вторник, септември 20, 2005

Political Inertia Threatens Economic Future

Political Inertia Threatens Economic Future

The recent elections in Germany have provoked a comparison with the 2004 presidential election in the U.S., and with the elections for the European Constitution last spring. In all these cases the result was so close that some influencing factors could be the same. Let's consider if there could be a common cause.

Remember the last presidential election in the U.S.? For the second consecutive time Mr. Bush won with so many difficulties, that to outside observers the situation looked almost physically painful. It was clear that the political system desperately needs rejuvenating.

The situation for the new EU constitution was almost the same. The NO vote in France and the Netherlands postponed the whole process in other countries.

The recent events in Germany, the most powerful economy in Europe, have again revealed the same trend.

Inevitably, some questions arise: what is happening in the so-called developed countries? What are the reasons for the incapacity of the system to produce a decisive vote? Is this only due to a local factors, or it is a trend, powerful enough to involve the whole developed world?

The answers to the above questions should lead to some important conclusions about the general condition of our world. This article does not pretend to give solutions -- it will only try to provoke reflections.

Such situations where indecisiveness reigns could be provoked for at least two different reasons. Either the idea is not clear and the voters are not able to orient themselves, or the ideas are too contradictory and the masses are not able to judge for themselves clearly. There is also a third factor which often plays a hidden role. It is the bureaucracy. Very often its goals are not so clearly defined, at least in public, but it would be a mistake to underestimate its significance.

Let's face each of these three agents of social uncertainty and try to find their influence on our world.

If we accept that the idea is not clearly presented, a reasonable question that comes to mind is: Why? For what reason is an idea, developed by so many capable people, not interesting or attractive for the ordinary citizen? The answer could be only one -- because it is not acceptable by definition. So, the formulation must be an internally contradictory one and by consequence, there is no clear solution.

Let's look at energy policy, as an example. Everybody knows that oil is limited, that it is a temporary solution for the needs of society. It is not a secret that the major problems for our society will become long-term when the petrol wells run dry. We consume a constantly increasing quantity of energy and it is clear that the world's reserves are not sufficient even for the near future. What about later?

Nevertheless, it would be reasonable to assume that the heads of the most powerful nations in the world will start thinking seriously about necessary changes, about some measures to fundamentally alter the situation. Wrong! We witness the opposite behavior. Undoubtedly, I believe business interests are involved in this decision making process. Very powerful lobbies influence different levels of government concerning energy policy.

But some other factors play a significant role also, primarily a lack of vision and a long-term strategy. The expectations for immediate results imposed on the politicians narrow their capacity to maneuver. The dynamics of our time have put enormous, sometimes inhuman pressure on politicians to show that they are able to lead the nations and society as a whole. The simple truth is that they cannot -- they are human and face the same limitations as everybody else.

So, the first conclusion is that in the future the incapacity to deal with crisis situations will increase.

Now, let's analyze the second possibility. What if we assume for a moment that society is not able to judge correctly because of the ambiguity of the presented ideas? In this case, the obvious reaction should be the rejection of both ideas, as an indication of growing distrust in society. We witnessed both of these in the U.S., European Constitution and German elections.

If we face the last problem involving the EU and Chinese exports, we shall see the same lack of vision and incoherent policy we already mentioned earlier. This fact is well observed by ordinary citizens of Europe. They start to ask themselves who is representing their interests and are their representatives able to do the job. But this is only the beginning. After a while, the inevitable logic of development should impose more crucial questions such as: why do we need such an enormous number of bureaucrats to deal with something that they are not able to deal with?

Here is the focal point of all the arguments. Bureaucracies all over the world are necessary evils. But as the American and European examples show, it is also a self-perpetuating phenomenon. Worse, it is a system that exists for itself and does not need approval to grow.

Colliding with this monster, the ordinary citizen has no chance to survive. He must obey! The rules imposed by the bureaucracy are incontestable and are considered law. They always have two basic directions. One, they try to show the intention of serving society, and second, they try to create a certain social approval and credit for bureaucracy itself. The main problem is that the bureaucracy is not really interested in any changes. The only thing of interest for it is the preservation of its privileges.


The political trend in recent months shows that:

1. Politicians are not able to generate ideas attractive enough for the masses. As a result, political options are becoming less comfortable and this increases the necessity of some unpopular measures.
2. The pressure on the politicians has increased from different sides. Business is seeking more and more opportunities to obtain good strategic positions in an increasingly globalized world. New players, China for example, are also claiming a significant part of the pie. Finally, ordinary citizens refuse to vote for the ideas that sound the same or are intentionally made complicated.
3. The administration becomes, to an increasing degree, incapable of dealing with crisis situations, i.e. starts to show signs of ineffectiveness.
4. The bureaucracy claims more and more resources, augmenting its role in society and it starts affecting the whole structure of society.

As a consequence, we can expect to witness increasing instability in the relationships between the institutions from one side and the citizens, from the other. The lack of a clear vote in elections will force politicians to multiply the political coalitions based on more and more compromises. As a result, it should raise people's frustration and alienation from the politicians and their ideas. Moreover, this gap will provoke the activity of the bureaucracy, which will view its privileges as being threatened.

From the point of view of the above arguments, the logic of the events shall be similar to the one described. Evidently, some fluctuations, even fundamental ones, are always possible. To what extent they should be able to change the general direction of the social development is a question which is waiting for more study and analysis to be answered.