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Justice versus Neoliberalism and Globalization

Justice is the weapon of the weaker, not the right of the stronger.. Every person is an end, not a means. Therefore justice can never approve the violation of human rights.. Hurrah, we auction off the state! is the joyous cry of the neoliberals. Everything public should be pulverized.

Norbert Blum's new book "Justice. A Critique of Homo Oeconomicus

By Karl Mueller

[This book review published in: Zeit-Fragen February 2007 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.zeit-fragen.de.]

"We face a totalitarian economy that forces everything under the command of an economic ratio. However this is a crippled ratio. [... ] An economic order that regularly answers dismissals with increased profits cannot survive. The people will not put up with this."
Norbert Blum

German chancellor Angela Merkel is courted by the rich and powerful of the world. In Davos at this year's World Economic Forum (WEF), she gave an opening address on January 24, 2007. This address also showed why Angela Merkel is wooed. In artificial simplicity, she lectured that globalization is a good cause, a chance and not a risk. The growing together of the world needs true political framing conditions, for example "more freedom." For Merkel, this means expansion of the domestic European market with its four principles of globalization: unrestrained trade with goods and services, unbridled transfer of people, unfettered capital traffic and "deepened economic connections between the EU and the US" ("Neue Zuricher Zeitung," January 25). Merkel "imagines a domestic market with a similar structure." (Ibid) Merkel stands for the ideology of Homo oeconomicus.


Numbers do not explain the world but spare us many words. The hit list of multi-millionaires that the Forbes economics magazine compiles every year had an enormous increase in newcomers in 2006. 102 names were added to the club of multi-millionaires. 793 multi-millionaires in the world face 3 billion people who must manage with less than 2 dollars a day. Of them, 1.3 billion must cope with less than $1 per day.

The billions as possessions are different than the billions who hunger. One billion is not the same as another. The 38 richest countries of the world with 1.2 billion inhabitants have a gross domestic product of $26.7 trillion. The poorer countries manage with $4.8 trillion gross domestic product shared by 5.476 billion people.

An average income per day of $60.96 results for one and $2.40 for the other. In Germany, the gap between rich and poor is widening. The number of multi-millionaires has never risen as quickly as in the last years. In 1930 there were 217,000 income multi-millionaires and today there are over 1.5 million.

The 358 richest families possess half of the world's assets. The 500 largest private companies of the world control 52 percent of the world domestic product. These 500 corporations are richer than the 133 poorest countries of the earth. Between 1980 and 1995, the total assets of the 100 largest transnational corporations rose 700 percent.

Average sums say nothing about the extent of the difference between rich and poor. When one eats two grilled sausages and another none, both have eaten one sausage on average. One is full and the other hungry. The gap between rich and poor grows. The rich become richer and the poor poorer. The assets of dollar multi-millionaires rose 57 percent from 2003 to 2005. The difference in the incomes between the richest and poorest countries becomes ever greater. In 1820 the gap was 3:1, in 1950 35:1 and in 1992 72:1. In 98 countries, the incomes are lower than 10 years ago. In Africa, they are 20 percent below the level 25 years ago.

One billion people have no access to clean water. 600 million are not living where they want to live but escaped or were expelled. 30,000 persons die daily because they have nothing to eat. Children perish. 8000 children die every day of sicknesses that could have been prevented by inoculations.

For many, there is no physician and no school and no work for their parents. Everything essential for life is lacking.

250 million children are forced to work. In the same regions, 900 million adults are unemployed. The children slave away while the parents hang about jobless at home. The first starve to death and the others grow obese. Is this global schizophrenia? The world has become mad. The money spent for ice cream and cosmetics in America ($8 billion) and Europe (11 billion euros) would cover the costs of elementary school and clean water for 2 billion persons. A drop of more justice and misery would disappear from the world.

The person, the "crown of creation," "God's child," is Homo sapiens, animal rationale. How beautiful are the words with which we adorn people and how filthy is the misery in which the largest part of humanity wades. We can transport people tothe moon and cannot land justice on earth.

What is the point of probe detectors on the moon when the wells in the Sahara dry up? The person, the rational being, wastes his intelligence in trivialities. I don't get involved in the argument about the accuracy of the poverty statistics. The misery cries to heaven even if the number of the poor is exaggerated. Does the scandal begin when a child starves to death or when a million children die of starvation?

