What inspires us


The image of the entrepreneur as a heroic all-rounder is outdated. It has made a deep impression – but it is no longer up to date.

If you want to experience a universal genius, the best thing to do is to go to a museum. Aristotle and Avicenna, Leonardo da Vinci and Alexander von Humboldt, Goethe and Einstein are among those extremely rare specimens of the well-educated, multi-talented people who have left us amazing works. Outside of such hallowed halls, you tend to assume you're dealing with more or less normally talented people - people like yourself, too.

Then please do me – and all of us, and yourself – a favor by challenging the traditional notion of entrepreneurship. Because according to this idea, people would have to be competent in all areas of a company and master calculation, accounting, taxes and law as well as personnel management or marketing. They would have to bring a patent, a new technology or a clever business idea. They would have to raise a lot of capital, talk to banks and convince financiers of all stripes. Above all, however, manage your company well and beat the advertising drum vigorously.

All this and much more. Not to forget the many stipulations, regulations, implementation provisions, which also change frequently. In short, an all-rounder, a kind of all-round genius, a mixture of ancient commander, technology freak, excellent organizer and marketing talent.

That would be hopelessly overwhelming. But it is precisely this image of entrepreneurship that still shapes most people's imagination. The fact that we can also apply the idea of ​​the division of labor to the activities of entrepreneurs has not yet reached the public consciousness.

If you look closely, the term “entrepreneurship” includes three completely different functions that should no longer be lumped together: the entrepreneur in the classic sense was an investor, he brought the idea for his company with him, and he organized the company. Three things at once. How many people are there who meet these requirements in one person? Not many. In a society based on the division of labour, these functions can be tackled by very different people with different skills. This is a first reason why the way of thinking in "entrepreneurship" is no longer up to date.

We find a second, even more important reason with Joseph Schumpeter, who sees in the entrepreneur figure above all an attacker who enters the market with new concepts and those that already exist
company attacked. The better is the enemy of the existing. Schumpeter therefore speaks of "creative destruction". Consequently, he divides the "entrepreneurs" into two camps: the "innkeepers"
and the "innovators". In the first camp, the established companies that defended their market are the guardians of vested interests, while the driving forces of an economy come from the second camp,
the attackers who entered the market with better products or processes. These are two hostile groups diametrically opposed to each other. Do you want this constellation and the term "entrepreneurship" is completely inadequate to describe the dynamics inherent in it. The two camps have different interests, they pursue different goals and use different strategies. Something that is so different cannot be lumped together.

As far as the way of thinking and working methods is concerned, the founder with a hooded jacket and sneakers has little in common with the aura of the men in expensive offices, in tailor-made suits and elegant shoes.

Let's put yesterday's heroes where they belong: in the museum. As has happened in other sectors of society: from authoritarian ruler to accountable,
eligible politicians. From the military caste, drill and unquestioning obedience to the citizen in uniform. From the pedagogy of tycoons, with corporal punishment, to a student-centered, motivating learning situation, from gods in white to a doctor's discussion with informed patients.

Why should the forms and requirements have remained the same in an area that is subject to such rapid changes as the economy? There is every indication that a new type of player, a “new entrepreneur” is emerging in this field too – with new corporate and leadership cultures.

Just as the "old economy" faced strong competition from the "new economy" at the end of the 20th century with the Internet, the "new entrepreneurs" also have opportunities that are superior to old-style entrepreneurship. The old-fashioned entrepreneur, typically man, all-rounder, heroic, “assertive”, is less and less successful. We live in a different time.
Today, the ability to work in a team is more important than the autocratic exercise of power. The number of companies and entrepreneurial people is much larger than it used to be. The field has also become accessible to ordinary people. The daughters of the patriarchs take over.

Good reasons, then, to put the old images and the old concept of “entrepreneurship” where they belong: in the museum. It's about time.

Show more


In autumn 2018, the citizens of Switzerland had an initiative to vote on. She wanted to ensure that there was a larger range of food that was of good quality and was produced in an environmentally friendly, animal-friendly manner and under fair working conditions.

