Wpay attention, liberals of this earth, hear the signals! The market economy is in danger. The post-war economic architecture based on freedom and competition has become dilapidated and in some cases has already collapsed. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is fighting in vain against burgeoning protectionism and a creeping loss of importance.
The national (istic) centrifugal forces within the European Economic and Monetary Union are not only more than obvious in Poland or Hungary. The USA as the mother of multilateralism – which, big or small, treats all countries equally – is becoming the gravedigger of its own offspring.
What Donald Trump smashed as an elephant in global economic china will be cleared away as pieces of globalization by his successor Joe Biden. Instead of the power of law, the law of the mightier now dominates the world economy. And instead of competition in markets, a system competition that has already been declared dead is returning to the stage of world politics.
Once it was the Communist Soviet Union that challenged the capitalist West, it is now the People’s Republic of China that questions the freedom and independence of others – not only in Taiwan or Hong Kong, but also in the rest of the world and also, if not more dangerous, in cyberspace .
In Germany, the corona pandemic has accelerated the momentum in the direction of the state economy. Contact blocks and lockdowns were only the visible tips of a power shift away from personal responsibility and towards orders, behaviors and prohibitions dictated from above.
Commitment and opportunity in the traffic light
The market economy is struggling to regain lost ground. Too many find pleasure in state governance. The zeitgeist has decided too much for more security and less freedom. For this reason, too, an “epidemic situation of national scope” driven by fear and concern is still being clung to, although its justification is becoming more questionable every day.
The fact that in Germany the liberals will in all likelihood return to power politically and will occupy key positions in a traffic light government means both at the same time: obligation and opportunity. The central imperative is to stand firm and defensively on all (economic) political fronts to stop the progress of the state economy and to fight for more freedom and less fear of adjustment and change.
The thoroughly hopeful exploratory paper of the Ampelians justifies the expectation that it will be of far more use to the market economy if the FDP accepts responsibility within the framework of the possibilities limited by compromises than if it were left outside. Although far from perfect, co-governing to some degree can still be better than not governing at all.
But today’s duty does not release us from tomorrow’s freestyle. Just preventing the worst will not be enough for liberalism to survive in the long term. In order to keep the many young people who voted for the FDP and not the Greens, it takes much more than just good governance.
Anyone who wants to prevent disappointing liberal hopes because realistically only second or third and rarely or never very best liberal solutions can realistically be implemented in a traffic light coalition must take precautions in good time. The compromises that are unavoidable in the short term in government practice must be legitimized by a liberal manifesto.
It is important to show credibly that many liberal expectations cannot be met for the time being, but that a liberal economic and social model will now be striven for all the more intensively and pursued more sustainably.
It is high time to adapt liberalism to the reality of life in the 21st century and to make it more appropriate to everyday life and thus closer to reality. Despite all adherence to principles, it must correspond to the world of life and work, family and role understanding of today.
The digital economy works differently
Only in this way will it continue to find popularity in the future, especially among young people, as well as among all other age groups and, above all, among women. It must be made clear that liberalism does not unilaterally represent the interests of capitalists or the economy, but promotes the prosperity of all more than any alternative, and that its impulses for progress and innovation in the fight against climate change and for de-carbonization are the best and most effective Offer solutions.
A liberal manifesto of the 21st century includes the insight that a digital data economy ticks according to different rules than the factories at the height of industrial capitalism in the 19th century or the economic miracle in the post-war period.
New systemic risks of a digital society, which can affect everyone, call for new insurance models. It needs to be recognized that the division of labor between the state and the market must nowadays be organized differently than in the times of the great empires and powerful kings or the industrial empires of big business.
Likewise, for a sustainable energy transition and for a digital infrastructure, far more public money than previously envisaged is likely to be indispensable. Accordingly, the tax system would have to reorient itself if workers are supplemented and replaced by robots and human by artificial intelligence.
Historic opportunity to become more attractive
When human capital becomes the key to success and thus more valuable than anything else, the term “capitalism” takes on a completely new meaning in knowledge and service societies.
Participation in government by the FDP must go hand in hand with profiling liberalism. A liberal manifesto should design a free economic and social model that does justice to the digital data economy, knowledge society and everyday zeitgeist.
If the FDP uses the historic opportunity, liberalism can continue to gain strength, gain in attractiveness and become the people’s movement of the 21st century. If the opportunity is missed, many disappointed people will turn away from the FDP and liberalism after four years of government.
Then the market economy could be threatened with extinction, which would also drag an increasingly dominant German state economy into the abyss.
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