I have sat in / participated in a few discussions on the US under president Trump. Without exception,  the discussants concluded that – in the end – democracy would prevail  in its core country.

I am no longer that certain.

It had been argued, for instance, that – whatever  the tantrums of Trump – his minders  would keep the ship of state afloat. Those  minders are  primarely clustered in a junta of three generals: Kelly; Mattis and McMasters. A recent article in the New York Review of Bools  provides a background on their views and tempers. They are military first and foremost. As  attested by an article in Wall- Street – Journal,  their  view of the world system is identical  with the one of their master: They too   perceive of the world and  of the  global system  in “Hobbsean terms”.  A thing such as a real international community would exist but in the misguided phantasies of liberals. They, on their turn,  firmly believe that contrary to such illusions and that ato their  manly, Hobbsean view would portray the world in a realistic manner as  an agglomeration of narrowly self-  interested and potentially mutually hostile nations.

Yet democracies flourish in a peaceful world. They become endangered in a militarized world

It also had been maintained, that the US electoral system  would w push US politics back to the center. But that has become rather unlikely, as the system had been captured by the extreme, potentially anti – democratic Republican right, enabled by self interested and self – deluded billionaire supporters. They dominate the party and do not waiver in their support for Trump. Due to their firm grip on the primaries , and due to  a “gerrymandering” of the electoral districts, it  is unlikely that  they would lose control of the US House of Representatives in the upcoming 2018 elections ( and that notwithstanding the results of the recent elections in states like Virginia or Washingto, that resulted in Victories of democratic candidates =  the hard core center  of “Trumpisms is not affectred by these gains of democratic candidates ).

But even if the democrats were to gain control of both houses of Congress,  they still would not be able to remove the delusional., erratic, ignorant  president. This is due to the US “presidential system” of governance. In case of democratic victories in both houses of the Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives could legislate against Trump. . But he still could maintain a firm grip on the administration; and that especially in the crucial realm of international relations, where he reigns supreme  ( to the extent of even being able to start wars , or to break existing international treaties and allaiances )

But anyhow and under all circumstances, Donald Trump will be able to count on the continued support of his core – constituency. Thsio constituency is not bothered or affected by news and facts that would trouble their view of the world. In  the age of FOX  News and the echo chambers of Facebook and Twitter the opposition of the serious large Media ( like CNN of the New York Times ) has become impotent -and perhaps even counter – productive; and more than that: reality itself has become irrelevan. It can be denounced and ignored  as mere  “fake – news”

The independent judicial system is  the last remaining, firm bastion of US  democracy ( though at its top, the Supreme Court is certainly not on the side of a liberal , up to date and functional interpretation of the US constitution )

That much to the troubling state of the US political institutions. The even deeper concern results from viewing the social/ political / economic base these institution rest upon:

an unprecedented inequality of income and wealth –  putting the US in the same rank with Latin- American countries;

erosion of social solidarity;

declining participation in the labor force;

crumbling  infrastructure;

nationalism and xenophobia;

the cult of the military,

distrust in science and distrust even in rationality,

loss of public space and a coarse and even vulgar public discourse;

 

Europe should beware of gloating. The failure of US democracy should have assigned it the prime role as the supporter of an open, liberal and increasingly democratic world – system. Europe is not living up to that assignment, and the European Union itself is threatehnd by disintegration. In Europe too democracy is under pressure

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Posted by: tnowotny | November 5, 2017

Back to Athenian Democracy??

I wrote the piece below some time ago; and am not certain if and where it had been published.

 

It is ea review essay on recommendations to supplement our decayinf democratic systems   with elements of a “citizens democracy” patterned after the first Greek democracies..

These proposals received follow up in some experimental applications; for example in the Austrian province of Vorarlberg.

 

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

 

David van Reybrouk

Gegen Wahlen

Warum Abstimmen nicht demokratisch ist

Wallstein Verlag, August 2016

 

Demokratie ist laut Churchill „die schlechteste Form des Regierens – ausgenommen sämtlicher anderer Formen des Regierens, die man im Laufe der  Zeit ausprobiert hat“. Diese Einsicht findet breite Zustimmung. Quer über alle Kontinente befindet eine Mehrheit der Befragten Demokratie als etwas Positives. Dieser Einschätzung entsprach auch die tatsächliche, weltweite Entwicklung. Zur Zeit als der Zweite Weltkrieg endete, gab es nur 12 Demokratien. Heute sind 117 der insgesamt 195 Staaten der Welt demokratisch.

Dieser Siegeszug der Demokratie ist nach Meinung Van Reybrouks  durch das Versprechen bedingt, dass Demokratie in idealer Weise zwei für die Regierung eines Gemeinwesens wesentliche Kriterien in Einklang bringen könnte: nämlich einerseits das Kriterium von Legitimität; und anderseits das Kriterium von Effizienz.

Offensichtlich aber zweifeln die in Demokratien lebenden Bürger zunehmend an der Einlösung dieses Versprechens. Formal mögen immer mehr Staaten „demokratische“ sein.  Aber es mindert sich laufend sowohl die Problemlösungskompetenz  – die Effizienz – demokratischen Regierens , wie vor allem auch dessen Legitimität. Van Reybrouk verweist auf einige schwer übersehbare Symptome: sinkende Wahlbeteiligung ( sie vermindert sich europaweit von  85% im Jahre 1960 auf 77% im ersten Jahrzehnt des 21. Jahrhunderts ) ; der Verfall der einst großen staatstragenden politischen Parteien;  das „Abstrafen“ von politischen Parteien, welche sich an Regierungskoalitionen beteiligen ( in den 60er Jahren des vorigen Jahrhunderts kostet diese Regierungsbeteiligung Parteien in den darauffolgenden Wahlen lediglich 1% der Stimmen; heute kostet ihnen das  8% an Stimmen ).

Überhaupt steigert sich mit dem raschen Aufblühen und dem raschen Untergang von Parteien die Volatilität und Unberechenbarkeit des politisch / administrativen Systems. All das zeigt, dass die Bürger, welche sich  zwar weiterhin abstrakt / theoretische zur Demokratie bekennen, der tatsächlich existierenden Demokratie ihre Unterstützung versagen. Demokratie erodiert. Sie mutiert zur „illiberalen Demokratie ( Fareed Zacharia ); oder wird  in  einer „post – demokratischen“ Ära ( Collin Crouch ) völlig  zur  leeren Hülle.

All diese schädlichen Entwicklungen wären nun – so die These von Van Reybrouk – dadurch bedingt, dass man Wahlen nicht bloß einen zentralen Platz im politischen System eingeräumt hat, sondern dass man sie nachgerade zum alleinig bestimmenden Element des politischen Systems gemacht  hatte. In der Folge werden Wahlkämpfe von kurzfristigen und periodischen Ereignissen  zu etwas Dauerhaftem, welches Handeln eines gewählten Mandatars vom an Antritt seiner Funktion an bestimmt. Das wiederum fördert das Entstehen einer dauer – wahlkämpfenden Kaste von Berufspolitikern; und das wiederum verlagert  die Auseinandersetzung weg vom Sachpolitischen hin zum Symbolische / Trivialen/ Irrelevanten.

Abhilfe könnte man nur dadurch schaffen, dass man diesen Berufspolitikern das Monopol der politischen Entscheidungsfindung entzieht. Nicht ( nur ) Wahlen sollten bestimmen wer diese Funktion übernimmt. Man sollte sich vielmehr am Vorbilder der antiken Athener  Demokratie orientieren  und die Auswahl der Entscheidungsträger dem Los überlassen. Die so durch das Los Bestimmten, sollten ihr Amt nicht als Beruf sondern nur für kurze Zeit ausüben, um dann später wieder durch andere, vom Los bestimmte Personen ersetzt zu werden.

Vor einem ganz so völligen Bruch mit dem existierenden System  scheut van Reybrouk dann doch zurück.  Sein „ Los – Wahl – System“ sollte daher die existierenden repräsentative Demokratie nicht völlig ersetzen, sondern  sollte sie lediglich ergänzen; etwa  dadurch,  dass dem bestehenden Parlament eine Kammer der durch das Los Bestimmten zur Seite gestellt wird;  oder dadurch das diese Gruppe der „durch das Los Bestimmten“ auf andere Weise in den Entscheidungsprozess eingebunden wird.

Van Reybrouk muss sich damit freilich auch dem Vorwurf aussetzen, dass er  der von ihm kritisierten ideologischen Überhöhung von Wahlen die ideologische Überhöhung des „einfachen Bürgers“ entgegenstellt. Jedoch scheint der Verfall von Demokratie nicht bloß durch die negativen Folgen eines permanent gewordenen Wahlkampfes bedingt. Man muss vielmehr fragen, ob sich nicht etwas bei den Bürgern selbst, bei der Gesellschaft so verändert hat, dass die Effizienz und Legitimität des politischen Systems darunter zwangsweise leidet. Es schwindet Solidarität und die Bereitschaft zur gemeinsamen politischen Verantwortung. Die Plattformen für ein alle umfassende Information und Diskussion splittern. Ein von allen geteilter öffentlicher  Raum geht verloren. Einrichtungen, die allen gehören sollten, werden privatisiert; etc. Damit schwächt sich die Grundlage jedwegens politischen Handelns, egal ob dies nun durch gewählte Mandatare bestimmt wird oder durch Bürger welche durch das Los ausgewählt werden.

Dennoch sollte man die Anregungen van Reybrouks nicht so ohne weiters ignorieren.  Es kann durchaus nützlich sein, durch Los ausgewählte Bürger in den politischen Entscheidungsprozess einzubinden, um dadurch  die Isolierheit und  Selbstbezogenheit  der „politischen Kaste“ zu durchbrechen. Das muss allerdings auf andere Weise bewirkt werden als durch bloße „Fokus – Gruppen“; und muss mehr sein als eine bloße public relations Aktion.

 

Ein solcher Versuch läuft im Wege über die Vorarlberger „Bürger – Räte“. In einer ersten Stufe diskutieren die durch das Los gewählten unter sich und mit einigen Experten. In einer zweiten Phase mit Personen aus der öffentlichen Verwaltung und mit weiteren Experten; und in einer dritten Phase  mit den Mandataren im Landtag. Dieser Landtag ist dann auch rechenschaftspflichtig. Er muss bekannt geben, ob und wie die so gemachten Anregungen umgesetzt wurden. Allerdings ist der Andrang  zur demokratischen Anteilnahme  beschränkt. Nur vier Prozent der durch das Los vorbestimmten und zu solchen Veranstaltungen Eingeladenen beteiligt sich dann auch tatsächlich an diesem Prozess.

 

Posted by: tnowotny | October 9, 2017

The erosion of Representative Democracy

The last week of campaigning before the October 15th  Austrian general elections  substantiate a trend  evident not just in Austria but in many other, and probably  in most of the established  “Western” democracies. They commit suicide.  I list the probable reasons in an article ( published in the “Wiener Zeitung” on  October 10th ); the most cogent one being the decline  of the vast segment of the middle-  and lower middle class.

*****

 

IM WAHLKAMPF KEINE ANTWORT AUF WICHTIGSTE FRAGEN

 

In der Vergangenheit   war das europäische Modell der Wirtschafts- und Sozialpolitik überaus erfolgreich.  Es hat hohen Wohlstand ermöglicht und diesen einigermaßen gleichmäßig verteilt. Es hat Bildung, und die  allgemeine Gesundheit befördert; den inneren Frieden, Demokratie und  gesicherte Rechtsstaatlichkeit. Dieses europäische Modell der Wirtschafts- und Sozialpolitik ist weiterhin nützlich – ja unersetzlich. An vielen der neuen Herausforderungen muss eine solche Politik dennoch versagen. Die heutigen und die künftigen wirtschaftlichen, gesellschaftlichen und politischen Verhältnisse sind nämlich grundverschieden von jenen, in denen sich dieses europäische politische Modell einst bewährt hatte. Die bisherige  Version einer europäischen Wirtschafts- und Sozialpolitik bietet daher kaum Werkzeuge im  Kampf:

  1. gegen die rasch  ungleicher und ungerechter werdende Verteilung von Einkommen und Vermögen;
  2. gegen eine Spaltung der Gesellschaft in niedrig entlohnte Dienstleister und hoch entlohnte Spezialisten;
  3. gegen die zunehmende Krisenanfälligkeit des Geld- und Finanzsystems;
  4. gegen die Erosion von gesellschaftlichem Zusammenhalt und gesellschaftlicher Solidarität;
  5. gegen die Aushöhlung repräsentativer Demokratie

 

*****

 

  1. Durch lange Zeit und bis hin in die  Siebzigerjahre des vorigen Jahrhunderts hatte das Wirtschaftswachstum von sich aus die  Unterschiede zwischen  höheren und niedrigeren Einkommen verringert. Staatliche Politik hat diese Entwicklung verstärkt. Durch Steuern, durch staatliche Transfers und  Leistungen  wurde „umverteilt“. Die Unterschiede in den tatsächlichen Einkommen, das heißt die Unterschiede der Einkommen nach Bezahlung von Steuern und nach Einrechnung der bezogenen  staatlichen Leistungen sind daher geringer, als die Unterschiede zwischen den ursprünglichen „Markteinkommen“. In den skandinavischen und zentraleuropäischen Ländern – darunter auch  in Österreich – ist diese Umverteilung recht wirksam;  weniger so in  Großbritannien, den Vereinigten Staaten oder  in Südeuropa.  Seit etwa 40 Jahren steigt jedoch die Ungleichheit selbst in den skandinavischen  und zentraleuropäischen Musterländern.

 

Es gibt  einigen Spielraum für eine noch nachhaltigere staatliche Umverteilung –  etwa durch Erhöhung der Spitzensteuersätze, und/oder durch Erbschafts- und Vermögenssteuern. Dennoch  kann  selbst eine solche nachdrücklichere staatliche Umverteilung  das zunehmende Auseinanderklaffen der Markteinkommen nicht länger ausgleichen.

 

Ursache dieses nicht mehr überbrückbaren Auseinanderklaffens der Markteinkommen sind die  durch die Technologie bedingten, massiven Veränderungen am  Arbeitsmarkt.  Hatte die autonome Mechanik des Arbeitsmarktes und die Technik des Produzierens einst und durch viele Jahre von sich aus für eine zunehmend gleichere  Verteilung der ( Markt- ) – Einkommen gesorgt, so wirkt  diese Mechanik  heute in die gegenteilige Richtung. Heute zerstört die  technologische Entwicklung die Einkommens- und Lebensgrundlage einer breiten Mittelschicht. Trotz der Versuche dem entgegenzuwirken weitet sich damit die Kluft zwischen Menschen mit hohem, und jenen mit niedrigem Einkommen.

 

  1. Die Industrie – Produktion ist heute weitgehend automatisiert. In den Fabrikshallen findet man nur wenige Arbeiter. Die Automatisierung und Digitalisierung verändert aber nicht nur die Industrieproduktion sondern auch die Bereitstellung von Sie eliminiert nicht bloß die Arbeitsplätze einfacher Schalter – Beamten, sondern auch jene von höherqualifizierten Börsenmaklern, von technischen Zeichnern, oder Labortechnikern. Neue Arbeitsplätze entstehen hingegen hauptsächlich im Bereich der niedrigen, persönlichen Dienstleistungen. So sie nicht überhaupt arbeitslos geworden sind,   werden aus Stahlarbeitern Gebäudereiniger; aus Bankangestellten Tellerwäscher  bei Mc – Donald.

 

Gleichzeitig schafft die  Digitalisierung weltweite Monopole  und damit die Möglichkeit gigantischer Monopolgewinne. Konkurrenten können die marktbeherrschende Stellung und damit die Monopolgewinne von Firmen wie Microsoft, Google, Facebook oder Uber kaum gefährden.

 

Insgesamt schrumpft jedenfalls  die Nachfrage  nach Arbeit und es steigt die Arbeitslosigkeit. Seit den 70er Jahren des vorigen Jahrhunderts wächst sie allmählich aber stetig auch in Österreich  und zwar unabhängig davon,  wer und welche Partei nun die Wirtschafts- und Sozialpolitik bestimmt hatte.

 

  1. Wenn auch langsamer als zuvor, so erhöht sich dennoch und laufend die Produktivität menschlicher Arbeit. Die Einkommen der Arbeitnehmer halten damit nicht mit. Es sinkt daher die sogenannte „Lohnquote“ – also der Anteil der Arbeitnehmer am Nationaleinkommen. Der Gewinn aus weiterhin wachsender Produktivität  geht hauptsächlich an die Unternehmen und dann über sie an die Finanzmärkte. Nur ein Teil dieses Gewinns – und zwar ein immer kleiner werdender Teil – wird dann als produktive Investitionen wieder in die Wirtschaft zurückgeführt. Das übrige, so ungenützt bleibende Geld  sucht verzweifelt nach möglichst hohem Gewinn. Es fließt in Veranlagungen, denen nichts Reales gegenübersteht.  Notwendiger Weise platzen solche durch überhöhte Gewinnerwartungen geschaffene „Blasen“. Das hat üble Folgen für die gesamte Wirtschaft. Das Platzen der Blase von Finanzanlagen auf dem amerikanischen Realitätenmarkt hatte  in Europa eine 10 Jahre andauernde wirtschaftliche Stagnation ausgelöst. Ähnliches kann, ja wird  sich wiederholen. Die nunmehr weltweit rasch steigenden Preise von Realitäten  und das Emporschnellen der Aktienkurse sind dafür Warnsignal.