The approval in the polls was overwhelming: 78 percent of eligible voters said they would definitely or probably want to vote yes. But then voices arose that suggested that the initiative would lead to higher prices. The approval was then abruptly withdrawn. In the end, less than half of the population voted in favor of the cause.

The demand for quality, fairness and environmental compatibility meets with a high level of approval, and not just in Switzerland. But that's not enough. Concerns about higher prices bring the cause to failure. If we could combine better quality - and not only of food - with the same or even lower prices, we would certainly get overwhelming approval. So we have to get to the prices. But don't skimp on quality. And that actually works: if we take on the marketing backpack.

This "marketing backpack" quantifies the relationship between production costs and sales price. It includes all the costs of bringing to market that are imposed on a product. It includes avoidable expenses (e.g. advertising) and unavoidable ones, such as transport costs or sales taxes. The smaller this backpack is, the less unnecessary ballast the products carry around with them - which we have to pay for in the final price.

Without a big marketing backpack, we gain economic freedom of action. The production of a men's shirt, for example, costs between two and three euros in Vietnam, but here the same shirt is sold "inexpensively" for 15 euros and for 30, 40 or even more euros at the "men's outfitters". Anyone who visits the local markets as a tourist in Thailand sometimes comes across ready-packaged shirts with German price tags, which cost the equivalent of less than three euros and with which the retailer even makes a profit.

The high price of the shirt arises with us, in our economic sphere: through the wholesale level, the brand expense and the retail level. It is not made in the manufacturing countries. The labor costs make up only a very small part of the later retail price, a maximum of five percent. So we don't have to save on the payment of the seamstresses, nor on the working environment or safety. Quite the contrary: even if wages were doubled and working conditions were decent, we end consumers would not have a significant impact on the price of textiles.

So it makes sense to save on the sales circus in our hemisphere rather than on manufacturing. If we shrink the marketing rucksack, many more people will be able to afford high-quality products than today.

Unfortunately, today's winning logic regularly leads to the opposite result. Michael Braungart experienced a particularly drastic example of this. The professor of process engineering and environmental chemistry had developed a television set together with Philips that not only uses two-thirds less electricity, but also contains neither PVC nor flame retardants. This made the product more ecological than conventional televisions, but above all it could be manufactured more cheaply. Braungart's idea was that the savings would allow Philips to bring the television set to market more cheaply. An opportunity, therefore, to open up broader markets for sustainable products at a lower price. But what happened? Philips sold the device 200 euros more expensive. Although the manufacturing costs are lower, the sustainable product is sold more expensively, because you can get more money out of your pocket with it for customers who value sustainability.

A price that is not based on the true cost of a product, but on what consumers are willing to pay for it is a price that lies. It's unfair to buyers. And so it is not a good economy. Because there are three central criteria for this: good product quality, low prices and fairness towards everyone involved. Fairness not only towards the buyers, but also towards the employees, in the sense that they use their lifetime for reasonable products. Fairness towards the manufacturers, for good working conditions and wages, and of course fairness towards nature. It's about transparency, about education, about product truthfulness, about sustainability - about the meaningfulness of our economic actions. Because with companies that adhere to all three central criteria, the economy can once again fulfill its original purpose: to serve people and to preserve their livelihoods.


Show more


When those who are committed to society begin to actively intervene in the economy, an economy that serves people can emerge. Economics as if people matter.

“It is necessary for all of us to keep showing the powerful and saying: Not like that! Not like that!” In the late 20th century, future activist Robert Jungk called on citizens to get involved in their communities. To become active for urgent social concerns that are not taken up by the political institutions. Not leaving social development to technology experts, politicians or economists. The term "citizens' initiative" is inextricably linked to Robert Jungk.

When it comes to new technologies, it is now accepted that the social issues raised by them should not be left to engineers and researchers alone. Because there are always questions of risk and impact assessment that are answered differently by those affected than by the actors. Not everything that is feasible makes the world a better place. This applies to an even greater extent to the economy: not everything that maximizes profit makes the world a better place to live.

