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Gauck: see the human cost of our luxuries
Photo: DPA

Gauck: see the human cost of our luxuries

Published: 17 Nov 2012 14:16 GMT+01:00
Updated: 17 Nov 2012 14:16 GMT+01:00

President Joachim Gauck says consumers risk becoming so obsessed with getting the latest fashionable product that they ignore the suffering of the people making them – and called for responsible capitalism.

“One can stand in line at 5am for the newest product. Or one could spend all day in front of the shop protesting against inhumane work contracts,” Gauck said during an economics summit organised by the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper in Berlin on Thursday.

He called for lessons to be learned from the financial crisis, but complained that little had changed. “The uncontrolled growth in the financial sector has still today not been got rid of,” he said, adding that fundamental changes were needed and that risk must be reasonable.

Bankers should not, “take bonuses in good times, and then in difficult times.. call upon the tax-payer,” he said.

“The current knowledge that in an emergency they will be rescued, distorts how risk is regarded by the banks in a way that neither helps the market nor the wishes of the tax-payer,” he said.

“Numbers in the black are not reason enough to cross red lines,” he said.

And he said the 1990s demands for a small state had in many ways been a mistake. Rather, he suggested, the aim should be to create a state which was able and willing to deal with things.

The point was, to try to develop a responsible capitalism which looked further than the demands of business to include responsibility for social rules.

“Responsible capitalism is possible,” he said, adding that pushing for profits was not improper – but that greed for more at any price was dangerous.

Yet this sense of responsibility should also be an everyday measure for consumers too. “How long will Europeans continue to buy jeans for €10 although they know that the poorest of the poor in Asia or Latin America pay a high price, with their health or their human dignity?” he asked.

DPA/DAPD/The Local/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

15:11 November 17, 2012 by Zubair Khan
Good to hear remarks of President. But to me he also missed the crux of the matter. Unless interest and compound interest system which has totally infested all kinds of financial systems ( including capitalism) will not be replaced no remedy will prove effective. Setting aside the biases, hatred or differences why learned financial experts do not divert their attention at least to study the interest free financial system suggested by religion Islam. To my information Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has such details in a book titled, new world order" in different languages of the world. One can search for at "www.alislam.org"
15:49 November 17, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles
It is not just about people being obsessed with getting the latest product. It is also about company directors being motivated to make profit at all costs. Companies have marketing and advertising budgets to increase the demand for their product. They have human resources who look for the cheapest way of getting the work done. The accountancy departments only care about maintaining profit margins and avoiding tax. Is it any wonder we have a crisis and that comanies have no ethics or morals.
17:19 November 17, 2012 by Wobinidan
In a way, it's nice to hear this from a senior politician, but it's really just a lot of hot air if the government isn't prepared to pass laws that help workers conditions in foreign countries. It's all very well for a rich man to tell us that we shouldn't shop at Kik or Lidl, but money is only submissive to law.
17:46 November 17, 2012 by Englishted
"responsible capitalism" a contradiction in terms
18:32 November 17, 2012 by ovalle3.14
I agree with Mr. Gauck, however I find this rather a curious comment from the leader of a country who is a net exporter of manufactured goods and where there is no minium salary.
18:58 November 17, 2012 by realist1961
Herr Gauck, please go through every item you own, including your automobile, and determine where each piece that made up that item has come from. Then tell us how we should live. Please lead us to the promised land.
19:40 November 17, 2012 by IchBinKönig
Didn't Ahmadinejad just say the same? Have a look around yourself, Mr. Gauck, You are in the West now. The difference between the living standard in the West and your former East Germany, is exactly what you criticize. Sounds like me misses the DDR.
20:20 November 17, 2012 by pepsionice
Perhaps a lesson in economics for a man who never studied it or managed a company. Up until the 1970s....Germany manufactured just about everything it desired. By the late 1980s....a number of items that Germans consumed were now manufactured in other countries, for the reason of lowering production cost and maintaining sales (hint: German wages and benefits were now growing at a fair rate).

Every five years, you could add a number of things onto the list that were now manufactured overseas....NOT in Germany. German factor jobs went away. Unemployment since 2000 has been an ongoing problem in Germany. There are good years and bad years.

Responsible capitalism? It's an invented term that professors sit and use on occasion but in the real world.....it's not useful or capable of being implemented. You don't take risks in the business world based on responsible capitalism. You don't brew beer with responsible capitalism. And you don't sail a cruise boat down the Nile River based on responsible capitalism. It's all based on acceptable risks and an open import concept.

The only reason why you don't pay 99 Euro today for a pair of rough German-made shoes is because people figured out that you could make the same shoes in Vietnam for 16 Euro, and sell them in German shops for 39 Euro. Otherwise, Germans would be existing in the most expensive country on the face of the Earth.

I would urge the good President to go and ask how much things would cost in Germany, if you added this little concept of responsible capitalism. The truth is....you couldn't even afford. And you'd be visiting the shoe-maker every two years to put a new sole on a pair of shoes that you couldn't replace.
20:28 November 17, 2012 by anaverageguy
The solution is quite simple actually: The government must control EVERY aspect of business. Government mus decide what is the proper behavior of business and consumers, Government must decide what consumers may have.
20:54 November 17, 2012 by lucksi
If people would stop buying shiat they don't need with money they don't have, we would be in a hell of a recession.
22:42 November 17, 2012 by grazhdanin
It's interesting to hear that we have a 'financial crisis', while at the same time we live in abundance.
04:52 November 18, 2012 by Eric1
It's not fair that some people are good looking and others aren't. So socialism's answer is the beat the good looking people's face until the are ugly. Then we are all equally ugly. The same way with helping the poor, destroying the rich just makes everyone poor.
09:35 November 18, 2012 by davidrobinson
An if we stop buying things manufactured in Asia and the employees lose their jobs will they be better off? I'm not defending their working conditions.
12:52 November 18, 2012 by raandy
Mr Gauck and his political ilk should set the example.
07:18 November 19, 2012 by mitanni
Gauck and Merkel would be the first to panic if people stopped buying Mercedes or Porsche or all the other German brands that the German economy depends on. As for "bankers calling on the tax payer", it is his and Merkel's government that keep bailing them out.

Does Gauck actually believe the nonsense he is spewing, or is this some calculated political manipulation and propaganda? (I suppose both he and Merkel learned from the best.)
16:47 December 7, 2012 by elder
The lack of self sufficiency is really at the root of the systemic problems.

Almost of of the G8 is massively de-industrialized and generation

debt bombs as a consequence. Go to Wikipedia and google Britains

wool industry as an example. The powerhouse that once was is

crumbling and begging for it's very existence. The same can be said

for the west. As a child I wore clothes knitted by my mother, skates

made in Canada, ice rinks we made ourselves, drove cars that

were manufactured 15 miles down the road from our house by

my father. We ate food grown in the fields all around us and even

exported massive quantities because of supplus. Now the

made in China label is omnipresent. Germany if you give up

your industrial economy you will be toast like the rest of us.
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