A strange competition ….

It seems at least that underlying the main topics of public debates – growth, competitiveness, sustainability, ratio (as in rationality), digitalisation and globalisation, of course – we find some matter that may be called by the apparent misnomer “competition in self-degrading”. It does not really sound better than the more appropriate “nomer” which then should read nationalism, often in its most crude and primitive form. – A quick “synoptical view”, linking few articles I came across in the more or less recent press (like in printing press). Some of it is not so much about reading between the lines, more about reading the small print.

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So, in the beginning stands the word; and it says that

many young people started their businesses out of an interest, instead of a market need, which increases the risk of failure.

The report found 29.2 percent of the males and 37.6 percent of the females cited personal interest as one of the main factors for their decision to start a business.

This, to me, sounds at least equally worrying as the complains about working conditions, bribery and some of those aspects that are supposed to deal with human rights here in the Country of Aurora – without any intention to deny their relevance. And I do not refocus, supposing that we should strike a balance and count (breach of) rights here and there. Though yes, the ignorance of some Westeners is remarkable, personalising things or seeing them more as “failure and weakness n individual cases. Still, it is never wrong to look “Trumps special wall”, saying

‘No Way’ to Toyota Plant in Mexico

Of course it is relevant even if said just by one person, dangerously entering the stage, important even if it would be only for the reason to find out about his nasty followers as

[f]rom Mr Trump’s perspective … things are working well: Fiat Chrysler said it may have to pull production from Mexico. Ford, which has already cancelled a $1.6bn plant in Mexico, is now discussing compensation with suppliers.”

[1]

Yes, freedom is such an important issue when it comes to Human Rights – the freedom for the market, and we find the old story of preaching water, while drinking – fermented grape juice, this probably the more appropriated term, finally point on the process of rotting that stands behind this concept of freedom:

Donald Trump has called for tariffs of 35 per cent on cars imported from Mexico to the US, and has criticised companies that move manufacturing south of the border, with tweets directed at General Motors and Toyota.

Self-degrading in terms of showing the lowest instincts in place – by no means a new issue as it for instance getting clear from Domenico Losurdo‘s article on the

Bürgerliche Gesellschaft und Staat: Hegel, Marx und die zwei Liberalismen (Bourgeois/Civil Society and State: Hegel, Marx and the two liberalisms)

And of course we should talk about the need to do something immediately and in the singular cases, seeing that

NHS faces ‘humanitarian crisis’ as demand rises

And nevertheless, if it is true that the word stands in the beginning, we should take it from here: the vocabulary of gain as leading motive, as marked by Karl Polanyi – seeing it as the turning point

Nineteenth century civilization alone was economic in a different and distinctive sense, for it chose to base itself on a motive only rarely acknowledged as valid in the history of human societies, and certainly never before raised to the level of a justification of action and behavior in everyday life, namely, gain. The self-regulating market system was uniquely derived from this principle.

The mechanism which the motive of gain set in motion was comparable in effectiveness only to the most violent outburst of religious fervor in history. Within a generation the whole human world was subjected to its undiluted influence.[2]

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This word was step by step translated into numbers, which mark today the

The testing struggles of American teens

On the one level this is the issue Hannah Arendt looked at, stating in her book on the Human Condition that

 

the situation created by the sciences is of great political significance. Wherever the relevance of speech is at stake, matters become political by definition, for speech is what makes man a political being. If we would follow the advice, so frequently urged upon us, to adjust our cultural attitudes to the present status of scientific achievement, we would in all earnest adopt a way of life in which speech is no longer meaningful. For the sciences today have been forced to adopt a “language” of mathematical symbols which, though it was originally meant only as an abbreviation for spoken statements, now contains statements that in no way can be translated back into speech.[1]

The analysis of the

The Rise and Fall of the Washington Consensus as a Paradigm for Developing Countries

by Charles Gore clearly shows that this problem also and increasingly applies to the “good-willing”, “good-doing” policy approaches:

These changes have certainly made the Washington Consensus more humane. But at the same time, the SHD approach has had the eff􏰀ect of conserving key features of the world- view of the dominant paradigm. Although its di􏰀fferent values have emphasized di􏰀fferent indicators and weighting systems, particularly to capture levels of human development and poverty, these measures have reinforced a focus on short-term performance assessment.

