Economy and social affairs

The equity gap

(Published in GralsWelt 58/2010)

May 29, 1453 is an important date in European history. At that time the Turks conquered Constantinople and with this action cut off Europe from trade with Asia. Venice lost its leading position as the center of maritime trade. The Portuguese and Spaniards felt compelled to intensify their efforts to bypass the Mediterranean ruled by the Turkish Empire and to cross the Atlantic to India. Therefore Columbus looked for a western sea route to Asia, but landed in 1492 in the Caribbean, which he called "West India". Vasco da Gama sailed around Africa with the same destination and reached Calicut (India) in 1498.

These voyages of discovery were the starting signal for colonialism. This brought about great upheavals in the economic and social conditions of both the colonizers and the colonized. The medieval world order dissolved. With the new circumstances came many questions about human justice that have not yet been resolved: Fairness of appropriation, fairness of distribution, fairness of opportunity, fairness of results, fairness of procedure, social fairness[i], etc, etc.

It is not difficult to find approval when one complains that the world is "unjust". But who closes when and how the much criticized “justice gap”, the economic gap between former colonial peoples and industrialized countries, between North and South, between rich and poor? And who also thinks about the concerns of nature?

The problems that exist in the world are not related to that to solve the same mindset that generated it. "
Albert Einstein in view of the economic crisis of 1929.

The age of colonialism

Ever new discoveries changed the image of the world from the 15th century on. Navigators, researchers, adventurers set out in search of the wealth of foreign countries, and merchants willing to take risks financed the adventurous and, if successful, lucrative voyages of discovery.

Unexpected treasures flowed to Europe and later also to the USA: gold and silver from South America; Spices from India; Caribbean sugar and rum; Coffee from Brazil; China and tea from china; Ivory and slaves from Africa; Furs from North America and Siberia.

The seafaring nations gradually subjugated large parts of the wide world. Europe was able to discharge its population surplus overseas. The native population in the colonies was forced to work for the conquerors, had to give way to settlers from Europe, or - if they were to die out as a result of exploitation or introduced diseases - were replaced by slaves from West Africa.
“The 'rise of the West' was based to a large extent on the use of force, on the military The balance between the Europeans and their overseas opponents had shifted in favor of the former. " (4, p. 22).
Few of the whites felt guilty when they robbed or occupied foreign lands, the natives perished by oppression or diseases brought in from Europe. Because the “ignorant Gentiles” were brought the greatest of all gifts: They were (often compulsorily) baptized Christian and thus wrested from the eternal damnation otherwise inevitable for them! Was that a just compromise that could calm a Christian conscience? Or it would be better with Augustine[ii] read who said that justice is what distinguishes a society from a band of robbers?

Up until the 20th century (partly still today!) There were mission societies who wanted to convert people overseas - including members of very old cultural nations - to Christianity in order to save them from hell.

As a rule, the priests sent from Europe and later also from the USA understood next to nothing about exotic cultures. It was enough for them to know that every non-Christian religion was of the devil. So they hardly thought of a “fair balance between give and take” and justified slavery with appropriate biblical passages[iii], and considered the natives - even if they were converted to Christianity - as second class people.

If Europeans were ever given the task of promoting Christian values, then they have failed. Individual missionaries have tried to work in the Christian sense. But for each of them there were dozens or hundreds of traders, adventurers, colonists who called themselves Christians but whose behavior was inspired by Hell rather than the Spirit of Christ.

The classic world economy

In the course of colonialism, the world economy developed. Europe - especially colonial empires like England -, later also the USA and finally Japan, became rich because they knew how to use the treasures of foreign countries.

The prosperity of the industrialized countries is still largely due to the fact that raw materials are cheaply imported from the former colonies, which are now developing countries, and finished products are exported at a high price.