On the contrary. Shortly before his death, Stephen Hawking, the well-known British physicist, urgently warned that humanity was facing dangers that would endanger its existence in the long term. We would have developed the technologies that would gradually destroy the planet we live on, but not the ability to escape Earth. Politics alone cannot solve these problems. She doesn't live up to the challenges and sets the wrong priorities. The citizens feel it. The big, really important questions are not asked. Hawking put it extraordinarily sharply: "If we are to preserve our last chance, the world's leading decision-makers have no choice but to acknowledge that they have failed and failed the majority of people."

The decisive force of our time, which decisively shapes our living conditions, is the economy. It is necessary to intervene in them in order to find better, more intelligent solutions for the existential problems of mankind. Let's not wait any longer for someone else to solve these problems for us. Let's understand Robert Jungk's idea of the citizens' initiative as a call to all of us to take the initiative ourselves. Going into opposition to existing economic development. Let's continue to develop his demand in such a way that we play an entrepreneurial part in the concert of the economy. The conditions for this are given today.

The new players to whom this call goes are people who are anchored in their community and committed to it. Such a person used to be called, perhaps a little pretentious and pompous, the citoyen. It has played an indispensable role in European history from the Renaissance to the present day. The citoyen as a citizen who has many interests and an idea of the good life, both for himself and as a member of society. Good relationships, good conversations and a good conscience are part of this good life. The citoyen loves looking at art, the exchange about it and the suggestions that he gains from it. In short: he is an open-minded, responsible citizen.

We build on this tradition. We build on the citizen.

To the extent that economic calculations are increasingly influencing social life, politics, education, our relationships and also art, the task of positioning oneself in relation to the economy is becoming more and more important for the citoyen. He can no longer avoid dealing with the economy and its consequences. He can react to this in several ways. One of them: looking away; ignore the economy and its impositions. That's not very promising, and looking away isn't his style either. Another possibility: curl up. Raise the walls around house and head to keep the economy at bay. This is how many behave; However, they run the same risk as anyone who only behaves passively: in the long run, the aggressive forces will find a way behind the wall.

Or the third option: fight. Face the challenge and look for ways to stand up to the destructive tendencies of modern economy. Find new ways. Do business differently. do the important thing. These are forms of engagement that I believe will be part of the new image of the citoyen.

Active participation as an entrepreneurial thinking and acting person. Active participation as an entrepreneur. Let's call it Citizen Entrepreneurship.

The citoyen as an entrepreneur has many opportunities to act. From buying directly from the manufacturer to sharing resources to initiatives to network a more regionally oriented economy. He can run educational work, actions, campaigns. He can produce something himself: from conventional self-work to the use of 3D printers. He can get involved as a social entrepreneur in the not-for-profit sector or as a social business. As a pioneer entrepreneur, he can develop alternatives to the conventional economy.

Citizen entrepreneurship can open up an emancipatory perspective for the economy that could encompass the vast majority of the population. Let us orient ourselves to the ideas of the Enlightenment. In their belief in rationality and education and their hope that a more humane world can emerge from this - with opportunities for everyone, regardless of birth and wealth, race and gender. Entrepreneurship might be the way to fulfill this Enlightenment promise of economic self-actualization. "An empty sack cannot stand upright," said Benjamin Franklin - without economic emancipation, we cannot achieve personal emancipation.

Only when economic activity has become understandable and accessible to most people and many more people than today actively take advantage of this opportunity will we have achieved the goal of enlightenment: to make people mature in the field of economics and to enable them , to participate openly, confidently and courageously in a society in which the decisive question of economic organization is no longer determined by the economic power of a few.

In such a society, the economy actually serves people – and the planet at the same time. Robert Jungk would be proud of her. And on us.

Show more


A new indicator for more responsible use of our resources.