 

  1. Die Entwicklung der Menschheit ist die Entwicklung hin zu zunehmender gesellschaftlicher / wirtschaftlicher Komplexität und hin zu  zunehmender gegenseitiger Abhängigkeit. Der steinzeitliche Jäger und Sammler konnte als Einzelner, oder in kleinen Gruppe überleben.  Völlig auf sich selbst gestellt, würde hingegen ein moderner Städter binnen Tagen zu Grunde gehen. Er ist darauf angewiesen, dass andere ihn mit Nahrung versorgen; mit Wissen; mit Elektrizität, Kleidung und Wohnung. Das dies auch verlässlich geschieht ist so sehr selbstverständlich geworden, dass man die Tatsache dieses „Aufeinander – Angewiesen – Seins“   Und so ist die heutige Politik auch nicht von der Einsicht in die unentrinnbare gegenseitige Abhängigkeit und von dem daraus abgeleiteten Prinzip der Solidarität bestimmt, sondern vielmehr und im Gegenteil  durch das Prinzip einer unentrinnbaren Konkurrenz: von der Konkurrenz zwischen Staaten, Gruppen und Einzelmenschen.

 

Das zeigt auch der jetzige österreichische Wahlkampf. Die wachsende gegenseitige Abhängigkeit erweitert den Bereich der Aufgaben, welche nur gemeinschaftlich erledigt werden können; entweder durch den österreichischen Staat oder durch die Europäische Union. Trotzdem will der überwiegende Teil der Wahlwerber den Staat und die Europäische Union zurückstutzen. Das entspricht einer weit verbreiteten Stimmung der Entsolidarisierung. Sie ist kein Zufallsprodukt.  Offensichtlich ergibt sie sich zwangsweise daraus, wie unsere Gesellschaft und Wirtschaft organisiert ist.

 

  1. Demokratie kann nur als repräsentative Demokratie funktionieren. Gewählte Mandatare müssen Verantwortung für Entscheidungen übernehmen, mit denen der einzelne Bürger oder die einzelne Bürgerin überfordert wäre. Grundlage dieser Arbeitsteilung ist Vertrauen, dass der Mandatar / die Mandatarin dann nach bestem Wissen und im langfristigen Interesse der Gemeinschaft handelt. Dieses Vertrauen ist zerstört. Man misstraut Politikern; ja man verachtet sie.  Das führt absurderweise dazu, dass sogar Langzeit – Politiker  plötzlich als „Antipolitiker“ auftreten und nichts mit dem „System“ zu tun haben wollen, in dem sie tätig sind.

 

Maßgeblich für diese Entwicklung war unter anderem, dass sich repräsentative  Demokratien allmählich und de facto zu  plebiszitären Demokratien gewandelt hatten. Abgestimmt wird nun nicht alle fünf Jahre sondern täglich und zwar über Meinungsumfragen oder mit den Schlagzeilen der Boulevard – Medien.  Wehe dem Politiker, der die so transportierten Stimmungen  und Meinungen  ignoriert.

 

Die großen Massenparteien, und die weit verbreiteten, seriösen Medien  wirkten einst als Puffer zwischen flüchtigen, und oft irrationalen Stimmungen und Meinungen  auf der einen Seite, und den dann getroffenen politischen Entscheidungen auf der anderen. Sie boten die Arena, in der Politik rational abgehandelt, legitim und verbindlich gemacht werden konnte.

 

Die einstigen großen Medien sind heute in der Defensive. Sie verlieren Kunden und Glaubwürdigkeit zu Gunsten der neuen „sozialen Medien“.  Diese wirken in  voneinander jeweils streng getrennten Gruppen. Jede dieser Gruppen lebt also in ihrer eigenen Welt.  Wenig verbindet sie mit anderen, ebenso für sich selbst lebenden Gruppen. Der Demokratie kommt so der „Demos“,  abhanden; die Gesamtheit der Bürger,  in der Einvernehmen darüber herrscht, was die Tatsachen sind auf die sich die Politik bezieht.

 

In fast allen europäischen Staaten stecken auch die  einstigen Massenparteien in  tiefer Krise. Sie verlieren Wähler, Mitglieder und Legitimität. Die neuerlich gängigen Schlagworte von  „Systemparteien“ und „Lügen – Medien“ sind Symptome  eines   institutionell/ politischen Vakuums, das durch die Schwäche der „zwischengeschalteten“ Institutionen von breiten Massenparteien und breit konsumierten, verlässlichen Medien entstanden ist. Die Denunzierung dieser notwendigen, unersetzlichen zwischengeschalteten Institutionen erinnert bedrohlich an den politischen Diskurs in den unseligen Dreißigerjahren des vorigen Jahrhunderts,  als – Schritt für Schritt- Demokratie in fast ganz Europa zu Tode kam.

 

****

 

Auf all diese großen Herausforderungen  gibt es im jetzigen Wahlkampf keine Antworten. Die Tatsache, dass das österreichischen politische System diese Herausforderungen nicht einmal zu benennen wagt, schafft Misstrauen und Unsicherheit. Diese drohen das gesamte Gebäude der seit 1945 in Österreich geschaffenen, relativ stabilen Ordnung zum Einsturz zu bringen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had been asked to submit suggestions as to lessons to be drawn from the actual implementation of the Marshall Plan in Austria ( it had been essential in the post – war recontruction of Austria )

Here is what I wrote:

Doz Dr Thomas Nowotny

Not just remembering the Marshall – Plan;
but honoring it.
A look into the future

Austrians have been justly grateful for the help they had been given via the Marshall – Plan. This help has been essential in facilitating the rapid economic ( and with it societal and political development ) of the country. It also had been instrumental in anchoring Austria firmly in the “West” by having it participate the “European Payments Union”, which has acted as precursor to the organization for European Economic Cooperation – OEEC and, later on, to European integration.
Austrian gratitude has found expression on many occasions in the past, and found expression too, in several projects of US Austrian cooperation ( in particular in the academic field )
But a new page has been turned in history. The world order we have come to know is crumbling. We are uncertain as to what will replace it; and we are aware too, of the many dangers this future might harbor.
Yet the Marshall – Plan of 1947, had also been a wager on a future that , at that time, also seemed uncertain and fraught with danger.
The truest homage we could pay to this old Marshall – Plan is thus the attempt to not passively suffer what the future might bring, but to rescue this future from looming uncertainty and possible chaos through a plan that would be realistic yet imbued by the ethos of global solidarity .

The following are sketches on two alternative proposals for such plans:

a) The first one would attach to work already in progress on the reconstruction of post – conflict Syria – possibly also involving Syria`s neighbors. This project would be action oriented and of immediate political relevance.

b) The second, alternate project would open the discussion – and provide an – empirically founded – base – on the future of international cooperation in the promotion of development.

******

a) A “Marshall – Plan” for post conflict Syria ( and the neighboring countries )
There is no need to dwell on the vast differences between war – wary, Post -World War II Europe – with the basic structures of effective state institutions, and of a high level of human and social capital still intact; and, on the other hand, a strife torn Syria where – if they survive at all – state institutions are being captured by outside powers with the country likely to disintegrate into mutually hostile regions or quasi – states; or – alternatively – with an ethnic and religious minority having terrorized the majority into resentful and passive acquiescence.

Given these uncertainties, it is clear, nonetheless, that eventual stability and peace have to rest upon a solid, sustainable economic base. This is a prerequisite too, for the return of refugees and of internally displaced persons; as well as for the integration of non – returning Syrians into their present, regional host countries.

While not ignoring these vast difference between post World War II Europe and Syria, there are nonetheless some lessons from Europe´s Marshall – Plan, that might be applied in Syria ( and its neighboring countries ). These are:

1) Aid has to be massive ( probably no less than 200 Billion US Dollars )

2) Aid has be tied into and be part of a political process, reestablishing peace and stability.

3) Economic, financial and humanitarian assistance have to be complemented by other proven methods of support; such as the twinning of corporations , the exchange of experts, support for institutions building etc.

4) The aid is to be administered by the donors. The shift towards administration by Syrians has to come much later and should be very gradual

5) Aid should be converted into counterparts funds. The use of these funds should be under the joint control of the donor’s agency and Syrian authorities, with the donor’s agency having the right of veto.

6) Assistance through this Marshall – Plan for Syria should stimulate sustainable, that is viable economic activities. Of course, humanitarian assistance has to be rendered too , especially at the beginning. But – in its majority – such humanitarian assistance should also involve payment by the recipients into this counterpart fund.

7) Economic assistance should aim at weaning Syria from its over reliance on the production of oil and at strengthening the exposed sector of its economy.

8) Inter alia, this implies a re – launch and the promotion of inter – regional trade. This could be supported by a fund patterned after the Post World War II “European Payments Union”

9) According to press reports, Russia is at work already elaborating such a “Marshall – Plan for Syria”. Russian leadership of such a project is highly problematic though: Russia’s economy is not bigger than the one of Italy. Russia thus is too weak a partner for such a big project. Also by being based on oil and gas, its economy would be not complementary and thus helpful to the economies of MENA countries. Finally, Russia’s motives in such a project are obviously the very selfish ones of building and extending in the Middle East / West Asia a zone of strong strategic dominance.

10) Given the problems with a Russian – led project, in view of the likely US disengagement form the region; and in view, finally of the very direct linkages of the region to Europe, Europe should take the lead in the project, and the lead in establishing an special agency for its implementation.
********

At that stage, a first Austrian contribution, administered by AWSG could consist in a review of lessons that could be drawn from the Austrian experience with the Marshall plan and that – even in view of blatantly different circumstances – could usefully be applied in the reconstruction of Syria ( and its neighboring regions ). The project should result in a report by Austrian and international experts, to appear no later than autumn of 2017. Both the launch and the publication of the report should be tied to the work of the “Syria Donors’ Conference”
********

b) The future of international cooperation in the promotion of economic development

Obviously, it has been very tempting to propose that the model of the Marshall – Plan be applied in promoting the development of still poorer countries, many of the located in Africa. In fact, former Chancellor Bruno Kreisky had done so himself when convening the “North / South Conference in Cancun”.

These proposals were motivated by the notion that lack capital / foreign exchange would constitute the most serious obstacle to the economic rise of poorer countries. This notion has proven misleading, as did many other passing “fashions” in the theory of development assistance.

In the meantime and since these first discussions, the world has changed profoundly. It has become absurd, for example, to classify the wealthy nations as the “industrial” ones, given the fact that, by now, the share of industry in the GDP of some still poorer countries is higher than the share of industry in the GDP of very wealthy countries. With the rapid growth of South / South trade, the economic interlinkages are no longer exclusively “North/ South”. More often than not, ample supply of foreign exchange generated through the sale of oil, for example, has proven a bane more than a benefit.

With all that – is there still a place for massive transfers to the poorer countries of the world?

The answer given by the established big members of the (then ) G – 8 Group was nonetheless a positive one. And obviously, it corresponded to a still urgent need of nations left behind in the wake of the development of some more fortunate ”emerging” countries like China or Vietnam. It would be not just cynical but simply wrong to disparage as misplaced the massive assistance ( mainly to Africa ) decided upon by the G – 8 “Gleaneagles Summit” in 2005. In a way, this massive assistance could very well claim to constitute a kind of “ Marshall – Plan” for the poor of the world.

It goes without saying, of course, that under any and all circumstances, we could not do without humanitarian assistance. Few would be so heartless as to claim that it should cease. But as to assistance to development, the record is very mixed still. Evidently, even after Gleaneagles, substantial aid has, in most cases, not provided the results that had been hoped for.

At periodic intervals, the volume, quality and effect of official development assistance has been assessed at international gatherings, with repeated attempts to learn from past successes and failures and to map a way into the future. Such assessment and evaluation has been routine too, at the many International Development Banks and at the DAC Committee of the OECD.

What seems to be lacking still is the broader, the more detached and perhaps a bit academic overview of Official Development Assistance – ODA’s record; of its successes and failures, and as to its future aims and tools.

It is suggested that this review be done by a group of select, highly renowned international experts, funded by AWS and working under the patronage of former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon .

A parallel could be drawn, in this place to efforts funded by France, to develop alternatives / supplements to the GDP statistics when measuring human well – being and human progress. Three highly prominent experts were signed up for the purpose of leading that project; namely Joseph Stigiltz, Amartya Sen and Jean Paul Fitoussi.

More thought would have to be given to the final composition of such a commission. Here are just a few names that come to mind more or less spontaneously :

Esther DUFLO ( MIT / USA- + France )
Tommy Koh ( Singapore )
Jeffrey Sachs ( Columbia University USA )
William Easterly ( NYU New York )

******

What the two proposal would have in common:

– Both of them would stand under the highest Austrian patronage ( HBP, HBK, BMF, BMEIA )

– These Austrian “patrons” would be joined by one to three highly regarded international persons.

– The projects would be linked to Austrian activities / Austrian actors ( eg Austrian participants in the Syria donors conference, or , in case of the second proposal – to BMEIA / ADA

– -Mixed international / Austrian advisory board composed of both academics and practitioners.