It is often overlooked that since the 20th century at the latest, environmental burdens have also been pushed off to a large extent. At the suppliers overseas, enormous environmental damage occurs through the exploration of raw materials, as well as through agricultural monocultures in the interest of the industrialized countries. The industrialized countries are primarily responsible for the climate change caused by excessive consumption of fossil fuels, but developing countries in particular will suffer from this.

Such a world economy built on one-sidedness can neither be fair nor stable. For centuries, the technical superiority and the better armament of the highly developed countries were sufficient to suppress aspirations for freedom in the colonies.

Then the countries that profited most from the economic imbalances destroyed this system themselves: The primal catastrophe of the 20th century, the frivolously triggered First World War, ushered in the inexorable fall of colonialism.

Unlike after the Napoleonic Wars, the European states failed after the First World War to create a stable peace order. These failures led to political and economic tensions and further wars, some of which still persist today. Europe lost its leadership role in the world and its colonies. The USA became the dominant world power.

Building a peaceful international community

The major catastrophes of the two world wars of the 20th century were followed by approaches for a better, more peaceful, and more just world.

After the First World War, the League of Nations failed because of the selfishness of nationalist states.

After the Second World War, the UN should act as a peacekeeper and set binding standards for all nations. The United Nations Charter is based on Enlightenment philosophy rather than the Bible. Apparently Christianity, once propagated from Europe all over the world, has lost its credibility. The philosophy of the Enlightenment arose in the Christian environment, but adopts, in addition to Christian ideas, ancient and modern philosophies, which the churches have long bitterly opposed.

It cannot be assumed that this European philosophy will be used in non-western countries - e. B. in Islamic countries or in Asia - finds unreserved approval.

The nations - despite the UN - still act primarily in their own interests, and it is not uncommon for the law of the thumb to apply between the states, not international law. An awareness of global responsibility for wellbeing all The inhabitants of our planet are sorely missed, and the idea that nature also has rights remains alien to many responsible persons.

The globalization

The lack of a sense of responsibility is also evident in “globalization”, which has been praised for a number of decades and which promises economic growth and increasing prosperity for everyone under the motto “a rising tide will lift all boats”.

Indeed, the gap between rich and poor - both between nations and within states - has widened. There is no trace of a balance between the rights of those who are preferred and the burdens of those who are disadvantaged, i.e. closing the “justice gap”.

This is hardly surprising. Because globalization - despite all the propaganda - should not serve any altruistic purpose.

Our economy is called capitalist, so it is built on money-capital. Interest must be paid on capital. The interest to be raised imperatively demand a growing economy!

Now, at least since the first oil shock in the 1970s, it has been foreseeable that the necessary growth rates cannot be enforced in the industrialized countries. There the demand is largely satisfied, the population is growing only slightly. In some of these countries, the population is aging and declining. Then who is going to buy more and more of all the clutter the industry has to get rid of in order to keep growing every year?

All that remains is the way to the developing countries. The population there is increasing, and a huge pent-up demand needs to be satisfied. If these countries are successfully opened up, the world economy can continue to grow unchecked for decades - until ecological collapse.

Unfortunately, these grandiose future prospects for the export economy in the USA and Western Europe have been miscalculated. Because too many elites in underdeveloped countries have studied in the West. They know the modern economy and know that there is not much to be made from exporting raw materials. This is why developing countries increasingly want to manufacture finished products themselves.

World market integration is getting out of hand

After the Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh nationalized the Anglo-Iranian-Oil in 1951, he became 1953 with the help of the CIA[iv] overturned. Then there were new oil contracts for the west.

Perhaps the Shah's corrupt mismanagement was also less of a downfall. Some see the renewed nationalization of the oil industry (1973) and the attempt to build up its own chemical industry as a not insignificant cause of its fall in 1979.

At that time the West still believed that it would not have to put up with the exit of a “developing country” (in this case a cultural nation that is older than most European states) from the world economy dictated by the former colonial powers.

