Tooze economic historian on wealth and ethics

There was some outcry when Robert Hubbock went to Qatar and announced “in a wonderful way” a new “energy partnership” there, followed by a visit to the United Arab Emirates. Both countries that hardly meet our moral standards. You once said about the war in Ukraine: “What we need is stability … some dirty deal.” And here;

Rainer Schmidt

Publisher Frankfurter Allgemeine Quarterly.

In such situations, which are very complex and which, as Jürgen Habermas rightly put it recently, mean dilemmas for us, it is a matter of choosing the lesser evil. We are talking about ambitious central forces, some of which use sharp elbows to achieve their goals. The Emirates, for example, are also warring factions in Yemen. However, we believe that they are predictable in their dealings with us and that is why at the moment.

Do you still understand the indignation?

I do not like indignation as a pattern of reaction in the political sphere, but the question of who you are dealing with is perfectly legitimate: what kind of contract is this, to whom do we pay, how are the payments used? The fact is: we do not decide between good alternatives, we must decide between bad alternatives.

A story from the current issue of FAZ magazine “Frankfurter Allgemeine Quarterly”

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Germany’s economy is dependent on exports, but at the same time it is also a major importer of important raw materials from all over the world. Freedom, democracy, human rights usually do not play a significant role. Is our well-being largely based on the unconscious?

One should not expect a generalization of the EU model, which has succeeded in combining close economic coupling with a common regulatory orientation. One can hope that one thing leads to another, that is the idea of ​​”change through trade”. I think the current criticism of this policy is completely exaggerated, it has had real results. You just have to realize that this is a tug of war, a form of political power. What is really naive is the idea that trade will automatically lead to harmonization. An economy based on multilateral trade must deal in part with fundamentally different societies and political systems, for which we need a complex web of different standards. And then you have to see where there are areas of similarity, where there are areas of conflict, where we can work together on what basis, to create something new together. We are thus entering a morally uncertain ground where we must fight for a future that suits us best.

Does the “turning point” also mean that ethics should play a bigger role in the economy?

I do not do very well with morals. What certainly plays a role is what US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called “friendshoring,” that is, cooperation between countries that have similar business and action ideas, an orientation of the economy based on friendship. The EU, NATO, the G7 are all models of “friendly support”. We tend to distance ourselves from a world in which we can easily fall into categories such as law or even morality. Habermas reminded us that international law is not that far away. Then the reference to morality or world values ​​seems particularly outdated. We need to be clear about where we are and what we want to connect with in Europe.

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