INTERVIEW WITH NOBEL LAUREATE MUHAMMAD YUNUS
‘Capitalism Has Degenerated into a Casino’
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus says that greed has destroyed the world’s financial system. SPIEGEL ONLINE spoke with him about the profit motive, social consciousness and what should be done to end the financial crisis.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Yunus, for years you have been preaching a more socially conscious way of doing business and have denounced the narrow focus on maximizing profit as harmful. Now, the entire financial system is wobbling …
Yunus: The current turn of events makes me sad. It is certainly not something I am happy about. The collapse has hurt so many people and has suddenly made the entire world unstable. We should now be concentrating on making sure that such a financial crisis does not happen again.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What should be done?
Yunus: There are huge holes in the current financial system that need to be plugged. The market is clearly not able to solve these problems itself, and now people are having to run to the governments to ask for emergency assistance. That is not a good sign because it shows that trust in the markets has evaporated. At the moment, there is unfortunately no other option than for government takeovers and government support. That is currently the method being used to combat the crisis — a method kicked off with the $700 billion bailout package passed in the US. In Germany, the government has likewise jumped into the fray.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Where exactly do you see the problem with such a strategy?
Yunus: The point is that we have to return as soon as possible to market mechanisms that can ameliorate the crisis and solve problems. Solutions should come out of the market and not from governments.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: But you just said yourself that the market is not capable of doing so.
Yunus: That is exactly what we need to work on. For a long time, the main priorities have been the maximization of profits and rapid growth — but that focus has led to the current situation. Each day, we have to look to see if there is potentially harmful growth somewhere. If we find there is, then we need to react immediately. If something grows unnaturally quickly, then we have to stop it. Why don’t companies all pay into a fund that buys up securities that have become too risky? I can even imagine a business model for such a program.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: On the one hand, you say that the market has to solve the problem itself, on the other hand, though, you criticize overly quick growth. That sounds like you think that profit-oriented capitalism has failed.
Yunus: Not at all. Capitalism, with all its market mechanisms, has to survive — there is no question. What I excoriate is…
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