Numbers, statistics and diagrams are dead matter. The demand for justice can be supported argumentatively but is not ignited by statistics. Rebellion against injustice is flared up by the innate consciousness of people that they have a claim to be recognized as persons. That is a right and not charity.
From: Norbert Blum, "Justice. A Critique of Homo oeconomicus, p.15ff. Norbert Blum was a German minister for Labor and Social Order for 16 years

Blum is a member of the same party (CDU) as Angela Merkel but worlds separate the views of these two persons.


The author of this article recalls the late fall of 1973 after Pinochet's bloody putsch against the elected Chilean government. Critical voices against this coup de etat organized by the CIA were unwelcome at that time within the CDU. A very controversial opinion by Norbert Blum was discussed. He did not hold to the informal party line. Justice was more important to him. He denounced the putsch. This righteous opinion has remained in this writer's memory over all the years.

In his new book, Blum describes meeting with Pinochet when he denounced the brutal torture methods of the regime and demanded justice.

Norbert Blum showed his colors. Since 2002, he has been strongly engaged for the Palestinians in the occupied territories and traveled to Palestine several times. Blum is a resolute critic of the Israeli occupation policy and refuses being put in some corner by polemics. Justice for him is obviously a question of concrete acts converting basic ideas about cooperative human life into reality and not only a question of intellectual discussion.

Blum's book has 6 chapters and an introduction. The chapters are titled "What Moves the World,?" "Justice," "Anthropology," "Neoliberalism," "The Economization of Life" and "An Overall Perspective."


The "mental preparation" focuses on the micro- and macro-cosmos of globalization.

A huge dam was built in the corner of three countries Brazil-Argentina-Paraguay. Blum calls the project a "symbiosis of gigantomania and fun." We know the same pictures from all over the world - often from countries that are the most exploited. Advertising billboards, films and television broadcasts present a brave new world, a perverse show of splendor and riches. Blum describes the reality: "The grimace of misery hides behind the cheerful face of progress: exploitation, oppression and contempt for humankind." "Within sight of the gigantic hydroelectric power plant, thousands of children walk the streets and are murdered. The rich of the land live screened in fortress-like villas, "don't even want to see what happens in the world outside and send their little daughters to the economic academy in St. Gallen, Switzerland."

International conventions proscribe poverty. However these conventions are of no use as long as they are only on paper and few insist on their enforcement.

Blum also cites numbers of the macro-cosmos. "If the current stock prices on the global exchanges changed only 1 percent, around $400 billion would be silently redistributed in no time. This is three times as much as the workers of the world earn in wages on that day." "Globalization is an exclusive game of a privileged minority that stylizes itself as humanity."


"People are not satisified with the world in which they live." This sentence is at the beginning of the 1st chapter. At the end of the first sub-chapter, we read: "A successful just life in a good just society is the happiness we seek."

To the question "How can we live together?" Blum emphasizes the spiritual achievements of humanity's history. "The cry for justice pervades the history of humanity." "Justice is the insignia of humanity." "The cry for justice becomes louder the darker the world appears." "The rulers must be measured by the standard of justice." "Justice is the weapon of the weaker, not the right of the stronger. The strong do not need it. The strong are not capable of life together in peace. The weak only survive under the shelter of justice." "Everyone has a claim to justice and no one is excluded." "The elementary claim of justice is very simple: acknowledgment of the dignity of every person."


Justice is a personal virtue and a social principle for institutions ordering cooperative human life. "Without virtue, justice is empty. Without just institutions, justice is amorphous."

Justice has nothing to do with a "philosophy of usefulness." "The great philosophy of justice from Aristotle to Kant cannot adjust to t\such a cancellation of morality. Every person is an en, not a means." "Therefore justice can never approve the violation of human rights."

Such sentences are very up to date given present superpower and world war politics and the trampling of international rights and human rights!

The justice theory developed by Blum in conjunction with Christian social teaching has practical consequences for organizing the economic order in one country and in the world. The crass social inequality of humanity, the greedy egoism of profit mongering and the radicalization of the market idea are extremely unjust and contradict human nature.

