Open Society in Crisis

Twenty years ago much of Central Europe rediscovered the free market. What are the chances of sustaining freedom and democracy at a time of a faltering global capitalism? These questions were the starting point of discussions in the second panel, chaired by writer Martin M. Šimečka (Bratislava).

Political scientist Mary Kaldor (London) regards the financial crisis as a symptom of something deeper: a global crisis of democracy and a profound deficit of legitimacy. She believes that free markets are useful for dismantling old systems and developing new technologies but not for producing new models of development.

Karel Schwarzenberg (Prague) bemoans the fact that capitalism has been taken over as a ready-made scenario but without its moral foundations. In his view, the current economic crisis has resulted from a moral crisis, the loss of a sense of responsibility. Every system in history has had its thieves, robbers and marauders but it’s quite a different matter to present thieving as a healthy component of the system.

Economist Brigita Schmögnerová (Bratislava – London) stated that, of the three key elements of transition — privatization, liberalization and stabilization – the former two are in place but the third one has come to a halt and this has caused many of the current problems.

The European People’s Party founder and chairman Wilfried Martens (Brussels) stressed the importance of rules and called for joint European procedures.

Photo Peter Župník