– Fully and amply funded

– Secretariat and administrative staff

– Accompanying also international . publicity

– Prominent launch at an international gathering

Posted by: tnowotny | January 8, 2017

quite favorable reviews for ” Project Sozialdemokratie

The first one that appeared was by Kurt Bayer on his widely read blog

As it is the only one I have stored a a word document, I attach its text below

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Die Debatte über ein “linkes Alternativmodell” zur herrschenden Gesellschafts- und Wirtschaftspolitik beschleunigt sich seit dem Anhalten der Finanz- und Wirtschaftskrise in den reichen Ländern. Die Kritik daran, was falsch läuft, wird auch weit über die Linke hinaus geteilt: stagnierende Einkommen für die Meisten, Prekarisierung der Arbeitswelt, massiv auseinanderklaffende Einkommensverteilungen über die letzten 30 Jahre – mit obszönen Gehältern und Abfertigungen/Pensionen ganz oben und noch stärker polarisierter Vermögensverteilung, bei gleichzeitiger Zunahme der Armut und Armutsgefährdung – hohe Arbeitslosigkeit in vielen Ländern Europas, besonders bei jungen, potenziellen Jobanfängern, verstärkter Arbeitsdruck, massive Gefährdung des Weltklimas, und dann noch verstärkte Einwanderung, nicht nur hervorgerufen durch die tragischen Kriegsereignisse im Nahen und Mittleren Osten, sondern auch armuts- und klimawandelinduzierte Migration aus Afrika, Asien und Lateinamerika. All dies gefährdet den Zusammenhalt der Gesellschaften, befördert die Verachtung “der Eliten” und damit das Misstrauen in den politischen Prozess, und gibt den xenophobischen, nationalistischen Rechten starken Auftrieb. Die neuen Konstellationen in der Geopolitik, der auch demografisch bedingte Abstieg des Westens, sowie das damit einhergehende Ende der 70-jahrigen Pax Americana als Ordnungsprinzip der Weltpolitik tun ihr übriges.
In den USA hat diese Kritik am Wirtschaftssystem Keynesianer wie Stiglitz, Krugmann, Rodrik, durchaus auch Summers aus der Ökonomengarde alarmiert. Im kürzlich zuende gegangenen Wahlkampf hat Bernie Sanders mit seiner scharfen Kritik und tiefgehenden Vorschlägen zur Verbesserung der Situation Furore gemacht. In Europa fokussiert sich die Diskussion auf die Kritik an der EU, welche vor allem Griechenland in den Ruin getrieben hätte, politische Aktivitäten wie etwa DIEM25 von Yannis Varoufakis, aber auch andere zeigen teilweise Alternativen auf.
Dennoch: was all diesen Aktivitäten (bisher) fehlt, ist ein “Gesamtkonzept”, ein wirklich anderes durchgehendes Programm für eine andere Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. In Österreich kümmern sich etwa Attac, die Mosaik-Gruppe und einige andere eher Randgruppen verdienstvoll um die Entwicklung von Konzepten, aber dies alles bleibt bisher Stückwork-in-progress.
Die österreichische Sozialdemokratie hält sich in dieser Debatte bisher vornehm zurück. Die dort bisher laufende (besser:lahmende) Programmdiskussion in Verantwortung der Veteranen Charly Blecha und Josef Cap, soll neu begonnen werden. Was dabei herauskommt, bleibt bisher im Dunkeln. (Möglicherweise ist ein erster reformatorischer Ansatz beim Treffen der sozialdemokratischen Parteivorsitzenden Kern, Löfven und Gabriel am 29.11.2016 in Wien (“Sozialpakt”) gefunden worden. So verdienstvoll dies sein mag, fragt man sich dennoch, was denn bisher von den Sozialdemokraten in Europa vorgelegt und von diesen verantwortet wurde?).
In dieser Situation ergreift der lebenslange Sozialdemokrat Thomas Nowotny die Initiative und legt einen 300-Seiter “Das Projekt Sozialdemokratie: Gescheitert? Überholt? Zukunftsweisend? Studienverlag Innsbruck, 2016 (http://www.studienverlag.at)” vor. Wie von ihm gewohnt, legt Thomas N., der lange Jahre Kreisky-Sekretär war, später Leiter der Grundsatzabteilung im Aussenministerium, dann lange Jahre international unterwegs, dabei immer publizistisch tätig, sein Werk sehr breit an, sowohl qualitativ wie quantitativ, Zum letzteren: das Buch enthält 14 Kapitel, 45 Abbildungen und Tabellen, 46 Boxen, die Einzelfälle behandeln und 295 Fußnoten – das allein schon eine starke logistische und forschungsintensive Leistung!
Nowotnys Hauptthese ist, dass sich die österreichische Sozialdemokratie von einer profilierten Arbeiterpartei mittels der weitgehend kritiklosen Anpassung an den “Dritten Weg” von Tony Blair zu einer “profillosen Partei der Mitte” (S.23) entwickelt habe, die visionslos ihrer Auflösung entgegentaumle, da die einstigen Wähler abhanden gekommen sind. Die Zäsur sieht Nowotny nach den Regierungen des von ihm überaus geschätzten Bruno Kreisky, sowie von Franz Vranitzky. Seither sei es mit der SPÖ abwärts gegangen (S. 34). Hiezu folgende Bemerkung: erstens sehe ich zwischen Kreiskys und Vranitzkys Politiken grosse Unterschiede; man erinnere sich auch an Kreiskys negative Haltung zur Wahl Vranitzkys (“ein Banker”!) zum Parteivorsitzenden; zweitens habe ich selbst – ein starker Verfechter der Kreiskyschen Gesellschaftspolitik – die Wirtschaftspolitik seines “Kronprinzen” Hannes Androsch schon damals mehrfach kritisiert und sie als viel zu unternehmerfreundlich und zu wenig an den Interessen der Arbeitnehmer und ihrer Zukunft orientiert bezeichnet. Ich würde daher den “Niedergang der Sozialdemokratie” deutlich vor Vranitzkys Ende (1997) ansetzen. Das Dilemma, wo sinnvolle Moderniserung und tatkräftige Interessenpolitik zugunsten der Unternehmer kollidieren, hat auch die siebziger und achtziger Jahre geprägt.
Viele der akribisch ausgeführten historischen und sachlichen Befunde Nowotnys unterstütze ich: er zeigt überzeugend auf, dass etwa Ungleichheit nicht “kapitalgegeben” ist, sondern politisch beeinflusst werden kann. Richtig sagt er, dass die Defizite in der Einkommensverteilung nicht nur durch Steuerpolitik korrigiert werden können, sondern bereits bei der Steuerung der “Primäreinkommen”, also der “am Markt” bezahlten Einkommen ansetzen müssen. Dies hängt natürlich auch mit den gesellschaftlichen Machtverhältnissen, besonders also der Stärke der Gewerkschaften zusammen: die Erosion der Gewerkschaftsmacht müsse rückgängig gemacht werden, ein adäquater Mindestlohn eingeführt, und eine Begrenzung der Spitzeinkommen der Manager durchgesetzt werden. Er scheut auch nicht zurück, im Extrem auch eine Vergesellschaftung der Produktionsmittel zu fordern, wenn es anders nicht ginge (S.100). Folgerichtig fordert N. auch eine Durchsetzung eines “echten” Leistungsprinzips, was letztlich auch eine radikale Besteuerung von Erbschaften bedeute, sowie berücksichtigen müsse, dass “der Staat” ja die Infrastruktur für das Tätigwerden von Kapital und Arbeit beisteuert. Schon allein daraus ergäbe sich, dass auch die Kapitaleigner adäquat zur Finanzierung des Staates herangezogen werden (S.94 f).
Auch ohne Vergesellschaftung sei ein starker Staat unbedingt notwendig (S.119), um das Ziel, den Zusammenhalt der Gesellschaft zu sichern, gewährleisten zu können. N. äußert sich auch extensiv zur Reorganisation der Staatsfunktionen: er fordert eine Stärkung der Regierung als Kollegialorgan (S.191); er teilt nicht die Kritik an dem zu starken Einfluss der Bundesländer, sondern schlägt ihre Stärkung, aber auch stärkere Eigenverantwortung v.a. in Finanzfragen, vor. Er will bessere Koordinierung der österreichischen EU-Politik, einen eigenen Staatssekretär für Entwicklungszusammenarbeit, einen Europaminister – alles sinnvolle Vorschläge.
N. kritisiert die auf “Austerität” (Budgetreduktion) ausgerichtete EU-Wirtschaftspolitik, welche er zurecht für die Länge und Tiefe der Krise in der Eurozone verantwortlich macht, und fordert meinungsstark einen “Europäischen Bundesstaat” (S.237) als Endziel der Sozialdemokratie. Dies kann derzeit nur als Wunsch ans Christkind bezeichnet werden. Die dazugehörige Europäische Sicherheitspolitik will er gestärkt sehen, dabei müsse die sinnentleert gewordene österreichische Neutralitätspolitik aufgegeben und das Bundesheer in eine europäische Armee eingegliedert werden (S.217).
Dies alles ist gut dokumentiert und interessant. Nowotnys Kritik an den herrschenden Zuständen geht jedoch über die vieler anderer Kritiker nicht hinaus, ist allerdings breiter, da er sich (zurecht) als politischer Ökonom sieht. Es bleibt unübersehbar, dass trotz allen Eingehens auf kürzliche Vorkommnisse, Thomas Nowotny weitgehend der Politikrichtung Bruno Kreiskys verhaftet bleibt. Daher sind auch die meisten seiner im Detail ausgearbeiteten Vorschläge sehr “sozialdemokratisch”, bleiben also “dem System” verhaftet – und wollen es verbessern. Ob er dabei nicht auch weitgehend dem ihm (zurecht) verhassten Dritten Weg von Blair (und dann Gusenbauer) in Österreich nahekommt, wäre zu diskutieren. Es ist die Malaise der Sozialdemokratie, auf Probleme mit einem “doubling-down”, also einer Verdoppelung desselben Weges wie vorhin plus Verbesserung, zu reagieren. Ohne eine radikalere Änderung der gesellschaftlichen Machtverhältnisse wird die Linke nicht einmal die sinnvollen, von Nowotny unterstützten Ziele, erreichen können. Ansätze, wo er für eine stärkere Gewerkschaftsmacht plädiert, müssen weiter gedacht werden. “Die Reichen”, bzw. “das Kapital” werden sich durch Zureden nicht erweichen lassen, ihre Interessen (und Renditen) aufzugeben. Ohne harte Auseinandersetzungen sind interessengeleitete Strukturen nicht zu ändern. Das bestehende Gesellschafts- und Wirtschaftssystem zementiert ja die Interessen der die Regierung Steuernden! (Erstaunlich, dass die französischen Konservativen jetzt den “Erz-Neoliberalen” Fillon ins Rennen um die Präsidentschaft schicken: ein aufgelegter Elfer für Marine LePen.).
Ein kleiner Nebenpunkt ad personam: ich finde Nowotnys Verachtung der „Bürgersöhne und -töchter“, sei es in seinen Ausführungen zu Hainburg (S.40), denen er dabei Faktenargumente abspricht, sei es in seiner Beschreibung von BOBOS am Yppenmarkt (S.252) mehr als unangebracht und auch taktisch falsch. Viele dieser Personen gehören auch zu jenen Schichten, die Bruno Kreisky aufgefordert hat, “ein Stück des Weges” mit ihm zu gehen. Auch N. selbst gehört zu ihnen. Auch die heutige Sozialdemokratie könnte sie gut gebrauchen. Und sein Kleinreden der Umweltzerstörung als notwendig zu attackierendes Problem geht an den Fakten und tatsächlichen Bedrohungen weit vorbei!.
Nowotnys Buch ist eine exzellent dokumentierte Auflistung der wichtigsten ökonomischen, gesellschaftlichen und politischen Kritikpunkte an der derzeitigen Politik. Die Analyse ist eher “breit” als “tiefgehend” angelegt, was jedoch ihrer Lesbarkeit für Nicht-Experten keinen Abbruch tut. Viele sinnvolle Vorschläge (neues Weltwährungssystem, Bekämpfung der Einkommensungleichheit, für einen linken Populismus, Akzeptanz von kontrollierter Einwanderung) sind vielfach aus der Vergangenheit der Sozialdemokratie genommen und gehen zu wenig auf neuere Probleme ein (Digitalisierung von Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, sich stark machender Nationalismus, Lähmung und Sackgassenpolitik der EU und der internationalen Governance). Dieses Buch zeigt auch die Grenzen der Analyse von Parteigängern von Regierungsparteien auf: sie können keine radikalere “Zerschlagung des Systems” vorschlagen, sondern verbleiben einer verbesserten Version des herrschenden Systems verhaftet (siehe die drei Epigonen der legendären Brandt, Palme und Kreisky). Die derzeitige Sozialdemokratie könnte jedoch viele der von Thomas N. Aufgezeigten Vorschläge durchaus mit Gewinn umsetzen. Die bestehenden Probleme machen jedoch tiefere Schnitte notwendig.
(Offenlegung: Der Rezensent ist selbst nicht Mitglied einer politischen Partei, und ist Thomas Nowotny seit vielen Jahren freundschaftlich verbunden).

The book has come on the market in December 0f 2016. It seems to sell well.

The official presentation will be on January 12th at the “Kreisky – Forum”

A Bruno Kreisky Forum für internationalen Dialog, Armbrustergasse 15, 1190 Wien Anmeldungen per e-mail: einladung.kreiskyforum@kreisky.org

Das Projekt Sozialdemokratie
Gescheitert? Überholt? Zukunftsweisend?

Einleitende Worte:
Markus Marterbauer, AK Wien und Benedikt Kautsky Kreis

Es diskutieren:
Maria Maltschnig, Leiterin des Renner-Instituts
Thomas Nowotny, Dozent für Politikwissenschaft an der Univ.
Wien, Autor und Diplomat

Moderation:
Robert Misik, Journalist und Autor

Die europäische Sozialdemokratie war einst von der aufsteigenden Arbeiterklasse nach oben getragen worden, Anfang der 1970er Jahre stand sie am Gipfel politischer Macht. Seither haben aber andere Leitvorstellungen und Ziele jene der Sozialdemokratie verdrängt, wodurch deren Einfluss sukzessive geschmälert wurde. Die Versuche der sozialdemokratischen Parteien, sich dem neuen, von Individualismus, Egoismus, EntsoliAdarisierung und Gewinnstreben geprägten Zeitgeist anzupassen, haben deren Niedergang sogar noch beschleunigt. Verstrickt in politische Taktik haben sie viel von ihrem einstigen Gestaltungsanspruch verloren.
Das „revolutionäre Subjekt“ einer kampfbereiten Arbeiterklasse ist nicht länger gesellschaftliche Grundlage der Sozialdemokratie. Aber weiterhin könnte die Sozialdemokratie nunmehr sehr unterschiedliche gesellschaftliche Gruppierungen um ein optimistisches und realistisches Zukunftsprojekt scharen. In der Zeit zwischen 1950 und 1980 war sie darin erfolgreich. Die so sozialdemokratisch geprägten Staaten waren und sind daher die im weitesten Sinn besseren und menschlicheren. Mit neuen Werkzeugen ließe sich dieser Erfolg fortsetzen. Keine andere breite politische Bewegung kann das in Aussicht stellen.

Thomas Nowotny:
Das Projekt Sozialdemokratie. Gescheitert? Überholt? Zukunftsweisend?
Studienverlag, November 2016
ISBN 978-3-7065-5588-3; 24.90 € EUR

Posted by: tnowotny | December 21, 2016

Christmas Letter 2016

Dear friends near and abroad,

Those we know and feel close to provide us not just with a sense of togetherness and warmth but also with a sense of continuity– and so do recurring rituals of sharing, like finding the highest possible Christmas tree or writing these Christmas letters.

The last year has made these anchors of our existence even more precious. The world we have lived in – the “Post World War II World”- is crumbling, with the mightiest tremor originating from the US presidential elections. The integration of Europe has gone into reverse, with the suicidal UK BREXIT vote being the most visible symptom of a widely shared return to a narrow nationalism that we thought had become extinct in light of the sufferings caused by the European civil wars of the 20th Century. Not just European unification is at stake, but even democracy as democratization too, has gone into reverse; openly so not just in Russia or faraway places, but even in Central Europe – in Hungary and Poland.

For the time being Austria has managed to avoid joining in this backlash, with the presidential elections of December 4th delivering a solid defeat to the nationalist/ populist candidate and the election of a pro–European and liberal new Head of State.
The news of this outcome reached us when we were just gathered for our traditional Christmas caroling at our apartment behind the “Karlskirche” (pictured on the card enveloping this letter). Looking out at the church, and the idyllic Christmas market in its front, and amidst our friends and relatives we were and are very much aware of our privileged position; having lived in an era of peace; of rapidly rising wealth; of solid, rational politics; of abating social tensions and of expanding tolerance. We were and are also very much aware that life had dealt us very good cards: uniquely rewarding professional careers, many friends, and a close family.
As for the latter: daughter Katinka works at a prominent position at the Austrian television. Her husband, Eric, is managing editor of the liberal Austrian newspaper “Der Standard”. Grandparents are notorious for eulogizing their grandchildren. But in truth – we have solid reason for doing so. Isabel, the elder one, has just finished her bachelor studies in Amsterdam with a “summa cum laude”. Gideon who had successfully had passed the “Matura” with excellence in June of this year, is now doing his military service ( still obligatory in Austria ).
With the addition of new spare parts, i.e. hips, both of us are in good health. Both, and in particular Eva, are also very active still. The most time consuming, intense and challenging of her jobs is the position as President of the Board (“Universitätsrat”) of the 93.000 student Vienna University. As President of the Austrian UNESCO Commission, she also has to venture into tricky terrain on occasions, for example when addressing the politically charged question of defending the “World Cultural Heritage” character of this or that Austrian site. Added to these two are quite numerous other positions in associations engaged in either humanitarian affairs (such as CARE Austria) or foreign policy (such as the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue, or the Austrian Foreign Policy and United Nations Association).
Thomas has stopped lecturing at the Vienna University, though he still is active in tutoring various master thesis and doctoral dissertations. The book he has been working on the last two years and that has been very important to him (Das Projekt Sozialdemokratie…) has finally appeared this very December. The official presentation will be at the Kreisky Forum on January 12th.
We had a beautiful long summer at the house of our family in Altaussee; visited Naples, Pompeii, the Gulf of Naples, the coast of Amalfi and the Greek temples at Paestum in April. We had been deeply moved by some musical events such as the chamber music festival in Lockenhaus, or the full cycle of all Beethoven piano concertos in Grafenegg. Invitations for lecturing extended to both of us provided the chance of returning to London in November.
The coming year will be challenging. We wish all of you strength and resolve in face of these threats to our commonweal; but also good health and happiness in the circle of family and friends.

Eva and Thomas Nowotny

A new security doctrine for Austria had been approved by parliament in summer 0f 2013. While it is a vast improvement on the last and outdated one, it invites criticism for ist being vague especially on hard choices that have to be made in the actual Austrian security policy ( eg: relations to Russia; cooperation in cyber – security; nuclear arms in Europe etc ). My criticism on that Point had been published in late autumn of 2013 in the Austrian Journal “International”

 

ÖSTERREICHISCHE  SICHERHEITSPOLITIK –  UNLIEBSAME FRAGEN

 

Am 20. Jänner haben österreichische Wähler und Wählerinnen darüber entschieden, welche Art von Militär  sie nicht haben wollen. Sie wollen kein Berufsheer. Was aber wollen sie? Meinungsforscher haben die Motive hinter dieser Wählerentscheidung  erkundet. Schwer wog, so finden sie, der Wunsch, den Zivildienst in seiner jetzigen Form zu behalten, ebenso wie die Überzeugung,  dass bei  Naturkatastrophen Präsenzdiener besser als Berufssoldaten helfen können.

Die grundsätzlichere Frage nach der Natur und den Aufgaben des Militärs war dadurch in  den Hintergrund gedrängt und insbesondere die Frage, ob das Militär heute überhaupt noch von Nutzen ist.  Zur Verteidigung des österreichischen Staatsgebietes wird es jedenfalls nicht länger benötigt. Zum ersten Mal in seiner Geschichte ist Österreich heute  militärisch von keiner Seite bedroht. Wenn aber die Aufgabe wegfällt, das Staatsgebiet zu verteidigen, und wenn man sich auch nicht an Kriegen beteiligen will, die von anderen anderswo geführt werden, dann ist  nicht bloß  ein Berufsheer überflüssig, sondern auch das österreichische Milizheer in seiner jetzigen,  oder in einer in Zukunft etwas reformierten Form.

Aber ist eine  kriegslose Welt vorstellbar? Ist sie wahrscheinlich? Und wenn dem nicht so ist und wenn es auch hinfort Kriege geben wird – könnte sich Österreich davon immer fernhalten, oder gibt es Umstände, die es ratsam machen,  in solche gewaltsame, mit Waffen ausgetragene  Konflikte einzugreifen? Wann, wo, wie kann eine solche Beteiligung der österreichischen Sicherheit dienen?

Die österreichische Politik hätte das klarstellen müssen, bevor man Stimmbürger  zu einem Urteil darüber auffordert, ob das Militär nun als Berufsheer oder auf Grundlage der allgemeinen Wehrpflicht  organisiert sein soll. Vorab zu klären wäre also die Frage, wodurch am Anfang des Einundzwanzigsten  Jahrhunderts die Sicherheit Österreichs bedroht ist. Sodann müsste man feststellen,  ob und welche Funktion dem Militär in der Abwehr solcher Bedrohung zukommt.

Die von der österreichische Bundesregierung beschlossene „ Österreichische Sicherheitsstrategie“ sucht das zu beantworten. Der Beschluss wurde schon vor geraumer Zeit dem Nationalrat übermittelt, aber dieser hat dazu noch keine Entscheidung getroffen.  Diese Sicherheitsstrategie sollte aber nicht nur im Nationalrat diskutiert werden, sondern auch in der  breiten Öffentlichkeit.  Die Doktrin ist ja nicht bloß eine Anleitung für die Abwendung von Bedrohungen und Gefährdungen. Sie  definiert darüber hinaus ja auch etwas von der  kollektiven Identität der Bürger.  Sie enthält Aussagen darüber, wie  Österreich als ein gutes, für seine Bürger und für die anderen Staaten sicheres  Gemeinwesen beschaffen sein soll:

Wirtschaftswachstum und Vollbeschäftigung; Bekämpfung von Kriminalität; Aufrechterhaltung des sozialen Friedens; Versorgungssicherheit  mit Rohstoffen, Energie und Nahrung;  Förderung des Gemeinwohls; Achtung der Menschenrechte; Stärkung der Demokratie; Erhaltung einer lebenswerten Umwelt; Internationale Solidarität durch Entwicklungshilfe;  Kontrolle grenzüberschreitender Migration; etc.;  etc.

