Kategorie-Archiv: Politik

„Absolute Ethics“ and „Ethics of Responsibility“

In the wake of the First World War and in the face of increasing ideological extremism, the German sociologist Max Weber postulated a difference between people that follow absolute ethics on the one side and people that take ethical responsibility for the consequences of their acts on the other side.

The general argument, I believe, is following: There are members of society that see the responsibility of their acts with the principle that they follow. It is not personally their fault if their acts aiming for the realization of a certain principle cause consequences. I want to track that notion back to the contract-theory of Hobbes and Locke. Giving up sovereignty and power to the overarching Leviathan bound by its contracts is also surrendering the responsibility for one’s actions to it. That constitutes normative power of the given system of law. Of course, from Locke to Kant and many other have since put emphasis on the importance on one’s independence to act according to one’s conscience, however it appears to have normally included the establishment of another overarching institution that would then hold responsibility for the consequences for acts. Whether it is the church, the state, the code of human rights, the idea of good, or the discourse-theoretical convention – they seem to always establish a norm-giving institution that is above the reach of the individual member of society.

That means, that either the ethical judgement, which of a set of decisions in an ethical dilemma is preferable, does not lie with the individual person or that the responsibility for the consequences of that judgement if made by a person lies with the principle of his action.

Ethics of responsibility needs to be thought radical, I believe. A person that believes she is able to make a ethical decision and estimate what outcome is preferable needs to accept the absolute responsibility for it. That means the abondement of every norm-giving institution. She sets herself as the absolute institution and has to accept that everybody else is that too. Some might call that a „regression“ to the natural state that Hobbes described as a war of everybody against everybody.

Comparative Advantage and Externalities

The best argument for free trade is probably Ricardo’s comparative advantage. The argument is as follows, that even countries that are less efficient at producing any good compared to a more developed country would be able to specialise in a given prduct that has the lowest opportunity cost to them and trade that good in an advantageous way.

I personally feel that this argument should be disputed.

The main reason is the trading of externalities. Specialised countries are more prone to import externalities. Many markets have natural entrance-barriers. Structural and institutional deficits arising from specialisation hinder real „creative destruction“.

Argumentation for free trade follows a certain structure of argumentation: Comparative Advantage through specialisation enables less developed countries to participate in advantageous trade. Countries that are affected by free trade should improve flexibility of the work-force and infrastructure.

I would believe that a country with limited ressources would have a hard time increasing both specialisation and generalisation at the same time. A specialised country will therefore experience brain-drain. Stripped of the possibility to generalise to react to competition and with little room to improve the efficiency of its specialised industry it will be forced to either keep the living-standard down and decrease wages or to invite industries that other regions reject – for good reasons. Those bring externalities with them that the society will have to bear.

Is there a real difference to regions within a country? East-Germany for example experienced a significant brain-drain in the wake of reunification. However, countries like Germany or the US have the ressources to improve the infrastructure of their regions and support generalisation. Poorer countries with less ressources will have a harder time to do so.

Would free trade in terms of mobility and capital flows help better than free flow of goods? I don’t know yet – but I feel that it is not as easy as to say: „no trade barriers“.

Scott Sumner asks about cultural appropriation

In a recent blog post, Scott Sumner asks about recent trends in American society concerning Cultural appropriation:

Scott Sumner’s blog: TheMoneyIllusion

I also weighed in on this discussion:

In my opinion, Cultural appropriation is combative term., that includes too many different aspects too describe any specific situation.

Learning a foreign language or become invested in a foreign culture implies the view that those “goods” are neither rivalrous nor excludable.

However, sometimes the history of a group of people founds a specific and current political claim. Then taking part in it undermines the political strive of that group. Take for example the situation of descendants of African people in the US: Occasionally, efforts from outside-people to identify with that culture is received in an hostile way because it undermines the integrity of the group and its unity in the socio-political sphere (as it kind of relativizes their situation). It might be comparable to religious rituals or military honors. Here trying to take part in that “culture” hurts the integrity of the group and its goals.

When talking about cultural appropriation one should differentiate between taking part in a non-rivalrous and non-excludable good on the one hand and hurting the sociological, religious or political efforts and claims of a specific group on the other hand.

I understand Trumpian thought to be utilizing the whole of an (yet to be defined?) American culture as an instrument to political ends – it becomes a rivalrous good. Of course, in that perspective the culture of non-Americans must be perceived in that same way – namely being instruments to political goals that are rivalling with one’s own.


What is your opinion on cultural appropriation? Also I recommend Scott Sumner’s blog – More than only economist matters, he often comments on political and social issues with very interesting point of views.

A new „Eastern Front“?

As I argued in my previous post a new, serious approach to the Integration of the European East into the European Union is much needed. That integration should not aim to win the East for special interests of the European core – as the setting up of camps for refugees in Albania would be – but to really integrate it into the European Union. Using the East as a source for cheap labour or dumping place for Europe’s unwanted will cause big problems for the Union soon. Symbolic and practical acts that show solidarity and seriousness may be costly but are necessary.

That the East is not waiting for the EU but is moving on its own accord is shown by the formation of an East European Club named „16+1“ in 2012 in which 16 Central and East European Countries (CEEC) are cooperating with China to promote Chinese investments in the area. According to the Chinese website „Cooperation between China and Central and East European Countries“ (china-ceec.org)  Chinese investments exceeded 9 billion US$ by the end of 2017 as a result of the Cooperation.

While some argue that Chinese investments are not yet significant (zeit.de) they might be seen in the context of recent decisions by East European States and Greece to block some of Europe’s efforts to encounter China’s growing influence sphere internationally: Significantly, declarations on China’s records on human rights violations and her behaviour in the South Chinese Sea (zeit.de). Also, it appears that Chinese thoughts are making their ways into the European Union’s Parliament and Commission – transported by Eastern European Representatives.

Some of the investments might also undermine European policies. For example the investment into nuclear power plants or Chinese controlled infrastructure (china-ceec.org).

The Brexit is having a huge impact on the European Budget, so Chinese investments are much welcomed in the East. However, it would be dangerous, if those new relationships undermine European Politics.

It is my opinion that a lack of trust in the solidarity of Europe that opens the East to China. Europe needs to learn that public diplomacy is needed not only outside of Europe but inside it as well. Therefore Germany needs to step up and act in real solidarity. Take the so-called „refugee-problem“ off the table: Germany needs to offer real solutions to the problems and stop trying to export them. That is, taking more refugees in, offering them faster and easier integration into the job-market and counteract ethnic isolation in the cities. Germany needs to enforce its own commitments to the European Union and the European Integration. European policy-makers need to have the capacity to take care of other problems in Europe.