In my article “What is it the People Want?”, I gave the answer to this question from the buyer’s perspective. The result was: both have the same pitifully small value. Now I will introduce the perspective of the political decision-makers.
The headline already says how they decide these days. They try to predict what the consequences of their decisions will be and wrap the reasoning in arguments that are as attractive as possible and allegedly objective. Let us take a closer look at some of these arguments.
The value creation argument
(allegedly, 38.5 jobs are directly linked to and dependent from one single Opel job, while the number for a job at Karstadt is only 0.5).
The moral argument
(jobs are the highest property of a society)
The election argument
(taking the moral argument, politicians present themselves as the keepers of the “highest property”)
The industrial argument
(industrial jobs are better than service jobs, or are we supposed to give each other a new haircut in the future?)
The feminist argument
(again, the jobs held by men at Opel are given preference before the jobs held by women at Karstadt)
The inner city argument
(the inner city will look a lot more desolate with empty windows on the Karstadt buildings than the three empty parking spaces not occupied by Opels).
On top of these, quite a few more arguments were thrown in with great emphasis when the opinion building process got under way.
Which argument was the best?
Did it win?
It is an old fairy tale that arguments become the best arguments because the underlying facts are so convincing, the content is so superior, or the dialectical results are the best. Even Hegel, the German master dialectician, had to admit that there is no logical solution into a higher truth between two competing arguments. The best we can hope for is a speculative insight that might solve the antithesis.
What does that mean for the competition between our exemplary arguments?
Let us take the value improvement argument against the moral argument. Both are acceptable, both have truth in them. But is one of them stronger and thereby capable of forcing a decision for or against either the Opel or Karstadt job?
Let all other arguments line up in a competition, and you will see that our longing for a unification of individual arguments into one great, overwhelming and only argument that is easily acceptable and to the benefit of everybody – that this argument and a decision based on it simply do not exist.
I just framed utilitarian ethics. That is ethics (or rather, a group of people who believe in their ethics) where responsible behaviour is based on the foreseeable consequences. However, if I want to make decisions based on the foreseeable consequences, then I need an overwhelming argument that serves an overwhelming goal.
The utilitarian ethics is the modern, empirical and prevailing ethics. It has become a substitute for the former mainstream ethics of personal duty and obligation, such as in Christian (love of your neighbour) and Kantian (categorical imperative) ethics.
If utilitarian ethics mostly fails when put to the practical test and obligation ethics is no longer fashionable, what is left?
Ethics of power.
Thus, the question whether a job at Opel or Karstadt is of higher value has been answered. It was not the better argument that won, but rather the argument with the more powerful people behind it.
(translated by EG)