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Die Risikogesellschaft – Ein vernachlässigtes Konzept in der europäischen Stagnationsdiskussion [The Risk Society - An under-researched concept in the European debate on stagnation ]

  • Gunther Tichy
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    The first years of the new century are characterised by a persistent stagnation of the European economy. In contrast to the long-term trend, but similarly to the late sixties or early eighties, the economic gap between Europe and the US widens again, giving rise to heated discussions on both sides of the Atlantic. Most observers tend to attribute Europe’s slack to insufficient deregulation and privatisation, excessive social expenditures and an underrating of new technologies. Too restrictive monetary and fiscal policies are added by some observers. All of these explanations are not incorrect, but they cannot suffice. On the one hand, they neglect the substantial differences within Europe: Distinctive stagnation is restricted to the three large EU economies, while the small countries in the North grow quite as fast as the US. On the other hand, the explanations remain superficial in not analysing the reasons for the large economies’ shortcomings. This paper attempts to demonstrate that all three explanations of the European stagnation – lack of reforms, lack of innovation and stability-biased policy – are caused by deep-rooted uncertainty of investors as well as of consumers, showing up as distinctive risk aversion: Surveys reveal that economic agents’ uncertainty is highly pronounced in the three large economies, but almost lacking in the North. The large countries’ uncertainty could be caused by their sustained stagnation, but the study finds little evidence for this direction of causation. The surveys make the opposite causation highly plausible: that the populations’ uncertainty, their attentism, and the resulting stagnation are mainly caused by the large countries’ inconsequent economic policy, shying away from approaching urgent problems and proposing fair solutions. -- Europa befindet sich – wie schon in den späten sechziger oder den frühen achtziger Jahren – abermals in einer Stagnationsphase und fällt in seiner Wirtschaftsleistung hinter die USA zurück. Das Phänomen wird auf beiden Seiten des Atlantik hitzig diskutiert und zumeist auf ein Nachhinken Europas bei Deregulierung und Privatisierung, auf überhöhte Sozialausgaben und einen Rückstand bei neuen Technologien zurückgeführt, zuweilen auch auf restriktivere Konjunkturpolitik. Alle diese Erklärungen sind nicht unrichtig, können aber aus zwei Gründen nicht genügen: Erstens vernachlässigen sie die erheblichen Unterschiede innerhalb Europas: Wachstumsschwach sind vor allem die drei großen EU-Staaten, wogegen vor allem die skandinavischen Staaten keineswegs langsamer wachsen als die USA. Zweitens greifen die Argumente insofern zu wenig tief, als sie auf die Ursachen der behaupteten Mängel nicht eingehen. Die vorliegende Arbeit versucht zu zeigen, dass hinter allen drei Erklärungsversuchen der europäischen Stagnation – Reformscheu, Innovationsscheu und inflationsfixierte Konjunkturpolitik – eine wichtige Ursache in der tiefliegenden Verunsicherung der Bevölkerung und der daraus resultierenden Risikoscheu liegt. Umfragen lassen klar erkennen, dass die Verunsicherung in den wachstumsschwachen großen Ländern Deutschland, Frankreich und Italien merklich stärker ausgeprägt ist als etwa in Skandinavien. Selbst wenn die Kausalität von der Wachstumsschwäche zur Verunsicherung laufen sollte, wäre das für die Wirtschaftspolitik nicht irrelevant, desto mehr, wenn – wie zu zeigen versucht wird – Attentismus und Stagnation Folgen einer, nicht zuletzt (wirtschafts-)politisch ausgelösten Verunsicherung sind.

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    Paper provided by Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) in its series ITA manu:scripts with number 03_02.

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    Date of creation: 20 Nov 2003
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    Handle: RePEc:ita:itaman:03_02
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