Today the largest states in the world, the two nuclear powers China and India, are building up huge industries. B. in the textile industry or steel production - once leading old industrialized countries have long since left behind. And the newcomers are not satisfied with traditional products; they want to flood the world markets with high-tech and automobiles.

The end of Western supremacy has heralded. Do these dramatic upheavals bring more justice?

The folly of the rulers

Twice in a century, western industrialized nations have managed to bring themselves into trouble the unjust economic system with which they became rich and powerful. In doing so, they were hardly guided by the need for more distributive justice. One would almost like to believe that they have given in to an unconscious "compulsion to self-destruct":
* First with the unnecessary and frivolous First World War, the consequences of which have destabilized world politics to this day.
* Then with globalization, which is well on the way to ending the primacy of Western industry and Western technology.

In the second half of the 21st century, the emerging economies of China and India are likely to become great powers that will dominate the world economy and thus inevitably also world politics.

The rising stars of Asia, which in addition to China and India include other countries such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, etc., have little reason to be grateful to Europe and the USA for historical reasons. Her ambition will spur her on to show the rest of the world which regions the oldest cultures come from and where the most gifted and hardworking people are at home. It is hardly to be expected that they will regret it when millions of jobs migrate from rich countries to Asia, or even when the traditional industrialized countries are threatened with impoverishment.

Many Asians probably consider it to be a balancing act when whites experience the reciprocal effects of their crimes during the colonial days.

Growth at the expense of nature?
In a conversation with a Japanese journalist, the biologist and ecologist Paul Ehrlich (born 1932) argued that the whaling industry in Japan is destroying the source of its own prosperity with the whales. The journalist's answer:
“'You wrongly consider the whaling industry to be an organization interested in the conservation of whales. In reality, however, it represents a huge potential of capital trying to make the highest possible profits. If they can exterminate the whales within ten years and make a 15 percent profit, while with a sustainable catch rate the profit is only 10 percent, then of course the whales will be exterminated in ten years - and then the capital to exploit another resource use.'
One of our friends heard a completely corresponding argument from a company that cuts tropical timber in Sabah ”.
From Donella + Dennis Meadows / Jorgen Randers, “The new limits of growth”, Rowolt, Reinbeck, 1998, p. 226 f.

The race to catch up in question

It is an indispensable creed of political ideologues that distributive justice is created through growth, both nationally and globally. With economic advancement, the problem of poverty should resolve itself. This coupling of justice to economic growth has also been one of the dogmas of development aid since the end of the Second World War.

On the path of cooperation between North and South, the hitherto disadvantaged countries should catch up with the rich societies through growth and suitable policies. That was the unspoken basis of the UN system, which was favorable to both parties: the north hoped for expanded markets with greater opportunities for profit, the south expected prosperity and equality.

Since the bio-physical boundaries became recognizable (cf. "How many people the earth can take"; "Why we stumble into the population trap"; "A devastating 'footprint", All under" Ecology "), since the finiteness of the biosphere has come to light, the soil has been withdrawn from this ideology of growth. With more than six billion people, the earth’s productivity is not sufficient for “prosperity for all”, under the current economic premises:
“It is high time to put the modern industrial prosperity model to the test. More justice in this world cannot be achieved at the level of consumption in the industrialized countries. An economic development of the conventional style, which would like to bring a growing world population as a whole a western standard of living, will not be sustainable ecologically. The quantities of resources required for this are too large, too expensive and too destructive. Therefore, the kick-start of the emerging countries into industrial modernity is likely to lead to a further marginalization of the poor countries and zones and thus to global apartheid, but also endanger them. The noose is already tightening for dozen of peripheral countries because China, with its colossal demand, is pushing up world market prices for grain, crude oil and iron ore. Anyone who does not want to lose sight of the goal of creating a fairer and more equitable world than today will therefore examine those production and consumer patterns to which the hopes of prosperity are currently attached. "  (6, p. 44)[v].
It is controversial whether six or more billion people (eight to ten billion are expected by 2050) could find a decent livelihood on our earth with a fundamentally different, “fairer” economic method that takes nature's interests into account. Appropriate suggestions, for. B. von Lovelock (2, p. 217 f. And "Gaia's revenge", Under" Book Reviews "), seem rather utopian. In any case, the time to counter-steer is running out.