Das Ganze liest sich also wie das Pflichtenheft eines modernen, sozialen Staates, der sich seiner internationalen Abhängigkeit bewusst ist, ebenso wie seiner daraus ableitbaren internationalen Verantwortung.

Etwas spezifischer und technischer sind die Vorgaben im Bereich der inneren Sicherheit, etwa für Einsätze bei  Naturkatastrophen und bei Einsätzen zum Schutz vor Gefährdungen,  wie etwa  der Gefährdung der Infrastruktur  bei einem  breitflächigen  und lange anhaltenden Zusammenbruch der Stromversorgung;  oder der Gefährdung durch  Cyberangriffe über das Internet. Die Bewältigung solcher Gefahren und Katastrophen verlangt nach einer vorgeplanten  Mobilisierung von Feuerwehren; von privaten Unternehmen, welche über das entsprechende Gerät verfügen; von Rot – Kreuz Verbänden; von  Polizei und  lokaler Verwaltung. Bei der  Abwehr von Cyberangriffen müssten Spezialisten eingesetzt werden, von denen viele von der Privatwirtschaft – etwa von Banken oder  IT – Unternehmen geborgt werden müssten.

Es ist fraglich, ob dem Militär in solchen Fällen eine zentrale und leitende Rolle zukommen soll. Denn bei massiven Naturkatastrophen oder einem mehrtägigen, breitflächigen Ausfall der Stromversorgung  könnte selbst ein reformiertes Heer auch mit vielen Milizsoldaten  kaum die benötigte große Zahl an Einsatzkräften bereit stellen; und auch nicht eine ausreichende Menge an benötigtem  Gerät. Dementsprechend sollte die Vorsorge für solche Fälle, und im Ernstfall die  Koordination der Einsatzkräfte  wohl besser nicht dem Militär obliegen. Das sind Aufgaben für die gesamte Bundesregierung und  die technische Durchführung sollte demnach beim Bundeskanzleramt liegen.

Aber damit  zu den militärischen Aufgaben im engeren Sinn. Auch in der Sicherheitsdoktrin der  Bundesregierung wird ausdrücklich festgestellt, dass das österreichische Staatgebiet nicht länger militärisch bedroht ist. Damit ist das Militär in diesem Bereich funktionslos geworden. Die Überlegungen betreffen also nicht mehr diese „Landesverteidigung im engeren Sinn“. Es geht nunmehr hauptsächlich darum, drehen sich also nicht länger um diese Frage sondern darum, ob und in wie weit sich österreichisches Militär an Einsätzen beteiligen soll, die  von anderen Staaten oder Staatengruppen organisiert werden. Bedeutsam ist das vor allem  im Hinblick auf eine  allfälligen Mitgliedschaft im Nordatlantischen Verteidigungsbündnis – NATO.

In der noch geltenden Sicherheitsdoktrin aus dem Jahre 2001 wird die Option für eine solche Mitgliedschaft offen gehalten. Jetzt wird sie ausgeschlossen. Österreich wird sich nicht an den sogenannten „Artikel 5“  Aktionen des Nordatlantischen Bündnisses beteiligen; also an Aktionen, welche in Erfüllung der gegenseitigen militärischen Sicherheitsgarantie erfolgen. Österreich wird also nicht Mitglied der NATO.

Vorrang wird demgegenüber der Europäischen Union gegeben. Das österreichische Militär soll vor allem im Rahmen der „Gemeinsamen Sicherheits-  und Verteidigungspolitik“  der EU tätig werden.  Die Voraussetzung dazu  ist zuletzt 2010  mit einer Novelle  zum österreichischen Bundesverfassungsgesetz ( Artikel 23 j ) geschaffen worden. Mit dieser Verfassungsnovelle  wird eine österreichische Beteiligung auch an „Friedensschaffenden Operationen“ der EU legitimiert.  Österreichisches Militär kann  sich demnach  auch an  offensiven militärischen Einsätzen der Europäischen Union beteiligen.

Hat man mit dieser Verfassungsnovelle  die österreichische  immerwährende Neutralität entsorgt? In der Sicherheitsdoktrin findet die immerwährende Neutralität nur einmal kurz Erwähnung; nämlich in einem Passus,  in dem  auf die „verfassungsmäßige Grundlage ..( der )…. Immerwährenden Neutralität“ verwiesen wird. Zu dieser verfassungsrechtlichen Grundlage zählt aber nun auch der erwähnte  Artikel 23 j,  mit dem die Neutralität stark relativiert wird. Sie hindert ein aktives Kriegsführen dort nicht, wo dieses Kriegsführen von der  gemeinsam Europäischen Außen und Sicherheitspolitik beschlossen und sanktioniert ist.

Man kann nun  einwenden, dass die neutralen EU Mitgliedstaaten ihren neutralen Status durch die sogenannte „Irische Formel“ geschützt haben. Mit dieser Formel wird festgelegt,  dass die gemeinsame Sicherheits- und Verteidigungspolitik „ den besonderen  Charakter der Sicherheits- und Verteidigungspolitik  bestimmter  Mitgliedstaaten (also deren neutralen Status)  unberührt lässt“.  Ist es Österreich also unter Hinweis auf diese „Irische Formel“ möglich, sich einem Mitwirken  an offensiven Militäraktionen der Europäischen Union  zu verweigern? Weil es den Artikel 23 j der Bundesverfassung gibt, ist dieser Ausweg versperrt. Der Artikel 23 j  hat ja gerade den Zweck zu verhindern, dass sich Österreich unter Hinweis auf seine Neutralität von einer  militärischen EU Aktion ausschließt.

Man soll und kann diese politischen Weichenstellungen nicht kleinreden. Österreich hat sich verbindlich festgelegt. Die  von der Bundesregierung beschlossene und vom Nationalrat noch immer nicht abgesegnete Österreichische Sicherheitsdoktrin dokumentiert eine endgültige Abkehr von  der traditionellen, auf Autarkie ausgerichteten militärischen Sicherheitsdoktrin. Man will sich hinfort an europäischen Aufgaben orientieren und sich an europäischen Projekten und Operationen auch dann mitwirken, wenn diese militärische sind.

Außenpolitisch dokumentiert das den  Willen zu einer Teilnahme an „Kerneuropa“.  Was aber bedeutet das nun konkret; was will  Österreich  in die  militärische Sicherheitspolitik der Europäischen Union einbringen;  und wenn es an der Formulierung dieser Politik mitwirken kann – welche Ausrichtung will sie ihr geben?

Die von der Bundesregierung beschlossene Sicherheitsdoktrin enthält generalisierende Formulierungen, denen zu entnehmen ist, dass man militärische Einsätze durch vorbeugende Maßnahmen überhaupt vermeidbar machen will. Wenn es dann dennoch zum Kampfeinsatz von Militär käme, sollte man diesen möglichst begrenzen und durch „zivile“ Maßnahmen der Friedenssicherung ergänzen. Dagegen lässt sich nichts einwenden. Aber das sagt nichts zu den  großen militärstrategischen Herausforderungen und Entscheidungen denen sich  Europa  früher oder später zu stellen hat:

 

Wo sollen – in geografischer Hinsicht – die Grenzen für das militärstrategisches Engagement Europas gezogen werden? Sieht sich die Europäische Union als eine Macht mit weltweiten Interessen, die diese auch weltweit schützt und verteidigt? Oder definiert sich Europa als eine Macht, welche Einfluss lediglich in ihrer  engeren geografischen Umgebung ausüben will? Die Frage stellt sich heute konkret in Bezug auf Ost – Asien und den Pazifischen Raum. Trotz Bemühungen der Vereinigten Staaten sie einzudämmen, steigen dort die Spannungen. Man kann nicht ausschließen, dass sie sich einmal explosionsartig in Kriegen entladen.  Das würde die gesamte Weltordnung  erschüttern. Europa wäre davon stark betroffen. Wie weit soll sich Europa da vorbeugend einmischen; und  wenn es sich einmischt –  sollte es dabei lediglich seine „soft power“ einsetzen, oder sollte sein Engagement auch militärische Elemente einschließen?

Aber gehen wir realistischer Weise davon aus, dass Europa ein solches militärisches Engagement in fernen Regionen meidet und  sich stattdessen auf sein geografisch näheres Umfeld beschränkt. Dieses  Umfeld ist konfliktträchtig. Viele der  Staaten im südlichen Mittelmeerraum und in West – Asien sind dysfunktional und fragil.  In Modernisierung von Gesellschaft und Wirtschaft fallen sie zurück gegenüber anderen Weltregionen. Noch instabiler ist die Lage in Sub – Sahara Afrika. Ein fortdauerndes, ja geradezu explosionsartiges Bevölkerungswachstum kollidiert vielerorts mit dem  Unvermögen von  Staaten,  auch bloß grundsätzliche Leistungen wie die Gewährung von Sicherheit zu erbringen. Manche der  noch in der Kolonialzeit gezogenen Grenzen verwischen in einer Auseinandersetzung zwischen Stämmen, Ethnien und Religionen.

Angesichts dieser massiven und kurzfristig nicht lösbaren Probleme und Gefahren in seiner unmittelbaren Umgebung  könnte Europa versucht sein, die Schotten dicht zu machen und sich von diesen Gefahrenherden anzukoppeln. In Syrien ist dies geschehen. Entgegen allen humanitären  Instinkten und Verpflichtungen hat man im dortigen blutigen Bürgerkrieg nicht interveniert. Gerade das Beispiel Syrien beweist aber, wie schwer es sein wird, diese Strategie einer Abschottung  auch langfristig durchzuhalten. Was geschieht, wenn der syrische Staat überhaupt zusammenbricht; wenn sich Anarchie breit macht; wenn Jihadisten Zugriff auf die dort lagernden Chemiewaffen erlangen?

Europa kann sich also nicht einem Engagement in den umliegenden  Krisenregionen entziehen. Dieses Engagement muss ein breites, ein  wirtschaftliches, politisches und kulturelles sein. Gelegentlich und zwangsweise wird es aber auch ein militärisches sein müssen, und oft auch ein sehr langfristiges. Das zeigt die französische Militärintervention in Mali. Sie war nur möglich, weil Frankreich in der Sahel Zone seit langem militärisch präsent ist. Soll nun aber auch  ein Vereintes Europa  eine ähnlich andauernde militärische Präsenz anstreben; damit das Odium von Neokolonialismus auf sich laden; und damit nur eher Gefahr laufen, sich  militärisch in endlose Konflikte zu verstricken? Wäre Österreich bereit, ein solches längeres und kostspieliges militärisches Engagement mitzutragen?

Verhältnis EU – NATO: In der Österreichischen Sicherheitsdoktrin werden dazu zwei Feststellungen getroffen. Erstens die Feststellung, dass der NATO künftighin eine größere Rolle in der weltweiten Sicherheitspolitik zukommt;  und zweitens, dass  sich die Zusammenarbeit zwischen NATO und  der Gemeinsamen Sicherheits- und Verteidigungspolitik  der EU verdichten wird. Die erste Behauptung von der zunehmenden globalen Bedeutung der NATO ist wahrscheinlich falsch. Die zweite Feststellung über die engere Verflechtung zwischen der EU und NATO motiviert die Frage, ob eine solche engere Verflechtung  im Interesse der EU gelegen ist.

Hauptstütze und Kern der NATO sind die Vereinigten Staaten.  Diese sind dabei, ihr weltweites sicherheitspolitisches Engagement zu verdünnen. Das gilt insbesondere für ihr militärisches Engagement auf dem europäischen Kontinent. Überhaupt  hat sich das sicherheitspolitische Interesse der USA weg von diesem Kontinent und hin in den pazifische Raum verlagert. Die USA  legen den Europäern daher nahe, sich verstärkt selbst um die eigene Sicherheit zu kümmern und vor allem auch um die Sicherheit in  ihrer engeren Nachbarschaft, wie etwa im nördlichen Afrika oder in der Schwarzmeerregion.

Für Europa ist die NATO damit aber keineswegs entbehrlich geworden.  Drängende Sachzwänge sprechen zur Zeit weiterhin für eine enge militärische Zusammenarbeit zwischen Union und NATO. Die Europäer verfügen nämlich nicht über genügend, für eine moderne Kriegsführung notwendiges Gerät. Wie sich  Libyen und in Mali zeigt, sind sie diesbezüglich auf die Unterstützung der USA angewiesen.

Nun gibt es  wenige Weltregionen, die so viel gemeinsam haben wie die USA und Europa. Die europäisch – amerikanische militärische Zusammenarbeit hat daher eine politische, wirtschaftliche und kulturelle Grundlage.  Aber nicht immer ist sie breit genug. Die Interessen der USA und Europas sind  nicht immer deckungsgleich. Auch das Weltbild und die sicherheitspolitische Philosophie sind über weite Strecken unterschiedlich. So wie von den Amerikanern  selbst gewünscht, sollten sich Europäer vermehrt auf eigene  Anstrengungen verlassen und sich von den USA sicherheitspolitisch etwas emanzipieren. Das läge auch im sicherheitspolitischen Interesse Europas. Die enge militärische Bindung an die USA hat ja Europa auch schon in der Vergangenheit einige Probleme beschert.

Viele europäische Staaten mögen es heute zum Beispiel bereuen, den USA unter dem Schirm der NATO in das verlustreiche und aussichtslose Abenteuer Afghanistan gefolgt zu sein. Manche Europäer  mögen heute auch darüber nachsinnen, ob die Ankündigung klug war, die NATO bis an die Grenzen Russlands ausdehnen zu wollen; oder ob es ratsam war, im Baltikum NATO Manöver abzuhalten, welche  von Russen  als Provokation interpretiert werden.

Zu  all dem gibt es in der Europäischen Union keine einheitliche Meinung. Die obigen Bedenken werden vor allem von Frankreich geteilt. Die ehemals kommunistischen Mitgliedstaaten der Union  setzen, ebenso wie Großbritannien  und die Niederlande unverrückbar  auf die USA und die NATO. Welchen dieser beiden Lager will sich Österreich anschließen? Wäre Österreich auch bereit,  sich an den für Europa erhöhten Kosten zu beteiligen, die dann erwachsen, wenn  sich  Europa in militärischer Hinsicht zunehmend von den USA abkoppelt; und wenn sich Europa dann  selbst jene Waffen und jenes militärische Gerät anschaffen müsste,  welches hinfort von den USA nicht länger und immer verlässlich für europäische Militäraktionen bereitgestellt würde?

Unbestritten ist, dass von Russland keine  direkte militärische Drohung ausgeht. Trotzdem wächst die Distanz zwischen Russland und dem restlichen Europa. Unmittelbar nach dem Zusammenbruch der Sowjetunion hatten  viele gehofft, zwischen Dublin und Vladivostok  einen gesamteuropäischen Sicherheitsraum schaffen zu können. Der Traum ist verflogen.  Aber was soll an seine Stelle treten? Soll man auf Entgegenkommen setzen und dabei so weit gehen, Russland  stillschweigend  erhöhten Einfluss auf seine unmittelbaren Nachbarn zubilligen? Oder soll man in Vertretung der eigenen europäischen Werte und Interessen auch Konfrontation in Kauf nehmen?  Soll man Russland in die geplante Verflechtung der europäischen Rüstungsindustrie einbeziehen? Soll man Europa  von russischen Energielieferungen unabhängiger machen oder soll man eine gemeinsame russisch / europäische Energiepolitik anstreben? Und verzichtet man deshalb auf einen Raketen – Schutzschirm, welchen die USA auf europäischen Boden errichten wollen, weil Russland in ihm eine strategische Kampfansage sieht? Früher oder später wird Österreich dazu Farbe bekennen müssen.

Der amerikanische Raketen – Schutzschirm  soll aus Sicht der USA  aber ohnehin nicht Raketen Russlands abhalten, sondern jene, welche von feindlichen Drittstaaten, wie etwa dem Iran, einfliegen könnten.  Experten zweifeln, ob ein solcher Schutzschirm in allen Fällen wirksam ist. Einige Flugkörper können immer „durchschlüpfen“.  Nukleare Sprengsätze können auch anders  als durch Raketen auf europäisches Gebiet gebracht werden. Eine Raketenabwehr bietet also keinen wirksamen  Schutz gegen Atomwaffen feindlicher Drittstaaten.  Weit wirksamer  ist die  Drohung mit einem gleichwertigen Gegenschlag, also die Fähigkeit zur „nuklearen Abschreckung“. Wenn ein feindlicher Staat riskieren muss,  von den Atomwaffen eines  Gegners getroffen zu werden, gegen den er zuvor selbst Atomwaffen eingesetzt hat, dann wird er es eben schon von vorne her unterlassen, seine Atomwaffen zu gebrauchen.

