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Koehler discusses financial crisis

Victoria Moreno | Thursday, September 29, 2011

Former German President Horst Koehler called for a re-imagination of global development and prosperity Wednesday evening.

Koehler, also the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund, delivered his first public address since resigning from his post in the German government in 2010. His lecture, “The World is at Stake,” advocated for a shift from individual-centered analysis to a collective struggle for the common good.

“Individualistic or nationalistic thinking deprives us of one of our fundamental human characteristics — the ability to view the whole picture,” he said. “We have to look at the whole picture, taking into account everyone and everything. We must not only bring the earth under our control but also protect it as a whole.”

Koehler emphasized the need for a collective effort in attempts at resolving the current international financial crisis.

“All citizens need to play a part in this participatory democracy,” he said. “We must help shape our world.”

According to Koehler, one of the fundamental lessons learned from the global financial crisis is the government’s role as overseer.

“Governments exists to set forth rules for citizens and then they must act as umpires making sure the rules are followed, but it is ultimately the citizens who play the game,” he said.

Koehler rejected the notion of specialized knowledge and the belief that the financial crisis should be left in the hands of “experts” or politicians.

“You don’t need to study credit-default swaps or understand the whole mumble-jumble of market structures to know that what happened in that sector was not right,” he said. “We all know enough.”

Koehler instead called for a collective moral consciousness that emphasized the world population rather than individual nations, regions, states or persons.

“All of us have the necessary moral knowledge to assess the actions that led to this crisis,” he said. “We all learn, at a young age, that there is good and evil and this helps us judge the actions in the world.”

Koehler advocated for international solidarity, a “global ethos” that strives for sustainable development not necessarily national growth.

“The crisis is not over,” he said.

Koehler noted trust, accountability and freedom as key elements that could lead to the sustainable growth and solidarity necessary to bring the crisis to a close.

Koehler said he has hope for the future and borrowed lyrics from the Michael Jackson song “Man in the Mirror.”

“If you want to make the world a better place, then take a look at yourself and make a change,” he said.