'Moralize Global Capitalism,' Demand European Political Leaders

12 January 2009

PARIS: Global capitalism has become "perverted" and is in dire need of "moralization". A cry echoed over the decades by leftist reformers and scorned by the majority of the planet's politicos. But now the clarion call has been heeded by three unlikely right-leaning protagonists.

The new standard-bearers of moral fiscal reform are no lesser personages than Germany's federal chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Nicolas Sarkozy and former UK prime minister Tony Blair.

Speaking at last week's opening of economic symposium New World, New Capitalism, President Sarozy declared that although the destruction of capitalism would be catastrophic, the system had to undergo an overhaul to stay viable.

A new role, he argued, should be created for governments and moral values. "Either we re-found capitalism or we destroy it."

Sarkozy called for an economic system based on the value of work rather than finance.

"Purely financial capitalism has perverted the logic of capitalism. Financial capitalism is a system of irresponsibility and ... is amoral. It is a system where the logic of the market excuses everything."

He also urged the USA not to block tighter controls on world financial markets. "I've always in my political life been a supporter of a close alliance with the United States but let's be clear: in the 21st century, a single nation can no longer say what we must do or what we must think.

"Perhaps the United States will join us in this change. I hope so with all my heart because a new president will bring his intelligence, dynamism and his open mind and we will change the world with the United States. But we will not accept the status quo, we will not accept stagnation."

Chancellor Merkel was of like mind: "No country can act alone in this day and age ... even the United States, however powerful they may be."

Reforms, she said, must persist after the present crisis is resolved, and called for the establishment of a "charter for a long-term reasonable economy" similar to the United Nations Charter.

"Our response [to the economic crisis] must be more than a few rules. The crisis is an opportunity to create an international architecture of institutions. It is possible that alongside the [UN] Security Council, we could also have an economic council that would have a different role from [the United Nations Economic and Social Council]."

Merkel called on politicians to remain firm even after the crisis has been resolved. "There is a risk that when everything is functioning normally again that the financial institutions will tell politicians not to meddle. We must remain determined." 

Britain's ex-prime minister Tony Blair, a co-sponsor of the symposium with Sarkozy, told attendees that investment patterns must be changed.

He described the present economic crisis as "the biggest, most complex, most delicate economic challenge of our lifetime".

"It is the most tricky intellectual challenge of any kind I have ever encountered and it is still evolving," he said.

"What is plain is that the financial system has altered in its fundamentals and can never be the same again. What is unavoidable in the longer term is a recasting of the system of international supervision.

Blair then reverted to a favourite theme: "We must invest in the future," he said, calling for funds to be put into renewable energy, science, innovation and education. He omitted to say by whom.

The French leader said the structure of a new system of regulation should be agreed priot to April's G20 summit in the UK, adding "we'll take our decisions on April 2 in London." 

But it is clear that nothing of consequence will – or can – happen until America's present political paralysis is resolved on Inauguration Day, January 20.

Data sourced from Deutsche Welle (Germany); additional content by WARC staff