The "Obscene" Gulf between Poor and Rich
by Ulrich Duchrow
[This article is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, www.zuw.de/aktuell/1998/03/05/wirt02.htm. Ulrich Duchrow is a theologian and professor of social ethics in Heidelberg. He describes as "obscene" that stock prices rise while more and more people lose their jobs. This article summarizes Professor Duchrow's remarks at an IG-metal union meeting on "Wealth in our Republic", March 5, 1998.]
Moral judgment on the unbridled global market and politics is Ulrich Duchrow's theme. Duchrow builds his criticism on statistics with generally accepted data of the UN and German agencies. What emerged in curves and diagrams was enough proof in the crowded little hall of the Walbinger civic center. What Duchrow calls a "total mis-distribution" has occurred since the beginning of the 80s in Germany and the world. A third world exists within the first. A fifth of the world's population own 80 percent of income and resources. The disparity is clear for Germany. In the time period from 1980 to 1994, wages rose 0.8 percent while the incomes of independent persons climbed 53 percent. Tax policy with all the loopholes leads to the rich not paying any taxes any more but hiding their money with the help of the state and the banks. This policy is sold as a way to create jobs. Actually, according to Duchrow, the taxes withheld from the state are tacked on to wages. Distribution in Germany appears this way: 1.4 percent of the population own one quarter of the assets while 80 percent of those with anything share a quarter. The money shifted to foreign countries and deposited in free bank markets is lacking to the state. Those who have something "think we will get away while they have long been sitting on a slide". This is a consequence of a neo-liberal policy of free world trade and rising interests initiated in industrial countries in the 80s. At the end, the consensus was that capitalism must be socially restrained to not wage new wars. "The liberal market order is a war in many ways."
What should be done from the view of the opposition? The global economy can only be globally regulated and controlled, says the expert of the evangelical national church, book author ("Alternatives to the Capitalist World Economy") and European activist of the base movement "Kairos". Only an interlocking of unions helps against the positional logic of capital. Uncoupling locally and regionally from the world market is possible. Models of exchange rings without money already exist in Switzerland and elsewhere among artisans and small enterprises. the idea of cooperative banks that are socially and ecologically engaged should be underlined. Consumption of non-renewable energy should be taxed much more heavily. Local markets and consumer cooperatives should be developed everywhere.
The Neo-Liberal Views of Mr. Schroder
1998 as an election year could be a turning point year. The answer to globalization is not a positional question. "Cooperation instead of competition" should be emphasized.