none is free from error, all also contain older teachings, and the core statements of the high religions are more similar than is admitted by their priests. For example, Christians and Buddhists should be able to agree: Christians should accept the doctrine of reincarnation and renounce the Pauline teaching that sins can only be forgiven through the blood shed on the cross. Recognition of the Sermon on the Mount should not be a problem for Buddhists. The dialogue with Islam, which has to turn away from hate preachers who (allegedly in accordance with the Koran) defame Western culture and values and declare “holy war”, could become more difficult. Presumably they fear for their influence if Western thinking finds its way into the Orient.
* In the past almost every generation was convinced that they were living at the (temporary) climax of a long development. The people of the 21st century have the opportunity to tackle global challenges with deeper scientific insights, greater technical possibilities and more in-depth political experience than all generations before them.
That is why one can expect more from the 21st century than an accumulation of global problems: it can become the century of hope, at the end of which the earth will be a more peaceful and friendlier place, where one can live better than ever before in history.

Monetarism or Human Rights?
From the point of view of Jean Ziegler, two development models are in conflict, both of which work on behalf of the UN:
“Today, two development models are diametrically opposed: that of the 'Consensus of Washington' and that of economic, social and cultural human rights. The Washington Consensus is a series of informal gentleman's agreements that were signed between Wall Street bankers, the US Treasury Department and international financial organizations between 1970 and 1990. It contains four recipes that can be used anywhere in the world, for any country, at any time: privatization and deregulation, macro-economic stability and budget cuts. The 'consensus' aims to remove all normative, state or non-state barriers that hinder the total liberalization of the capital markets as quickly as possible. For the World Bank, the World Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization, the four recipes mean the alpha and the omega, the law and the prophets for all economic activity. The four recipes are an expression of monetary doctrine.
The defenders of economic, social and cultural human rights contradict the doctrine of the self-regulated, omnipotent, sole blissful market, the theory of 'stateless global governance' of James Wolfensohn ...
The many dozen specialized organizations, development aid programs, funds, commissions, and financial institutions of the United Nations operate every day on the five continents, especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America, in latent schizophrenia. The World Health Organization is fighting epidemics, the FAO, the World Hunger Program and UNICEF are trying to bring half-starved people back to life. The UNDP (United Nations Development Program) aims to build nation states that travel and develop around the world. But at the same time the World Bank, the World Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization are devastating the weak structures of the same third world countries with their ultra-national, anti-state and anti-community privatization and deregulation policies. " (13, p. 167 f.).

The world as a village
Our earth currently carries 6.4 billion people (2005). If you convert this population to a village with 1,000 inhabitants, who are composed in percent like the world population, the following picture emerges:
Total population of our village: 1,000 people.
The village is in two regions divided, in which people live more or less separately from each other:
Region I. has a good infrastructure and sufficient to very good livelihoods. 200 people live here who consume 80 % of the total gross national product.
Region II is insufficiently developed. 800 people live here right and wrong.
These 800 people dispose of 20 % of the gross national product; ie they have only 1/16 of the goods available per capita, over
which the residents of Region I dispose of.
The population is currently still increasing in both regions, namely:
In Region I. the wealthy grow by 1 people every year.
In Region II the poor grow by 14 people every year.
Half of the total income these 1,000 people earn goes into the hands of 60 people; 55 of them are white.
This income structure corresponds to a pre-revolutionary state that cannot be permanently stable.

The population consists roughly of:

600 Asians
138 Europeans
118 Africans
85 Latin Americans
53 North Americans
6 Australians / Oceanians

The confessors of the most important religions are:

346 Christians
195 Muslims
141 Non-religious / atheists
133 Hindus
63 Chinese folk religion
59 Buddhists
37 natural religions
17 new religions
3 Sikhs
2 Jews
4 others

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(3) Fallaci Oriana, The Power of Reason, Ullstein, Berlin, 2004.
(4) Fukuyama Francis, The End of the Story, Kindler, Munich, 1992.
(5) Fukuyama Francis, The Conflict of Cultures, Droemer-Knaur, 1996.
(6) Hannich Günter, Stock Market Crash and Economic Crisis, Kopp, Rottenburg, 2001.
(7) Herzog Roman, Against the Clash of Cultures, Fischer, Frankfurt, 2000.
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