How is the economy affecting my life?
Prof. Dr. Rüdiger von Rosen
Prof. Dr. Rüdiger von Rosen, since 1995 executive board member of the Deutsches Aktieninstitut, e.V., lecturer at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, and numerous publications on the national and international capital market, stock exchanges, corporate governance. Prof. von Rosen is committed to the introduction of a school subject economics in general schools.
"Money rules the world," says the vernacular. That may
No political responsibility without the necessary knowledgeThe assumption of political responsibility as a voter is important - especially in times when the social order of our country is increasingly burdened due to the enormous demographic change of the population. A well-founded discussion of the strategies of the political supporters as well as a decision based on factual issues as to which party to vote is not possible without basic economic knowledge. A simple example is the collective bargaining between unions and employers: The unions argue that higher wages, especially in bad economic times, boost consumer demand and that the economy grows as a result. Employers, on the other hand, point to the additional cost burden due to higher wages, which ultimately leads to job losses.
The arguments of both sides initially sound plausible. In order to weigh them up against each other and to be able to decide on one, however, basic economic knowledge is required about the relationships between wages, price levels and employment. The situation is similar with issues of labor market, pension, health and tax policy: Almost all legislative projects have a direct or indirect influence on the labor market and the financing of the economy, social systems and the state. The economic consequences of a political demand can only be estimated by someone who knows the possible mechanisms of action.
Responsible democracy therefore requires independent thinking and basic economic knowledge, because politics and economics are inextricably linked. What is more, politics - and thus also the individual voter - can only successfully direct the fate of a country if they know and observe the laws of the economy. Walther Rathenau, Foreign Minister in the Weimar Republic, put this connection back in 1921 as follows: "The economy is our fate". We are all dependent on the well-being of the economy - regardless of whether they are employees or self-employed.
Business knowledge in everyday lifeHowever, we do not only need knowledge about the economy as voters and employees. We are all also consumers who have to make a living from our income. Decisions have to be made here almost every day: Can I afford to go to a restaurant? Should I pay for the new washing machine in cash or use a financing offer? However, we not only have to think about our current livelihood and major purchases, but also about securing the future, i.e. making provisions for occupational disability, unemployment and old age. In everyday life, it is less about macroeconomic issues than about the individual interests.
The times in which a regular employment relationship automatically meant lifelong all-round financial support from employers and the state are certainly a thing of the past. The citizen must be more responsible. Economic knowledge in monetary and financial matters is therefore essential, especially for building up assets and providing for old age.
At the same time, greater importance is being attached to the principle of subsidiarity: According to this, the federal government is responsible for everything that "smaller" communities - that is, states, municipalities and, last but not least, families - cannot ensure on their own. Only when there is no longer any possibility of solving a problem at the lower level is the next higher level required. In the past - at the time of the extended farming family - this was relatively easy to accomplish. But today's world is much more complicated. Anyone who demands subsidiarity must also create the means to do so. For example, those who do not know the ways and means of securing their own old age because they have never learned them cannot take responsibility for their retirement provision at all. Economic knowledge of monetary and financial issues is therefore essential, and it does not serve the interests of companies, but rather each individual to better understand the interrelationships.
ConclusionThe economy concerns us all - as voters, employees, consumers, investors. Only those who know the economic fundamentals and relationships can make sound judgments and act accordingly (independently) responsibly. At the same time, the state is called upon to ensure that the knowledge is widely accessible. The way to get there is through a school subject called economics, which is taught in general schools with a sufficient number of hours. It is now undisputed that economic education is part of general education. However, the insight that a separate subject is required has not yet caught on in all federal states. Economic bites in other subjects are no solution when looking for a sound economic education, but often no more than an alibi.
At the same time, such an education is just the beginning. Because even if we should have this subject "economics" in all general schools in Germany, hopefully in the not too distant future, everyone must continue to deal with this topic privately and for life - for their own benefit!
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