In Europa verfügt Frankreich über eine solche wirksame atomare Abschreckung. (  ebenso  wie – in beschränktem Ausmaß  – Großbritannien). Die anderen europäischen Staaten  können sich nicht so schützen. Bislang  sind sie der unangenehmen Frage ausgewichen,  ob das bedenklich ist, und ob Europa als solches daher befähigt sein sollte, feindliche, nuklear gerüstete Drittstaaten mit eigenen Atomwaffen „abzuschrecken“.  Die Europäer konnten dieser Frage deshalb ausweichen, weil der Schutzschirm der amerikanischen nuklearen Abschreckung über sie ausgespannt war.  Dieser Schutz war wirksam in einer Zeit der erbitterten amerikanisch – sowjetischen Gegnerschaft, als die USA ein vorrangiges, strategisches Interesse daran hatten,  Westeuropa an ihrer Seite zu sehen und nicht unter sowjetischer Herrschaft. Die sowjetische Drohung existiert nicht länger und der amerikanische Atomschirm über Europa ist demnach weniger verlässlich.  Gewiss ist Europa heute nicht länger von den Atomwaffen der Sowjetunion bedroht. Muss man aber davon ausgehen, dass eine nämliche,  gegen Europa gerichtete Drohung heute von anderen Staaten ausgeht? Es mehrt sich ja die Zahl jener Länder, welche sich Atomwaffen angeschafft haben, anschaffen wollen, oder anschaffen könnten. Nordkorea besitzt sie bereits. Iran wird wahrscheinlich folgen und man wird das nicht verhindern können. Damit droht im Nahen Osten eine „Proliferation“  von Kernwaffen, denn wenn sich Iran nuklear rüstet dann werden das im Gegenzug auch Saudi Arabien  und Ägypten  tun wollen. Denkbar ist auch, dass in Reaktion auf chinesisches Säbelrasseln Süd – Korea und Japan ihren einstigen Verzicht auf eine eigenständige atomare Abschreckung revidieren

Natürlich wäre die Welt insgesamt sicherer, wenn es keine Atomwaffen gäbe, oder wenn zumindest die „Proliferation“ dieser Waffen zum Stillstand käme. Aber damit ist leider nicht zu rechnen. Beeinträchtigt das die europäische Sicherheit?  Muss man wirklich befürchten, dass irgendeiner der neuen Atomstaaten Europa zum potentiellen Ziel seiner Atomwaffen macht? Und wenn  man das für denkbar hält, dann stellt sich zwingend die Frage, ob sich die Europäische Union selbst Atomwaffen zulegen sollte, um einen gegen sie gerichteten Einsatz von Kernwaffen abzuschrecken?

Es ist wenig wahrscheinlich, dass  die Europäische Union kurz  oder mittelfristig bereit sein wird, ihre militärischen Kapazitäten  bis hin zu einer eigenen nuklearen Abschreckung auszubauen. Eher noch könnte man sich vorstellen,  dass Frankreich seine Atomwaffen „europäisiert“ – ihnen also die Funktion zuschreibt, nicht nur das Territorium Frankreichs  durch „Abschreckung“ zu verteidigen, sondern das gesamte Gebiet der Europäischen Union. Der französische Präsident Chirac hatte das ja schon einmal angeboten.

Erhöht oder vermindert es die Sicherheit Europas, wenn es sich so am neu anlaufenden atomaren Wettrüsten beteiligt? In Österreich herrscht dazu Denkverbot. Alles was mit „Atom“ zusammenhängt, ist tabu. Irgendwann einmal – wenn auch wahrscheinlich erst in der ferneren  Zukunft – wird man sich auch in Österreich dieser Frage zu stellen haben.

Die Europäische Verteidigungsagentur dient der Vereinheitlichung des europäischen Marktes für  militärische Güter, so wie vorher der  „Europäische Binnenmarkt“  einen einheitlichen Raum für Produktion und Absatz ziviler Güter geschaffen hatte. Wenn aber einmal große Teile der österreichischen Waffenindustrie mit anderen europäischen Rüstungsbetrieben fusioniert sind, dann entgleitet  Österreich die Kontrolle über Exporte der auf seinem Staatsgebiet tätigen Rüstungsindustrie. Das wäre auch dann der Fall, wenn es zu EU -weiten, einheitlichen Regeln für Waffenexporte kommt. Wie will sich Österreich da einbringen? Welche Kriterien sollen ein künftiges europäisches  Waffen – Export – Regime bestimmen?

In ihrem weltweiten Kampf gegen Terrorgruppen verwenden die Vereinigten Staaten zunehmend ferngesteuerte, unbemannte Flugkörper – sogenannte „Drohnen“.  Das ist wirkungsvoll, aber auch problematisch, denn damit wird  internationales Recht verletzt. Auch wird so ein gefährlicher Präzedenzfall geschaffen,  dem andere Staaten unschwer folgen können. Die Herstellung dieser Flugkörper ist nämlich weder technisch noch finanziell aufwändig ( auch Österreich produziert Drohnen – allerdings nur solche mit geringer Reichweite). Mit welchen Folgen muss man aber rechnen, wenn einmal  viele Staaten über solche Waffen verfügen, und jeder dieser Staaten ohne formale Kriegserklärung, ohne dazu von den Vereinten Nationen ermächtigt zu sein,  und nach eigenem Gutdünken auf dem Gebiet eines andern Staates ihm ungenehme  Menschen töten kann?

Diese Schreckensvision lässt es dringend geboten erscheinen, den Einsatz von „Drohnen“ international zu ächten. Österreich hat sich traditionell  für die Modernisierung und Festigung des internationalen Kriegsrechts engagiert.  Es läge im Sinne dieser Tradition,  dass es sich nunmehr auch  für ein solches internationales Verbot von militärischen „Drohnen“  stark macht.

Andererseits aber liegt ein solches Verbot wahrscheinlich nicht  im engeren militärischen Interesse Europas.  Drohnen sind  insbesondere  in „unsymmetrischen militärischen Konflikten“,  im Kampf gegen Terrorgruppen und Aufständische, von Nutzen. Das ist eine Art von Konflikten,  in die Europa wahrscheinlich am häufigsten verwickelt sein wird. Wie will sich Österreich in diesem Dilemma entscheiden? Soll es sich für die weitere Entwicklung des Völkerrechts und für ein Verbot von „Drohnen“ einsetzen;  oder dafür, dass Europa auf dieses  in einer asymmetrischen Kriegsführung nützliche Werkzeug nicht verzichtet?

Eine Entscheidung zu all diesen Fragen ist Voraussetzung für eine Entscheidung darüber, wie man sich künftig hin in die Europäische Sicherheits- und Verteidigungspolitik einbringen will.  Sie ist dementsprechend auch Voraussetzung für eine Entscheidung darüber, wie  das österreichische Bundesheer ausgerüstet und organisiert sein soll.  Die Österreicher haben  mit einer Volksbefragung erklärt, dass sie kein Berufsheer wollen.  Wie es aber konkret weiter gehen soll, das ist offen und darüber darf nicht ohne eine breite und öffentliche Diskussion entschieden werde. Zentralen Fragen darf man dabei nicht ausweichen, auch wenn sie, wie die obigen,  politisch ungelegen kommen.

Posted by: tnowotny | February 20, 2014

Francis Fukuyama got it wrong – unfortunately

The Forward – upward trend  promised to the world by Francis Fukuyama seems to have bent downwards.

It is not easy fo  me to turn pessimist. But here it is – my reflection  on this turn of a global trend. It had been published a few weeks ago in the on – line Journal “TRANSIT” ( IWM Vienna )

Fukuyama Turned on His Head: Democracy and the Market Economy Might Not Prevail

Thomas Nowotny

The wealthiest nations of the world are all in deep economic and political crisis. Explanations abound. Many come from those in such difficulties themselves, with a tendency to find the most grievous failures not in the own backyard but among other wealthy and democratic countries. Japan is thus criticized for its huge public debt; for its attempt to escape stagnation by a devaluation of its currency and for the dysfunctionality of its dominant political parties. Europe is being criticized for its lack of cohesion and failure to advance in the attempted political integration; for an allegedly oversized public sector and for a coddling and onerous system of social services. Whereas the US, on its turn, is being blamed exactly for the lack of such services, for the free reign given to markets, and for its self-assured and even arrogant ambition to dominate the rest of the world.

But such polemics, such search for splinters in the eyes of others while ignoring the beam in the own one, such distractions from the own difficulties ignore the obvious: namely that the difficulties besetting the most wealthy and democratic regions of the world have much in common and are rooted in similar causes:

The further the advance in wealth, the greater the difficulties of continuing with the model of market based economic expansion. The longer the duration of democratic governance, the weaker the capacity of this democratic system to escape political blockage, to deliver rational decisions and a sound administration of public goods.

I. Economy

The theories that sustain the legitimacy of the existing economic system – and there is only one and it is called market capitalism – are still based on the notion of capital being scarce and thus constituting the limiting, the strategic factor in the creation of wealth; they are also based on the belief that people conceive of work as a burden and would prefer leisure were they able to make that choice.

These theories are also based on the notion of production being geared towards goods needed for sheer survival and needed, later on, for meeting what are the generally accepted minimal standards of a decent life: physical security; food; clothing to protect against the vagaries of weather; shelter and housing; drinking water and sanitation; simple remedies against premature death such as vaccinations; and finally the basic infrastructure for that communality which underpins our existence as individuals – such cities and towns; education and a shared culture.

Such goods and service are being produced already in the first phases of economic development. At that phase they had brought true advance in human well-being. Goods and services produced and consumed in countries wealthy already provide less satisfaction; and satisfaction declines with each further increase in wealth. Squelching basic hunger and thirst gives greater joy than graduating from dining in a one star restaurant to dining in a three star one. Being the first in a family to own a car provides greater satisfaction and sense of freedom than substituting a hundred horsepower car for one with two hundred horsepower.

Expensive cars are a good example for a consumption being increasingly geared towards signaling social rank. As only few can ever be at the top of the social hierarchy, consumers are being caught in a never ending spiral of expenditure that would not be warranted, were it just for their survival or for their tangible comfort. If I want to be seen as being on the top of the social hierarchy, it does not suffice to have a hundred horsepower car if everyone else has one too. I have to get the flashier two hundred horsepower model, though it provides the same service as the cheaper one hundred horsepower model.

The all-pervasive competition for social rank is pointless. In the end and after having spent much on “conspicuous consumption”, most will hold the same position on the social ladder that they had held before. Therefore, this never ending race does not result in any greater well-being, but in resentful frustration. Yet these are not its most pernicious consequences. As this race sets everyone against everyone, it undermines the sense of reciprocity and belonging. Social cohesion erodes and with it the base for common efforts as they are required for a community to prosper.

That does not imply that, after having reached a certain level of wealth, further economic growth would yield no further benefits. According to most gauges used for measuring human well-being, wealthy Swedes are better off than poorer citizens in “Upper Middle Income Countries”, though in the latter, basic human needs have been met already. Nonetheless, the correlation between wealth and well-being becomes more loose and less cogent, once a certain threshold of wealth has been passed.

Whenever they exist, such diminishing yet still positive returns of growth do not benefit all citizens equally. Quite on the contrary: in wealthy countries, the gap widens between those on the top and those at the bottom of the economic and social ladder. Gains such as rises in purchasing power, or in better education and health – care increasingly accrue just to those better – off. The figures on the average thus hide the fact that notwithstanding the continuation of economic growth, those at a middle and lower level of income will be frequently worse off than they had been before.

These unequally distributed gains are bought at high social costs. Prominent among them are the costs of inequality as such. These are exorbitant and come, inter alia, in terms of rising rates of suicide and crime, of social tension, of political instability and of general unhappiness.

One should assume that increasing wealth would permit and entice people to work less. Part of the rise in overall productivity would thus translate not just into an increase in wages. It would also be used in the “purchase” of a longer time of leisure. In the past that had indeed been the case and time devoted to remunerated work had become shorter. Weekends and time for vacation had expanded. Yet in the US, that trade – off between a slower rise in wages against fewer hours worked came to an end in the Seventies of the last century. A bit later, the same happened in Europe. In several instances, the former trend has even become reversed[1], with hours of work growing again. The burden of work has become heavier. The luxury of leisure has become scarcer.

The burden of work has also grown because work has become more intense. Globalization had made competition world – wide. Firms in wealthy countries now have to prevail against those in the rapidly growing “emergent” ones, where labor costs are lower. That forces firms in the “mature economies” to raise productivity by shrinking their labor force and by squeezing the remainder into an ever tighter cuirass of computer designed efficiency. Unemployment spreads while those in employment have to work longer and harder. That detracts heavily from any gain in well-being that might be achieved by further economic growth.

Damage to the environment is well recognized as a negative side effect (“externality”) of economic growth. Such damage is worse in early and medium phases of economic development[2]. But it accompanies economic growth even in countries that have become very wealthy and which are resolved to seriously address the issue of these negative ecologic externalities of economic activity. This is because some of this damage is unavoidable and irreversible even where governments in wealthy countries accord priority to the preservation of a sound environment, as in certain problem – fields no practical means have been found to break the nexus between the economy and environmental damage. This holds true, in particular, for the damage inflicted upon biodiversity or unto the world’s climate by the emission of “greenhouse gases”.

Given the few advantages and the high costs of such further economic growth, shouldn`t the wealthy countries opt for a policy of “zero growth”? Proposals to that end are on the table[3], with some of them implying that the termination of economic growth would not just be one among many options. It would be an unavoidable necessity, as the world would run out of resources needed for a further expansion of the global economy. Yet from the times of Malthus on, similar claims have frequently been made and have been falsified as frequently[4]. A recipe of “zero growth” thus motivated therefore lacks a solid empirical justification.

Nonetheless, some of such resources needed in the economy will have to be purchased at higher costs. Prominent among such resources are water and fertile land. Their costs will rise and will be heavy not just in monetary terms, but also in political and social ones. As if by genetic programming, people refuse to perceive of fertile land and of water as being nothing but simple inputs in the economy, distributed according to the rules of demand and supply[5]. Instead, they perceive of access to land and water as being a basic human right. In disregard of such sentiments, the further expansion of the world economy will nonetheless force the laws of supply and demand unto these quasi “sacred” realms. That will hardly be seen as progress and betterment of the human condition.

But even if all of these costs were to ultimately outweigh all of its benefits, economic growth would still have to continue. For such is the very nature of the economy. Any economy would cease to function, were growth no longer feasible and with it a process of permanent change. For even if we postulate a steady state of material wealth, the maintenance of this level of wealth would still require investments for the periodic replacement of outworn machinery, crumbling buildings and decrepit public infrastructure. The financial base for these investments are previously made profits and public and private savings. In a stagnant economy with no innovation and no new products, these profits and savings would be bound to decline and to finally disappear altogether. Even investment just for the maintenance of existing wealth could no longer be made. That would translate into an accelerating decline. We would be confronted not with pleasant, reassuring stability but with an intensifying battle for a dwindling supply of goods.

The laws of the economy therefore preclude the option of “zero growth”. Powerful sociological arguments, as well as lessons from history also stand against it. Economic growth is not linear and smooth. It happens because of unforeseen ruptures and discontinuities. It occurs on the base of what the economist Josef Schumpeter had termed ever recurring waves of “creative destruction”. This chain of small revolutions has not just the economic function of destroying the old in order to make room for the new. It also has the sociological function of keeping societies flexible. It prevents elites from imbedding themselves permanently. It facilitates the rise of new elites, replacing the old ones. Absent this chain of small revolutions, absent these waves of “creative destruction”, societies would revert to their quasi natural state of feudalism, with the ruling elites being able to retain and harden their grip on society so as to perpetuate their rule. Such a permanence and non – changeability of dominant elites is, of course, not compatible with democracy.

We do not have to rely upon such theoretical reflections, however, when asking whether we can do without further economic growth. We may draw conclusions from the vast experiment presently under way as, since the onset of the World Economic Crisis in 2008, economic growth had ceased in all three of the main wealthy regions of the world. That cessation of growth has not been greeted as relief but as a tragedy. It has not brought happiness but misery. Today, no mayor political party, nor any mainstream politician will dare to suggest that stagnation would be beneficial and therefore should become the normal state of affairs. All major political actors root for a return to an era of expanding economic activities.

If economic growth thus is to persist – how rapid should it be? Presumably, most would like it to proceed at maximum speed; and in the TRIAD (that is in Japan, Europe and the USA) some even hope that, given the proper policies, one could again grow as rapidly as in the “Glorious Sixties” of the last century when the economies of the TRIAD countries expanded at an annual rate of between three and five percent[6]. Today, such targets are out of reach. The conditions were unique which in the Fifties and Sixties had facilitated such rapid progress. Today, these conditions cannot be duplicated:

  • A      massive shift from agriculture to low- skilled employment in industry; and      in industry from low –skilled to more qualified labor.
  • Abundance      of cheap raw materials
  • A      “demographic bonus” with the working population having to support a still      small number of persons in retirement
  • The      effect of major technological innovations that might have occurred before,      but which now affected investments and consumption in mass markets:      electrification, cars, radio and television, advances in medicine and      public health ( such as antibiotics ), massive expansion of secondary and      tertiary education, civil aviation, etc.[7]
  • At      that time, the “TRIAD” countries/ regions were the only ones to be fully      industrialized. They did not yet have to face the competition of newly      “emergent producers” such as today’s China. Holding this monopoly of      industrialized production made for very favorable “terms of trade”,      allowing them to import cheap raw materials from poorer countries; and      selling them industrial products at high prices.
  • A      stable world monetary system, with limited international mobility of      capital and a still highly regulated financial sector, servicing the real      economy and not yet feeding upon it.

As concerns the last point, one has to note that in the Fifties and Sixties of the last century, the then existing financial system had indeed been accommodating to, and subservient to the real economy. This was due to unique circumstances, as then the financial system then still was under the spell of echoes from the prior great word economic crisis and from the subsequent era of full mobilization for waging World War Two. In these times therefore, the world financial/ monetary system operated under conditions that were imposed upon it and that were alien to its inherent nature and inclinations. Absent these constrictions, the financial system would tend towards ceaseless expansion, and towards breaking all shackles of political control. These tendencies had prevailed throughout modern history and had always resulted in overreach, in the blow – up of financial bubbles and of their final burst, with long periods of hangover following and with much damage to the real economy

Absent these exceptional conditions after World War II, financial capital will be amassed by those able to extract it from the real economy.

Traditional economic thinking, that continues to shape actual economic policy, legitimizes the claim of capital to the full ownership of all profits resulting from any further rise in the overall productivity of the economy. This traditional economic thinking is based on lessons learned in the very early phases of the industrial age. At that time, capital was scarce, while labor and even qualified labor was abundant. In these first phases of industrialism, capital thus was the most strategic factor and therefore could claim a disproportionate share from the increase in wealth brought about in the first wave of industrialism.