The "ecological backpack" turns 25 this year. As a measure of nature consumption, it was developed in 1994 by Friedrich Schmidt-Bleek, a chemist who, together with Ernst-Ulrich von Weizsäcker, founded the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy. This backpack contains all the raw materials that were taken from nature to manufacture a product or that had to be cleared away in nature - the heavier the ecological backpack of a product, the more natural resources it uses.

In analogy to this "ecological backpack" one can speak of the "marketing backpack" that is imposed on a product. It quantifies the relationship between production costs and sales price. It includes all the costs of bringing something to market, avoidable (such as advertising) and unavoidable, such as transport costs or sales taxes. So it's not about getting rid of the backpack, but keeping it as small as possible and removing unnecessary ballast. Just as the ecological backpack cannot simply disappear: there is a necessary effort that would be incurred even with the most environmentally friendly production.

So what is the maximum size of the marketing backpack? We shouldn't be too petty when we ask ourselves what mark-up on production costs is acceptable and justifiable. It's not about setting rigid moral standards. Let's say a "Factor 3" should be enough to allow for all the necessary costs of carrying to market plus a fairly decent profit margin. So we say that the price of a commodity should not exceed three times the cost of production.

With this "factor 3", and this may come as a complete surprise to most people, we are well below the prices that so-called modern marketing serves us with. Yes, there are also competitive prices where the factor is lower, for example in the trade with individual foods such as milk or bread rolls, but there are also many areas, for example cosmetics, where the factor is higher than ten.

Without a big marketing backpack, we gain economic freedom of action. The production of a men's shirt, for example, costs between two and three euros in Vietnam, but here the same shirt is sold "inexpensively" for 15 euros and for 30, 40 or even more euros at the "men's outfitters". Anyone who visits the local markets as a tourist in Thailand sometimes comes across ready-packaged shirts with German price tags, which cost the equivalent of less than three euros and with which the retailer even makes a profit.

The high price of the shirt arises with us, in our economic sphere: through the wholesale level, the brand expense and the retail level. It is not made in the manufacturing countries. The labor costs make up only a very small part of the later retail price, a maximum of five percent. So we don't have to save on the payment of the seamstresses, nor on the working environment or safety. Quite the contrary: even if wages were doubled and working conditions were decent, we end consumers would not have a significant impact on the price of textiles.

So it makes sense to save on the sales circus in our hemisphere, rather than on manufacturing for today's profit logic. If we shrink the marketing backpack, many more people will be able to afford high-quality products than today.

The marketing backpack, i.e. the ratio of production costs to the retail price, can be viewed as an indicator of the efficient use of resources for a product or for an entire economy. The higher the indicator, the more resources are wasted. And the highest values can only be reached through the madness of modern consumer worlds.

However, this indicator can also become a benchmark for economic reason. Namely, when it serves as a guideline for companies and consumers. If only goods are offered that are below the factor 3. And if we stop buying goods that are over factor 3.

Companies can also benefit from a movement in this direction. Even those who have so far shared responsibility for the fact that the marketing backpack is getting heavier and heavier. They are just as much victims as perpetrators: Marketing is subject to an escalation effect - if one upgrades, the others have to follow suit. If, on the other hand, it is possible to include the backpack in purchasing decisions, this would weaken the trend of starting new rounds of escalation. The logic of the escalation can even be reversed: Whoever makes the backpack smaller first has a sales advantage.

The indicator of the marketing backpack could thus become a signal for a rethinking in the economy - for a more responsible use of economic and ecological resources.

Show more


Economy as the finest of all arts: creative design that opens up a viable economic perspective.

"Our true illiteracy is the inability to be creative," said the Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Our imagination, our ideas, the combination of thoughts are unlimited. So far there is no evidence that there are limits to our creativity.

Of all living beings, only human beings have creative potential. Today we need it more urgently than ever because a continuation of the current development threatens to lead us into catastrophe.

