This is how the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter describes the decline of the free market economy in his “Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy”, published in 1942. Schumpeter, who managed the intellectual balancing act of being both a defender of capitalism and an admirer of Karl Marx, captured earlier than others that economic success cannot be a substitute for spiritual fulfillment. He thus resembles the great German sociologist Max Weber, who finds the cultural roots of capitalism in Protestantism, but also states that the pressure of economic rationalization that is inherent in capitalism will at some point turn against its spiritual origins.
To end a discussion right away (and apologize for excessive name-dropping), the superiority of capitalism as an economic system is more an objective fact than a personal opinion. In his study on the economic development of the global south and the successor states of the Soviet Union, Steven Radelet shows that the number of developing countries with an annual growth rate of over 2% has risen from 21 to over 71 countries in the last few years. Two percent doesn’t seem like much, but for millions of people it means a doubling of their income and the associated access to better education, health systems and a longer life expectancy. This success was made possible almost exclusively by the liberalization of the economy, which unfortunately was not equally successful everywhere. But the poverty in much of Africa is “thanks” to Marxist kleptocrats like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, who managed to bring Africa’s breadbasket to the brink of permanent famine. In Latin America, too, it was less western imperialism than a catastrophic economic policy that transformed Venezuela from one of the richest into one of the poorest countries on the continent, which has now produced more refugees than the civil war in Syria.
The West’s development aid would probably also have been better if posters of Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore’s first prime minister) or Roh Tae-woo (South Korea’s first democratically elected president) had been hung in the student rooms instead of Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh. In 1965 Singapore was economically on the same level as Chile, Argentina and Mexico, and South Korea was about as poor as Egypt. Today the two Asian states are almost six times as rich as their economic twins at the time. In general, people in post-colonial study groups and anti-capitalist columns are extremely reluctant to talk about Asia, as they would disrupt their own view of the world too much. Incidentally, this rejection is based on reciprocity, as evidenced by the statement of a former Singapore politician: things that would never be accepted in his country are “hippies and criticism of multinational companies.”
Which brings us back to Schumpeter, whose prognoses have much more in common with reality than those of Marx, whom he admired. Almost every column by Jakob Augstein or Margarete Stokowski who wish for a system change confirm the type of economically wealthy intellectual who, out of sheer boredom, wants to bury the cause of their own prosperity. Without meaning to, Schumpeter developed a kind of ideological litmus test that also helps us to better understand many of the contemporary ideological currents. For him it was above all the cultural & spiritual homelessness as a result of the decline of religion which would lead to new ideologies hostile to capitalism, which would then take the place of the religious.
The modern climate movement, for example, has turned out to be more religious than scientific. Of course, this does not mean that climate change is not an important topic, on the contrary, but precisely because of its importance, the field should perhaps be left to dry scientists like William Nordhaus and less youthful activists like Luisa Neubauer or Greta Thunberg. When Neubauer tweets about the system change, Fridays for Future longs for the end of capitalism and Thunberg’s appearances look more and more like religious fairs, I get suspicious. When the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Sir Rowan Williams, then transfigured Greta Thunberg into a prophetess sent by God, I turn to Alexander Neubacher’s (at least SPIEGEL editor) “Eco Heaven: How we try to save the world – and what.” we do with it “or Michael Shellenberger’s” Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All. ” which could prevent the climate catastrophe. Neubauer and Thunberg, on the other hand, represent a religious claim to absoluteness, according to which only collective self-flagellation through renunciation of prosperity can be the solution – a primarily technical problem is reinterpreted here in a moral-religious worldview in which there are saints and sinners who must be punished and rewarded accordingly. That is why climate activists are still allowed to fly to luxury summits in Davos, while VW workers in Wolfsburg are banned from vacationing on Mallorca.