In "Gaudium et spes," the pastoral constitution of the Second Vatican Council, we read: "The social system and its development must be permanently oriented to human welfare since the order of things must be subservient to the human order and not vice versa."


Command socialism was the monopolization of power. Separation of powers between executive, legislative and judicative was abolished. All power was in the hands of the party. "The party is always right."

Economic and political power united and intensified in command socialism. The reality of monopoly of power and a damned bonzo-cracy replaced the utopia of the rule-free classless society. Private and public sectors were merged. The authorities seized everything and penetrated the most remote corners of human life. Thinking was politically regimented and if necessary cleansed of all private feelings by brainwashing. That ideological target was never totally attained despite totalitarianism's great efforts.

Everything private should be eliminated and the person "made public." That was the goal.

The neoliberal counter-revolution began with the collapse of socialism. All waters were to flow in the opposite direction through private mills. "Hurray, we auction off the state!" is the joyful cry of the neoliberals. Everything public should be pulverized. That is the neoliberal variant of totalitarianism. State and society are privatized. The tense, freedom-securing duality between public and private spheres is weakened in neoliberalism as in socialism, benefiting the private sphere in one case and the public sphere in the other. [... ]


Privatization spreads like a stream of molten lava, driving the state from areas to which it was entitled from time immemorial. The state's monopoly of power ended the anarchy and guaranteed the security of citizens. This monopoly of force is restrained again.

Private suppliers provide security from crimes. Private guard services replace police functions and even the function of the military now and then. Drugs and the weapons trade finance the privatized state function. Criminality feeds its children.

The armed private armies are the new military forces in the already privatized world. For its self-defense, the Russian oil company Gasprom employs an army of 20,000, better paid and armed than the Russian army from whom soldiers were stolen. BP, British Petroleum, hired a private security service to protect its oil production in Colombia with more local power than the police and army combined. Controls at the national borders are more lax than the controls for strong businesses in downhill states. Mercenary troops drift around the world offering their private services to anyone who pays them. Supply and demand set the price. Privatization of national security is a lucrative business. Its 50 percent growth in five years presents the best profit possibility. [... ]

Dismantling the state in poor countries allows corruption to grow rampantly. The remnants of the state sink in criminality and the mire of debts. Like the piranhas, the privatizers leave the gnawed-off skeleton of the state.

Privatization is also rewarding in rich countries, for the "top personnel" in any case. Changing from public office-bearers to managers does not only create income advantages. The legal risks of managers are less than those of office-bearers. The former are responsible to the owners and the second to the general public. [... ]

Private actors direct the state. That is the inversion of the socialist into the capitalist planned economy. Private rating agencies decide over the future of businesses and the credit-worthiness of the state that then seeks assistance from the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund. [... ]


In South Africa, the higher-priced privatized water supply in several parts of the country led to drinking dirty water again from oceans and rivers instead of the cleaner more costly water. The result was a return of cholera in which hundreds of thousands of people became sick.

The costs of fighting the epidemic were greater than the amount the communities saved through privatization. That is the simple-minded reasoning of privatization. The battle over water will be the next global conflict. All the terrible prospects suggest it will surpass the struggle over oil in severity and force. The thirst for water torments people even more than the need of car drivers for petroleum. BP, Shell etc. quietly prepare for the next silent world war. This will be the first war waged without weapons. No one knows how it will turn out. The privatization of nature knows fewer and fewer limits.
From Norbert Blum, "Justice. A Critique of the Homo Oeconomicus," p.126ff

A person is neither an atomized individual nor a little wheel merging in the collective, we read in Gaudium et spes. "The person in his or her nature is a social being. Without relations to others, he cannot live or unfold his gifts."

The person is both an individual and a social being. The person is a person. "Personalism emphasizes that a person develops in relations. This replaces an anonymous world spirit or faceless matter." "Everyone is unique and yet not alone." "A person is an end-in-himself and cannot be used by anyone else," says the philosopher of religion Romano Guardini. A person is uncontrollable. Norbert Blum recalls the biblical question "What have you done to the least of my brothers and sisters?" and the person's place in the world. "A person must render an account of what he has done for others, not what he does for himself."