The force that brought us here in the first place can show us the most elegant way out of the catastrophe: the economy. For me it has the potential to be the most beautiful of all arts: creative design that fits the place, time and person and opens up a viable, lasting economic perspective. Bringing an idea child into the world. One that is not only the pride of parents, but can be useful to society and that attracts attention with good and inexpensive products. And last but not least, an action that does not exacerbate existing problems, but contributes to new and better solutions through broader participation in entrepreneurial ways.

There is already an area of entrepreneurial activity in which both the applicable values and the people involved are noticeably different from those in the conventional economy. I'm talking about the field of social entrepreneurship.

The idea of using entrepreneurial thinking and acting without combining it with profit maximization met with great interest and approval worldwide. The positive values of entrepreneurship - achieving goals, organizing practically efficiently, using financial resources sparingly - are affirmed, but without taking on the ballast of profit maximization. Something like Richard Branson and Mother Teresa rolled into one. We need - according to the basic idea of social entrepreneurship - people who find and implement new answers to complex social problems with entrepreneurial spirit.

Only at a superficial glance does it appear that the unconventional, the creative, the artistic people would not be enthusiastic about economics. Strictly speaking, that doesn't have to be right. The popularity that social entrepreneurship has gained in recent times suggests that interest in and understanding of entrepreneurship is growing, but the forms and ways of thinking of conventional economics are being rejected. Here we experience an affirmation of the entrepreneurial spirit for the solution of social problems.

One of the main features of social entrepreneurship so far is that it is active in areas that lie outside the core area of economics. Commitment to the disadvantaged and groups on the fringes of society is understood as a social concern. Let's think of the social entrepreneur as someone who no longer intervenes in the economy on the fringes of society, but in its core. His concern to give social impetus, to help people, remains - and his commitment can thus benefit everyone. He can expand his radius of action and thus increase his effect. As a social entrepreneur for everyone, he fulfills the task that we describe as citizen entrepreneurship.

Such a task can look back on a long tradition. In parts, the cooperative movement had always made it its task to provide its members with good products, beyond the otherwise prevailing strict profit mentality with its negative effects on products and people. For example, if we are thinking of attacking brands' inflated prices, we should keep this tradition in mind.

Social entrepreneurs are almost predestined to think and try out possibilities beyond profit maximization - and to find more compatible business models. The idea of car sharing, for example, goes back to the fact that a few socially committed nonconformists developed a feeling that the majority idea of a car-friendly city was neither intelligent nor sustainable. While economists who are professionally trained in efficiency are not bothered by the fact that automobiles spend 90 percent of their existence in parked and rusting mode, a handful of dissidents in Amsterdam in the 1960s began to experiment with how mobility could function without one's own automobile.

Today, social pressure comes from technical progress and changes in ecological conditions. The previously successful perspectives no longer fit into the landscape. In order to increase profits - according to the old thinking - you need

If you have higher sales, i.e. quantitative growth. Maximizing profits as the top priority sees protecting the environment as a secondary goal at best, even making it appear as a cost to a company that stands in the way of maximizing profits. Lip service does not take this contradiction off the table. A turning away from growth and profit maximization is not in sight.

The established companies will not stop creating artificial shortages. Nor will they abandon their branding strategies and bring product prices closer to manufacturing costs. They remain as Goliaths on the battlefield. If we want to change something about this, we have to act as Davids, as entrepreneurs. Must offer alternatives that challenge the economic power of the Goliaths.

These alternatives exist. And where it doesn't exist yet, it is realistic to create it: Today, unlike in the past, entrepreneurship is accessible to everyone. The development of our society meets our concerns. In the knowledge society, economic opportunities are being redistributed, capital is no longer the bottleneck, and neither is access to knowledge. In an economy with a high degree of division of labour, we can fall back on components that allow us to act professionally and on an equal footing with the big players right from the start.

All the elements mentioned here already exist in practice. We can look at how they work with small and larger examples. What is important now is to implement this movement, which is already beginning to emerge, on a large scale.

Entrepreneurship for the many, not the few. We fight for the fulfillment of a dream of mankind. Nothing less than that.