Whether we like it or not: The efficiency of our earth's ecosystems is limited. There are “limits to growth” (3) that must be observed! From now on, growth in one place requires dismantling in another!

Official politicians have not yet really taken notice of the ecological limits. As before, economic growth and world market integration (globalization) are seen as the only way to more equality and thus justice between nations, and less poverty within nations.

The developing countries will not be ready, with their sometimes rapidly growing populations, to remain at their current, modest level, so that the population of the rich countries can continue to enjoy their luxury. People in industrialized countries will be reluctant to accept restrictions that are currently difficult to enforce politically. Hard disputes between north and south can hardly be avoided.

How do the industrialized nations want to react to the demands of the poor and underdeveloped for more justice? Will the "world struggle for raw materials" propagated as early as the first half of the 20th century come about? Are we facing an uncontrollable flood of poverty refugees and, ultimately, a war for places to live on a planet shaken by climate catastrophes? Will the rich want to defend their supremacy by force of arms? Or can we find a peaceful way to fill the justice gap?

A look into the future

In world history, the demand for justice was mostly just a philosophical topic, unsuitable for application in practical politics. At most, enemies could be set in the wrong with legal subtleties, or questionable decisions could be formally justified. Even religions - actually committed to truth and justice - have so far achieved little when it comes to the practical enforcement of natural and human rights.

Also, it has hardly happened in world history that a great power would have given up its primacy without resistance. Will the USA and Europe accordingly also defend themselves against the “Asian challenge”?
With what means?
Do Europe and the US have to fight together if they do not want to be defeated separately? Does the divided, inhomogeneous Europe have the strength and the possibility to go it alone?

The prognoses are not encouraging:
“Europe will have to choose. If it relies on preventive warfare to protect itself, it will seek ranks with the US and the market fundamentalists in the economy. If it wants to be a pioneer of a policy of preventive justice in the world, it will look for coalitions with like-minded states and civil society. Then it can only be good for the European project if the Europeans look up every now and then from the everyday scuffle in Brussels and ask themselves what they would like to be remembered for by the coming generations at the end of the 21st century. Because that is what it is: In the developing world society, Europe will not survive through the number of its people, but only through the power of its ideas. The transnational world of tomorrow will be populated by brown, yellow and black faces, the European whites will hardly make up more than seven percent of the world's population. So the world society of the 21st century will certainly not be a European society - just as the Europe of the 15th century was neither a Greco-Roman society. " (6, p. 246).

(1) Kesselring Thomas, Ethics of Development Policy, CH Beck, Munich, 2003.
(2) Lovelock James, Gaias Rache, Ullstein, Berlin 2007.
(3) Meadows Denis, The Limits of Growth, dva, Stuttgart, 1972.
(4) Parker Geoffrey, The Military Revolution, Campus, Franakfurt, 1990.
(5) Ritsert Jürgen, Justice and Equality, Westphalian Steamboat, Münster, 1997.
(6) Sachs Wolfgang, Fair Future, CH Beck, Munich 2005.
[i]If “social justice” is spoken of in political Sunday speeches, it usually remains unclear whether “opportunity or procedural justice” or “distributional or result justice” is meant.
[ii] Augustine (354-430), Bishop of Hippo, was the greatest of the ancient Latin Church Masters.
[iii] On the biblical justification of slavery, see “Brief, terse, curious” on page 285 “Slave robbery in the Mediterranean”.
[iv] CIA = Central Intelligence Agency, the US foreign intelligence service.
[v] In this context it is interesting that there were demonstrations in Mexico at the beginning of 2007 because of excessively high corn prices. These are due to the fact that corn is fermented into bio-fuel for cars in the USA.