Politics and the economic order must be judged by this orientation. The fathers of the social market economy knew this... Noted German economists opposed an economic order of corporate monopolies and urged really free competition in a social economic order oriented in public welfare. This is a "third way," Blum says, between communism and capitalism.

The "new" neoliberalism is very different. "The old liberalism was a social idea. The new liberalism degenerates to a business idea." Profit is the "god of the neoliberals. Communities dissolve. Society is atomized. Everything lasting is antiquated. Morality has term- limits. Structures are temporary condensations that evaporate like raindrops under the sun's rays. [... ] Liberalization understands itself as a decontrol and globalization as deregulation. [... ] In its core, neoliberalism is nothing but an ideology of boundlessness."


The three dogmas of neoliberalism are: "deregulation, competition and lower costs." In addition, destruction of a state oriented in public welfare and their public function occurs with the profit orientation of all areas of existence including private patents for genes and cells and control and commercialization of life processes. The cry is called "privatization." A person uprooted from all bonds is a "flexible person" or "job nomad."

This is a "cultural revolution." "Like Mao and his followers, the new neoliberals clear away everything: traditions, conventions and values. [... ] The new neoliberals are Maoists hiding in the underground and reemerging in German university chairs. Like their secret schoolmaster Mao Tsetong in 1974, they fight four old evils three decades later: old culture, old thinking, old morals and old customs."

The "hedonist gang of four" is their personality ideal. Those who fall by the wayside should receive alms. However alms and welfare benefits cannot replace justice. "Dressing wounds cannot provide welfare when injustice causes injuries."

Very alarmingly Blum points our that Angela Merkel, the "modern" CDU and the "modern" German catholic bishops espouse this spirit of the times.


Social policy is not an ambulance that follows economic development and picks up the footsore. A social policy that thinks beyond the day must reflect about creating an order where no one falls among robbers. This order must act far-sighted and cover the well before the child falls in. This is impossible without justice.
From Norbert Blum: "Justice. A Critique of the Homo Oeconomicus," p.168


"New Justice through More Freedom" is the title of the new program of principles of the CDU. Blum comments: "What new justice will arise through more freedom? More freedom for finance capital that controls globalization? This new different justice results that cannot be harmonized with the Christian understanding of justice. More freedom for Bill Gates so he can add a few dollars to his $55 million private property and the third of his employees that may increase to a half who are his temporary help? Is the increase of this Bill Gates freedom the new justice that is intended?"

In 2004, the German bishops urged: "Rethinking the social." The old social, the bishops said, has become a claim "to produce an increasingly more comfortable normality." Blum protests: "The jobless who unsuccessfully fills out 200 applications does not see his situation as comfortable normality. More has been cut than developed in the last 20 years in welfare state Germany. Where do the authors of this text live?" Blum suggests the bishops trusted in Hans Tietmeyer, the former president of the German Bundesbank. Blum names the social facts in Germany: "11 million people in Germany are poor or threatened with poverty. 7 million live at the income support level. 5 million have no work and 3 million have heavy debts. [... ] 10 percent of the population own 47 percent of the assets in Germany and 50 percent manage with around 3.8 percent. [... ] The state is defrauded annually around 65 billion euros through tax evasion according to the estimate of Caritas. Only 120 million euros are lost through income support misuse."


Blum turns against the propaganda word "personal responsibility." "Personal responsibility is only attained through joint responsibility. A person is not self-sufficient and autonomous. His life is not an isolated individual. [... ] Reserving personal responsibility for private effort is an ideological confiscation damaging personal responsibility."

The homo oeconomicus, the economizing person, is the model of the neoliberal world. The motto is "Money is what counts. Money rules the world. [... ] No gesture of generosity and no sign of loving affection are worth anything if business is not affected positively. [... ] People are supplied with a price. Whoever and whatever costs nothing is worthless."

The worldview of the homo oeconomicus is materialistic. He is "the last stage of the degeneration of the homo sapiens," a miserable: neurotic" form with a "tiny horizon" and an "amputated anthropology," a "caricature of a real person" who doesn't know "loving without expecting a reward, daring without support where a senseless adventure can never be profitable is one of the happiest experiences of humans." (Karl Rahner)


Norbert Blum says people would say nothing about his new book. This is not surprising and only demonstrates where we stand today. At the same time, he is confidence a coerced false ideology and therefore false reality cannot survive. "Capitalism and socialism have proven that materialism cannot bring the world even one step forward. One can become wiser from experience."