As David versus Goliath.

Small is beautiful - but if we recognize the historic opportunity and use it, it becomes: Small is powerful.

Show more


The economy has taken on great form and freed us from shortage. It is no longer suitable for what is needed now

As early as 1930, the great economist John Maynard Keynes dared to predict “that the economic problem will be solved within a hundred years, or at least that it will be solved shortly”. Almost ninety years have passed since then, and materially we have far exceeded Keynes' calculations. Yet his prognosis is in complete contrast to the everyday life in which we live. The importance of the economy is by no means diminishing. Rather, one will have to realize that the economy is increasingly affecting other areas of life.

One of the most important players in the economy has so far prevented us from reaching a new level with Keynes and without shortage: the companies. Because they are the big losers when material needs are met. If every household is equipped with the relevant devices, goods will only be in demand if there is a need for replacements. Sales will decrease. no more growth The free production capacities are pushing into the replacement market. Not a good omen for profits. More competition, more supply, pressure on prices. The survival conditions of companies are deteriorating. And that continuously. An economy without shortages is a paradise for us - and hell for companies.

So they had to prevent the shortage from coming to an end; so they had to create it artificially. That's why marketing grew in importance and influence. In company budgets, in the media, even at universities: marketing could create new needs and generate more consumption. The question of meaning, what actually remains as a task after the abolition of the shortage, was not and is not asked. The idea of ​​a post-growth world is also too risky for politicians: will the voters go along with it? Who pays the pensions then? When in doubt, politicians will therefore opt for more growth rather than against it. It is an alliance that pays off for both companies and politicians. A misalliance that continues to play the old game as if nothing had happened in terms of scarcity.

It was the self-understanding of economics to work to remedy the deficiency. At least for the industrialized countries, this task has been solved. Today, economists are helping to artificially stimulate shortages to create demand. But this has just as little to do with the economic principle of efficiency as it does with the economic ethos of using resources 


Show more


Where money becomes an end in itself, everyone loses – including the supposed winners.

A million? Completely irrelevant. Ten million? Still peanuts. In Silicon Valley, you mean something when your startup reaches a company valuation of one billion. Then you are a unicorn, a unicorn. Ten billion would of course be even more impressive. When Uber goes public, it should be a hundred billion. Thousands on Amazon.

You can call it the magic of zeros. What you do is of secondary importance. Only how highly your company is rated counts. The zeros as a measure of success. Content is an accessory, is secondary.

No one has caricatured the magic of zeros better than Walt Disney. With the figure of Scrooge McDuck he drew a character who swims in pieces of gold and always wants more of them. He's wasting his life, has few friends, is looked down upon. Every child realizes that the piling up of money tends to be ridiculous. Dagobert is a tragic figure. Deserves our pity, seems to have stopped emotionally at the level of four-year-olds. "No one has ever gotten rich through money," said the Roman philosopher Seneca.

"We should dare to judge the money drive by its true value," said the great and wise economist John Maynard Keynes 90 years ago. "The love of money as a value in itself - which is to be distinguished from the love of money as a means to pleasures and the real things of life - will be recognized for what it is, a rather disgusting, morbid affliction. "

"Greed is good," said Gordon Gekko 30 years ago in the feature film Wall Street. He embodied the model of an entire industry, as well as the criticism of it. Yes, greed is good - for anyone who wants to keep a system alive where maximizing profits is a priority. Greed as a lubricant, as a fuel, as the engine of the economy. An economy without values, without a compass and without a map.

The magic of zeros doesn't go far. It generates envy, frustration and many losers. Not good conditions for luck - not even for the winner.

Bill Gates seems to have understood that. From small start-up to billionaire. Gates, the likeable youthful man who puts the technology giant IBM in its place. A phase follows in which his company attempts to establish a monopoly position for the operating system and office software. The mood turns. A Bill Gates who wants to reach for world domination, hindering, suing or copying competitors. A generation of hackers emerges against Microsoft. The media is reporting more and more negatively about the company and its boss. Gates must have felt that continuing to accumulate wealth could only have a negative impact on him as a person. He gets off. He parted with a large part of his fortune, used it to finance a foundation and from then on used it for non-monetary goals. And almost overnight he is a likeable and highly respected personality again.

