Jacques Attali: less austerity and isolation, more economic growth

“The world is set for incredible economic growth, but to achieve it, countries must not close themselves off from one another.” This was Jacques Attali’s message in a...

“The world is set for incredible economic growth, but to achieve it, countries must not close themselves off from one another.” This was Jacques Attali’s message in a speech he made on May 15 in Montreal*.

Jacques Attali, who will also speak at the International Summit of Cooperatives on October 11 in Quebec City, is considered one of the 100 greatest intellectuals in the world.

Addressing the members of the French Chamber of Commerce in Canada, Mr. Attali talked about what he calls the geopolitics of the post-financial crisis.

According to Mr. Attali, “There needs to be more growth and less austerity; we need to use public capital to leverage private capital for infrastructure, health and education (…). We need social justice and we need to tax wealth handed down, not income and business owners.”

Avoiding isolation
The greatest threat to economic growth, according to Mr. Attali, is isolation and the resulting consequences.

“We’re already seeing social and political withdrawal, especially in the West: we’re seeing the rich close themselves off from the poor, and refuse to show solidarity with them. It’s a me-first mentality,” he says.

“Even though the world has every chance of success, there could be chaos between civilized nations and non-state entities,” he added. “There is also the threat of countries closing themselves off from one another, which is what happened in 1907.”

At that time, technological progress promoted optimism and democracy, even in Russia. But the economic crisis, combined with the collapse of the British Empire, paved the way for the emergence of leaders, such as Lenin, and later, Hitler, who advocated withdrawal and isolation. The rest is history.”

Jacques Attali is also concerned about countries that are delaying their decline by taking on more debt. “Instead of reducing their debt, they continue to take on more. They’re like alcoholics who go to AA meetings to quit drinking and then congratulate themselves by having a celebratory drink,” he said.

A federal European state
At the same time, Jacques Attali advocates for what he calls self-interested altruism among countries.

“Countries are so dependent on one another that it’s in their interest for their partner countries to do better, because that means they’ll do better, too. That’s certainly true for Germany, which will benefit if Greece stays in the euro zone,” he says.

In that regard, Jacques Attali says it’s imperative to create a federal European state.

“Right now, the euro zone is still only an economic union. But it can’t survive if there isn’t eventually a political union,” he argues. “We need a federal European state. In this respect, Europe is a laboratory for the world, since the world needs to federate to make sure that countries respect the rules of law.”

“Without federal rule of law, each country can interpret laws for their own advantage. That’s why a single currency can’t work without a federal state,” said Mr. Attali.

* Jacques Attali (in photo) was invited to speak by the French Chamber of Commerce in Canada (Montreal) and the International Financial Centre of Montréal.

Photo credit: © Bénédicte Brocard / photoatwork.com

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