Even 20 years down the road, our most important competitor won’t be China, it will be North America. American society is shaped by a fundamental optimism that we have lost in Europe. Besides, there is no stigma attached to making money in America. It is seen as a precondition for securing tomorrow’s future through investment and employment. This is helped through lower taxes and energy costs as well as a more flexible labour market.
In Europe, in contrast, belief in the state is gaining ground all the time. It not just individual countries, either, but Brussels as well that is extending its interventionism. This development is undermining our global competitiveness. This matters because economies with a declining competitiveness run the danger of massive social and political conflicts. These are a logical consequence of their increasing employment problems.
I am not such a pessimist that I believe we don’t have any opportunities. But we will have to apply ourselves systematically to seize every opportunity we can, and we have to fight to make each of them come through. Our most important assets are the knowledge and the skills of people in science, research and production.
Yet these people need room to breathe. In Europe, we need more personal responsibility and less regulation. I hope that we can succeed in returning to a more open and more tolerant society. It is unbelievably presumptuous for the state to believe that it should do the thinking for all of us. On the contrary, it should concentrate on its basic functions and fulfil these all the more responsibly and professionally.