The fact that Austrians are not exactly ardent supporters of the free market economy, competition and the capitalist system is a fact that is as regrettable as it is well known. In this country, the strong state that takes good care of its subjects from the cradle to the grave is not seen as an impertinence, but as a human right.
And yet it is somewhat alarming what a serious opinion poll in 14 European countries recently revealed on this topic, published in the book “The 10 Mistakes of the Anti-Capitalists” by the German sociologist and bestselling author Rainer Zitelmann, which has just been published. Accordingly, skepticism about capitalism in Austria is extremely high; only in France is it even more pronounced. (The Express reported.)
All other countries are much friendlier to the market economy, first and foremost Poland. Which is no great miracle; In the more distant past, Poles have seen how miserable things are under socialism, and in the more recent past, how much prosperity capitalism has brought.
The fact that the free market economy in Austria has so few roots and is rather despised by the population is unfortunately not just an academic question with no impact on people’s real lives.
But on the contrary. Because politics, today more than ever before, is driven by the mood of the population, basic attitudes critical of capitalism inevitably lead to a politics that somehow takes this into account and adopts it. “My people are moving here, I have to follow them, I am their leader” the Frenchman Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord scoffed back in the 19th century, but the top politicians here don’t see it very differently.
And that’s exactly why the country’s critical attitude toward capitalism is such an enormous problem. Because it means that the long-needed liberation of citizens and companies from state paternalism does not and does not progress, because that is simply not a burning concern of most voters. Instead, the state is more likely than before to take responsibility for everything and everyone. We are not moving in the direction of “dare more market and more competition”, but in the wrong direction “more state, less capitalism”.
This has never gone well in history; Nobody could explain to me why it should go well this time.
This can be seen and felt on all levels. From Brussels, where, under the pretext of climate protection, a whole new bureaucracy is emerging to monitor and evaluate companies according to their climate compatibility and, in the future, probably also their social adaptation; but also on a smaller scale in Vienna, where innovative companies like Uber are being strangled by regulations and the city supermarket on the Neuer Markt, which has only been open on Sundays for years, has had to barricade most of its shelves again for two weeks.
Both customers and employees suffer the damage. The former because they ultimately have to pay higher prices and have less freedom of choice, the latter because these bureaucratic obstacles naturally cost jobs.
If it is not possible to convince more people that more market, more competition, more capitalism are ultimately in their own interest, the anti-capitalist backpack will continue to prevent the economy from exploiting its potential, as it would be theoretically possible, and thus additional to create wealth.
That would be more than necessary, especially after the Corona crisis, which has cost us quite a bit of prosperity.