We stand at the end of the age of traditional industry and when we analyze the factors that now drive the further rise in productivity, we will note that capital as such contributes very little – probably no more than ten percent. Other factors such as technological innovations are more important by far; as are the qualification of the work force (“human capital”); or social cohesion and health (“social capital”)

Yet notwithstanding this statistical evidence, the fruits of economic progress are not being distributed to the other factors of production according to their actual contribution to the further rise in wealth. Inter alia, such a more justified and just distribution of the revenues of growth would call for a rising share of wages in the overall wealth – as measured by the GDP[8]; and also for a rising share of the state. None of that has happened. On the contrary, the share of wages and has shrunk. And politicians are being applauded for reducing the share of the state, while the owners of financial capital succeed in appropriating the lion’s share of these benefits of further economic growth. Their rapacity is being sanctified by the high – priests in the profession of economists, who still behave , think and write as if the world would now have changed since the onset of industrialism; and as if capital was still the most “strategic” economic factor; and so as if the other “factors of production” would still be pretty irrelevant[9]. They therefore applaud the shrinkage of the state, the disempowerment of trade unions, and with theories such as on an automatic “trickle down” from the wealthy to the poor , assuage any bad conscience that might befall the wealthy in view of the increasing gap that separates them not just from the poor but from the bulk of the population

These benefits accruing to the owners of financial capital are not fed back into the real economy via an increase in private or public consumption; or by investment in the real economy. The just widen the pool of idle financial capital the accumulation of which outpaces economic growth. Finding no outlet in investments for the production of goods and services, it streams into non – productive “bubbles” – where high returns seem possible because the speculative ardor of one participant is being reinforced by echoes from those with similar and misplaced hopes. In this cumulative biding, the price of speculative assets is being raised – be they tulip bulbs, gold, shares in railroad companies or rare real- estate. As such bubbles explode, financial capital is destroyed, with ill effects not just for the owners of financial capital, but with a strongly negative impact upon the real economy.

We now are in the midst of one of these periodic cataclysms. At present, unemployment is as high as it had been 80 years ago in the Great Depression that preceded World War II. Today as then, that bodes ill for the preservation of peace and democracy. Members in this vast army of unemployed are shown that society does not need them; that they are useless parasites. Even when being paid unemployment benefits, few can suffer such humiliation without reacting violently.

Yet the situation of the unemployed is now worse than 80 years ago because their prospects are worse, as a return to a state of full employment seems out of reach. The present big depression had been preceded by recurring smaller “recessions”. These having ended, unemployment never receded to the previous and lower level, it remained at a higher level. This is because of ceaseless cost – cutting and outsourcing by employers who are under strong pressure from international competition, and under pressure from owners of capital who seek a maximum of return on their investment. Therefore the present depression is likely to result in the largely irreversible increase in the number of the long – term unemployed. After the Great Depression of the 1930ies, mobilization for the Big War and then for the reconstruction could mop – up unemployment, and this not just by an expansion of economically effective demand, but also because the then existing structure of the economy facilitated the absorption of new members into the work force[10]. The structure of the economy is different today. One can do with fewer workers.

The present Great Depression also differs [11] from the earlier ones by draining power from the established wealthy and democratic countries. As we have noted, modern industrial production is no longer concentrated among the members of the “TRIAD”, consisting of North America, Western Europe and Japan. The club of industrialized countries has gained new members and these have been less affected by the economic/ financial crisis. That “de – synchronization” causes resources and capacities to shift from the beleaguered “TRIAD” to these new industrial or industrializing countries. Political power will shift with it.

Economic relations between the US and China offer the most prominent example. As China continues to expand its exports to the US, it expands the market for its industrial products and thus facilitates a rapid growth of its industrial base. Much of the financial returns from these exports to the US are being transferred to US, where they feed not into investment that would permit the US to regain its economic dynamism. Instead, they feed into private and public consumption. The US is de – industrializing while China is doing the opposite.

When comparing the late 19th century with the 1970ies, we find that over this period, social tensions had abated in the wealthy countries. This lessening of social tensions had been ascribed to the rise of a middle class which filled the previous, wide gap between the rich and the poor, thus “falsifying” the prediction of Karl Marx on the inevitability of an escalating “class struggle”. By 2010 though, the middle class is being squeezed between a growing, new “underclass” and the smaller group of the super wealthy – the infamous one percent group of the population who take it as their natural right to appropriate, to the exclusion of others, all of the gains arising from increasing economic productivity[12], while the former middle class is ridden by fear of descending into the new “underclass”. Such fear is heightened by the pervasive insecurity due to unpredictable and interminable social and economic transformation; and is accentuated further by them losing status as becomes evident in their falling behind in the race of competitive consumption.

The traditional division between the wealthy and the poor thus gains renewed political, economic and social weight. But added to this cleavage are overlapping and new ones that also shred social cohesion:

  • Tensions      between the expanding communities of immigrants and the community of the      resident population,
  • Tensions      between the well-educated, who bequeath their superior position to their      children; and the less well-educated, whose children are likely to inherit      the inferior position of their parents
  • Tensions      between the enlightened “gainers of modernization” and the resentful,      angst – ridden losers, yearning for the return to a past that offered      certainty and security
  • On      the labor market tensions between those with steady jobs on one hand, and      those part of the growing army of temporaries, of part time workers, or of      the marginally self – employed

To sum up: In countries, very wealthy already:

  • further      economic growth becomes much slower
  • it      hardly brings any greater happiness and satisfaction
  • it      is associated with a renewed surge of pernicious inequality
  • it      is being bought with a rising intensity of work and a seemingly      irrepressible growth of unemployment;
  • and      with negative externalities such as a deterioration of the natural      environment

Even in wealthy countries, economic growth becomes reversed periodically and that not just by minor “recessions” but by much more serious “depressions” such as the present one.

All of these facts prompt questions as to the future of the existing set – up, and as to feasible alternatives. Such questions are articulated most prominently among the well-educated and socially secure; by those far removed already from industrial toil and shielded from the challenge of global competition through their superior skills or by their work in protected sectors such as education. Privileged classes such as these have often spearheaded political movements and have even lead revolutions. Their sentiments are thus pointers to a possible future. It therefore is significant that such groups[13] have become instrumental in propagating the notion of a “zero growth economy”.

But as we have seen, and given the present basic parameters, a zero growth economy cannot come to exist. A modern economy cannot do without rising productivity, without recurring, destabilizing “creative destruction”, and without new investments. We seem chained to this order although what it delivers is being bought at the steep price of individual discomfort and of communal disintegration.

Such contradictions are serious enough to shatter the complacent belief in the unblemished and secure legitimacy of the present economic system. True – no alternative to this system is in sight. But even in absence of such an alternative, the system might crumble, as all highly complex system can be shattered by dramatic discontinuities and breaks. That would rupture the net of intra – national and international interdependence which, in the last 60 years, had sustained peace and material progress. Anarchy would become the anti – thesis to the existing order of market capitalism

That dire outlook runs counter to the predictions of Francis Fukuyama, who had maintained that the ideal of market capitalism would continue to gain acceptance and would emerge worldwide as the sole and uncontested principle for regulating economic affairs.

But Francis Fukuyama was extrapolating from the past that is from a period characterized by the universalization of an economic growth that still brought vast and tangible benefits. It continues to do so and to be perceived as an unmitigated good in once poor countries, now on their way to becoming wealthy – in countries such as Brazil, China or Indonesia. But in countries wealthy already, we may not assume that the future will be like the past.

Hundred years ago, John M Keynes addressed that question as to “what after the era of economic growth” in his essay on “The Economic Possibilities of Our Grandchildren – Mankind is Solving the Economic Problem”. He invited to a speculation on what would or should happen after the supply of goods has become so abundant, that all reasonable human needs would have been met; and scarcity could no longer motivate economic activity. How would all those goods and services be used? How the available, vastly expanded time of leisure? Would it be used for the pursuit of nobler aims? Or would the masses then begin to simply duplicate the vices that had befallen the idle rich in the past?

By now, we are past the point in time Keynes referred to in his essay. His predictions were made for two generations removed from the time of his writing. They thus referred to a point in time around 1990. Yet twenty years later the question he raised are still without answer as we still lack a common goal or even vague vision for our economic future. We cannot unshackle from the structures of the past that were shaped in an era of economic scarcity. Nonetheless we are under increasing pressure to do so.

An open society has to remain that. It has to remain without an ultimate, single and fixed goal. But in order to continue to exist, in order to stay flexible and “open”, agreement has to exist, nevertheless, on some basic rules of the game. In the era of economic scarcity, these rules were those of market capitalism. As Francis Fukuyama claimed, in the past these rules had been shared ever more widely across the world. But they became universal only to the extent that scarcity endured. In the wealthy parts of the world, however, abundance will increasingly substitute for scarcity while we seem unable to deal with such fundamental a change in the base of our collective existence:

  • poverty      in the midst of plenty;
  • unemployment      coexisting with a growing workload of those employed;
  • irreversible      environmental degradation that could be prevented with means technically      available
  • an      abundance of financial capital while consumption and investment languish

All these are symptoms of our failure to find rules for the new era of plenty.

Francis Fukuyma had not just predicted the ultimate and uncontested victory of market capitalism; but also the victory of the ideal of democracy. In the following we will therefore investigate whether, in this political sphere at least, his optimistic predictions have better matched reality

II. Democracy

At first sight, much seems to give credence to Fukuyama’s prediction on the ultimate and complete victory of democracy; especially if this victory is been seen as an ideological one; with the ideal of democracy standing unopposed and accepted universally. Up to quite recently, this was indeed the case. Even those that ignored this ideal in actual practice, even those who ruled with a heavy hand and in disregard of popular will, even those proclaimed to implement the ideal, although they frequently added a qualifier in the form of an added adjective, characterizing their rule as a “national” democracy, or as a “popular” democracy” or as an “Islamic” democracy; but as a democracy nonetheless. Anything less would have delegitimized them even in their own self – perception.

But the progress of democratic rule was rapid even if we exclude such impostors, and even if we take count just of those states that actually meet the formal, minimum requirements of being “democratic”. At Mid – Twentieth Century just a mere handful of states could have been called “democratic”. The rest were under the rule of the military, of Marxist dictators, feudal lords, or of imperial powers. A mere half of a century later, the situation had changed dramatically. At the turn from the 20th to the 21st century, about 100 of the 200 states of the world were ruled democratically

This widening of the democratic realm had been termed the “third wave of democratization[14] by the US political scientist Samuel Huntington. He had predicted though, that this wave too, would be followed by a wave of retraction, with some of the new democracies becoming less democratic or even ceasing to be democracies altogether – as has been the case in the two prior waves of democratization when some of the then new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe – such as Germany, Austria, Poland, Italy, etc., reverted to authoritarian and even totalitarian rule in the first half of the Twentieth Century. At the fringe of the democratic core lands – in today’s Russia or Turkey, for example; or even in Hungary[15] we now witness again such a retreat from democracy.

Regrettable and troubling as this should be, such reversals would still conform to a historic pattern as defined by Samuel Huntington. That retreat would still leave us with the hope that the sinners might be redeemed eventually and – in due time – would again join the family of democracies, as it was the case when after their lapse in the wake of the second wave of democratization in the first half of the Twentieth Century, the Central and Eastern European countries became consolidated democracies seventy years later.

We thus have to spare our deepest concern not for the unfortunate developments in newly democratic countries at the fringe of the core area of long established and consolidated democracies. The deepest concern should be raised by the development in this very core. Democracy is becoming eroded even there.

Democracy is never perfect of course. It implies and requires more than the existence and functioning of formal institutions – such as periodic elections. In order to be effective, it has to have a base in social norms such as tolerance and the readiness to trust and delegate. Taking all that into account, and taking in account also the inevitable ups and downs in such basic attitudes and in adherence to the democratic ideal, history of the past two hundred years had nonetheless led us to assume that, in essence, we all would be transported upward and forward on a trajectory towards an ever more perfect and well-functioning democracy; with franchise becoming universal; with the baggage of vote buying and of clientilism being cast away; with checks and balances actually working; and with the political system, being able to truly safeguard and promote the common – wealth.

We now have to realize that we have been misled by such belief in a quasi -automatic political/ democratic progress. In democratic core countries we are regressing backward and downward instead of moving upward and forward.

Before probing into the causes and consequence of this slide, let me substantiate such pessimistic a claim with a glance at democracy in the United States. They, after all, have been the anchor of world – wide democracy in the critical years following World War II and they continue to claim this role today. Critical outside observers will however hesitate to subscribe to that US claim. They could point to developments that would support their critical view; as for example:

  • So      called “gerrymandering” has made for seats in the US Congress which are      securely held by either the conservative “Republicans”, or by the slightly      more liberal “Democrats”. Electoral districts are aligned in such a way      that voters there residing will either be overwhelmingly “Democrats” or      “Republicans”, with the other party having nil chance of ever unseating      the incumbent or its anointed successor. This is the case for more than 80      percent of all electoral districts and this thus implies that elections      turn on the votes of less than 20 percent of voters. The remaining 80      percent are disenfranchised for all practical purposes.
  • It      is the more essential to establish who, which person with which agenda and      world – view, will come to be the uncontested candidate in these 80      percent of electoral districts. That decision on candidates is being made      in so called “primaries” and it is being made by members of either the “Republican”      or the “Democratic” party[16]. Not all of these party members participate in those      primaries. As a rule only those do, who are most committed and most firm      in their partisanship. That way, the selection of candidates is being      determined by the extreme left or right fringe of the party. Democracy      thrives when politics converge on the center. In the US they no longer do.
  • The      dominance of the fringes is abetted by a low electoral turn – out. Even at      presidential elections it hovers around 50 to 60 percent, while it is less      than 40 percent at “mid – term elections” held every second year. That      abstinence thus lessens the weight of the “Political Middle”; but it also      is expression of a general disenchantment with, and estrangement from      politics.
  • The      US political system is being subverted and even corrupted by money. 80      percent of the finances for the Republicans in the 20012 elections came      from just 50 wealthy individuals. Though the actual outcome of these 2012      elections had shown that big money had not been able to simply buy      electoral victory, big money was nonetheless successful in largely setting      the agenda; as it was later on in influencing the work of the Congress and      of the administration by intense lobbying. In the case of proposals on      health reform, for example, money could fund six lobbyists for each of the      roughly 600 Senators and Members of Congress. That makes one wonder      whether the elected representatives still serve the broad public or just      narrow and often economic interests instead.
  • Such      doubts are being reinforced by the outcome of the political process. May      one truly ascribe it to a functioning democracy that the wealthiest nation      on earth has fallen back so very far according to many indicators that      gauge human well-being: in average life expectancy, infant mortality,      absence of violence, quality of primary and secondary education, chances      of social mobility; state of the public infrastructure, and – above all –      in equality of income and wealth. Within the span of just one generation,      inequality in the US has grown to the extent of approaching inequality in      the notoriously non – egalitarian countries of Latin America. One can      hardly assume these outcomes to reflect the true wishes of US citizens by      being the result of political processes that are truly democratic.
  • The      radiance of US democracy has also been dimmed, and its function as an      anchor of world – wide democracy has been weakened by its foreign policy.      I remember the period immediately after World War II, when for me, as a      youngster in poor and demoralized Austria, the America – House – Library      opened a window to a brighter and better world. This was the time the US      supported land reform and trade unions; promoted de – colonization;      opposed the British/ French attempt to again wrestle control over the Suez      Canal from Egypt; and gave strategic support to those multilateral      institutions like the United Nations and the World Bank they had done so      much to create and that were designed to function as the catalysts of      global governance. Today, this era must seem remote, with the US      frequently having mobilized against democratically elected governments[17]; having prioritized      unilateral international action over multilateral one[18]; seeking to protect      investors over workers in its international engagements; choosing military      intervention over negotiations; and lagging behind other nations in      providing assistance to the poor of the world. Abroad, , the “democratic      regime change” it had come to promote under president George W. Bush, had      been perceived not as a beacon of hope but as a cover for the furtherance      of narrow US interests.
  • At      present, the US political system seems incapable of functioning without      mobilizing against external and internal enemies; and without the      cultivation and political exploitation of fear. That is not unique to the      US; and not unique even to this phase of US history[19]. The wholly disproportionate reaction to the terror      attack against the New York World Trade Center, with its wholesale      mobilizations in a “war on terror”, has however, added a new quality and      more serious consequences to this traditional attitude. Democratic      institutions and core beliefs have suffered lasting damage. There is no      precedent in US history for a president being able to wage war without      consent of the Congress, to spy at will, thus violating most basic civil      rights; to murder both US and foreign citizens by “drone” attacks; to      incarcerate without due process and due review; and to seal the Southern      frontier by a barrier comparable to the infamous Berlin Wall.

I dwell on these developments not in a repeat of the usual Anti – American carping of European intellectuals. I do so for two reasons: First because of the US role as the “indispensable nation”; as the nation which, in the past, had functioned as an anchor of world – wide democracy. And I do so, second, because developments in the US, while highly visible and well-analyzed, nonetheless have their counterpart and parallel in other mature democracies, such as those in Europe. Here too, symptoms of democratic decay abound.

