"Moderating the Consequences of Globalization"
Ernst Ulrich von Weizsacker on the Social Dimension of the World Economic System
[This interview originally published in: Frankfurter Rundschau, March 2004 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.fr-aktuell.de/uebersicht/alle_dossiers/politik_ausland/grenzen_der_globalisierung/?cnt=393740. Ernst Ulrich von Weizsacker is a German member of the world commission on the social dimension of globalization and president of the Wuppertal Institute on Climate, Environment and Energy.]
Frankfurter Rundschau: Several commissions and conferences have criticized the unfair world economic system since the 1980 Brandt commission. Why is a new commission necessary?
Ernst Ulrich von Weizsacker: Globalization is a new phenomenon that first became dominant with the end of the East-West conflict. A world commission is now systematically grappling with this phenomenon for the first time. The gulf between the poor and rich is widening. Globalization has a social dimension that counters the optimistic jargon about its blessings.
Globalization opponents criticize the power differentials in the world economy. Are they right?
Two principles compete in globalization: the principle of the market and the principle of democracy. The former is good for the strong and the latter is good for the weak. What is new in globalization is that the principle of the market is global and the principle of democracy is national. The winner is clear. Humanity only thrives when these principles are in balance. International capital can play off individual locations against each other and weaken democracy. I agree with the critics that the benefits of globalization asymmetrically favor the strong.
The commission is composed in a very heterogeneous way. Where is the greatest consensus and where is the greatest disagreement?
There is broad agreement on the necessity of a global, surveyable and enforceable legal framework. This also benefits decent businesses against the indecent. A little conflict exists over the question how far defensive political bureaucratic norms should be enforced. Here there is an unholy alliance between the industrialists of the North and the elites of developing countries against the rights and claims of employees, the worldwide alliance of human rights activists and leftist unionists...
Do you regard the report of the commission as a vision and utopia or as a pragmatic instruction?
A vision as a referential framework is offered. A world cartel office advancing and controlling market forces and making dignified work into a constant element of economic policy are among the proposals for conversion. There are also well-known proposals like dismantling protectionism or ownership titles for poor farmers.
Can the commission's demands be carried out?
There are decent corporations that are against the intrigues of their indecent rivals like corruption, tax evasion, child labor and suppression of employee rights. These decent corporations will welcome the report.
Globalization affects the labor markets. How does globalization influence migration?
There is an asymmetry in globalization between the mobility of labor and the mobility of capital. This asymmetry leads to an imbalance of power between capital and labor. Therefore the mobility of labor must be enhanced through open borders. All isolationists must recognize that they weaken the negotiating position of employees.