Blum relies on the power of ideas - needed by all persons who use good ideas. "People who follow an idea move the world. The Christian-social idea is a great hope for the future. Without people who support this idea, it lands in the museum for forgotten soiled goods."

At the end of his book, Blum presents concrete concepts for a world of work with employment for everybody who wants work, work marked by joint-determination and joint-ownership, no longer mainly in producing businesses. A social system of solidarian self-help is emphasized.

Stimulations are offered. "The best goals are goals of which people are convinced that they are just. Ideas that seize the minds and hearts of people are a power." His last sentence in his book is: "I trust the world power of justice. This power is becoming stronger."


That is the basic question of justice. The cry for justice pervades the history of humanity, even if the ideas about justice are diffuse and its names are different. Justice is the insignia of humanity. Justice cannot be silenced or sidetracked through charity.

Charity is not a substitute for justice. Justice is essential for life. Perfect justice hardly exists on earth any more than flawless persons. Charity always remains the endearing stopgap of earthly justice and the active reserve compensating for our imperfection. Compassion or sympathy is the source of solidarity. Without feeling, life becomes cold. Without justice, the person perishes.


Justice is twofold: virtue and social principle. Justice involves a successful life and a good society. Without virtue, justice remains empty. Without just institutions, justice is amorphous. Justice forms subjective behavior and orders objective conditions. Justice is fulfilled in action. All virtues are summarized in justice. Justice assigns a place to virtues and principles. For Aristotle, justice is "not merely part of virtue but the whole of virtue." The virtue of justice is the constant firm will to recognize the other. This attitude is not obvious or self-evident. Like every virtue, it must be practiced so it becomes a behavioral trait that doesn't have to be constantly readjusted. Institutions are a system of social norms in which our actions can be oriented. We cannot constantly re-decide. Virtue and institutions relieve our capacity for decision. "To want to decide everything ourselves is typical for neurotics." (Arnold Gehlen) Virtues and institutions are like a pair of suspenders. They free our hands for more important things than keeping our trousers up. Our powers of moral discernment need this defense from overstrains. Otherwise we will not see the forest from the trees.

A true life in a false society is hard and a good society with wretched persons is impossible. Living rightly means living justly. This means fulfilling the nature of the person. A person's nature does not result from the description of his or her physical=psychic existence. The question about the nature of a person focuses on the destiny of a person. This cannot be ascertained by the sum of his changing desires and interests. Everything has its goal. To make this plausible, Socrates enumerated simple definitions: the eye to see, the ear to hear, the vine cutter to harvest grapes. "Everything that has a task has a corresponding competence," Socrates explained to Thrasymacho." "Justice is the competence of the soul."

Everything has its function. The task of the person is justice as a guide to good life. The "good life" is life with others. Therefore the virtue of justice leads beyond the individual persons as the principle of social order. [... ]

The defenders of a philosophy of usefulness will never leap the wall of self-interest. The militarist goal, "the greatest possible happiness for the greatest possible number" (Jeremy Bentham), does not offer reliable protection for the dignity of every individual. The Benthamist formula would even justify the enslavement of a few if the prosperity of many would increase. With a pure cost-benefit calculus, the treatment of a cancer patient could be neglected in favor of healing thousands of influenza sufferers.

The great philosophy of justice from Aristotle to Kant cannot be a cancellation of morality. Every person is an end, not a means. Whoever equates justice with usefulness could infer that the US prisoner camp at Guantanamo is an institution of justice since the damp serves the "useful" struggle against terrorism. However justice according to the Christian understanding can never approve the violation of human rights. The discipline of justice begins with the acknowledgment of the other.

Because of the danger of regarding one's own interests as more important than those of others, the readiness to submit to rules or a conflict-settling authority belongs to justice. Interests and desires must be obje4ctivified so they can be compared. "By objectifying our interests and desires, by accepting universal standards, they become generally comparable." (Robert Spaemann)
From Norbert Blum: "Justice. A Critique of the Homo Oeconomicus," p.20ff

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