The debate about Covid-19 has a multitude of facets: one of the most important (nevertheless a quite neglected aspect), is the “post Covid-19” one. While the broad public is hoping that after the end of the restrictions ”life will go back to normal”, others are convinced that the world after Covid-19 will be different. Pessimistic thinkers assume that societies, which have endured those restrictions, will become submissive. Optimistic thinkers predict that a new spirit will arise: more solidarity and less anthropocentric attitudes, more sustainability and multilateralism, less short-term politics.
On the 8th April, something happened in Germany, which supports the second path: the most exclusive German bi-annual award for centre-right economists and politicians was handed over to Jeffrey Sachs. Not only has, for the first time in 60 years, a non-German been awarded – but he is one of the most radical critics of nowadays capitalism, identifying financial oligarchy as responsible for racism and global poverty, praising during the years of Trump a strong cooperation between the EU and China.
How is it possible that a generally conservative structure takes a decision so much out of the box? What other reason might exist for such an unusual behaviour than a profound disorientation provoked by Covid-19, which has reached all sectors and minds – and all hierarchies – of society?
The German economist and sociologist Alexander Rüstow (1885-1963) created in 1938 the term “neoliberalism” and became after WW2 one of the founding fathers of the German model of “social market economy”. To honour his heritage, an “Alliance for the Social Market Economy” awardings the bi-annual Alexander Rüstow Award. The up to now 35 German recipients include a President, federal Finance and Economy Ministers, Presidents of the Bundesbank, business leaders, and Angela Merkel. None of them had the reputation of being an intellectual rebel, who created a Zero-Carbon Action Plan that charts a technological, financial, and employment pathway for decarbonizing the US, who speaks of “America’s unholy crusade against China”, who are denouncing the US involvement in Venezuela, who praised Bernie Sanders: “he alone has honestly focused on the deep economic changes we need in this country” and compared him to Joe Biden as “the braver and I believe more accurate candidate of the deep policy changes that we require”.
Jeffrey Sachs, being honoured “for his advancement of a Humane Economy” despite – or more correctly: because of – his radical views and proposals, is an indication that the tsunami of COVID-19 challenges has now also reached traditional conservative minds and convinced them that a “business as usual” after the end of the pandemic is no longer the right way to act…
PS: The next logical candidate for that award is certainly Ursula von der Leyen with her Green Deal, orienting all policies towards sustainability and making Europe climate neutral in 2050.