How many times are people like us asked when leaving Brussels and the bubble what they are doing? The “serious” answer is “lobbying for the good cause”, insisting that our particular interest is the public and general interest. This is not a moral hazard, but the reality of our daily work as advocates for social progress, justice and equality. A moral choice. Because when we look around and see what is happening in the corporate and global players’ world, we find they are doing the opposite: defending low standards and free market access, for the private sector and for their own interests.
It is enough to make us weep: not only do we find that respected car manufacturers, in particular, those whose image is one of seriousness (“Made in Germany”), have manipulated the computer programmes of their car to falsify the emission data in a criminal way, but even worse: the polluting effects of emissions have been tested on apes and human beings! For what? For the improvement of our quality of life, or the quality of the products? No! For the improvement of their cost-effectiveness.At best we get expressions of regret from a top manager pretending that he (because in this case, it is usually a he) was not aware of what was going on, that there will be consequences, and that the lower management will have to pay the price, like the VW manager in the US.
We have discussed on many occasions the threat of shrinking civic space and its impact on democracy in our open western societies. What is almost never discussed, however, is how far these irresponsible behaviours and acts are also undermining the moral side of our democracies, nourishing populism and nationalism. Morality is conspicuous by its absence in our discussions and is indeed an ambiguous term, as it not very objective, while being very sensitive. For the sake of progress and better living conditions we must be stronger in our rejection of irresponsible behaviour. It is not the migrant, who for whatever reasons puts his or her life in danger in the search for a better life on our side of the Mediterranean, who represents a threat to our daily lives, it is the multinational corporation like Carrefour which exploits thousands of workers without scruple, and yet people will stand and queue in front of their door when a new vacancy with a precarious contract is announced. A society that does not have a moral compass and where irresponsible acts are compensated by tax-free golden parachutes will only exacerbate inequality. Unbridled competition in the so-called free markets is the cause of this and it is putting an end to an image of seriousness.
As civil society we may not have the same financial and other means, nor the tools, but if we are well organised, the networks and platforms that we have been creating over the years will turn us into a serious “competitor”, and a watchdog to monitor and hold in check the behaviour of big business. We are not exposed to a moral hazard to growth and GDP at all!