von Andreas Herteux
Mankind is facing a change of times. Unmistakable, intervening in the lives of almost everyone and sparing no one. Big signs, smaller impacts. Even bigger impacts, irreversible consequences. From crisis to crisis. Constant change of the very own life. No one remains a spectator anymore. So many developments and all of them influence each other so dynamically that they can lead to a reorganization of the previous global balance of power. An exciting time, as far as it may succeed to remain a mere observer. A decisive period for the freedom and prosperity of many. Yes, one could have seen it coming:
- The rise of new competitors on the world markets (e.g. China and India) and the associated attempts to reorder the world or to secure a place at the table of the big players – Russia comes to mind here – in good time.
- The weakness of the Western world (e.g., due to instability, dwindling confidence in existing orders, loss of competitiveness), which was constantly apparent and only ever temporarily disappeared from view due to trivialities.
- The change in environmental conditions (e.g., due to climate change, pandemics, resource exploitation, or environmental degradation), which are now fundamental to all life.
- The lack of prospects among part of humanity (e.g., due to overpopulation or unmet basic and security needs); the eternally unresolved question.
- Dealing with technological progress (e.g., digitalization, behavioral capitalism, homo stimulus, biotechnology, AI, human optimization), which many will not discuss until it is already firmly established in everyday life.
These are all fundamental, mutually influencing factors, sometimes conditioning, occasionally inhibiting, rarely obscuring, that shape our times and help to overturn previous power relationships and create new ones.
The burden of the individual
Everything has been heard before, never consistently thought through. Sometimes one element may come into the media spotlight, then another.
From debt crises to refugee flows to climate change and pandemics to global tensions and wars – only technological development has had to take a back seat in the media in recent years, but will receive such attention in the next decade as perhaps never before in history.
It remains questionable whether the Western world will still play a leading role after and during these turbulent times, or whether the shift in the global balance of power that has already begun will be irreversible by then. No, the West will not go under, but perhaps it will no longer play a dominant role either. That, in turn, would have a massive impact on prosperity and social fabric. It will be the individual who loses. In freedom, in self-evidence, in income, in wealth, in security and perhaps also in health. What was far away and sounds abstract is suddenly near. It’s waiting in the supermarket, on the heating bill, on the road with all the potholes.
Nevertheless, some people, even on the inside, may wish for the downfall of the democratic states, the pleasure in the lamenting self-destruction is known to be closer to some contemporaries than the change of the living conditions out of their own energy, but it still remains a small minority that does not understand that it is their own livelihoods that are simply blown away by the said breeze that has meanwhile taken its transformation to a storm.
The withering of liberal ideology?
Yes, the liberal ideology is in retreat and is characterized primarily by self-induced weakness, but what advantage does the critic gain from this if he may have to remain silent, freeze and starve because of it? One must be able to afford to be displeased. The worst of the good is still better than the best of the bad.
And nevertheless no development is inevitable or even decided. One possibility to steer the change of times still into the right, one forgives here the egoistic-western approach, courses would be the idea of the value capitalism which could still turn the tendency in favor of the liberal order. A block and bulwark for the freedom, but also for the own prosperity. For the own survival.
Values as the Tamer of Capitalism?
Capitalism and values? Can this work? Let’s take a step back and start at the level of the private economy.
As a rule, values, by which we mean standards such as working conditions, co-determination rights, free development of the personality or environmental protection, are more of a hindrance to companies when it comes to maximizing profits. The free market economy is usually sober and cold. Values, as bad as it may sound, are often ballast.
But can’t capitalism be redesigned so that you become a winning factor? This is precisely where value capitalism comes in, and this is its basic idea. Values must be established as a factor of production, without which profit maximization becomes much more difficult.
Put simply, value capitalism relies on and manipulates the greed of the free economy. It creates an economy in which success is maximized if defined standards are met. It’s a concept where everyone wins – except for those who don’t care about standards, freedom, or democracy anyway.
Technology as the key
How does that actually work? Practically speaking, technology is the key to the future. Waiting in the wings almost everywhere, a plethora of fundamental breakthroughs are foreseeable in the next few years, even for laymen. If not in the Western world, then in the underestimated Eastern one.
That is why it makes sense for democratic, free nations to establish a common fund of values, a guardian of values, which invests in them in a targeted manner, builds up corresponding market power and holds many patents. Anyone who has followed the rapid rise of behavioral capitalists such as Google or Amazon knows that such a development, and if it starts with the targeted purchase of companies and patents, could be triggered within a very short time. The value fund buys, promotes, participates, holds – and thus clearly helps determine the rules of the game. As a market participant.
This development gives rise to technological standards which must be licensed by those who wish to use them. Through this licensing, values can now become a production factor, in that their compliance becomes part of the contract. Without corresponding acceptance, no business. The use of the latest chip technology? Gladly, but only if the production chains are coherent and the production itself takes place in appropriate countries that are at least on good terms. All that would be just cool contracting. Without proof, no use. No company is forced to do this. It is a free business decision, but the desire to maximize profits will ultimately lead to such clauses being accepted, because if a standard cannot be used, a loss of competitiveness is often the result.
The profits would be invested on the one hand and distributed to the donor countries on the other. In this way, for example, social systems or infrastructures could be financed. However, the countries involved and their citizens would ultimately have to decide on the use of the funds.
Will this not create a juggernaut? A state between states? No, because the guardian of values would be indirectly democratically legitimized, would have to act transparently and be accountable. Possibly the controlling body, a kind of supervisory board, could be elected directly by the participating peoples. So we have a different constellation than, for example, with large corporations or authoritarian states.
Ultimately, the key, technological progress thus remains in the hands of freedom-oriented countries in a, perhaps somewhat less globalized world, which invest more and more in themselves, could thus grow and prosper and in this way also convince other states of themselves. No development aid, but investment aid. Democracy will follow the new prosperity.
Bulwark against authority
Authoritarian systems, on the other hand, would be cut off from technological development to some extent, and would have to adapt or enter the competition. The latter has also been happening for decades, but now the opponents would not be individual states or weak confederations, but a bulwark of better reality with all its flaws and weaknesses.
Therefore, by linking values and capitalism, the chances of the freedom-oriented world increase massively.
And yes, while this path may have been dismissed as an interesting as well as entertaining utopia a few years ago, the general situation has now changed in such a way that it is a viable option for securing the well-being of the individual in the long term.
Time transforms utopias into possibilities. Let’s seize them!