But not only the climate movement is showing signs of becoming a kind of surrogate religion. When protests broke out around the world in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020 to demonstrate against police violence and racism, this was certainly guided by good intentions in many cases. However, anyone who takes a closer look at the goals of the official Black Lives Matter movement should maintain a healthy level of skepticism. Aside from the usual Marxist currents that can be found in almost every Western protest movement today (as expected by Schumpeter), it is questionable whether the situation of African Americans has actually improved thanks to BLM. Glenn Loury and Roland Fryer – both themselves Afro-American and economists at Brown University and Harvard – provide impressive statistical evidence that fewer police officers lead to more victims of violence among the black population. The “Defund the Police” movement has led to a lower police presence in problem areas, with the result that the murder rate has risen by over 30% in many places. Most of the victims of these murders are African American. 8,600 blacks were murdered in 2020, an increase of over 1,000 compared to 2019 (7,484). In Chicago, 80% of gun violence victims are black; in New York City, 71%. 90% of the time, both victim and perpetrator are black, but hardly anyone seems to care about those numbers. An African American is 13 times more likely to be killed by violence than a white American. According to the Washington Post database, 14 unarmed blacks and 25 unarmed whites were shot dead by police in 2019. A fraction of the violence the African American population has to endure is police violence, and the chance of being shot dead by a civilian is 30 times that of a police officer.
George Floyd is now a household name, but who knows Davell Gardner, the 22-month-old boy who was shot dead in a gang war in Brooklyn? Or Secoriea Turner, an eight-year-old girl who was killed by gun violence in Atlanta? Or the eleven-year-old Davon McNeal, who was murdered in a so-called drive-by shoot while celebrating July 4th in Washington DC. His grandfather put the situation in a nutshell: “Black lives only seem to count when a cop shoots a black person.” According to Gallup polls, over 80% of the black population want an increased police presence in their residential areas, and in Minneapolis there are African American NGOs the city is suing for reducing police presence in black-majority neighborhoods.
I have the suspicion that for many the actual suffering of the black population is only a projection screen for their own virtue, just as demonstrations against climate change have become collective “virtue signaling” events. Incidentally, it is an extremely arrogant form of racism if I only care about black lives when the perpetrator is white.
If Nordhaus sat with Lanz as often as Neubauer, if intellectuals like Fryer and Loury were better known in Europe, if there had been demonstrations for the more than 8,000 murdered African-Americans, my judgment might be different. But the impression is increasingly being confirmed that climate activism, BLM and other contemporary movements do not stand for the cause as such, but rather act as ideological battering rams against western, capitalist civilization. We see the same thing in the European refugee debate: If we really care about the people who are on the run, initiatives would have already been formed to extend the western military operation in Afghanistan, or would have opted for an intervention in Syria made strong to protect all Syrians and not just those who make it to Europe. But such an intervention would require the admission that it might be better if Syria looked more like Sweden and Afghanistan more like Denmark – but in a Western world dominated by relativism, one hardly dares to speak the obvious.
According to a Gallup poll, at least 750 million people in the Global South want to leave their home countries because the West promises a better life, but nobody dares to ask why life is better in the West. The political left likes to explain that modern prosperity is due to colonialism, which is why open borders are a kind of delayed reparation. I also believe that colonialism has done a lot of damage, but countries like South Korea and Singapore have shown that even with a colony past you can certainly make the leap into the 21st century – if you take into account the values so hated by many Western intellectuals takes to heart. The tweets of the new spokeswoman for the German Green Youth, which have become known in the last few days, confirm this trend: Whites and Jews are being dragged on with heart’s content, but there is hardly any resistance in the feature pages. She was still young when she wrote this, it was said in defense, but no one noticed that her statements only reflect what the young people are taught by the intellectual class in schools and universities.
Samuel P. Huntington, who became known around the world as the author of the “clash of cultures” thesis in the mid-90s, found that there is a trend among western intellectuals to turn against their own cultural origins and, in a kind of xenophilia, everything is not -to exaggerate western ones, and condemn everything that can be summarized under “western civilization”. Huntington’s main thought was the ideology of multiculturalism, but the woke movement probably hits it better. The French philosopher Pascal Bruckner comes to a similar conclusion in his book “The Guilt Complex: The Benefits and Disadvantages of History for Europe”: The West suffers from a kind of pathological self-loathing and is constantly looking for ways to repent for its past . And this desire for historical forgiveness leads to the legitimization of any ideology as long as it has an anti-Western core.
But more about that in the next column.