A happy life has little to do with the size of a company and the number of zeros in its rating, if at all. Happiness usually comes more modestly and on quieter feet. So a dash of skepticism about a Silicon Valley type of entrepreneurship can't hurt. However, we should not overlook the fact that many entrepreneurs have the desire to make the world a little bit better with their own start-up. They take ecological values ​​much more for granted than the previous generation, and they bring a different value system to the economy than the bosses of the corporations.

Anyone who is still addicted to the magic of zeros no longer fits into our time. When companies are willing to pay almost any price for quantitative growth—so much so that they even risk being caught in fraud—then something is wrong in our economy. Then the direction is no longer correct. The problem lies in the companies, in their values ​​and the organizational structures that go with them. Large companies were once the bearers of the development of the productive forces. Today they are increasingly becoming preventers and are in the process of giving up their historical function.

Show more


The fatal logic behind the maxim of profit maximization.

Business administration is not a subject for imagination. Nor is it a discipline that would particularly enable one to see into the future. On the contrary: your attention is directed inwards. It arose from the need for effective organization of large companies.
That's their focus.

Recognizing undesirable ecological or social developments at an early stage and taking countermeasures is not their forte. Economics has therefore had to put up with a lot of criticism lately: that its focus as a scientific discipline is too narrow and that it naturally builds on such weak ground as the postulate of profit maximization.

Even in the students' textbooks, maximizing profit is assumed to be the goal - and that with the utmost self-evidence. In professional practice, too, it is about maximizing profits, which the outside world usually concedes to economists. Unlike what is expected of any other profession.

We naturally expect a doctor to do everything possible to heal his patients. We don't expect him to keep patients ill or even invent new diseases so as not to make himself superfluous.

We naturally expect an engineer to build bridges that will last, for as long as humanly possible, with the best knowledge and materials at his disposal. We expect them to design machines that are durable and require the least amount of maintenance possible. We don't expect him to build his bridges with planned cracks and inferior materials to increase engineering demand.

Of course, both doctors and engineers also want to earn money and practice their profession for this reason. But neither during the training nor in later professional practice is profit maximization a goal. No professional physician or engineer would dare publicly proclaim the maximization of profit as the first and supreme goal. We only allow economists to set profit maximization as the top priority.

But if profit is the primary goal, it logically follows that the quality of the product is not. Just as little as the employees, the nature, the customers or the value for money of the product. When maximum profit comes first, the "rest" becomes variables to achieve that ultimate goal. You don't have to be a systems theorist to realize that you can't maximize a single function (profit) without doing damage elsewhere. It pays to neglect other aspects. It would be better – and also more economically productive – to include all aspects. So to strive for the best possible overall performance of all factors.

From our engineering example we can learn how economics could work. We expect the engineer to build a decent, good bridge at the lowest possible cost. Of course he wants to be well paid and that's what he should do if he builds a good bridge. If he earns a reputation for building exceptionally good bridges, he will be able to charge more. However, there remains a close connection between the quality of his work and his remuneration. If anything should be maximized in the area of ​​economics, then not profit, but quality. As was the case in almost all eras of economic history.

Of course there have always been ambiguous practices and forms. In other words, people who did not operate with the quality of the product, but with the appearance of quality, which they created through all sorts of tricks or manipulation. Horse swindlers, for example, had the method of scattering sawdust in the horse's feed. The flour made the horse look healthy and strong for a short time. The special glow. Most of the time they had a talent for persuasion, persuasion. They sold their products as something better than they actually were. But none of the economic theorists of the time would have thought of accepting this way of doing business, of maximizing profits, even tolerating it as normal.

