IN THE MADHOUSE
A new approach must be adopted through the economic crisis
By Reiner Metzger
[This article published 11/13/2008 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.taz.de/1/debatte/kommentar/artikel/1/im-irrenhaus/?type=98. Reiner Metzger is editor of taz (tageszeitung).]
For the first time since the oil crisis in the 1970s, industrial countries are stuck in an economic crisis. The OECD, the organization of the rich countries, made this official at the beginning of November 2008. The crisis will force up unemployment by 2 percentage points, according to experts. Public funds in triple-digit billions are pumped into financing companies, a veritable shock, so the whole economic system does not collapse. Virtually all decision-makers from the economy and politics now demand resolute reforms so we quickly come out of the malaise.
Here the problem begins. The proposed measures are outrageous. Consumption must urgently be reinvigorated. Nothing wiser occurs to them. This is an unfathomable tunnel vision among the elites of this world. Mass consumption, a consumption on credit, drew us into the mess. Now even more consumerism should come to our rescue. When over-indebted Americans are a little indisposed or out of sorts, the people of China or India must step in the breach and stimulate the consumption of goods. That is the thinking.
Sustainability is once again stamped as luxury. The European Union dilutes its climate goals. Germans promote the sale of cars that no one wants any more. In its latest report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) urges increasing investments in oil production from $390 to $600 billion per year so cheap oil will continue lubricating the world economy. It is like a madhouse.
The world economy obviously cannot be converted in a few years to double efficiency, renewable energy and complete nature conservation. But the world economy must finally begin.with these imperative projects. Research, experiments, eco-taxes (oil again is much too cheap) and convictions are necessary. In a crisis, a new approach must be adopted, as we know from experience. However it seems the best conceivable opportunity will be passed by.
Video: Joseph Stiglitz on NOW, 11/20/2008