Thursday, December 5, 2013

How do you like your Gini?

The End of History
Since the fall of communism, now more than 20 years ago, history as a struggle has ended according to Francis Fukuyama in his ground breaking book The End of History and the Last Man. There are no serious people any more who claim that communism is a realistic alternative for free market, democratic capitalism. Since then a lot of commentators said that state capitalism, as practiced e.g. in Singapore and China, could be an alternative for democratic capitalism. This piece of History has not ended yet, so it is too early to tell which system will survive. But I don't believe in state capitalism.

Quatro Politica
There are too many wrong investments in state capitalism and not enough checks and balances. The Trias Politica should be expanded to a "Quatro Politica", and the fourth power, Business, should also be handled as a separate force. The other three forces are needed as a counter balance to the overwhelming forces of global Businesses. Think e,.g, of the military Industrial complex for which Eisenhower warned us, the lobying forces in "Supercapitalism" by Robert Reich, or -closer to home- the obscure funding behind some political parties in Holland.

All parties in the middle
Since the "end of history" in Europe, the fundamental differences between the old political parties are eroding. The importance of religion as a factor in politics had already been going down much longer. Now, communist parties are gone and traditional socialist parties have moved to the middel ground of the political spectrum.  As a result the old and comfortable left-right or communist - capitalist split is gone. All political parties have difficulty positioning themselves to keep their voters loyal.

How do you like your Gini?
The Gini curve (Italy,1912) can be used for measuring the spread of income in a population. The population is sorted on income, than accumulated into a graph, with vertical cumulative income and horizontal cumulative people. This is the Gini curve and it always runs from the left bottom corner to the right top corner. Depending on the spread of income the Gini curve is more round or more flat. When everyone has the same income, the theoretical communist ideal, the curve is a straight line. Needless to say that it was not achieved in communism: this was one of the reasons the system failed. When 90% of income is earned by 10% of the population, the curve goes almost vertical in the beginning, then makes a turn in the top left corner and goes almost horizontal to the top right corner. This was the shape in the dark ages, when absolute rulers were exploiting there population.
Economic discussion in parliaments everywhere is now dealing with the shape of this Gini curve. Representatives of lower income basically want a flatter curve, while free market adepts want a round Gini. Both try to argue that their view is best for society and for the economic growth as a whole. Venezuela and Cuba are trying hard to prove that a flat curve is wrong. A too round Gini has strong undesirable effects, such as extreme poverty and state debt. Ironically, recent American capitalism as well as the Russian oligarchy confirm this. The Gini-discussion is mixed with a debate about justice and equality, because there is probably not just one answer, but a reasonably large "sweet spot" for the ideal shape. Within that sweet spot the ethical discussion can be held.

What to vote?
What now? The result is that voters no longer know what to vote, because the Gini discussion is boring and technical and has a lot of unknowns and make-believes. Voters do not vote for the nuance of the sweet spot: they start to float and do not give the final call on what to do. The alternative is let history sort it out, but it takes years before the effects of a change in Gini become visible. History as a judge is ruthless, but slow. History convicted fascisme after 20 years, and needed more than 100 years to disprove communism. Now History is already taking 30 years to evaluate state capitalism.

Unwanted by effects
The result is that new parties come up around mono themes like age, animal rights, environment, euro- or xenofobia. Voters (who do not understand the Gini discussion and who no longer vote what the priest says) are shopping around for a nice face or a narrow interest or an underbelly feeling. Parliaments are no longer peopled by the best and the brightest, tried and tested in a long upward career of service to the country, but by opportunistic followers of populists who temporarily catch the limelight. This is not a good development, because it is making our democracy volatile. Maybe it is an unavoidable stage of development towards a true End of History.

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