When Communism began to collapse in the summer of 30 years ago, US political scientist Francis Fukuyama declared that the story was over. Humanity, so to speak, had reached the ideal state - democracy and capitalism.
Task done. Earth happy.
Today, the finding looks like a bizarre intellectual aberration. Three decades after the demise of communism, the earth seems a bit hapless:
- There are threats of climate crises;
- the drifting of the rich and the poor has become difficult to achieve in many places;
- bizarre presidents of formerly market-economy-thinking nations threaten with trade wars;
- and more than half of the world's population is led by autocratic or populist rulers, as Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz recently etched.
What went wrong? The answer might lie in the certainty of victory that drove capitalism to one or another excess in the decades after Communism had been overcome. In pride after the fall of the wall, so to speak. Because of the end of the story.
The irony of the same: Now democracy and market economy are so deep in the crisis, as it would have never happened without the arrogance that took its course in the autumn of 1989.
With the fall of the Wall, a trend was accelerated that began in the early 1980s with the arrival of Ronald Reagan in the US and Margaret Thatcher in the UK. Accordingly, it is always economically good when the state withdraws; once everyone thinks of themselves instead of musing about society; if everyone takes care of themselves instead of counting on help from the state; when everything is exposed to strict competition; when empires are relieved of taxes; and if banks, like other financial jugglers, can speculate as freely as possible with money.
All this had already cracked as a new dogma until the fall of the Wall - whether by the stock crash in 1987 or the debt of Reagan. When communism was gone, only the normative force of fact felt much stronger - and the very human train of thought: whoever wins is right.
Won yes - but boundlessly good?
Say: Because communism had clearly failed, which is true, capitalism was considered good. And it was all the more difficult to argue that, nevertheless, it is not always right when capitalism rages properly.
What that means was felt by East Germans when they were promised thriving landscapes by switching to glorious market economies. And then the fiduciary gave free rein to the idea that anything that does not withstand the competition can not be sustained. Even if that led to mass unemployment.
More at SPIEGEL +
In the years that followed, governments around the world made wilder reforms to the world of finance, shadow banks and derivatives junkies; Under the slogan of the glorious competition overnight, markets for cheap competition from China were opened. And even a red-green government enforced that rich people pay less taxes and penalize the poorer.
Anyone who expressed doubts in these times, if everything had to be privatized at the same time, was granted, that probably no one backs to socialism. Killer argument. Who wants the Honecker again? Clear.
What such self-assurance can do can be observed today. Of course, if the rich and poor so dramatically diverge in so many countries, this has to do with financial markets, where only a few are big winners - or with the fact that wealth taxes have been cut. If whole regions in the USA crashed economically, because they could not withstand Chinese cheap competition as little as one or the other factory in East Germany did to Western competition, this also has to do with a naïve idea of self-regulating markets and human adjustment.
More at SPIEGEL +
When the 2008 financial crisis hit, it was not a result of socialism but of unleashed financial markets - and the naive assumptions that they are always efficient. If climate change has not been done so far, it is because many governments have been relying too long on any sacred signals from the markets, rather than actively helping to make electromobility prevail much earlier. If today there are no railway lines, digital networks or building-site capacities, it is because it was considered a long time ago when the stupid state withdraws everywhere because everything private was supposedly better.
There may be a lot of reasons why people today vote for Trump or Brexit or AfD or other right-wing populists - and rant against everything and everyone. One reason for the phenomenon seems to lie essentially in the new circumstances that the triumphal procession of capitalism has brought with it.
This is increasingly indicated by studies. Trump won a noticeable number of votes in the Rust Belt in 2016, which rustled through the cheap competition. For the Brexit, there was above-average vote, where economic decline of old industries and state cuts in benefits coincided. And in Germany, the AfD received in the recent European elections, particularly much support in regions that were economically rather hung up in the fierce competition.
Only a few loser regions? Are you kidding me? Are you serious when you say that. Just how devastating all the side-effects of market-liberal certainty of victory is, Forsa's survey from last week * suggests, according to which one in three in Germany today doubts that it will benefit everyone in the country when the economy is doing well. And almost 80 percent say privatization of government services has gone too far in the past few decades. And not even 30 percent of respondents are still in favor of deepening the globalization of the economy and the financial world.
Whether there are objective reasons for all this - or it reflects a subjective feeling: If just under 60 percent of the people in the country are opposed to continuing globalization by abandoning national autonomy, then this is no nagging about details. Neither does it, when almost 90 percent find that the unequal distribution of income and wealth increasingly endangers the cohesion of the population. Two of three doubt that riches really deserve their wealth.
All this reflects a fundamental crisis of confidence. And it probably explains better than anything else, why three decades after the fall of the wall so much displeasure over politics and doubts about elites and perceived loss of control prevail.
more on the subject
Of course that does not mean that we need communism again. Nonsense. It would help to see how fatal it was to confuse the end of communism with a free spirit for liberal economic experiments on human beings.
There are intermediate solutions. According to the survey, 80 percent of Germans say that the government should protect people more if globalization or digitization threatens to reduce jobs. Almost 90 percent want more money invested in schools, climate protection or railways. For example.
This is not socialism. But it could also be a contribution to repairing the damage that the capitalist triumph of post-reunification over the past thirty years has brought in a fatal way - and to re-developing a healthier understanding of economies.
Otherwise, they could count for a long time to the winners who are trying to exploit the displeasure in the people with a lot of nonsense.
* The survey was commissioned by the Forum New Economy, an economics network co-founded by SPIEGEL columnist Thomas Fricke.