Why not collective ownership?
Germans are so hyperprotective of their prosperity that they can’t imagine new ways of living, said Nils Minkmar. The head of the Social Democrats’ youth wing, 29-year-old Kevin Kühnert, recently unleashed a storm of protest from the entire political class—including his own party—when he suggested that major German firms such as BMW should be collectively owned for the greater good. “Socialism!” everyone screamed. But that’s not necessarily what he meant. The system we’ve lived under since the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, “the uninhibited rule of capital,” may have made the country rich, but it is “not particularly compatible with the goal of a livable environment, a sustainable climate, or ultimately our own values.” After all, everyone is affected by the damage that industry inflicts on the environment, but the profits go to just an elite few. Is that just? We have allowed capitalism to “colonize areas in which it has no business,” such as education and health care. Why should a school cafeteria turn a profit? Do we want a doctor to rejoice over her patient’s cancer diagnosis because the treatment will line her pockets? According to Germany’s constitution, the highest goal of our society is not prosperity, but human dignity. Capitalism is failing us, and while we don’t want full-blown socialism, we do need “something new.”