Isn't it permissible for economics to start from the assumption that people aim to maximize their utility? Couldn't one even say that it is absolutely realistic and correct not to start from any idealistic ideas, but from what really determines actions - to maximize one's own benefit, one's own profit?

Anyone who argues in this way overlooks the fact that even an economy that bases its edifice on profit maximization cannot do without a value system. A quick and easy way to maximize your profits is to snatch an old woman's purse and disappear. An almost risk-free opportunity to enrich yourself. Still, most of us don't. Why not? Because the very thought upsets us, because basic decency forbids us to act in this way. We are therefore far from being noble people, but adopt an attitude that is self-evident.

Market thrives on social norms, needs rules, otherwise it becomes an event for tricksters and mafiosi. We can see that when we “deregulate” the market, like the radical liberal economists of the Chicago School, i.e. declare it to be a “free play of forces”. When "deregulation" is demanded instead of setting rules for the market - as demanded by the representatives of the social market economy - and  also enforcing these rules. It is clear that in a free play of forces it is the strength of the forces that counts - that is, the stronger, the more brutal, wins. It goes without saying that a very specific species then feels attracted to this game. And that strength, elbows and the will to assert yourself, coupled with unscrupulousness, count decisively. And everyone else who isn't wired that way, feels repelled by this type of market.

Profit maximization versus value system. Which side will win in the future?

Show more


Why we must confront an expansionist economy and show alternatives.

In politics, we have learned to confront expansionist politicians, those who want to expand the country's borders, those who are willing to start wars for material resources. Responsible politics means preventing expansionist, aggressive politics.

Let's apply this thought to economics. Let's oppose expansionist economics! An economy that stimulates our need for more and thus constantly expands the limits. Which turns every state reached into a springboard for a further expansion of the borders. If we continue to tease out new needs and allow the consumption of goods to grow without limit, it is inevitable that we will reach the limits of our resources. Then conflicts and wars over these very resources are preordained.

Let's do business more intelligently, in a more environmentally friendly and socially responsible way. With better products and less waste. Let's stop trying to push the boundaries any further in an expansionist manner. We don't need it, it doesn't get us anywhere, but we are now risking our survival.

In politics, the principle of participation has proven to be the best instrument against expansionism. The participation of the many has favored the reconciliation of interests, social cohesion and the search for intelligent, lasting solutions for everyone. A system in which opposition is permitted, even institutionalized, opens up a wide range of values ​​and perspectives. As we know, it is not an ideal principle, but it is much better than following the ideas or even whims of princes and their generals. In an open, democratic dialogue, more and different ideas are conceived and more alternatives come to light than in authoritarian and exclusive structures. Generals talked about troops, dreamed of fame and monuments - mothers thought differently.

Structures based on diversity are better. Because there is opposition, because alternatives are shown, because there is more transparency. Opposition is something that those in government have to put up with. It is part of the democratic process. And that should also apply to the princes of business. If all they can think of is expansionist economics, we need an opposition to the real economy. An economic opposition.

Like any political opposition, the economic opposition should also be able to significantly influence directional decisions. Or even stepping out of the opposition and becoming the majority yourself. That means nothing less than: We must be prepared to take the economy into our own hands. We have to take responsibility ourselves.

The economic aristocrats suggest that we normal people cannot have a say in economic issues and are not qualified enough. Just like once in the questions of politics. There, too, there was great skepticism about democratic approaches until modern times: farmers, workers and most recently women were said to be not educated enough to have a say in politics, that they lacked the power of judgment for important decisions. The idea that in the course of participation representatives of the opposition would also acquire the qualifications needed in politics was foreign to the princes.

They were taught better. And we can do that in business, too. As entrepreneurs, we can oppose the existing economic development. We can counter an expansionist economy and make the world a better place. Also for our children and grandchildren.


Show more


Stay up to date and sign up for our newsletter.

Entrepreneurship.de Logo

Become an entrepreneur.
There is no better alternative.

Follow us
© 2024 Stiftung Entrepreneurship