Preface and acknowledgments
This book intends to bring an answer to the ongoing chaos of the capitalist system. I spent years doing business and traveling. What I have seen and learned is that the misfortune of the many is sadly the fortune of the few. Within the working class depression, stress, anxiety, fear for the future are common denominators. The debt bondage that the system has put on people is one of the key factors of their psychological problems. A hard working person should be able to make ends meet without the necessity of heavy indebtedness. Today, working hard does not necessarily give a person the ability to economically satisfy all his basic needs and wants – to be financially worry-free. One starts asking questions about why and how did we get here. Does it really have to be like this? Corporations are hoarding billions while hard working employees are loaded with debt; employees, whose efforts contributed to generating those billions in the first place. Currently one of the crucial debates in some large corporations is what to do with excess reserves. Some executives think, “now that we have accumulated all this money what are we gonna do with? We cannot invest it to provide more goods and services because communities are too poor to make purchases. A good idea is to provide them funds in the form of loans so they can continue to buy our products. In doing so we will have more control over them. With the fear of the consequences of job loss and with a burden of debt over their shoulders they will be more disciplined to follow the code of conduct of the dominant culture. And we also have an additional option of just recycling these revenues in our casino financial markets.” This type of thinking has lead to the financialization of the capitalist system.
The economy, which is nothing but the sum of our collective work, is reduced to numbers correlated to financial markets, a place where the economic stability of society is put into play. The fruits of growth are shared extremely unevenly, simply because a new religion, neoliberalism, has taken hold. The disciples of this new religion (neoliberals) were lucky enough to find their prayers accepted by the new Demigods (party politicians). Neoliberal prayers are not exercised in a classic way as practiced in a Mosque, a Church, a Synagogue or a temple – where one is asking God for a blessing under a predefined religious form. Neoliberal rituals are reminiscent of the simony that in Europe lead to the reformation and religious wars that preceded the modern era. Neoliberal rituals, unlike classic religions, are performed through lobbying, campaign contributions, threat of moving investments to other jurisdictions, to other countries, or even other continents, downsizing, and the like. In doing so they get the blessing of the Demigod politicians at the expense of constituents whose interests those politicians were elected to represent in the first place.
Their ideology has lead them to inventing concepts like trickle down economics. A belief that once the Demigods (politicians) accept the prayers (policies like deregulation and privatization), then the wealth accruing to the disciples (neoliberal owners of wealth) will trickle down to the disbelievers (the many) regardless of their disbelief – as a proof of the Demigods mercy and care for them. Four decades of hard evidence has simply proven them wrong – but this still has not shaken their belief – and has not been sufficient for them to call their principles into question. Their faith in their religion is incredibly strong. The current global socioeconomic situation is one of their making. It is one where in many societies most citizens are left struggling to make a living. A properly working system would dare to have the benefits accrue to the majority of people and not to a meager few as is currently the case.
I find this topic of extreme importance because it endangers the stability of society. This question must be addressed effectively if we are to preserve the stability of our societies. Joseph Stiglitz has done incredibly good work on this subject. I further admire the work of Noami Klein; Jim Stanford, founder of the progressive economics forum …and many others.
Socioeconomic problems can lead people to extremisms of various kinds. The economy of the future needs to attempt to answer such threats. A sustainable solution requires us to find ways to balance the interests of business and its stakeholders with those of employees and the community as a whole. By extension, this also means the environment, upon which every community depends for its very survival. This book undertakes a survey of the current economic situation and then offers an introduction to a proposed solution to the many problems we face. It is a solution that cooperatively engages businesses, employees and the community.
As the old adage says “practice what you preach”. When this idea came to me, my first thoughts were to apply it in my own business and then to extend it later on. This is the reason why I moved to Berlin to start a pilot project in Prenzlauerberg. The pilot project itself is a subject for another book.
I would like to use this opportunity to thank all the people who have given their time so freely to support the pilot project. Special thanks to Markus Gabriel Artzberg who gave us the opportunity to start the pilot project in Berlin; to Alifuat Bekmezci for his incredibly support in the early days; to Christina Holzke for her ideas and wonderful design work; to Malte Steinhoff who has been key to the success of this project; to Otto A. Geller, Helena Eckardt, Anna Goldmann, Sebastian Schicktanz, Martin Hacketal, Basel Rada, Flore Barbillon, Hilal Abu Saleh, Rebecca Majewski, Natascha Unruh, Regjina Palokay, Tim Lanwerd, Maximilian Schmidt, Abdou Khadre Ndiaye, Denis Sushchenko, Kleber Nasciment, Dennis Özcan, Bruce Weaver, Matthew Bucelli; to all the wonderful people I happened to get to know through the Prenzlauerberg project; to the teachers and educators at the Wilhelm-von-Humboldt-Gemeinschaftsschule who have offered strong support.
Beside the Berlin team, I would like to address my thanks to people in Prague that have expressed their support. Grateful thanks to Karel Řehoř, Jan Kral, Morris Muzenda, Petr Veselý, Yero Sow, Petr Chalupný, Michael Němeček, Anna Leschingerová, Denisa Štěrbová.
My further grateful thanks to Keith Telfeyan for editing the book – the right person at the right time and place, Thomas Tiefseetaucher for the photos, and to Margarita Antsifirova for the design.
Now I would like to devote a moment to a special person—Karel Řehoř—a person who has helped me get to where I am today. I met him in my early days in Europe roughly in the early 90’s. He ended up being my computer programming teacher. With my first savings I bought a computer straight away and would spend entire nights behind it. One day Karel started a serious talk with me about my life plans. He told me that he feels that I should abandon computer programming and put myself into business studies. You should work into developing your abilities to deal with people—one of Karel’s regular phrases to me. He believed that I should devote my effort into that and that sitting behind the computer would be a regrettable waste. I followed his advice and enrolled into business studies all the way up to my Master’s degree. So, if I am able to write anything about this subject, it is due to him and thanks to his wise advice back then.
Furthermore, when I had the idea about this project, Karel was the first person that came into my mind. I called him and we met right away the next day. As expected, he gave me incredibly good advice on the road map. The question was whether to have a book or a blog. In the end I opted for the book and Karel helped me through from day one. He was the first editor of the book and has done incredibly good work to make this project successful.