Buzzwords such as “Brexit”, “Trump”, “euro crisis” or “debt crisis” sum up, to a large extent, the current perceived mood of crisis in many parts of Europe and the world. According to the Chairman of the Raiffeisen Co-operative, Werner Böhnke, the co-operative model, which is particularly prevalent in Germany, provides a number of solutions for the current socio-economic crisis over our sense of purpose.
Massive uncertainty and rather vague “anti-capitalism” characterise the current situation in many European countries and beyond.
Guaranteeing economic productivity is a mandatory requirement for ensuring the social “participation rights” of persons who are financially disadvantaged. The guiding principle of the co-operatives “What the individual can’t achieve, we can achieve together” has an equalising quality and also reduces the rise in egoism. Co-operatives work locally and thus are loyal to local communities and the economic effectiveness of their region. Especially at a time where many people perceive a threat from globalisation, strengthening the regional aspects of how things are organised makes sense. According to their Chairman, the co-operatives have a regional focus, even in the area which is perhaps the most borderline for critics, namely the financial economy.
In the opinion of expert observers, criticism of the profit-oriented economic principle without provision of an alternative does little to help. Rather, it is about making sure that as many citizens in as wide a regional spectrum as possible perceive economic diversity as positive and a means of ensuring prosperity.
The German social insurance model of self-governance and socially-aware competition has a somewhat co-operative character with its focus on guaranteeing participation, for example, the demand for high-quality and expensive healthcare services. Many people are of the opinion that the fundamental element of self-governance is the guarantee of quality healthcare and the performance of the system in comparison to other forms of organization, whether these be in the style of the USA with a purely economic character or, as seen in state health services, an institution with a public-sector character but financially independent from the government.
However, our social systems also need economic stability and thus a sound financial basis. Policy makers can help by means of suitable economic policy measures, but this is not happening (or no longer happening) in many EU countries to a desirable degree and this has contributed to a sense of disillusionment. Preserving locally-based jobs by strengthening SMEs is as much a part of this as is providing working capital loans through a system of financial institutions set up for this. Reducing public debt, which breaks any reasonable framework and endangers the future of entire generations, also serves as a safeguard for future participation. In particular, the permanent crises concerning over-indebted European countries show the misery brought about by government failures.