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But here I also reached the point of talking about competition in self-degrading. Similar studies and complaints and fears in so may countries – and it does not really matter that we find similar claims when it comes to countries (or national NGOs, social group … …) claiming for “their populace” or “their constituency” the “highest unemployment, poverty, homeless rate …”, or the most severe problems with racism, lack of solidarity, democratic deficits, bureaucracy or bailing out the multimillionaires profit sources … , or the least support for alternatives, the closest and strictest and responsive and exclusive (as in exclusion) … .

All these are too often seen in just one respect:

“We’re losing ground – a troubling prospect when, in today’s knowledge-based economy, the best jobs can go anywhere in the world,” says US Education Secretary John B. King Jr. “Students in Massachusetts, Maryland, and Minnesota aren’t just vying for great jobs along with their neighbors or across state lines, they must be competitive with peers in Finland, Germany, and Japan.”

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Yes, indeed, we are living in an era of globalisation. And with all the issues around privatisation even those who are in its favour should never forget that they ultimately can and do only gain by relying on the state – this is pointed out by Mariana Mazzucato, writing about

The Entrepreneurial State

It is of course important not to romanticize the State’s capacity. The State can leverage a massive national social network of knowledge and business acumen, but we must make sure its power is controlled and directed through a variety of accountability measures and diverse democratic processes. However, when organized effectively, the State’s visible hand is firm but not heavy, providing the vision and the dynamic push (as well as some ‘nudges’) to make things happen that otherwise would not have. Such actions are meant to increase the courage of private business. This requires understanding the State as neither a ‘meddler’ nor a simple ‘facilitator’ of economic growth.

And here we may come to another issue that is relevant when talking about globalisation as we can know that:

Company has invested more than $10 billion overseas so far, with gross value of assets reaching $40 billion

State Grid Corp of China has signed a deal to purchase a minority stake in Greece’s power grid operator ADMIE, a move to further extend its international reach.

The company will purchase a 24 percent state in ADMIE, Greece’s state-backed Public Power Corporation’s subsidiary, …

An interesting detail (and I am definitely not talking about the figures) is here the following:

Being part of Greece’s international bailout, ADMIE operates more than 11,000 kilometers of high-voltage power cable in Greece, earning an operating profit of 155 million euros last year, with a regulated asset base of 1.4 billion euros and a total debt of 490 million euros.

So, indeed there are complex new structures not only of cross-interlocking, but emerging new entities, still nameless, as any attempt to call them PPP, global control, interdependence, global governance or the like is all too closely linked to past and present. – In the beginning is the word, but nobody should say that this defines for ever the same language code.

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All this does not fit into any model of linearity or mathematical formula …

The old political economy, even of an Alfred Marshall[3], would have been more knowledgeable on this than the “modern” entrepreneurs that had been envisaged in the article, quoted at the beginning of these few thoughts.

At the end there should still be the person to be reproduced as such, and with all the irrational joys and disturbing worries and sorrows.

– It this person (as in personality) that enlightenment – as humanist (though unlike as in humanitarian) movement – wanted to bring on stage.

And as history is made up of contradictions and paradoxes, it may be most appropriate to quote at the end the “self-enthroned antichrist”, leaving aside if he could rightly claim so, and surely not suggesting that this Übermensch would be the incarnation of true humanism:

Those who keep silent are almost always lacking in delicacy and courtesy of the heart; silence is an objection, swallowing down necessarily produces a bad character — it even ruins the stomach. All the silent are dyspeptic. — One sees, I do not want crudeness to be undervalued, it is by far the most humane form of opposition and, in the midst of modern over-indulgence, one of our foremost virtues. — If one is rich enough for it, it is even a matter of good fortune to be in the wrong. A God come down to earth ought to do nothing other than wrong — to take upon himself not the punishment but the guilt, that alone would be divine.

It had not been Zarathustra, saying this.

— At the end of the day, all this is the essence of what my students should have learned from the lectures during the last semester, their first encounter with academics. One could say not much for an entire semester. But one could also say: if some people in Washington, London, Berlin/Frankfurt …, and yes: Beijing would have not forgotten these simple facts we would still have many problems, but many of those fundamental problems we do have, we would not have and we would not have to join the legions of people and peoples, mourning about their own hardship being the most severe … .

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[1]            Webber, Jude, 13.1.2917: ¡No pasarán!; FT-blog LatAmViva; Your Weekly briefing on the region

[1]            Arendt, Hannah, 1958: The Human Condition; Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 1958: 3 f.

[2]            Polanyi, Karl, 1944: The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time; Boston: Beacon Press, 1957: 30

[3]            Even remaining “Non-Marshallian”, an interesting academic article by Geoffrey Hodgson, asking “Alfred Marshall versus the historical school?

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