Fukuyama: Finanzplatz Schweiz, Entwicklungszusammenarbeit und Occupy Helvetia

Centre financière

Von Danny Bürkli Im Zusammenhang mit dem jüngsten foraus-Themenseminar unterhielt sich Danny Bürkli mit Francis Fukuyama. Fukuyama ist Politikwissenschafter, Autor mehrer einflussreicher Bücher („The Origins of Political Order“, „The End of History and the Last Man“) und lehrt an der Stanford University. Im Interview äussert er sich zu Finanzmarktregulierung, Entwicklungszusammenarbeit und den Einfluss der Finanzkrise auf die Linke – Themen, die auch für die Zukunft der Schweiz zentral sind.

foraus: Switzerland has enjoyed considerable success by having less stringent regulation than other countries, for example in banking. Since the financial crisis the pressure on this kind of ‘regulatory arbitrage’ has increased. Is this something that we should expect to go away as the economy improves?

Francis Fukuyama: It seems to me that there is a broader shift going on. There are two critical impulses at work here. The first and probably most important one just comes from a general recognition that there’s a lot of tax avoidance that goes on amongst rich people in countries like the US and Germany. The discussion about economic equality has really changed 180 degrees from, say, four years ago. With the rise of ‘Occupy Wall Street’ there is a focus on economic inequality that wasn’t there earlier. One of the advantages that the wealthy have is the ability to hide income. This has led to international efforts to clamp down on offshore banking operations.

The whole focus on Romney’s tax returns and that he hasn’t been paying as much as ordinary Americans, even if he gets elected, I think is an issue that’s not going to go away. In the Reagan years there was this feeling that if rich people wanted to hide their income from the tax collector that was fine because the tax collector didn’t legitimately have a right to take their money. I think that attitude has shifted. That’s certainly what is driving people like Carl Levin [Democrat, initiated the ‘Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act’] and other people in Congress to push for greater offshore banking transparency.

The second issue is not a popular one, but I think is driving a lot of international concerns and that is Third World corruption. There has been a lot of effort on the part of the World Bank, and DFID [UK Department for International Development] and the US Treasury to trace where a lot of these missing billions of dollars going into Third World countries have gone to. And the answer is it has been facilitated a great deal by offshore banks. This is an area where a little bit of international cooperation can help a lot in terms of tracing that money and repatriating it.

It’s really hard to fight corruption at its source, e.g. in Nigeria, Angola or places like that. On the other hand once you start moving the money out of the developing world it becomes a little bit easier to track. This is why this is probably one of the easier points of entry where the international community can actually do something.

Fukuyama: The record of foreign aid to places like Sub-Saharan Africa is really not very good. I don’t think that anyone can show that any of this foreign assistance has led to genuine development. Where you can show that it’s had an effect is in certain specific areas like public health where you’ve had these big campaigns against river blindness, malaria, HIV/AIDS, where there is some actual correlation between money spent and measurable outcomes. But in terms of general economic development there’s almost no evidence at all that it’s had a particular benefit. In areas like improving governance and anti-corruption the record is even worse. I just think that the international donor community cannot offer incentives that are sufficiently strong to fix some of these big problems.

It used to be said that in a way one of the most successful efforts in terms of governance and economic development were the succession criteria for the EU, where you had these very specific targets that new countries which wanted to enter had to meet. But also there the progress was more apparent than real. Countries like Rumania and Bulgaria, that got into the EU now have no incentive not to slide backwards.

It may actually be a better idea to go back to some of this older thinking on development, ordinary investments in infrastructure. This might be a little bit more worthwhile. But the trouble with big infrastructure projects is of course corruption.

foraus: You’ve written about your own surprise that there has not been a resurgence of a politically influential left-wing ideology after the financial crisis. Do you see anything happening in that space or is it still conspicuously absent?

Fukuyama: I think it is still conspicuously absent. The way I would put it, in simplest terms, is that the left has been caught up between two different imperatives. One is really focused on identity politics. Race, ethnicity, gender and now gay rights, these sorts of issues. The other is the classic agenda of economic inequality. I think in most countries, but particularly in the United States, these two don’t go together in terms of whom you can mobilize. That’s been I think a big problem for the Democrats of this country, a lot of them are mobilized on the basis of these identity issues. But the ‘working class’ who actually determines who gets elected president are either offended by that agenda or just like the socially conservative agenda better and nobody’s has figured out yet how to ‘fix’ that. To some extent that’s beginning to happen in Europe with those right wing parties that are basically gaining a lot of popular support based on this mixture of economic insecurity and identity. A lot of European countries are feeling that they are losing their cultural identity as a result of immigration. And the left wing parties are not willing to embrace that. If you look at something like the French communist party, half of its voters now vote for the Front National. That’s true for a lot of other populist parties who are eating into the left wing voter base. A European left-wing resurgence would be even harder than in the US because they would really have to make up their minds what to do with things like national identity.

Danny Bürkli, ist Masterstudent (International Policy Studies) in Stanford. Er studierte Politikwissenschaft (BA) an der Universität Zürich und ist Mitglied der foraus-Arbeitsgruppe Frieden und Sicherheit.

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