To put it in simple terms: citizens on one hand, and their democratic political machine on the other, have become estranged. Each of these two sides has weakened the ties that should bind them together. The trend runs its course in all mature democracies; as becomes evident in symptoms such as:

  • Declining      turn – out at elections. Ever fewer go to the polls
  • Erosion      of the political center. In parliamentary democracies, the formerly      dominant center right and center – left parties are losing ground to      parties with a more narrow constituency, frequently at the more extreme      fringe of the political spectrum
  • Fracturing      of the politically active community of a nation – the so called “polity” –      into divergent sub groups with a limited and often conflicting agenda
  • Politicians      themselves have ceased to be respected or even honored. In their public      image and in regard to trust invested in them, their profession ranks far      below other ones – like doctors or educators. Politicians have even become      object of disrespect and ridicule
  • In a      stance of “Anti – Politics”, those campaigning for votes do so by assuring      their audience that they are not really part of the established political      system, be it concentrated and symbolized by Washington, Brussels, or      Vienna. Some of these “anti-politicians”[20] now have no qualms to even      distance themselves from the legitimate political process as such, which      they castigate as inherently inefficient and even corrupt[21].
  • The      ideal of mature, “Western” democracy loses some of its shine, permitting      rulers in several nominally “democratic” countries, such as Turkey or      Russia to disregard basic democratic principles. Even the very ideal of      democracy has become contested. That had not been the case 25 years ago      when even the worst dictators did not dare to oppose it. But with democracy      malfunctioning , and with its being unable to effectively cope with      problems such as the present world economic crisis, or with the stark rise      in inequality, the ideal of democracy has now found true competitors, for      example in the political systems of China or Singapore.

If these are the symptoms of a troubling development – what are its causes?

  1. Representative      democracy implies the conviction that people as such cannot and should not      exercise power in a direct way, and directly determine      every, or still every major decision in the running of a country. In      general elections, voters can and should provide pointers as to the      general direction they wish a country to take. But it would then be up to      those elected to resolve the details. An administration empowered by those      elected representatives would implement their guidelines. What voters thus      would have to offer is a general engagement in politics with the      willingness and capacity to provide some sense for the overall development      of a country. As the rest would then be up to those elected, a functioning      democracy requires that the elected politicians are endowed with the trust      of the electorate. On their turn though, politician thus elected should be      accountable for delivering something in return for that trust. They should      be ready to actually shoulder the responsibilities heaped on them. They      should be ready to make even difficult decisions, and to do so in a      credible and transparent manner. Alas, and as it has turned out, this is      not their central concern and priority. Staying in power is; and they have      evolved strategies to that end. The responsibility entrusted to them is      being shifted back to citizens. Through permanent polling and by paying      heed to the message of mass – media, elected politicians follow public      opinion instead of shaping it by explaining in a sober way why they have      taken, or are about to take this or that grievous decision. The “political      class” thus has become enslaved to public opinion even where that opinion      is fickle, ill informed, illusionary and guided by wishful thinking. While      knowing well, for example, the need for further investment in education,      infrastructure or health services, and thus knowing fully well the need to      raise taxes, politicians are nonetheless inclined to kowtow to the public      and its short term interest of keeping taxes low. The public, however is      not being made aware of the costs of higher budgetary deficits associated      with that divergence between public income and needed public expenses. And      when the problem of rising deficits finally dawns on them, they react      angrily and by withdrawing trust from the democratic system. Professional      politicians employ a plethora of other stratagems for the purpose of      staying in power by escaping the responsibility they should shoulder. They      make their position, and the decisions they take unassailable through the      use of an arcane and obscuring language[22]. It is full of ambiguities and of meaningless      commonplaces, destined to stir emotion and to drown out rationality. A      whole army of political consultants, pollster and professional      speechwriters is being employed not for the aim of defining and      implementing a concrete policy. Politicians rely of this army of political      manipulators not for the purpose of finding the best possible solutions in      actually governing a country. They rely on this army of political manipulators      exclusively for the goal of gaining power and for retaining it for as long      as possible[23].
  2. Fear      is the most powerful emotion politicians may use and manipulate for their      end of retaining power. When fully triggered, fear overpowers all      other human reactions. If seen under the aspect of the evolution of the      human species, this is a good thing. It saved the species from becoming      extinct after it had exited from its narrow ecological niche as      unreflective, instinct – driven hunters and gatherers. Under modern      conditions though, the primacy of fear is less beneficial. Fear can block      the rational approach to political issues. It tempts to seek the alleged      security of the well-known past over the search for a potentially better      but unknown future. That entices politicians to raise and to manipulate      fear. The emotions thus kindled overpower the rationality required in any      functioning democracy. They may thus avoid the controversies that would      arise from discussions about such concrete programs. They also can expect      to win easily over politicians who appeal to other human emotions such as      hope and trust, because – as mentioned – the emotion of fear is more      cogent as these other emotions. Politics in mature democracies offer ample      proof for this tendency. In most of them, fertility per women had declined      below “replacement level “, and immigration had come to fill the nascent      demographic vacuum. As a consequence, foreigners – the foreign – intruded      into the quarters of formerly rather closed societies. Inevitably, the      foreign – the unknown – causes apprehension and fear. This fear has come      to be exploited politically – first by parties at the radical right      fringes. Later on, a good part of this play with xenophobia has become      “mainstreamed”, as it entered the agenda of center – right parties. But      the political “Left” too, has made use of fear. It did s, for example, in      its campaign against nuclear power. The actual experience with nuclear      power has shown it to be among the methods of generating electricity which      are least damaging to the environment ; and among the least damaging too,      when such damage is counted in terms of human lives lost due to the      production of electricity. But unlike coal, oil, or water, the energy      imbedded in nuclear fission is invisible, and the whole process of using      it is still mysterious to most citizens. This insecurity triggers fear and      this fear has also been exploited politically – this time by the political      “Left”.
  3. Politics      has failed to deliver on its task of a rational guidance into the future      because minorities have been able to block political process even      though their agenda had little support with the majority of citizens. A      fitting example is offered by the US legislation (or lack of legislation)      on the purchase and ownership of high – grade weapons, such as assault      rifles. According to opinion polls, the majority of US citizens would      actually be in favor of setting stricter limits to the private purchase      and possession of such arms[24]. But proposals for such limitations to the alleged      right “to bear arms” meet the determined resistance of the US Gun – Lobby,      such as the National Rifle Association. Supporters of unrestricted access      to even highly dangerous weapons are willing to base their political      choice exclusively on that issue. They will never vote for a candidate who      would heed the wishes of the majority of US citizens for a more      restrictive legislation on gun – ownership. However, for this majority      that issue is just one among many. It rarely will be decisive in their      decision at the voting booth. When seeking to maximize the number of votes      cast in his or her favor, a US politician is thus well counseled to bow to      the wishes of the gun lobby. The majority of US voters will not sanction      him for that, notwithstanding their aversion to wide spread availability      of dangerous weapons. The mechanisms demonstrated by using the example of      US legislation on gun ownership, is, not just an exotic exception. It is      more of a general rule; with extreme British nationalists blocking a      rational policy towards the UK membership in the European Union; with      trade unions of teachers impeding reforms of the educational system; with      all sorts of “Not In My Backyard – NIMBY” groups halting the building and      maintenance of essential infrastructure; etc. That way, politics become      blocked and politicians fail in their mission to deliver rational      solutions which take account of the wishes of the majority.
  4. The      wishes and interests of the majority are also distorted and thwarted by      the pressure of economic interests and of “big money”.      Politics and the economy are just part of one inseparable social      continuum. Small wonder then that economic questions frequently come to      dominate the political agenda. But that is not the issue. The problem      arises when economic interests disable politics in their function to      regulate markets; or when they arrogate themselves a function in a realm      that has to be reserved for politics exclusively – as in many instances,      the mechanism of markets will simply not be able to deliver the “common      good”[25]. The failure of European      politicians to deal with the banking crisis offers a trenchant example.      The crisis would have never reached its present, difficult to manage      proportions, had European politician decided earlier on, to let banks      fully suffer the losses resulting from the Greek failure to honor its      debt. Big European banks, such as the German and French ones, wanted to      avoid such a massive write – off of their Greek assets. Their narrow      interests prevailed and the ensuing costs had instead to be carried by the      public. That was one of the reasons for the financial crisis spreading      beyond Greece. That spreading of the financial crisis was accelerated by a      general, creditor imposed policy which effectively shifted all costs of      financial failure upon the taxpayers; with owners of financial capital      being firmly and successfully opposed to any raising of the inflation –      target. Such a higher inflation would have encouraged investment and      growth, but it would have diminished the value of the “assets”, that is      the value of debts held by banks, pensions funds and wealthy individuals.      In the US and again in Europe, banks have also been largely successful in      weakening legislations that would have placed them under tighter control      and would have limited their capacity to speculate with money that was not      their own[26] .
  5. In      parliamentary democracies, mass political parties have served as the      main bridge for connecting citizens with the elite of elected      representatives. Parties did so by serving several important      functions. They bundled an array of political issues and demands into one      coherent program. They facilitated political engagement and provided a      sense of orientation, identity and belonging. And they “peer reviewed”, so      to say, the rise of candidates to the political top, thus ensuring quality      in these top positions. By now though, the old mass parties have been      weakened seriously. They have lost members (in the case of the Austrian      Social democrats fully two thirds of their former members) and they have      been weakened by the emergence of smaller parties with a more narrow      agenda. Yet they have been diminished not just in this merely quantitative      sense. They also have lost much of their prior function in the selection      and further screening of candidates; and they are no longer in a position      to define a long – term and constraining political program, as the actual      political agenda is now being set by professional political counselors,      who rely on focus groups and opinion polls and not on any formal and rigid      party program that would reflect the enduring interests and values of a      certain segment of the population. The political elites at the top are no      longer replenished by candidates rising through party ranks, where their      progress would be assessed by their peers. The political elites now      replenish themselves through co – option that is in a top – down way      instead of a bottom up one[27]. They have become unassailable

Politics has thus become a game of this political elite; a game not about divergent political programs with their divergent impact on society; but a game organized for its own sake – just like a soccer game or boxing match. The echo in media provides the proof. Competing politicians are grade by a score on where they stand in polls; on how clever they were in the employ of tactics; on who would join forces with whom; on whether they very more or less witty in a television debate. All that provides the main course in the reporting of media. The substantive, the nature and consequence of political choices enters at the margins at best.

These deficits of democracy come from the supply side of politics, so to say. Political elites fail to deliver what they are supposed to deliver – namely such rational responses to emerging tasks and problems that are considered legitimate by the electorate. As we have seen, the failure to provide these decisions has become imbedded deeply in the political machinery of modern democracies. To a certain extent, some drastic reforms might compensate for that malfunctioning[28]. But even such only partial reforms would prove difficult, as they would run up against the strong opposition of entrenched ways and interests.

Yet these problems of the “supply side” of democratic politics are minor if compared to those problems that arise on the “demand side”; that arise from a changing attitude of citizens and voters. Politics fail to deliver rational solutions to emerging tasks and problems because there is a lack of demand for such solutions. That failure is not a passing one. It is due to developments that are centennial and that seem irreversible, given the very nature of modern societies.

Humans are “social animals”. That genetic/ cultural conditioning was essential for the survival of the species. A person standing isolated alone and relying on its own efforts exclusively would perish soon. Survival and the gradual betterment in the human condition were possible, because individuals had been able to join in common efforts[29] . That calls for institutions that facilitate such common efforts. In a modern democracy public administration, government, parliament and elections are such institutions. But these institutions asphyxiate where individuals become oblivious of their being so very dependent on others; when they have lost the sense of social responsibility and reciprocity; and are no longer able or willing to trust the working of common, mutually supported arrangements.

Yet it is exactly this what has happened in mature and wealthy democracies. The base of communality is eroding and that at times when the realm of the common had expanded and with it the need to depend on others. Three hundred years ago, a European subsistence farmer would have to rely on reciprocity in a smallish circle of an extended family or of village neighbors mainly; though even in those times already, he would have come to also depend on an exchange with more remote suppliers of goods he could not do without – such as iron, salt, or textiles. Since then, the dependency on others has increased dramatically both in scope and intensity.

To drive in that point, imagine the consequences of a modern country being cut off from electricity for the extended period of several weeks; or of satellites failing to operate; of rare earth becoming unavailable for the electronic industry, or of countries dependent on the massive import of food being deprived of such imports, or global agriculture having suddenly to do without phosphates or fertilizers.

This then is the true, even existential dilemma: in order to avoid the shocks of such disasters, the heightened mutual dependency would need to be sustained by a common resolve, to gird it by generally accepted norms and institutions, with everyone chipping in with efforts to sustain the system. This presupposes that citizens would be fully aware of the extent to which they need a functioning community of effective mutual solidarity. It calls for them being ready to trust and to actively support political institutions that safeguard this solidarity.

But the developments are not going into that direction but into an opposite one. Take the ever smaller percentage of citizens willing to cast their vote at elections. Yes – that is also due to the triviality of modern politics, enacted as if it were a game played for its own sake with little impact on the daily life of voters. And, Yes again, such a disenchantment of voters could also be explained by some other malfunctioning of the “supply side” of politics. But the refusal of citizens to participate in elections is also due to failures on the “demand side”. These are the more serious ones. Citizens simply fail to feel concerned. They no longer care. They suffice for themselves. Computer games offer them a fare more exciting than the ritual of discussions by competing politicians, as it is beamed into the living rooms via television.

By the ceaseless roar of advertising, they have been brainwashed into an imagined identity of wholly autonomous consumers, so as if what they are would come to depend exclusively on a decision to buy or not to buy a certain product. And when citizens nonetheless still identify with politics and with a distinct political current, their decision to do so is a superficial one on the life style they opt for. One might decide to be branded conservative by such a political choice, like one would decide to be so branded by purchasing a suit instead of jeans.

Consumption has turned competitive. The search for status through consumption sets everyone against everyone else and makes impatient with the claims of the community for an appropriate share of wealth, so as to maintain the necessary common base a society cannot do without: physical infrastructure, courts, public education, the arts; etc. As seen from the perspective of all those involved in the rat – race of competitive consumption that turns the common political institution – that is the state – into the enemy depriving consumers of money they would prefer to spend in the race to stay ahead of others. In the words of the US lobbyist Grover Norquist, the state becomes “the beast to kill” or, alternatively, something to be “shrunk to a size that can be drowned in a bathtub”.

This is no US specialty. The preference for the individual and private over the common and public has been “mainstreamed “far into the political center. European Conservatives have come out solidly in favor of “less state – more private”: That view became even shared – for a time at least – by the “Third Way” European Social Democrats around Tony Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

One should assume that, as any competition, competitive consumption too, would keep citizens focused and energized. To a certain extent, that has been the case, making them willing to work more intensely and for longer hours than they would have to were they content with their station in the social order. Nonetheless, this stress of staying ahead in competitive consumption had not added to the building or maintenance of the “republican virtue” of adult responsibility and of a rational engagement in the arena of democratic politics. Such an engagement must have been perceived as necessary and logic at time when the economy was still to deliver the bare essentials for a decent human existence; and politics were still to deliver the guarantees for fundamental freedoms of life and liberty. These needs having been met, the economy and politics are about less basic things and even trivial ones. Yet politics and the markets have been ready to deliver on such trivials. They even have persuaded citizens into the belief that they would be obliged to do so. As a consequence, citizens, workers, consumers have reverted to a stance of spoilt children; expecting every of their whims being attended to; blowing up any mild discomfort into a personal and collective disaster. More than average snowfall turns into “a white hell”; and snowplows coming late turn into an abject failure of democracy; a batch of vegetables still tainted with insecticides triggers a veritable “food crisis”; public television with too little entertainment and too heavy on information becomes a scandal to be corrected by abolishing public television. Consumer/ citizens come to expect all these shortcomings to be corrected without them having any input in that process, or having any charges to bear. Such responsibilities, such republican virtues waning, democracy is deprived of inputs required to keep it lively and effective. .

Democracy suffers because citizens no longer care about it. Much would be gained were the ardor devoted to animal rights or in the obsession with food devoted to questions such as reforms needed to keep democracy functioning.

Conclusion: A Troubling Suspicion

Might it be that in the long span of human history, the era of competitive democracy and of competitive market capitalism has not been the ultimate end – point of an evolutionary development which had brought humankind to an ideal arrangement of political and economic affairs, which henceforth was destined to endure forever, as no feasible alternative could be imagined that would better suit human nature and desire?

Might it be that this era of competitive democracy and competitive capitalism had been but a short interlude, which had brought much real material and cultural progress, but which was destined come to an end because it became victim to its very success and finally ran afoul of human nature which abhors the prospect of endless change and which, prefers security over freedom and predictability over the further amassment of possessions?

In a book, on “Capitalism; Socialism and Democracy” still written in time of World War II, Josef Schumpeter had considered that possibility. And he had answered the above questions to the affirmative. Yes – the era of competitive capitalism will ultimately come to an end. Ever bigger firms will tend to internalize and make routine the process of innovation. They will make innovation predictable thus terminating the recurrence of the waves of destabilizing “creative destruction”. The ups and downs of profit and loss will cease, as will the periodic exchange of economic elites. Those finally on top will entrench themselves as a permanent and irreplaceable, non-productive feudal class, living of rent income that they can extract due to their unassailable position.

Josef Schumpeter had applied his model of the creative entrepreneur, of the “creative destruction”, of the exchange of elites also to democracy. Just as the economic entrepreneurs would seek to maximize their profits, in democracy a “political entrepreneur” would aim to maximize the numbers of citizens voting for him (or her). And just as economic entrepreneurs, the political entrepreneurs too, would aim to stay on top as long as they can; and they would develop techniques to help them in their quest.

As we have seen, the wheels of political change are turning slower. It gets more onerous to truly replace the ruling political elite. In all mature democracies, a distinct “political class” has come to rule, set apart from the rest of the population; not regarded as really representative of that population; and even despised by it. Nonetheless, this political class is not about to be swept aside by disenchanted citizens, as these have become politically passive, self – seeking, ego- centric, and no longer engaged in the workings of the institutions of representative democracy.

