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Social Democratic Reflections on "Economic Growth or Quality of Life?" (April 11, 1972)

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3. Challenges for Politics

Whoever takes all the talk about quality of life seriously must want political and social change.

[ . . . ] Neither the common means of the market economy nor the methods of state capitalism will suffice for the new tasks. In other words: What now has to be done might embarrass dogmatists in both East and West just as much as those who pride themselves all too much on their pragmatism. The thought revolution from economy to ecology will not leave any social systems untouched. The dogmatists will probably continue to try for a while to dismiss the whole subject as an especially clever attempt to subvert their established order, before they set out to seize it and integrate it ideologically. The relationship between economy and politics will change – in both East and West. Where economic growth is the undisputed political goal, politics will have to provide the administrative structure for economic growth: Good policies promote growth, and bad ones retard it. People will continue to ask politicians how they contribute to growth.

Where quality of life is desired, politicians – pressured by public opinion – will ask economists and entrepreneurs how they contribute to it, whether positively or negatively. Policies will have the task of instantiating the interests of the common good in order to provide orientation for both industry and government.

[ . . . ]

Source: Erhard Eppler, Maßstäbe für eine humane Gesellschaft: Lebensstandard oder Lebensqualität? [Benchmarks for a Humane Society: Standard of Living or Quality of Life?]. Stuttgart, 1974, pp. 18-31; reprinted in Eckart Conze and Gabriele Metzler, eds., 50 Jahre Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Daten und Dokumente [50 Years of the Federal Republic of Germany. Data and Documents]. Stuttgart, 1999, pp. 223-25.

Translation: Allison Brown

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