Following the French and Dutch rejection of the Constitution, Europe is undergoing a conceptual crisis due to the threatening financial situation existing both separately and collectively in Europe. The conservatives think that the only way out is by cutting out subsidies, opportunities and grant-in-aids, which for centuries have constituted the European notion of a common life in a mutual society. For them, Europe can be prosperous if it removes the market limitations and encourages competition. The socialists assert that the Anglo-American wild-market model, which only knows a winner, can only cause the rich to become much richer, thus creating a devastating model of social exploitation.
In my opinion, the current debates on the Constitution have to do, in fact, with the future of capitalism. An increasing number of Europeans is beginning to ask themselves which market suits them best: whether the liberal or the social. When the referendums were held in France and The Netherlands, people expressed their preferences, fears and hopes as to the financial aspect. That reminds me of those days - 20 years ago - when Mijail Gorbachov, wanted to save the Soviet image through a critical reevaluation of the communist experience. In my view, the situation has turned gloomy: while companies profits are on the increase everywhere in the world, the financial situation of 89 countries becomes worse than it used to be in 1990’s. Instead of narrowing the gap between wealthy countries and poor countries, capitalism, on the contrary, widens it. The accrued assets of the 356 richest families are worth the annual income of 46% of the world population. The three wealthiest individuals in the world - Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and the Wall-Mart Waltons - own more, put together, than the annual income of the 940 million poorest people in the planet. Capitalist ideologists wanted to insert them in the global village, but a third of humanity still lacks electricity and is financially isolated. The biosphere is in danger, terrorism threatens the world, corruption prevails.
Neo-conservatives had attacked the centralization of power on top of the huge bureaucratic mountain of the communist State, but they replaced it with a concentration of power equally centralized on top of the 500 global financial companies that rule the world. Adam Smith’s invisible hand does not allow everyone to enjoy the results of growth but, on the contrary, only the winner, who takes it all. The U.S. - the purest exponent of capitalism all over the world - is also the country, among industrial nations, to generate more poverty. One out of 4 school students live in the threshold of poverty and 20% of the U.S. adult manpower is behind bars, which represents 25% of all the prisoners in the world. The strengths of capitalism are also its weaknesses and we must clearly know the difference. Contriving a market only to serve particular interests is almost pathologic. They have to be always cutting down production costs, maximizing the revenues and increasing the share values. In order to survive, we need an Aristotelian balance that encourages the venture spirit of the market but also that slows down its tendency to concentrate power on top of the pyramid. It’s getting more and more evident, which is a sarcasm of history, that we should not oppose capitalism to socialism, but see them as two complementary “visible hands” that will create a balance between the market interests and the collective responsibility sentiment. The current debates taking place in Europe may polarize opinions to hazardous extremes, with the raw force of the market opposing the bureaucratic dictates of the State providence. Neither one approach should destroy the contents of the other. Each one of us embodies these two frames of mind. We want to benefit the particular interests being fully aware of our responsibility towards the citizens. A socially reformed market economy that respects these two components of man would be a model and an example for the rest of the world.

Die Zeit (Germany)

" Europa, wir brauchen dich ", by Jeremy Rifkin, Die Zeit, June 9, 2005.