A similar development runs its course in the realm of the economy. Increasingly, consumers seem to become disenchanted with the prospect of further marginal increases in wealth as these are bought at an ever stiffer price of insecurity and estrangement. Both those on the left and those on the right of the political spectrum seem to yearn for a return back to what they imagine to be a more natural state of affairs; namely to an era of enduring stability. Both the Right and the New Left abhor globalization and promote “localization” instead. As it seems, they wish to go back in history to a time when everyone had been content with, and had found its place in the prevailing order, or had at least accepted it as a situation that could not be changed. Not further growth now seems enticing; but an end to that growth which had been associated with so much incessant upheaval and displacement. This sentiment on part of the consumers has its counterpart in the behavior of the economic elites. Where they can, they substitute rent – income they may reap due to their powerful position (eg. in the financial sector or in real – estate) to profits generated by – destabilizing innovation. As feudal classes[30] before, they rely on this rent income to support their elevated style of life.

At present and in the economic realm, things are still being kept moving and flexible due to the catching up and the competition of still poorer countries. But this is temporary too. This phase too, would have come to an end in a hundred years or so. Politically and economically we will then have entered again into the era of that feudalism which has been the quasi natural socio / economic order throughout human history.

© Author / Transit 2013

Thomas Nowotny teaches Political Science at the University of Vienna. He has been Austrian diplomat, private secretary to Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, senior political counselor to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and consultant to the OECD. He is author of numerous articles and of several books including Strawberries in WinterOn Global Trends and Global Governance (2005),  Diplomacy and Global Governance (2011). Further details see: https://tnowotny.wordpress.com)


[1] In France, for example, the experiment of introducing a shorter, 35 hours work week had to be abandoned

[2] As exemplified by the serious environmental problems caused in China by its rapid industrialization

[3] Eg. Tim Jackson, 2009, “Prosperity without Growth”; Earthscan, London

[4] Such as the claim that a scarcity of fossil fuel would limit growth. Today, that does not seem likely – at least not in the perspective of the next hundred years if one expands the analysis into the availability of “fractured” oil and gas; and – of course – into the nearly unlimited supply of coal

[5] Like other primates, humans are possessed by a territorial instinct. It is irrepressible. Even if it had no economic function, territory would be sought just for the sake of possession.

[6] The so called “Lisbon Strategy“ of the European Union corroborates the wide spread currency of that illusion, as in the year 2000 still, it assumed as realistic the target of a three percent annual growth

[7] Technological innovation has not ceased, of course; including the innovation which affects mass markets. In the last decades it had been the information technology that had the widest impact; but also the innovation of container transport, or the jet engine planes. But the effect of these major and more recent behavior changing innovation is still less dramatic by far, than the technologic breakthroughs hat had been made in the first half of the 20th Century and which had a continuing and strong impact still in the Fifties and Sixties of the last century.

[8] The share of labor is falling with a parallel rise of the share in the GDP made up of return on capital such as rents, interest, and dividends

[9] Some might think such claims excessive. In reply I may invite them to reflect on the history of “economic transition” in the formerly Communist countries; to which I may serve as a witness, having worked at the OECD “Center for Cooperation With Countries in Transition” and, later on,, at the chief economists office in the “European Bank for Reconstruction and Development” founded to assist the economic transformation of these formerly Communist countries. The warm welcome granted to the highly dysfunctional “voucher “ privatization, for example, can only be understood in the context of a philosophy that granted financial capital the key role in a process of economic transformation. They completely ignored the stock of existing real capital such as it was invested in machinery; in human education and skills, in public infrastructure and institutions. One even went to the extreme of seriously recommending that part of the public pensions system be changed into one based on the shallow, volatile, untried capital markets as they came to exist precariously in these Ex- Communist countries

[10] In the classic era of mass production, that is in the decades following World War II, there was a strong demand for a large number of semi-skilled workers. Further automatization has cut that demand drastically. With the vanishing of this large groups of semi – skilled workers, the labor market has become polarized between the extreme of the less qualified working poor on one side; and the highly skilled on the other

[11] To paraphrase the title of a book by the US economists Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff on “This Time is Different -Eight Centuries of Financial Folly”

[12] Noteworthy as a symptom of this widening cleavage: even during the present economic depression, the sales of luxury cars have expanded, while producers of smaller cars face difficulties

[13] In Europe they have found their preferred political home in the “Green Parties”. It is to be noted, that, contrary to many predictions, these parties have not shrunk and disappeared, but have grown to become significant political players. Obviously, they profit from sentiments that are increasingly shared in the wider population.

[14] This third wave brought democracy not just to the formerly Communist states. But prior to that to the last dictatorships in Europe and to the dictatorships in Latin America

[15] Accelerated – as it had been 80 years before – by a world economic crisis.

[16] A few of the US states have „open primaries“ with non-party members also being allowed to vote

[17] Notoriously so in the case of Chile or Iran, while the option of doing the same in newly democratic Portugal had been considered seriously and had only been thwarted by the courage of a few individual US diplomats.

[18] And even denigrating the very idea of multilateralism, as highlighted by the nomination of John Bolton as US ambassador to the United Nations. Ambassador Bolton saw it as his mission not to support but to weaken this irreplaceable world institution

[19] As the US intellectual Richard Hofstadter had demonstrated, US politics had frequently fallen prey to waves of paranoia ( see his book: The Paranoid Style in US Politics)

[20] The term “anti-politics” had been coined in Communist times by the then Czech dissident Vaclav Havel. It recommended abstention from a political process that was dominated by the authoritarian/ totalitarian Communist regime. Shouldn`t we worry that the same stance is now being promoted in respect to democratic processes?

[21] In an ominous echo to the Thirties of the last Century, when the rising authoritarian leaders used a similar terminology

[22] A language the French have termed „wooden“ (langue du bois)

[23] Europe and the United States differ in the institutional setup of politics; as well as in much of the priorities in their political agenda. Nonetheless, US experts have become dominant in the trade of political counseling and in the design of political campaigns. This corroborates the claim that these campaigns to not really touch upon the true choices that would have to be made in face of upcoming issues. The prevalence of these US experts indicates that these campaigns skirt such questions in favor of substantial irrelevance.

[24] 91 % percent of Americans would be in favor of stricter background checks of persons purchasing guns. That option is, however, opposed by the US gun lobby

[25] The issue has amply been covered in accounts of situations described as “prisoners dilemma situations”, when each participant seeking an optimal personal return, makes for collective decisions that are not just damaging to the community of market – participants; but that are even damaging to himself as an individual

[26] The litany on big money overriding public interest could, of course, be prolonged easily

[27] With the implicit dangers of a decrease in the quality of political leaders, as these will be loath to select into their ranks persons that will endanger their position by being more competent. My late friend Egon Matzner thought that this tendency was bound to result in a steadily increasing mediocrity (“das Gesetz vom abnehmenden Mittelmaß”)

[28] Reforms like those enacted by Theodor Roosevelt at the turn from the 19th to the 20th Century

[29] A well-known metaphor: Rousseau’s stag hunt, with members of a primitive tribe joining in the common effort to kill a large animal

[30] For proof, look at the exorbitant remunerations of CEOs in financial institutions. Certainly, these are not due to innovations these CEOs have brought about and which would have benefitted the consumers of financial services to the extent of their being ready to pay to this CEO an income a thousand times higher than the median US income. These are rent – incomes, resulting from the exploitation

The coming world – order and the policy cleavage between  wealthy,  “emerging” and poor countries

 

As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  had reaffirmed just recently,  it is 95 percent certain by now  that the earth’s warming is caused by human activity. The  “greenhouses gases”  thus emitted stay entrapped  in the upper atmosphere  and prevent  heat from being radiated back into  outer space. While there still is no certainty on how much the earth’s surface temperature,  and on how much sea –level will rise as a consequence, most experts  agree that the results will be dire in the long run – especially after some tipping points will have been reached with subsequent massive release of methane gases into the atmosphere. All countries of the earth – all of its inhabitants will be affected. Yet poor countries and poor persons will be hit hardest.

That insight is not a recent one. It already had informed the Rio Earth Summit of 1993 with its passing of the “United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change”. That was followed by the 1995 Kyoto Protocol that set binding limits to the amount of greenhouses gases emitted by  the established, wealthy, already fully industrialized countries. No such binding limits were set to the emissions coming from the poorer and from the “emerging” countries. Yet even not all wealthy states proved willing to bind themselves to firm targets in curtailing greenhouse gas emissions; notably so the United States, which – until quite recently and until it had been overtaken by China – had been the main source of these emissions.

The Kyoto Protocol is set to expire by 2015.  In the meantime efforts were made to also have the United States and the  emerging countries such as China and India accept binding limits; and to include them in the successor regime  that would have to be in place in 2015 already. Without the full participation of these countries, without their accepting strict and binding limits to their greenhouse gas emissions, efforts to stop global warming will be in vain. Between 1990 and 2010 the European emissions had been lowered by 15%; those of China had increased by 280%; those of India by 198%

share in world – wide emission  of greenhouse gases

China……………        29%

US……………..           16%

European Union..  11%

Both China and India will be massively affected by the consequences of global warming. A good part of their citizens live in low lying delta regions where big rivers empty into the sea. With the level of the ocean rising, these regions and their mega cities would likely have to be abandoned. So why do China and India keep largely aloof from efforts to combat the causes of such a rise in the sea level? They seem to have other, more urgent  priorities.

This is not the only field, in which  global governance is being hampered by serious  policy differences between  the established, wealthy, already “post – industrial”  countries on the one side, and the still poorer, but rapidly “emerging” ones  on the other. That gap seems to widen. Today it would no longer be possible, for example, to again find consensus in the United Nations on an international “responsibility to protect” humans that have become victims  to violent internal conflict in weak and war – torn states.  Obviously too, the Rio + 20 conference of 2013 could not duplicate the great strides made in the first Rio Earth  Summit 20 years earlier. The results of Rio + 20 were meager. No progress could be registered on the crucial issue of global warming; and no progress either on other pressing issues such as a dearly needed global and strict regime for fishery on the high seas.

But if we look into the more distant past, or even just observe what has happened in the last 60 years, we will find similar, and even very serious policy differences that stood between the rich and the poor countries. One such difference emerged in the early Sixties of the last century over a “New Economic Order” and the challenges posed by the Latin – American “ Dependencia” theory. Present day policy difference thus have their precedents. Without  doubt, such differences had even been more marked in these early Sixties. But they had narrowed since and especially after the collapse of the Soviet empire and after the fracturing of the “Non – Aligned Movement”.

So why should we worry as they have become a bit wider again over the last twenty years?  We have to worry!  The failure to arrive at more binding and universally shared international regimes becomes ever more costly. This holds true not just for global environmental regimes, but also for regimes in the realm of basic human rights, for the world  monetary and financial system, for  the regime needed to govern  global cyber – space, and on many other security related issues. We may no longer continue with a diversity of uncoordinated national policies, such as it used to exist throughout history. What had been acceptable even a few decades ago, no longer is. In these last few decades, change has been explosively rapid. The growth in global wealth has accelerated, and  – with it – interdependence even more so. An ever greater share of what is produced locally is exported abroad. Reciprocally, an ever greater share of what is consumed locally is imported from abroad. We increasingly depend on those not our co –patriots. Within a mere twenty years, this share of the “external” –  this share that  merchandise trade holds in the gross domestic product of the world –  had risen from  25% to 45%.

             Source: world Development Indicators

In 1990, just 12,4 million cell – phones existed world- wide.  By 2011, they numbered 6 billions.

This interdependence implies added vulnerabilities and risks. The still rapidly growing world – population and its rapidly growing consumption press against  some physical limits set by the earth’s resource endowment. “Global Commons” ,  such as the oceans or the world monetary system,  have to be safeguarded by more careful and stricter management.  Solutions have to be found on a global level.

Some might argue that this goal of management on a global level would be largely redundant; as the desired goals could also be reached by each nation following its own best instincts. The sum of individual actions would ultimately result in a shared common good. At first sight, some figures on national environmental  policies  would seem to sustain such optimism. If we agree that increasing material wealth is  – so to say – the normal trajectory nations follow, we note that on this sliding scale of growing wealth, those better – off  follow much saner environmental policies than those still poorer. Salmons again swim in the Rhine; and the fog has lifted over London.

Yale index of environmental performance

Composed from a a number of indicators- the higher the number of the composite index, the better the performance))

Why do still poorer countries rank so low on this index? Is this warranted in the case of China, for example, in view of its vast investments in renewable energy and in re – forestation? Yet it is true, that notwithstanding such investments, quality of life in China is severely  impaired by air and water pollution. Even average  life – expectancy is affected negatively. One has to keep in mind, though, that these negative effects are  compensated and overcompensated by the beneficial effects of rising wealth.  This rise in wealth manifests itself not just in city – streets clogged by private cars, but – more importantly – by a stark decline of absolute poverty, by the growth of a middle class, by urbanization, by an  expansion of secondary and tertiary education, a reduction of fertility rates ( below “replacement level” ) and – yes – by life expectancy rising in spite of the damages done to health by the consequences of rapid industrialization, with  a new coal fired power station being added to the Chinese  grid each week on the average.

Or to put it in the stark terms of lives saved or lost: in China – which we use as an example – many more lives are saved and prolonged through rising material wealth, than are lost by the negative environmental fall – out of this rising wealth; such as the massive air pollution  caused by coal fired plants generating that electricity, which  is  needed to meet the demand of  a population both wealthier and more numerous.

The reverse holds true for rich countries. Even there, a few additional lives might be saved or prolonged as a consequence of a further rise in material wealth. But given the frequently negative fall – out of this growth, the “marginal utility” of this further increase is experienced as being negligible. Generally accepted indicators of human well – being,  such as the UNDP “Human Development Index -HDI”, show that from a certain level of income on, this growth in wealth relates but very loosely to an increase in well – being.

The Human Development Index

Indicators other than the Human Development Index provide a picture that is starker still. The “General Progress Indicator” , which includes environmental and  social sub – indices,  would show that for the US, no such overall progress would have been achieved over the last 30 years

If we look at the Human Development Index again, we cannot fail to note the wide variations in welfare that exist even between countries at the same level of wealth. Different cultures and different public policies ( or different cultures in conjunction with different public policies ) make for widely divergent outcomes. It is therefore this difference in private and public life style that  dominates  public discourse and politics. Poor countries search for material goals and the satisfaction of basic human needs. Creating the capacity to meet these needs is thus central in their politics. Politics in the wealthy countries, however,  revolve around life – style ( in its widest sense ). That provides ample room for the pursuit of policies promoting   the “global public good”, even when and where such a search would imply some – minor – subtraction from personal material wealth.

The  “World Value Survey” sums this up in the graph below

Those differences in outlook seep into global politics. The rich countries and the poorer  or “emerging” ones do not pursue identical goals the international arena.  This is but natural and this might have been even more pronounced forty, fifty or sixty years ago, when relations between the two groups were more antagonistic then they are today, with the poorer countries barricading themselves in  the counter – ideology of a “Third Way” and seeking redemption by  separation from the “Capitalist Centers”. That did not very much change the course of things and did not affect the world order as it had been established by the victorious powers in the aftermath of World War II. Climate change was not on the agenda then, and neither was the issue of bio – diversity. Whatever the poorer countries thought or did had little effect upon the world monetary system or the regime covering world trade. In these times, the  global system rested firmly and exclusively upon values and institutions established by the wealthiest part of humanity.

Since then, the world has changed profoundly. Europe and the US together still manage to produce half of the world’s total output. But this share is declining rapidly. US economic growth has become contingent  on China’s financing of its  – sizeable – current account deficit.  Large parts of industry and many services too, have been “outsourced”  from the wealthy to the “emerging” countries. Religiously inspired terrorism  threatens China, India, Russia as much as it threatens the United States or Europe. It is not longer just the wealthy of the world that will have the resolve, resources and power to decide upon the rules that govern the use of the oceans or that can hope to set a firm regime  to thwart the serious threat posed by global warming.

Also, the wealthy nations of the world should not delude themselves into the notion that they could simply bribe the poorer and the emerging countries into accepting their preferences. The financial transfers they could offer are small in comparison to the advantages emerging countries can reap from pursuing their own goals and prominently so their goal of fastest possible economic growth, even then when such rapid growth does damage to the environment and to the “global commons”.

China registers a GDP of  8 Trillion US Dollars, or  8.000 billion US Dollars. Reducing economic growth from an annual rate 10% to 5% thus would cost China  40 billion US Dollars annually. Total, world – wide “Official Development Assistance – ODA” amounts to 125 billion US Dollars. That implies that one Third of Global  ODA would have to be spent upon enticing China to halve  the pace of its GDP growth. Even if China were to accept such a deal, it its doubtful whether resources could be found to implement it.

It has been alleged that in the UN negotiations in the run – up to the Rio + 20 conference, the leader of the 77- Group, that is the leader of the world assembly of poorer nations,  has  had brackets put around the word “sustainable”  in the draft of the concluding document for the conference. I do not know whether this information is a reliable one; and – anyhow – the word “sustainable” then figured prominently in the Rio + 20  concluding document (which had been substituted  by Brazil for the one labored upon by the drafting committee in the New York UN headquarters). Yet the  issue is not whether the report on this attempt to remove the word “sustainable” is true or false. The important thing is that it sounds plausible.

Economic   – and with it political power – has shifted in the world; and with it the capacity to impact on the global political discourse and to set the formal and informal rules for world – governance.  At the same time, interdependence between nations has become more intense; and specifically also interdependence between the wealthy, the poor and the “emerging” countries.  This would necessitate firmer and more effective world governance on the base of shared values and concerns. But this base is still a fragile one. As shown in an exemplary fashion by the failure to agree on an effective regime to limit global warming, a postulated common interest is still drowned by more pressing and diverging goals. The gap is not easy to bridge.

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