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Publicat în 6 februarie 2013, 20:02 / 168 elite & idei

Daniel Daianu pentru Stratfor: The natural hit of the economic crisis – a discussion on global systems’ robustness and resilience

Daniel Daianu pentru Stratfor: The natural hit of the economic crisis – a discussion on global systems’ robustness and resilience

The world seems to be caught in a vortex of bifurcations, that may land us in a very different environment, with much more uncertainty and perils. What may be striking is that a very deep financial and economic crisis has hit most of the industrialized countries, which are presumed to have solid institutional arrangements. We are confronting the most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression of the last century. Economic decline in many economies has caused enormous strain, that shows up in social life and in politics (e.g. stalled dialogue/decision, augmented extremism in mature democracies including chauvinism and xenophobia).

The crisis of the welfare state, in conjunction with rising income inequality, have weakened a social milieu that got further hits from the financial crisis. There is also dramatic climate change, which indicates basic disorders in the human – nature relationships. Some of these disorders are rooted in societies’ disregard, or misunderstanding of ecological needs. The proliferation of extreme events questions the very perception of them being rare events.

A working hypothesis can be submitted: even though there is ever more information and scientific and technological advance never stops, societies do not automatically have superior cognitive capacities and capabilities to respond to shocks and challenges.

Conventional and unconventional shocks
The multiplication of conventional and unconventional shocks makes up a very tough test for the robustness and resilience of social (economic) and technological systems. As natural disasters test the robustness of infrastructure, so does a severe economic crisis when it comes to social systems.

The current financial/economic crisis has an impact equivalent to that of a war during peace time. This crisis has substantially increased public debts around the world. In the European Union the aggregated public debt of governments has increased by around 40% after 2008. The cumulated debts of the private sector are a multiple value of the EU GDP. In the US public debt is around 90% of its GDP. In the industrialized countries, potential economic growth is estimated to have been halved by the current crisis; for the EU the average potential growth has come down from 2-2.5% to probably 1-1.5%.

Complications arise when shocks find systems unprepared, or insufficiently prepared. It is quite striking that European leaders kept talking about

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the “robustness” of their economies after the financial crisis hit; they did not realise that the same structural weaknesses, as in the US, were afflicting the European financial system. The Eurozone provides numerous lessons to be learned. Its troubles, apart from the impact of the financial crisis, originate in the wrong design and flawed policies, which have led to the creation of a ‘sensitive’ monetary area, lacking robustness. It is quite obvious that what the ECB did at the end of 2011 and in 2012, as a lender of last resort, has saved the euro zone – so far. But it is still an open question whether the Banking Union project is the convincing way out from the crisis in Europe. If it can foster deeper integration while giving voice to many frustrations and if it reduces the “democratic deficit” in the EU its chances of success go up.

Hurricane Katrina in the US, the gas leakages in the Gulf of Mexico that were caused by the installations of British Petroleum, the nuclear disaster at Fukushima in Japan, and other similar events show that there is no infallible technology, that erroneous decisions together with technical vulnerabilities invite bad events to happen.

It is justified for the robustness (resilience) of systems to be a topic of high interest. While geography makes the difference in nuances and how shocks, but also how economic development are perceived, the institutional robustness of systems worldwide are of paramount importance for ensuring stability. Considering the new threats – cyberfare and not only, systems resilience becomes a matter of interest for national security experts as well. Not to mention the fact that when economy looses vitality and therefore systems robustness goes down, security suffers the shocks through budget cuts. While the particular of geopolitics explains the way the world evolves, the general of economics (influenced by and influencing geopolitics) justifies today the need for systems’ resilience.

The response to threats tests the virtues of liberal democracies as against authoritarian states. Authoritarian systems, despite their capacity to mobilize large-scale resources relatively fast, feel vulnerable to free movement of information and, consequently, they try to limit the use of modern vehicles (the internet). But liberal democracies, too, may feel vulnerable when information is manipulated grossly.

Articol integral, publicat pe www.stratfor.com

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